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Lords Chamber

Volume 745: debated on Thursday 16 May 2013

House of Lords

Thursday, 16 May 2013.

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells.

Schools: Bullying


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what funding is available to enable self-excluded severely bullied children to return to education.

My Lords, bullying should not be tolerated. Schools should take action to prevent bullying and protect pupils. Alternative provision is provided if a pupil cannot remain in a mainstream school. This enables pupils to receive education in different settings with specialist support if necessary, including for a return to a mainstream school. Some parents may none the less decide to withdraw their child altogether from all state-funded education. Local authorities may offer support to parents in those circumstances.

I thank the Minister for his response. Given that the National Centre for Social Research report in 2011 estimated that 16,500 young people aged 11 to 15 are absent from state schools where bullying is the main reason, does the Minister agree that specialist education and psychological support interventions, such as the very successful Red Balloon Learner Centres, are the best way of helping these children back into mainstream schooling? Can he also say how such interventions can be funded if it is voluntary on local authorities’ behalf?

The noble Baroness’s pioneering work in this field in Cambridgeshire is a model of best practice, and I am familiar with Red Balloon’s work. I very much agree with her that, for some severely bullied children, the type of intervention she describes may well be the most appropriate provision to support a pupil returning to mainstream education. However, that will not always be the case. Severely bullied children are not a homogenous group and among them will be some with a wide variety of specific needs and requirements. Local authorities can commission appropriate provision from a wide variety of providers and are funded to do so.

My Lords, with the noble Baroness’s Question concentrating our minds on a toxic problem which is estimated to have led to at least 20 suicides each year, should we not be thinking of more imaginative and radical ways of co-ordinating our approach to bullying in schools? I commend to the Minister particularly the work of theatre companies such as Ten Ten, whose production I recently saw in a school setting and which, by working with young people, imaginatively addressed this issue of bullying. Does he agree that with one survey stating that 69% of UK children reported being bullied, and now with the phenomenon of cyberbullying and 31 million school days being lost each year through bullying, we need to take this incredibly seriously?

I could not agree more. Suicide is a tragedy whenever it occurs. I am not familiar with Ten Ten but I would like to be; perhaps the noble Lord and I could discuss it later. We are particularly focusing on cyberbullying. Our central thrust is to send a strong message to all schools that bullying is not to be tolerated. We have focused Ofsted much more on four specific categories of which behaviour and well-being—including bullying—is one. We have also recently funded four organisations with £4 million to work with schools specifically on bullying.

My Lords, in addition to the points that I have covered, including the Ofsted framework and the four organisations we have funded—namely BeatBullying, the Diana Award, Kidscape and the NCB—we are working with other innovative provision. In my own school, for instance, we have a programme where, if a child has been bullied and wishes to be out of school for a while, there is a student centre where they can come back in on a temporary basis and gradually engage again with classes until they have the confidence to get back into school life. I am keen to spread this practice elsewhere.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that underlying many of the statistics is the fact that bullying is also about racism and Islamophobia? If so, what are the Government doing about it? I take this opportunity to commend the work of the Osmani youth centre, which is based in Whitechapel.

I am not aware of that centre’s work but I would be grateful if the noble Baroness could advise me of it. We will definitely look at further such facilities.

My Lords, bullying is rampant throughout our society—even, it would appear, in areas such as the BBC, as we have heard via the media. Given that prevention is better than cure, as everybody has stressed, what practical steps are being taken to ensure not only that playground or classroom bullying is classified as absolutely unacceptable but that every school is required to eliminate it? Will the Government publish a document giving examples of how this has already been successfully achieved in some areas?

We should consider that. We have tightened teachers’ disciplinary powers, including their powers to search and confiscate, for instance, mobile phones and remove inappropriate material, and, particularly, to search for text bullying. We are continuing to focus on these areas.

Can my noble friend tell the House what the Government are doing to ensure that children in alternative provision have support and education to a standard that is on a par with that in mainstream schools?

We are focusing intensely on alternative provision providers. This Government have sent a very clear message that we expect alternative provision education to be equivalent to that in mainstream schools. There is no doubt that alternative provision in this country is extremely erratic. I am delighted to see that we have a number of alternative provision providers coming through in the new free school applications, and I expect that a number of them will be approved. A number of alternative provision providers are converting to academies. We have some excellent alternative provision providers. We have also asked Ofsted to look specifically at alternative provision through a thematic inspection process.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that many severely bullied children are very bright and can flourish educationally if they are given the right specialist intervention? However, such intervention has to happen at an early stage and all too often there is a gap between these children being identified and their being brought back into proper educational provision. The Minister has presented a picture of patchy provision across the country and said that it is erratic. What is the department doing to make sure that we have a complete picture of what is happening nationally and that those who are not providing the necessary educational provision are stepping up to the mark?

I entirely agree with the noble Baroness’s point about the patchy nature of the provision. That is why we are encouraging more new providers to enter the system and set some standards. It is also why we have asked Ofsted to focus particularly on this area. Children who are excluded from school are often very bright and very energetic and we have a duty to make sure that they can be educated in the best way possible.

My Lords, the Minister will be aware that schools are required to have an anti-bullying policy. Can he ensure that when Ofsted inspects schools, it does a quality assurance of that very important policy?

NHS: GP Dispensing


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will review the rule that prevents patients of dispensing doctors who live within 1.6 kilometres of a pharmacy from collecting their medication from a doctor’s dispensary.

My Lords, the current NHS (Pharmaceutical and Local Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations 2013 continue an agreement reached between representatives of pharmacist and GP contractors setting out the circumstances under which patients living in designated rural areas are eligible to receive dispensing services from their GP. To make any significant change in the regulations would mean reopening complex and lengthy discussions. We believe that contractors’ representatives are satisfied with the current regulatory arrangements and would not support an extensive review.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that “no decision about me without me” and the freedom of patient choice have been pivotal to the Government’s NHS reforms? Does he not think it crazy that I, as a patient of a dispensing doctor, can either ask my doctor for a prescription which I can take to a pharmacist in the nearest town or have my prescription dispensed by his staff, whereas my neighbour, who might live just within that 1.6 kilometre boundary, is allowed to get his prescription dispensed only in a pharmacy in the town? Does the Minister agree that the reasons for this rule are now obsolete? It was created in 1911 when there could have been corruption between doctors and patients, and that possibility no longer exists because of the controls.

My Lords, there is a balance of interests here, not least the interests of the patient. We therefore need a set of rules which reflects those interests. Patients who live in a rural area can be dispensed to by their GP if there is no pharmacy within 1.6 kilometres of where the patient lives, or within 1.6 kilometres of the GP practice. Without these rules, it would rarely be viable for new pharmacies to open to serve rural areas. That would deprive people living in rural areas of the opportunity to benefit from the more comprehensive health service that a combination of a GP practice and a pharmacy can provide.

My Lords, can my noble friend say whether all elderly people who have difficulty over this matter are clearly informed that they can ask to have their prescription given by the doctor? For those who have no car and live in areas where buses are not frequent, it is sometimes extremely difficult to manage.

My noble friend makes a good point. There is a special provision that allows a patient who has serious difficulty in getting to a pharmacy by virtue either of the distance involved or lack of means of communication to receive dispensing services from a doctor. Any patient is eligible to receive these services; they do not have to live in a rural area to do so.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that some pharmacies do not have wheelchair access? Some have steps, including the one in my own village. However, surely it is the easiest place for a disabled person to receive their prescriptions.

My Lords, the rules as they stand do not present a major obstacle for disabled patients. Many pharmacies, for example, offer a free prescription collection and delivery service if a patient encounters difficulty in getting into the pharmacy premises. Under that arrangement, the pharmacy collects the prescription from the surgery on behalf of the patient, dispenses it and delivers it to the patient. Patients can contact their local pharmacies to see whether they offer that service.

My Lords, I refer noble Lords to my health interests in the register. I well understand why the noble Earl does not want to reopen the issue, having chaired meetings at the department of the two representative bodies myself. However, I wonder whether the current arrangements are justifiable in 2013. Does the Minister not think that it might warrant his department asking an independent reviewer to look at the situation again, particularly from the point of view of the consumer and patient rather than of either the pharmacist or the dispensing doctors?

I am sure that the noble Lord is as aware as anyone of the balance that has to be struck here. A GP’s primary purpose is to provide comprehensive medical care and treatment to his or her patients. More than 90% of prescription items are dispensed by pharmacies, which is what most patients expect. However, we must have arrangements to enable patients who live in rural and more remote areas to access medicines more easily. I think the noble Lord will understand that the arrangement for some GPs to provide dispensing services has always been the exception rather than the rule. I do not think there is an appetite on anyone’s part among the professions to reopen these arrangements.

My Lords, these GP-dispensed services come at a cost, but as someone who lives in a rural area I am very glad of it, because it saves me a 12-mile round trip. However, the cost of a practice-based prescription will be apportioned to the CCG in two parts: the actual cost of the medicine itself and disbursement costs. Does my noble friend expect that the disbursement cost mechanism will be looked at again in the light of GPs running CCGs, where, of course, every penny will count towards the care of the patient?

My Lords, those particular technical matters will always be looked at very carefully to ensure that the right balance is struck. It is open to commissioners to propose a change in the arrangements. If a new pharmacy applies to open, and that could affect GPs dispensing to patients in a rural area, we would fully expect there to be consultation with patient groups and the public. There is a mechanism to ensure that that process can take place.

EU: Reform


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what proposals for reform of the European Union they will present to the forthcoming meeting of the European Council.

My Lords, the agenda for the forthcoming European Council on 22 May is tax, energy and an update on economic and monetary union. Our objective will be to secure EU support for a G8 commitment to a new global standard for tax and the multilateral automatic exchange of information on tax. We will also aim to secure agreement for a stable energy policy framework that provides growth, competitiveness and investment. The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have both been clear that the EU needs reform. The UK will continue to argue for reforms to ensure that the EU can better tackle the challenges it faces.

I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Bearing in mind the very sad humiliation and setback that the Prime Minister, absent in the USA, suffered yesterday, with a much larger vote than expected, would not the obvious solution, because of agreement by those two, therefore be to assign any negotiations to the Deputy Prime Minister and other Liberal Democrat Ministers in the Cabinet who have excellent relations with other EU member states and who would help to exorcise the Tory demons of xenophobia?

My Lords, this is a coalition Government, and we work as a coalition Government. There is substantial ground in the Government on a multilateral EU reform agenda. I spent three days in Brussels last week and was encouraged to find how much support there was for the sort of reform agenda we are talking about within other Governments and with a number of senior people in the EU institutions themselves.

My Lords, is it possible for the Minister to be more vague and imprecise about the exact nature of the reforms that the UK would wish to propose within the European Union?

My Lords, we are, of course, following up the PM’s speech with some detailed work under way at present on precisely what our reform agenda should be. I will simply set out that it includes changes in the EU budget. We have already made some progress on that in the multiannual financial framework, but that needs to continue. There will be a stronger role for national Parliaments. The Lisbon treaty allows for that, and we are encouraging our own Parliament and others to work more closely together. An external trade agenda will include in some ways more European action; the Prime Minister, after all, pursued that very thing in his discussions with President Obama in Washington. There will be a deepening of the single market, such as digital single market services. Therefore there is a range of areas, including better regulation and cleaning out some of the dead aspects of the acquis.

My Lords, does my noble friend know yet whether other countries will make proposals for the reform of the European Union? If so, for what purpose, and what will those proposals be?

We have already had extensive discussions, particularly with the German Government but also with a number of others. There is the potential here for a like-minded group. Of course one has to work in shifting coalitions on many of these issues. On some issues, some member Governments agree strongly with the British Government’s proposals; on others, we have others to work with. On changing the culture of the EU institutions and perhaps changing the balance of portfolios in the next Commission, et cetera, discussions are already well under way.

My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister a question concerning Article 50 of the European treaty. As he will know, that is the provision that deals with the renegotiation of the treaty. Will he kindly tell the House whether any member state has invoked the provisions of that article, and, if so, with what result? Furthermore, will he tell the House that the Government will publish a list of the powers that they seek to have repatriated, so that the British people will be able, in the light of reason, to determine what the issues are rather than having to fumble about in a miasma of popular clichés?

I welcome the noble Lord’s support for a reasoned debate. The question is not about unilateral repatriation but about the multilateral reform of the EU.

My Lords, I am not sure whether the noble Lord can speak for the Prime Minister on this occasion, but will he tell us whether the major changes that he said he was looking for will require treaty change and the agreement of all 27 member states?

Of course, many things require the agreement of nearly 28 member states—Croatia is about to join. There is a great deal that we can achieve without treaty change; the Lisbon treaty has considerable headroom in it. The question of whether we are likely to face treaty change in the next five years is much more to do with what form banking union takes—I am sure that the noble Lord read Mr Schäuble’s article in the Financial Times the other day—and with other areas of management of the eurozone.

My Lords, as a first step towards closing down the whole ill-fated project of European integration, why do Her Majesty’s Government not propose the abolition of the euro, with all its participants returning to their national currencies? Would that not start to ameliorate the suffering of the Greek, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Cypriot and—soon—French people? Would it not also give us financial and monetary clarity for the longer-term future?

My Lords, I am fascinated by the way in which the noble Lord approaches some very complicated international issues. I am struck by the extent to which European Union regulation and global regulation go together. While the UK is inside the EU, we are playing a major part in negotiating global regulation, for example on tax and on how the global framework for digital regulation will evolve. If we were to leave the European Union, we would lose our influence over the evolution of global regulation—unless the noble Lord is such a free trader that he believes that we should have no global regulation at all.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the success of any proposals for reform that are pursued by the Government at the European Council will be severely diminished as a consequence of last night’s vote in the House of Commons, when the majority of Conservative MPs who voted voted against Her Majesty’s Government’s Queen’s Speech?

My Lords, I agree that the degree of noise in the British domestic debate damages our ability to conduct a reasoned, multilateral negotiation with our European partners. We need a reasoned debate on the advantages and costs of EU membership.

Tobacco: Smuggling


Asked by

My Lords, the joint HMRC and UK Border Force efforts to tackle tobacco smuggling were strengthened in 2011. This included further investment of more than £25 million from the Government’s 2010 spending review to increase HMRC’s capacity to target and disrupt illicit trade and investigate those behind that trade. Latest estimates indicate that the illicit cigarette market has more than halved since 2000, from 21% to 9%, and the hand-rolling tobacco illicit market share has reduced from 61% to 38%.

My Lords, is it not essential to reduce the smuggling of tobacco? It affects any increase and clearly results in an artificial weakness.

My Lords, I completely agree with the noble Lord, which is why the Government have put more money into this. The money that we have put in will mean that 120 additional enforcement staff are employed at borders, looking specifically at this. There is a 20% increase in criminal investigations and a 20% increase in the overseas intelligence network, which is instrumental in identifying the sources of smuggling.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the reported considerable smuggling of tobacco across the Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland border, despite the best and combined efforts of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Garda Siochana? What are the Government planning to do in addition to reduce that smuggling?

My Lords, some of the additional effort that I have been talking about is being deployed in that area. The Irish tax rate on tobacco has increased recently, so the differential is less. But there is also an issue that is currently being looked at by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, which is relevant here, namely that the penalties for tobacco smuggling are significantly less than those for drug smuggling. There is a discussion about whether the sentencing guidelines for tobacco smuggling should now be tightened to move them more closely into line with drug smuggling.

My Lords, does the Minister recognise that this crime is, almost by definition, an international one, handled very often by international networks? Is he satisfied, and are the Government satisfied, that they are making full use of the machinery of Europol and OLAF in the European Union, and all the other structures that exist, for getting a genuine international effort to bear down on this crime?

Yes, my Lords, I am. The co-operation on Customs and Excise matters is long developed, and a lot of effort has gone into it over the years. Noble Lords may be as surprised as I was to know that we have deployed staff covering between 60 and 70 countries and looking specifically at tobacco smuggling. They are working very closely with their opposite numbers in the countries in which they work.

My Lords, the Minister mentions additional money being put into criminal investigation. Can he say how much of that has been directed at the prosecution side? I am sure that he would agree that the threat of successful prosecution is important in combating this. Furthermore, what has been the effect of the abolition of the separate, dedicated, Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office?

The headline figure in terms of prosecutions over the past few years is very significant here, and the key point. Some 3,700 people have been successfully prosecuted since 2000. I think that I am right in saying that there is no diminution in the number of cases or the amount of success that we are having on the prosecution front.

My Lords, when the last Northern Ireland Affairs Committee looked into this grave issue, we found that a very large percentage of the smuggling into Northern Ireland involved substances far more noxious than tobacco. Can the noble Lord say how much of this smuggling is of genuine cigarettes, which are harmful enough, and how much is of more dangerous substances?

Whether it is in Northern Ireland or anywhere else, the people who smuggle cigarettes do, indeed, tend to smuggle other things, typically drugs, and sometimes even more dangerous things than that. I do not have an exact breakdown, but a lot of this smuggling is carried out on a large scale by criminal gangs who are looking to smuggle anything they can with a high value, of which cigarettes typically are only one component.

I welcome the Minister’s statement that the Government are considering introducing greater consistency in their treatment of tobacco smuggling and the smuggling of other substances. Will they consider aligning more extensively their treatment of tobacco, alcohol and other psychoactive substances in making policy across those fields more consistent?

That was an extremely wide question. As a general principle, that is what the Government are seeking to achieve. As I say, we are putting additional effort into combating smuggling not just tobacco but across the piece.

National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill [HL]

First Reading

A Bill to make provision to re-establish the Secretary of State’s legal duty as to the National Health Service in England, quangos and related bodies.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Owen, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Marriage (Approved Organisations) Bill [HL]

First Reading

A Bill to make provision to amend the law on marriage to permit the Registrar-General to permit certain charitable organisations to solemnise marriages.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Harrison, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Deputy Chairmen of Committees

Administration and Works Committee

Communications Committee

Consolidation etc. Bills Committee

Constitution Committee

Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee

Economic Affairs Committee

European Union Committee

House Committee

Human Rights Committee

Hybrid Instruments Committee

Information Committee

Liaison Committee

National Security Strategy Committee

Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) Committee

Privileges and Conduct Committee

Procedure of the House Committee

Refreshment Committee

Science and Technology Committee

Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Standing Orders (Private Bills) Committee

Statutory Instruments Committee

Works of Art Committee

Soft Power Committee

Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Committee

Mental Capacity Act 2005 Committee

Inquiries Act 2005 Committee

Membership Motions

Moved by

Deputy Chairmen of Committees

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed as the panel of members to act as Deputy Chairmen of Committees for this session:

B Andrews, B Anelay of St Johns, L Bassam of Brighton, L Bates, L Bichard, L Brougham and Vaux, L Colwyn, L Faulkner of Worcester, B Fookes, L Geddes, B Gibson of Market Rasen, B Harris of Richmond, L Haskel, B Hooper, B McIntosh of Hudnall, B Morris of Bolton, B Pitkeathley, V Simon, L Skelmersdale, V Ullswater.

Administration and Works

That a Select Committee be appointed to consider administrative services, accommodation and works, including works relating to security, within the strategic framework and financial limits approved by the House Committee;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members together with the Chairman of Committees be appointed to the Committee:

B Anelay of St Johns, L Brougham and Vaux, L Cameron of Dillington, Bp Chester, L Faulkner of Worcester, L Laming, L McAvoy, B McIntosh of Hudnall, L Mancroft, L Newby, L Roper, L Rowe-Beddoe;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time.


That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the media and the creative industries and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:

B Bakewell, L Bragg, L Clement-Jones, B Deech, L Dubs, B Fookes, B Healy of Primrose Hill, L Inglewood (Chairman), Bp Norwich, L Razzall, L St John of Bletso, E Selborne, L Skelmersdale;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the Committee have power to adjourn from place to place;

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the Reports of the Committee shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House;

That the evidence taken by the Committee in the last session of Parliament be referred to the Committee;

That the evidence taken by the Committee shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published.

Consolidation etc. Bills

In accordance with Standing Order 51, that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords be appointed to join with a Committee of the Commons as the Joint Committee on Consolidation etc. Bills:

L Campbell of Alloway, L Carswell (Chairman), L Christopher, E Dundee, L Eames, L Janner of Braunstone, B Mallalieu, L Methuen, L Razzall, L Swinfen, L Tombs;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records.


That a Select Committee be appointed to examine the constitutional implications of all public bills coming before the House; and to keep under review the operation of the constitution;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:

L Crickhowell, L Cullen of Whitekirk. B Falkner of Margravine. L Goldsmith, L Hart of Chilton, L Irvine of Lairg, B Jay of Paddington (Chairman), L Lang of Monkton, L Lexden, L Macdonald of River Glaven, L Powell of Bayswater, B Wheatcroft;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the Committee have power to adjourn from place to place;

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the Reports of the Committee shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House;

That the evidence taken by the Committee in the last session of Parliament be referred to the Committee;

That the evidence taken by the Committee shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published.

Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform

That a Select Committee be appointed:

(i) To report whether the provisions of any bill inappropriately delegate legislative power, or whether they subject the exercise of legislative power to an inappropriate degree of parliamentary scrutiny;

(ii) To report on documents and draft orders laid before Parliament under or by virtue of:

(a) sections 14 and 18 of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006,

(b) section 7(2) or section 19 of the Localism Act 2011, or

(c) section 5E(2) of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004;

and to perform, in respect of such draft orders, and in respect of subordinate provisions orders made or proposed to be made under the Regulatory Reform Act 2001, the functions performed in respect of other instruments and draft instruments by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments; and

(iii) To report on documents and draft orders laid before Parliament under or by virtue of:

(a) section 85 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998,

(b) section 17 of the Local Government Act 1999,

(c) section 9 of the Local Government Act 2000,

(d) section 98 of the Local Government Act 2003, or

(e) section 102 of the Local Transport Act 2008.

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:

B Andrews, B Fookes, B Gardner of Parkes, L Haskel, C Mar, L Marks of Henley-on-Thames, L Mayhew of Twysden, B O’Loan, B Thomas of Winchester (Chairman);

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the Reports of the Committee shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House;

That the evidence taken by the Committee shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published.

Economic Affairs

That a Select Committee be appointed to consider economic affairs and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:

B Blackstone, L Griffiths of Fforestfach, L Hollick, L Lawson of Blaby, L Lipsey, L McFall of Alcluith, L MacGregor of Pulham Market (Chairman), L May of Oxford, B Noakes, L Rowe-Beddoe, L Shipley, L Skidelsky, L Smith of Clifton;

That the Committee have power to appoint a sub-committee and to refer to it any of the matters within the Committee’s terms of reference; that the Committee have power to appoint the Chairman of the sub-committee;

That the Committee have power to co-opt any member to serve on the sub-committee;

That the Committee and its sub-committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee and its sub-committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the Committee and its sub-committee have power to adjourn from place to place;

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the Reports of the Committee shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House;

That the evidence taken by the Committee in the last session of Parliament be referred to the Committee;

That the evidence taken by the Committee or its sub-committee shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published.

European Union

That a Select Committee be appointed:

(1) To consider European Union documents deposited in the House by a Minister, and other matters relating to the European Union;

The expression “European Union document” includes in particular:

(a) a document submitted by an institution of the European Union to another institution and put by either into the public domain;

(b) a draft legislative act or a proposal for amendment of such an act; and

(c) a draft decision relating to the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union under Title V of the Treaty on European Union;

The Committee may waive the requirement to deposit a document, or class of documents, by agreement with the European Scrutiny Committee of the House of Commons;

(2) To assist the House in relation to the procedure for the submission of Reasoned Opinions under Article 5 of the Treaty on European Union and the Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality;

(3) To represent the House as appropriate in interparliamentary cooperation within the European Union;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:

L Boswell of Aynho (Chairman), L Bowness, L Cameron of Dillington, L Carter of Coles, B Corston, L Dear, B Eccles of Moulton, L Foulkes of Cumnock, L Hannay of Chiswick, L Harrison, L Maclennan of Rogart, L Marlesford, B O’Cathain, B Parminter, E Sandwich, B Scott of Needham Market, L Tomlinson, L Tugendhat, B Young of Hornsey;

That the Committee have power to appoint sub-committees and to refer to them any matters within its terms of reference; that the Committee have power to appoint the Chairmen of sub-committees, but that the sub-committees have power to appoint their own Chairmen for the purpose of particular inquiries; that the quorum of each sub-committee be two;

That the Committee have power to co-opt any member to serve on a sub-committee;

That the Committee and its sub-committees have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the Committee and its sub-committees have power to adjourn from place to place;

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the Reports of the Committee shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House;

That the evidence taken by the Committee or its sub-committees in the last session of Parliament be referred to the Committee or its sub-committees;

That the evidence taken by the Committee or its sub-committees shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published.

House Committee

That a Select Committee be appointed to set the policy framework for the administration of the House and to provide non-executive guidance to the Management Board; to approve the House’s strategic, business and financial plans; to agree the annual Estimates and Supplementary Estimates; to supervise the arrangements relating to financial support for Members; and to approve the House of Lords Annual Report;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:

L Alderdice, L Campbell-Savours, L Cope of Berkeley, B D’Souza (Chairman), L Hill of Oareford, L Laming, B McDonagh, L McNally, B Royall of Blaisdon, L Sewel, L Stirrup, L True;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the Reports of the Committee shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House.

Human Rights

That a Select Committee of six members be appointed to join with a Committee appointed by the Commons as the Joint Committee on Human Rights:

To consider:

(a) matters relating to human rights in the United Kingdom (but excluding consideration of individual cases);

(b) proposals for remedial orders, draft remedial orders and remedial orders made under section 10 of and laid under Schedule 2 to the Human Rights Act 1998; and

(c) in respect of draft remedial orders and remedial orders, whether the special attention of the House should be drawn to them on any of the grounds specified in Standing Order 73 (Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments);

To report to the House:

(a) in relation to any document containing proposals laid before the House under paragraph 3 of the said Schedule 2, its recommendation whether a draft order in the same terms as the proposals should be laid before the House; or

(b) in relation to any draft order laid under paragraph 2 of the said Schedule 2, its recommendation whether the draft Order should be approved;

and to have power to report to the House on any matter arising from its consideration of the said proposals or draft orders; and

To report to the House in respect of any original order laid under paragraph 4 of the said Schedule 2, its recommendation whether:

(a) the order should be approved in the form in which it was originally laid before Parliament; or

(b) the order should be replaced by a new order modifying the provisions of the original order; or

(c) the order should not be approved;

and to have power to report to the House on any matter arising from its consideration of the said order or any replacement order;

That the following members be appointed to the Committee:

B Berridge, L Faulks, B Kennedy of The Shaws, L Lester of Herne Hill, B Lister of Burtersett, B O’Loan;

That the Committee have power to agree with the Committee appointed by the Commons in the appointment of a Chairman;

That the quorum of the Committee shall be two;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the Committee have power to adjourn from place to place;

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the Reports of the Committee shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House;

That the evidence taken by the Committee in the last session of Parliament be referred to the Committee;

That the evidence taken by the Committee shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published.

Hybrid Instruments

That a Select Committee be appointed to consider hybrid instruments and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members together with the Chairman of Committees be appointed to the Committee:

L Addington, L Campbell of Alloway, L Grantchester, L Harrison, L Luke, L Quirk, L Swinfen;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records.

That the reports of the Committee shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House;

That the evidence taken by the Committee in the last session of Parliament be referred to the Committee; and

That the evidence taken by the Committee shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published.


That a Select Committee be appointed to consider information and communications services, including the Library and the Parliamentary Archives, within the strategic framework and financial limits approved by the House Committee;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:

L Aberdare, L Best, L Black of Brentwood, L Haskel, L Kirkwood of Kirkhope (Chairman), L Lipsey, E Lytton, B Massey of Darwen, L Maxton, B Rawlings, L Rennard, B Seccombe, B Stedman-Scott;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time.


That a Select Committee be appointed to advise the House on the resources required for select committee work and to allocate resources between select committees; to review the select committee work of the House; to consider requests for ad hoc committees and report to the House with recommendations; to ensure effective co-ordination between the two Houses; and to consider the availability of members to serve on committees;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members together with the Chairman of Committees be appointed to the Committee:

L Alderdice, B Browning, L Campbell-Savours, B Corston, L Craig of Radley, L Hill of Oareford, L Laming, L McNally, B Royall of Blaisdon, V Ullswater;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time.

National Security Strategy

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords be appointed to join with a Committee of the Commons as the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, to consider the National Security Strategy:

L Fellowes, L Foulkes of Cumnock, L Harris of Haringey, L Lee of Trafford, B Manningham-Buller, B Neville-Jones, B Ramsay of Cartvale, L Sterling of Plaistow, B Taylor of Bolton, L Waldegrave of North Hill;

That the Committee have power to agree with the Committee appointed by the Commons in the appointment of a Chairman;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have power to adjourn from place to place in the United Kingdom;

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the reports of the Committee shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House;

That the evidence taken by the Committee in the last session of Parliament be referred to the Committee;

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the evidence taken by the Committee shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published.

Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST)

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords be appointed to the Board of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST):

L Haskel, L Krebs, L Oxburgh, L Winston.

Privileges and Conduct

That a Select Committee be appointed and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members together with the Chairman of Committees be appointed to the Committee:

B Anelay of St Johns, L Bassam of Brighton, L Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L Eames, L Hill of Oareford, L Howe of Aberavon, L Irvine of Lairg, L Laming, L Mackay of Clashfern, L McNally, B Manningham-Buller, L Newby, B Royall of Blaisdon, B Scotland of Asthal, L Scott of Foscote;

That the Committee have power to appoint sub-committees and that the Committee have power to appoint the Chairmen of sub-committees;

That the Committee have power to co-opt any member to serve on a sub-committee;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That in any claim of peerage, the Committee shall sit with three holders of high judicial office, who shall have the same speaking and voting rights as members of the Committee;

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the Reports of the Committee shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House;

That the evidence taken by the Committee or its sub-committees in the last session of Parliament be referred to the Committee or its sub-committees;

That the evidence taken by the Committee or its sub-committees shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published.

Procedure of the House

That a Select Committee on Procedure of the House be appointed and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members together with the Chairman of Committees be appointed to the Committee:

B Anelay of St Johns, L Bassam of Brighton, L Blencathra, L Butler of Brockwell, L Campbell-Savours, B D’Souza, L Filkin, L Hill of Oareford, B Hollis of Heigham, L Laming, L McNally, L Newby, L Patel, L Roper, B Royall of Blaisdon, B Thomas of Winchester, V Ullswater, L Wakeham;

That the following members be appointed as alternate members:

V Craigavon, B Hamwee, V Montgomery of Alamein, L True;

That the Committee have power to appoint sub-committees and that the Committee have power to appoint the Chairmen of sub-committees;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time.


That a Select Committee be appointed to advise on the refreshment services provided for the House, within the strategic framework and financial limits approved by the House Committee;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members together with the Chairman of Committees be appointed to the Committee:

L Colwyn, B Doocey, B Gale, B Gould of Potternewton, B Henig, L Howard of Rising, B Jenkin of Kennington, L Kennedy of Southwark, L Mawson, L Newby, L Palmer of Childs Hill, L Skidelsky;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time.

Science and Technology

That a Select Committee be appointed to consider science and technology and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:

L Dixon-Smith, B Hilton of Eggardon, L Krebs (Chairman), B Manningham-Buller, L O’Neill of Clackmannan, L Patel, B Perry of Southwark, L Peston, L Rees of Ludlow, E Selborne, B Sharp of Guildford, L Wade of Chorlton, L Willis of Knaresborough, L Winston;

That the Committee have power to appoint sub-committees and that the Committee have power to appoint the Chairmen of sub-committees;

That the Committee have power to co-opt any member to serve on the Committee or a sub-committee;

That the Committee and its sub-committees have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee and its sub-committees have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the Committee and its sub-committees have power to adjourn from place to place;

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the Reports of the Committee shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House;

That the evidence taken by the Committee or its sub-committees in the last session of Parliament be referred to the Committee or its sub-committees;

That the evidence taken by the Committee or its sub-committees shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published.

Secondary Legislation Scrutiny

That a Select Committee be appointed to scrutinise secondary legislation.

(1) The Committee shall, with the exception of those instruments in paragraphs (3) and (4), scrutinise—

(a) every instrument (whether or not a statutory instrument), or draft of an instrument, which is laid before each House of Parliament and upon which proceedings may be, or might have been, taken in either House of Parliament under an Act of Parliament;

(b) every proposal which is in the form of a draft of such an instrument and is laid before each House of Parliament under an Act of Parliament,

with a view to determining whether or not the special attention of the House should be drawn to it on any of the grounds specified in paragraph (2).

(2) The grounds on which an instrument, draft or proposal may be drawn to the special attention of the House are—

(a) that it is politically or legally important or gives rise to issues of public policy likely to be of interest to the House;

(b) that it may be inappropriate in view of changed circumstances since the enactment of the parent Act;

(c) that it may inappropriately implement European Union legislation;

(d) that it may imperfectly achieve its policy objectives.

(3) The exceptions are—

(a) remedial orders, and draft remedial orders, under section 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998;

(b) draft orders under sections 14 and 18 of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006, and subordinate provisions orders made or proposed to be made under the Regulatory Reform Act 2001;

(c) Measures under the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919 and instruments made, and drafts of instruments to be made, under them.

(4) The Committee shall report on draft orders and documents laid before Parliament under section 11(1) of the Public Bodies Act 2011 in accordance with the procedures set out in sections 11(5) and (6). The Committee may also consider and report on any material changes in a draft order laid under section 11(8) of the Act.

(5) The Committee shall also consider such other general matters relating to the effective scrutiny of secondary legislation and arising from the performance of its functions under paragraphs (1) to (4) as the Committee considers appropriate, except matters within the orders of reference of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:

L Bichard, L Blackwell, L Eames, L Goodlad (Chairman), B Hamwee, L Methuen, B Morris of Yardley, L Norton of Louth, L Plant of Highfield, L Scott of Foscote, L Woolmer of Leeds;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the Reports of the Committee shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House;

That the evidence taken by the Committee shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published.

Standing Orders (Private Bills)

That a Select Committee on the Standing Orders relating to private bills be appointed and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members together with the Chairman of Committees be appointed to the Committee:

L Geddes, B Gould of Potternewton, L Luke, L Naseby, L Palmer, L Rodgers of Quarry Bank, V Simon;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records.

That the reports of the Committee shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House.

Statutory Instruments

In accordance with Standing Order 73 and the resolution of the House of 16 December 1997, that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to join with a Committee of the Commons as the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments:

L Avebury, L Kennedy of Southwark, L Lyell, L Selkirk of Douglas, B Stern, L Walpole;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records.

Works of Art

That a Select Committee be appointed to administer the House of Lords Works of Art Collection Fund; and to consider matters relating to works of art and the artistic heritage in the House of Lords, within the strategic framework and financial limits approved by the House Committee;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:

L Cormack, L Crathorne, B Gale, L Harries of Pentregarth, B Howells of St Davids, L Luke (Chairman), B Maddock, B Rendell of Babergh, L Roberts of Llandudno, E Shrewsbury, L Stevenson of Coddenham, B Valentine;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time.

Soft Power

That a Select Committee be appointed to examine the use of soft power in furthering the United Kingdom’s global influence and interests, and to make recommendations, and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:

B Armstrong of Hill Top, L Forsyth of Drumlean, L Foulkes of Cumnock, B Goudie, L Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L Howell of Guildford (Chairman), B Hussein-Ece, L Janvrin, B Morris of Bolton, Nicholson of Winterbourne, B Prosser, L Ramsbotham;

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have power to adjourn from place to place;

That the evidence taken by the Committee shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published;

That the Committee do report by 14 March 2014;

That the Report of the Committee shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House.

Olympic and Paralympic Legacy

That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the strategic issues for regeneration and sporting legacy from the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and to make recommendations, and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:

L Addington, E Arran, L Bates, L Best, B Billingham, B Doocey, L Faulkner of Worcester, L Harris of Haringey (Chairman), B King of Bow, L Moynihan, B Wheatcroft, L Wigley;

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have power to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom;

That the evidence taken by the Committee shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published;

That the Committee do report by 15 November 2013;

That the Report of the Committee shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House.

Mental Capacity Act 2005

That a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report on the Mental Capacity Act 2005, and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:

L Alderdice, B Andrews, B Barker, B Browning, L Faulks, L Hardie (Chairman), B Hollins, B McIntosh of Hudnall, L Patel of Bradford, B Shephard of Northwold, L Swinfen, L Turnberg;

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have power to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom;

That the evidence taken by the Committee shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published;

That the Committee do report by 28 February 2014;

That the Report of the Committee shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House.

Inquiries Act 2005

That a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report on the law and practice relating to inquiries into matters of public concern, in particular the Inquiries Act 2005, and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:

B Buscombe, L Clinton-Davis, B Gould of Potternewton, B Hamwee, L King of Bridgwater, L Morris of Aberavon, L Richard, L Shutt of Greetland (Chairman), B Stern, L Trefgarne, L Trimble, L Woolf;

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have power to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom;

That the evidence taken by the Committee shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published;

That the Committee do report by 28 February 2014;

That the Report of the Committee shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House.

In moving the 27 Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper en bloc, I remind Members of your Lordships’ House that if there is an objection to any single Motion, I will be more than happy to move all 27 Motions separately.

My Lords, I rise again to query the usefulness of our proposed European Union Committee, and especially of its six sub-committees. I do so against the background of our Liaison Committee’s recent review of our committee structure, which was debated in your Lordships’ House on 21 March. This revealed that there were requests for no fewer than 28 ad hoc committees from your Lordships, of which only five could be accommodated. We could not even find the resources for a foreign affairs committee, which was widely supported, nor for a committee on preventing religiously based gender discrimination in arbitration and mediation services, which was supported in writing by 70 Peers.

I will very briefly repeat the case against this committee. First, its composition remains heavily, if not uniformly, Europhile, as it has been for the past 20 years, and therefore does nothing to reflect the growing Euroscepticism of the British people. Secondly, its findings are almost entirely ignored by Brussels, which routinely overrides our scrutiny reserve. That is the agreement whereby successive Governments have promised they will not sign up to any new EU law in Brussels if it is still being examined by the Select Committee of either House of Parliament.

Between January 2010 and June 2012 the scrutiny reserve was overridden 212 times in the House of Commons and 191 times in your Lordships’ House. Furthermore, the new “yellow card” system, whereby Brussels has to reconsider one of its new laws if eight national Parliaments object to it, is proving to be just as fraudulent as subsidiarity, as some of us forecast. If the Chairman of Committees does not agree with me, can he say what has happened to the proposals by Brussels for gender equality on company boards? Indeed, can he tell your Lordships of any new Brussels law that has been avoided by a yellow card?

I am aware that noble and Europhile Lords will claim that our reports are taken very seriously in Brussels and that Eurocrats can be seen reverently devouring our reports as they go about their unhelpful business, but the Government can point to hardly a single worthwhile case where our recommendations have been passed into European law—witness their Written Answer to me on 10 April. We are told that our committee has inspired the long-overdue reform of the criminal common fisheries policy, but if you put your ear to the ground in Brussels, you learn that this was inspired more by Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall’s television exposé than anything that our committee may have said. In passing, the answer is not to reform the CFP but simply to leave it and reclaim our great fishing industry.

Be all that as it may—and it is—I have to ask why we have seven EU sub-committees when so many subjects go uncovered by your Lordships’ acknowledged wisdom. Your Lordships’ committee reports on every other subject are respected by our media and of value to our people. I have to ask why we do not redistribute the resources of the six EU sub-committees and place them at the disposal of new ad hoc committees, for which there is a genuine need. I look forward to the noble Lord’s reply.

My Lords, it is reassuring to know that in these changing times there are some certainties about the nature of debate in your Lordships’ House. It is that time of year again.

First, I welcome the endorsement of the noble Lord for the new ad hoc Select Committees that have been established and I hope that we will be able to develop even more ad hoc Select Committees over the years ahead. However, that should not be at the cost of the EU Select Committee and its sub-committees. Indeed, I see a slight—to be generous—illogicality in the noble Lord’s position: given his views on the EU, I should have thought that he would have wanted bigger and better scrutiny of EU matters by your Lordships’ House. Therefore, the case is made for maintaining the present number of sub-committees.

Motions agreed.

Outdoor Activities

Motion to Take Note

Moved by

That this House takes note of the contribution of outdoor activities to the United Kingdom economy and to the health and well-being of the population.

My Lords, this Motion is about the great outdoors. When I tabled it, I tried to include “great outdoors” in the title but the clerks thought that the term was rather colloquial and preferred not to have it. However, that is what it is all about. The previous debate in Parliament on these issues was a Commons Adjournment debate led by David Rutley MP on 5 February this year. His definition was, “adventure tourism and outdoor activities”, and that is exactly what this debate is about.

Since I have been in your Lordships’ House we have had some epic debates. A long time ago in 2000, Parliament passed the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. More recently, it passed the Marine and Coastal Access Act, and there have been many others. These are all about the great outdoors, and that is what this Motion is about today. I should declare my interests, which are my involvement in the British Mountaineering Council as a patron and in other ways, and as a vice-president of the Open Spaces Society.

The purpose of this debate is to celebrate the great outdoors, its importance to the local and national economies, and its positive effects on the health and well-being of people. I tried to put the word “people” into the Motion but the clerk said that it should be “population”. However, as far as I am concerned, it is “people”.

The great outdoors involves activities that engage the body and the mind out in the open air, ranging from gentle walks in local parks to exploring the great mountains and wilderness areas. It entails experiencing not just physical activities—you can pay a lot of money to get that in a sweaty gym if that is what you like—but landscapes, nature and open, wild places. It includes walking, climbing, mountaineering, canoeing, cycling, riding, sailing, orienteering, fell running and hang-gliding, as well as nature lovers, botanists and twitchers, and even field sports, although I would draw the line at hunting. I apologise for any that I have missed out. It encompasses walking in the local park, flying kites, cycling across urban trails, winter mountaineering in Scotland and extreme sports that some of us have never heard of. Some are very organised and highly commercialised; others involve voluntary activities in local clubs, rambling groups, mountaineering groups and cycling clubs, but the great majority involve individuals, friends and families going into the countryside and doing their own thing.

What is the value of this activity? Inevitably in a debate such as this, we have been deluged by statistics from all sorts of organisations. I am grateful to bodies such as the Sport and Recreation Alliance, the Ramblers, the BMC and the John Muir Trust, and we have had excellent briefing from the House of Lords Library. Living Streets reminds us that going out and walking is not just a rural activity. I sometimes think on these occasions that you get so much material that you could write a book with it—you cannot possibly use it all.

The value of outdoor activities lies, first, in the economic benefits. The latest research that I have found—there is lots of it—is from the Welsh Economy Research Unit at Cardiff University on the new Wales coastal path. The research unit reckons that this attracted 3 million visitors and was worth £16 million to the Welsh economy over the 12 months from September 2011 to August 2012. In 2011, the LSE’s “gross cycling product” report—an economic report on British cycling—said that British cycling contributes £2.9 billion to the UK economy. I suppose that these studies all keep academics in work but they provide helpful background information.

The social benefits of the great outdoors are huge. The Government’s own UK National Ecosystem Assessment in 2011 estimated that the social benefits of people being able to access and enjoy the countryside amount to £484 million per year. How does one work out these figures? I have no idea. I am very cynical about their accuracy and what they actually mean, but if the Government think that that is what it is worth, I am very happy to support that because it helps me to encourage the Government to promote these activities.

Natural England, in its 2011 Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment report, said that 2.73 billion visits to the natural environment took place in 2011-12, 10% up on the previous year, and that £20 billion was spent. We are deluged with these statistics and they are important, but there are other statistics as well.

The John Muir Trust’s research with Glasgow University looked at equality in accessing the great outdoors and wild places, and at people’s experiences of outdoor activities. It reported that these are still heavily biased towards more prosperous people—I suppose middle England and the middle class, except that this research was carried out in Scotland. It found that people from the 15% more deprived areas in Scotland—worked out on our old friend the indices of multiple deprivation—were more than six times more likely to have had no experience of wild places.

I think of the great epic accounts that have been written by working-class Clydesiders, such as the fascinating book Always a Little Further by Alastair Borthwick about his experiences in the 1930s and going out into the Highlands with some of his mates, and the northern working-class climbers in the 1940s and 1950s, Joe Brown, Don Whillans and their friends in the Rock and Ice Club. They are legends but they were always a small minority of people from deprived backgrounds going out into the countryside, and that remains the case.

We now have stories about children in schools being asked, for example, where milk comes from and saying, “From the supermarket”. The importance of education and of extending involvement across the social classes is as great as it ever was.

On the health values, one academic study in 2007 reported that physical inactivity cost the NHS between £1 billion and £1.8 billion a year, and that the cost to the wider economy was £5.5 billion in sickness absence and £1 billion in premature deaths. We know that going out into the great outdoors not only has great physical benefits for people but great mental benefits as well.

Local authorities now have their new public health roles, and public health is nothing if it is not a matter of ill health prevention. The new role at local authority level will be absolutely vital, and yet these local authorities, the top-tier counties and the unitary authorities that ought to be promoting walking and other outdoor activities to boost public health to produce significant savings in public spending, are exactly the same authorities that are now undergoing drastic cuts in their budgets and cutting their public rights of way budgets for maintaining and developing their local footpath networks. We need more joined-up thinking, and those local authorities should be looking at how to do it.

This leads me on to the question of access, which is absolutely crucial. If you cannot get into the great outdoors it is of no use to you. The Ramblers research last year suggested that 70% of local authorities have cut their rights of way budgets in previous years and that 41% of them have cut them by more than 20%. Given another round of budget cuts this year, the position now is clearly much worse. I am proud to say that my local authority—I declare an interest as a member of Pendle Borough Council, which carries out rights of way work on behalf of the county council in Lancashire—has managed to maintain its service this year despite drastic and savage budget cuts. However, we shall have to look at whether we can continue to do so in the future. Our spending on the service is voluntary, not statutory, yet we have managed to maintain it so far, I am pleased to say.

We have many national trails through our area: the Pennine Way is not very far away, the Pennine bridleway comes within a mile or two of where I live, and the ward I represent on the local council has the Pennine Cycleway, Cycleway 68, threading through it. So we are in the heart of the national trails.

On blocked rights of way, the latest rights of way condition survey by the Countryside Agency in 2000 suggested that serious obstruction occurred every two kilometres on average. I suspect that statistic is much better now, although it will deteriorate because of the way in which rights of way staff in county councils are being removed.

I sponsored a Question for Short Debate about coastal access on 12 July last year, and said then that I was very pleased that, despite the doubts at the beginning of the coalition Government on this, it is now going ahead, but not as quickly as it was. I do not want to say anything more about it, although others do. However, there is a question about national trails generally. Natural England is moving responsibility to local trail partnerships and there is a concern that while local involvement in national trails is vital and can be beneficial—I speak as someone who was instrumental in securing a toucan crossing for the Pennine Cycleway across a busy dual carriageway in my ward—there is still a need for national oversight and a national champion. The Ramblers ran a petition in favour of having a national champion which attracted 18,000 signatures. It would be helpful if the Government could confirm whether there will continue to be national oversight of the national trails.

The rights of way network never has been and is not complete. The map was supposed to be finished by 2026, when a cap would be put on new registrations of historic routes. Stepping Forward, the report of the stakeholder working group on unrecorded rights of way for Natural England has not been taken up and pursued, and it would be interesting to know that the Government are now intending to do that.

One of the problems with access is the lack of knowledge and understanding of what you can do in the countryside. We have such an urban population nowadays that people actually do not know what they can do. They drive out in their cars, park in the car park or on the verge and get the picnic table out, but if you suggest to them that they could go for a walk, they are bewildered. That is why most people who go out into the countryside stay within sight of their cars. Education, information, signage, the maintenance of well used paths and clearing obstacles from less well used ones are all vital, but are being put at risk given the present difficulties with local government budgets.

The Government’s Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement, published earlier this year following the excellent work of the Independent Panel on Forestry, did not pick up the recommendation of the panel with regard to access to forests and woodlands. While the specific recommendation may not be acceptable, it is vital that the question of access to woodlands generally is picked up again. There were concerns at the beginning of this coalition that there were forces, particularly within Defra, who were turning the tide on access. I think that that has now been sorted out and the Government are as committed to access as we could possibly expect; that is to be welcomed.

This is the centenary year of John Muir, who was a founding father of the modern conservation movement, an environmental campaigner, a pioneer of national parks, a champion of wild places and a promoter of the spirit of adventure. I suppose I should declare that I am a member of the John Muir Trust. It is appropriate to conclude these remarks with a famous quotation of his:

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul”.

That is what this Motion to Take Note is all about.

My Lords, I warmly thank the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for initiating this debate today and for the opportunity it gives to emphasise the benefits of outdoor activities to the health and well-being of the nation in so many important regards. It comes just a few days after the publication of a new report by the Mental Health Foundation to mark Mental Health Awareness Week and therefore it is particularly timely. I declare my interest in the great outdoors as the secretary of the All-Party Mountaineering Parliamentary Group and as one of three Members of your Lordships’ House to have climbed all the Munros, the other two being my noble friends Lord Elder and Lord Smith of Finsbury. I am sorry that my colleagues have not put their names down to speak in this debate because they are more eloquent than I and because I know that they share my enthusiasm for walking in the hills, and we are all fully aware of the health benefits—physical, mental and spiritual—that we derive from spending time in the hills.

All three of us will be on our way to Scotland this evening, by plane or sleeper, for the annual John Smith Memorial Walk. This event has been held most years since the tragic and untimely death of the leader of the Labour Party, 19 years ago now, and involves John’s family and friends and old colleagues from politics and wider Scottish life climbing a mountain and raising a glass to his memory. This year we will be on a Corbett in the far north-west of Scotland on Sunday, weather permitting.

Since neither of my noble friends is competing with me, perhaps I might add that I very much hope to be the first member of your Lordships’ House to complete what is known in the Scottish mountaineering world as the “full round”; that is, all summits over 3,000 feet, not just the principal peaks. The grand total is around 600 and I still have a small number to visit.

I am also the organiser of two rambling groups—the Radical Ramblers and the Wednesday Wanderers—and it is from the perspective of the first of these that I wish to make my brief contribution to this debate. The Radical Ramblers has been in existence for more than 30 years; we celebrated our 30th anniversary earlier this year, on the Sunday after the Eastleigh by-election, almost exactly 30 years after our first walk, which was on the Sunday after the Bermondsey by-election. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, remembers both those by-elections well. His party used to do well in parliamentary by-elections, and Bermondsey was certainly a landmark.

In the past 30 years, we have walked very extensively in southern England. Indeed, there is scarcely a long-distance footpath south of a line from the Wash to the Bristol Channel that we have not walked. Some of the best walks have been along the coast. We have walked east from Gravesend on the Saxon Shore Way, turned right at Thanet and headed west along the south coast all the way from Dover to Dartmouth. That includes the South Downs Way from Eastbourne to Winchester and the South West Coast Path from Poole Harbour along the Dorset and Devon coasts, plus the bits in between through the New Forest and the surrounding countryside.

Much of this walking was done before the passage of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill, on pre-existing paths, some of which were some distance from the actual coast. That Act was widely welcomed by the walking community, in particular for giving legislative underpinning to the inspiring notion that as far as practically possible the public should have a right to walk right round the coast of England and Wales. In Wales this aspiration has been fully met, thanks to the enthusiastic support of the Welsh Government. Recently published research has shown that the Wales Coast Path attracted nearly 3 million visitors over a 12-month period and was worth an estimated £16 million to the Welsh economy, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has already mentioned.

In England the evidence on the ground is that significant improvements to the coastal footpath network are coming—but very slowly. Natural England has an important role to play in this regard, in co-operation with local authorities. I have to accept that in a time of austerity progress will be slower than one might like, but I hope that the Minister will recognise that progress needs to be steady and determined and that the Government have a role in ensuring that the momentum is maintained and the will of Parliament prevails.

Lots of figures are bandied about to emphasise the importance of walking to the economy. I have just mentioned one for Wales. Another, provided by the Ramblers, suggests that walkers in the English countryside spend around £6.14 billion a year, supporting almost 250,000 full-time jobs. Recently my group had a marvellous bank holiday weekend walking up the Suffolk Coast Path, taking it fairly easy over four days from Aldeburgh to Lowestoft. There were about 16 or 17 of us on that walk, including two other colleagues from your Lordships’ House. A rough, back-of-an-envelope calculation suggests that our little rambling group spent more than £3,000 in and around Southwold during those four days—on hotels and B&Bs, in pubs and restaurants et cetera. Why were we there? It was because of the coastal path.

The Government recognise that tourism is a cornerstone of growth. The Minister of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport spelt that out in the debate on outdoor pursuits which was held in the other place earlier this year. What is needed is gentle but firm encouragement for the rollout of the English coastal path

The Marine and Coastal Access Bill was subjected to intensive pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of both Houses in the spring of 2008, and I had the privilege and pleasure of serving on that pre-legislative scrutiny committee. I still have the report, which I have brought with me, and the voluminous evidence which we received.

One of the submissions that disappointed me most was from Essex County Council. Although its paper acknowledged that long-distance walkers would bring economic benefits—increased trade for bed-and-breakfast owners was specifically mentioned—the general tenor of the submission was quite negative towards the concept of a coastal footpath.

Essex has more coastline than any other county in England, more even than Cornwall. This may come as a surprise to those who are not acquainted with the convolutions of the many tidal estuaries which make up so much of the Essex coast. Much of it is low-lying and subject to erosion.

In some cases the sea walls are being breached deliberately in collaboration with the Environment Agency to provide additional intertidal habitats—Rigdon’s breach, on the south side of Hamford Water near Walton-on-the-Naze, comes to mind. Much work is ongoing but precious little, if any, seems to be related to promoting a long-distance coastal path. In fact, some of this work gives the impression of being done to thwart the development of a coastal path.

I hope that Essex County Council can be encouraged to see its extensive coastline as an economic opportunity, not merely as an expensive liability. If Sussex, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall can see the economic potential of encouraging walking along their shores, with the appropriate provision of car parks and access facilities, Essex might yet do the same. I sincerely hope so.

It will be too late for the Radical Ramblers, as we are all getting a bit long in the tooth, but future generations of walkers are coming after us. The Essex backwaters provide splendid habitats for overwintering birds and are rightly popular with ornithologists as well as wild fowlers. Access on foot to these hidden gems needs to be greatly enhanced for future generations of lovers of the great outdoors.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend, who in his time in your Lordships’ House has really championed the cause of outdoor access. It was a privilege to be able to work with him on the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, and ever since then I have learnt a great deal from him about all aspects of access. He referred to the different categories of people to whom access is important. I would classify myself in the category of nature lover, and it is on that that I am going to concentrate today.

In my lifetime, our lives have certainly become much more constrained to being indoors, in cars and in front of screens. It is a fact that has been reported widely that children play out less, are driven about more and spend more time in front of TVs and games consoles. My noble friend laid out some of the reasons why that is dangerous. It is dangerous to health and, as my noble friend was right to point out, particularly to mental health. It is extremely uplifting to spend time even just walking outdoors.

I feel pretty lucky, because we did not have a TV until I was 14 and my parents thought that their big radiogram was quite exciting enough. Being the last child by a long way and living in the middle of nowhere, I thought that damming the stream was high entertainment if my friends were not around. Now I realise how lucky I was, because the love of being outdoors has stayed firmly with me. At that age I absorbed absolutely effortlessly the names of birds, flowers and butterflies that my parents taught me. The excitement that they felt at seeing a patch of sundews or an early purple orchid if we were out walking in the mountains has also stayed with me.

Only once did I feel that my mother had taken this a little far. By that time I was an adult and she was staying with me. I was helping a neighbour with his beehives one evening in a rather nice area of heathland and my mother had come along for a walk. I made a mistake, did not smoke the bees enough and got 50 angry bees or more up my bee suit. I was running about screaming when my mother turned round and said, “Shh! I think I can hear a nightjar”.

Even with a very outdoor childhood like mine, I still felt keenly the absolute thrill of our biology A-level course field trip to a centre near Pickering. I remember clearly laying out our metre squares, our job being to count the different species within that metre. The point was to learn a bit more about ecology and how species related. My children in Somerset felt the same excitement when they went to the Somerset outdoor centres at Kilve Court and Charterhouse.

Imaginative schools can make the best of their own grounds. You do not need access to vast acres to make things interesting and exciting. Just this morning, as I thought about what I would say today, I looked at the Archbishop Sumner school opposite my flat in Lambeth, appreciating again just what they have achieved by planting silver birches in the front and creating an exciting woodland entrance to the school. At the back, there is an area now full of bluebells. There are also interesting places for the children to explore with woven living willow shelters and so on.

Experiencing the real world around you is incredibly important, not just for educational reasons but for the feelings of freedom and wonder that it engenders. The first time I came across a study on this sort of thing I was still a county councillor. In 1999, a publication called The Outdoor Classroom: Educational Use, Landscape Design and Management of School Grounds caught my eye. I started to look at the schools in our area, which had done a lot. That began to increase my interest in what you could achieve with even a marginal area round a school playing field.

A 2008 Ofsted report looked at a sample of schools providing opportunities to learn outside the classroom and found that, when implemented well, those opportunities,

“contributed significantly to raising standards and improving pupils’ personal, social and emotional development”.

Indeed, if you ask a child what they remember about their last term at school, you will often get a vivid account of a school trip or something else based outside the classroom.

What are the barriers to this? There is health and safety. The 2010 report by my noble friend Lord Young, Common Sense, Common Safety, helped to reduce the form filling and red tape that had previously hampered teachers who wanted to take their pupils on school trips. The Department for Education continued the effort to reduce barriers in 2012 with some important health and safety policy statements about school trips and learning activities. It did quite a bit of work tackling myths about health and safety by explaining that its main interest is in real risks arising from serious breaches of the law, such as a trip leader taking pupils canoeing but not ensuring that they all wore buoyancy equipment.

Then there are the costs. An important 2010 report from the other place, Transforming Education Outside the Classroom, found that there was a risk of school trips becoming the preserve of private schoolchildren. My noble friend Lord Greaves mentioned that going outdoors at all can be a preserve of the privileged.

Sadly, as the report was published just before the election, its recommendations have not been taken up as fully as they could have been. The Guardian newspaper ran a round table in 2012 that found, unsurprisingly, that local authorities have been hit by cuts from central government. It was an interesting round table under Chatham House rules, so the comments are reported but not attributed. It found that some schools thought that they could meet the costs from the pupil premium and others were no longer subsidising the cost of children going on trips or to local outdoor activity centres. One of the conclusions of the discussion was that if you viewed the outdoor classroom as a classroom, it could be an essential part of the curriculum and should be given equal status with the other aspects of provision.

Of course, one of the biggest champions of all that is the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom. If I had my way, the Government would class that body as pretty much as important as Ofsted. It is the national voice for learning outside the classroom. I can do no better than cite the example of Marnie Rose, who won the Learning Outside the Classroom award as the innovator of 2012 for setting up a social enterprise called The Garden Classroom four years previously to offer free science and nature workshops for schools in local parks and gardens here in London. She encapsulates what I am talking about when she said:

“When I was a child I attended Cann Hall Primary School in Leytonstone, east London and in year 5 & 6 we regularly visited Sun Trap Field Study Centre in Epping Forest. To this day I can remember the smells and colours of walking in Epping Forest, wearing wellies and being allowed to get wet and muddy ... seeing hedgehogs close up … and eating my egg mayonnaise sandwiches. They are some of my happiest childhood memories. The school continues to run the visits to this day”.

She then mentions that her nan had an allotment, which was also very important to her. It is that sort of childhood and formative experience that can lay the foundations of wishing to go outdoors and understanding what it can offer you as a person.

Given the time available, I will not list all the organisations that do so much work in this area, but I will just mention Garden Organic, which offers all sorts of help to schools with activities tied into the curriculum. The Wildlife Trusts run a huge programme of activities for children by collecting charitable and private resources. In 2012 alone, they hosted 162,000 pupils from 4,400 schools all over the country. They have sites dotted around everywhere, so there is nearly always one near a school. They provide informal education opportunities, with 140,000 members of their junior branch, Wildlife Watch. They also do outreach work in schools. There is a follow-up to that, because lots of those children then become volunteers with their local wildlife trust. You can go out to see things with experts. As I know, it is very hard to go out on your own and work out which sort of bat is which, but if you go out with a bat expert you will soon learn.

We talk about social mobility and equality of opportunity, but I think that is meaningful only if our young people have the chance to experience and learn about the natural world around them. To the Government, I say: encourage empty classroom day. This year, it is on 5 July, and I wish it all the luck in the world.

My Lords, when my noble friend Lord Greaves was lucky enough to secure this debate, because he got himself together to put in for it, he asked me to contribute and I said yes. When you talk about the countryside and the great outdoors, what exactly does that mean? It suddenly became clear to me that it means something different to everyone. We have heard from noble Lords about serious walking and long-range walking. These walks are structured and take up the day. People plan them to be the major part of their day. My noble friend Lady Miller spoke about being in the countryside.

I thought about what the countryside means to other people. Let us remember that we all bring our own baggage to these debates. My childhood was in Norfolk, which we all know is very flat. It probably does not present the challenges suggested by noble Lords who have spoken here about walking. I now live in Berkshire, which is experienced differently because of where it is. I live in Lambourn, which is dominated by the racing industry and horses. The industry’s attitude to the usage of the countryside is very different from that of the average walker. It is worried about the people who use the paths. It does not want, for instance, to risk great holes in the paths and bridleways that might trap a horse’s foot, which could lead to a broken leg, a damaged horse or worse.

The area is close to urban centres. Swindon is just over the hill. We also get people in motor vehicles and cyclists on these paths. The usage and distortion of the paths and access points mean that once again there are different priorities. My experience of the countryside usually is walking, accompanied by a dog on a lead. My bête noir is the green laner in his 4x4 who seems to get a great buzz from going up the same small bit of hilly path that cuts across a walk I do frequently. In the past, I have been told that I just do not understand people who want to experience this activity or want to improve their driving skills. Over the winter, periodically I saw the same person in a nice warm heated cabin bumping along the same path. You are quite right: I do not understand it.

I have slightly more sympathy for those on scrambling bikes, which we see quite a lot. That is possibly because I feel that there is a greater danger of them falling over and hurting themselves. The competition for usage in the countryside is great, particularly around centres of population. Of course, everyone knows that what they are doing is most important, which is intrinsic to us all. To get the best out of all those activities, we have to look at co-ordination. In addition, as my noble friend pointed out, local authorities are under pressure. It is no surprise that a path will be lost if it is not opened up or maintained. If you want to lose a path, brambles and nettles will cover it pretty quickly, particularly if it is not used frequently. How do we prioritise getting into those places to make sure that multiple uses are available?

My noble friends have reminded me of the CROW Act. At the time, there were rows with the Ramblers’ Association, which suggested looking at better services on more public paths. Someone said, “No, we cannot tarmac over the countryside”. I said, “But you are quite prepared to have expanding paths that spin out to the side, making an environmentally sterile situation with great scars running across the countryside”. Very few people can access those paths unless they are determined walkers. On the Ridgeway, someone with a baby in a buggy might have to turn around because of a huge, muddy puddle in front of them. Some management is required.

We also have the disability lobby, with which I have strong connections, saying, “No, we want places that we can use”. Then you discover that they are using small, powerful, electronic, jeep-type wheelchairs. Their level of access is different from someone who has a slightly bad leg but wants just to walk in the countryside. How do you co-ordinate that? Effectively, unless we take action to bring these people together, these conflicts will always occur. They will become quite intense at times and get in the way of the idea that there should be room for us all to do if not everything we want, at least some of that.

The economic and health arguments are fairly straightforward. My noble friend may be very cynical about the exact figure for the economic benefit, probably with some justification, but the fact of the matter is that if you are selling walking boots and giving out cream teas and coats, and the odd bit of bed and breakfast, there is going to be a benefit. In the same way, if you want horses that go out and are used for hacking around, there is a benefit to everybody, from farriers to saddlers and the people who run the stables. There are benefits to be had from this, and you can go on and do this again and again.

Those benefits are clearly there. Given that and the fact that gentle walking must be, shall we say, the most perfect form of low-impact exercise for weight control, particularly if you are not in the peak of condition and want a shorter activity, to get these benefits in all these areas we must have somebody who looks at the overall picture and tries to pull them all in together. Can my noble friend give us an idea of exactly what has been done to bring all these competing groups together to talk to each other?

For instance, will people who are dealing with countryside access talk about access without a car from an urban centre? Either you walk there or you can catch a bus. That is quite an important part of access. It once again addresses a fact that was already raised: that the middle class who jump in a car and go get the best out of this. There again, do we particularly want them to use their cars more? Not really. We would much rather have it that anybody with a reasonably sturdy pair of shoes and a coat with some water resistance can access the countryside. Better still, if we can co-ordinate access from urban centres to the countryside without using a car, it would be a massive help.

The serious walkers also have an inbuilt interest in this, for the simple reason that we will encourage more people to take up the activity. There always has to be an entrance point, particularly if you are taking this on without having a cultural reference within your family. Having easy access to a start is very important. I have no doubt that the Ramblers’ Association, among others, will have views and opinions about how that should happen but unless it starts to co-ordinate it with those in urban environments who are, for instance, planning such things as bus routes and transport, it will not have the maximum effect.

Unless an overview is taken and some people are made to pay attention to it, we are never going to get the best out of this environment. We are always going to be chasing round and putting people under pressure, who will then defend with tremendous fervour their own particular interest. Unless we can form this overview and make people sit down and talk together more, we are always going to have that conflict. I look forward to hearing what will be said to address this, but can we please take on board that huge benefits are to be had here? They will never be maximised if we always find people in those situations of rivalry defending their own patch.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a vice-president of the Campaign for National Parks and as a former president of the Friends of the Lake District, and currently a patron. If we are to have a second House worth having, people such as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, are indispensable. I have the highest regard for his independent-mindedness and his consistent commitment to qualitative dimensions in our society, ensuring that we are not able, in all the preoccupations of economic efficiency and administration, to overlook what a real, healthy, decent and civilised society should be about. I am very grateful to him for having introduced this debate.

In preparing for the debate, I was interested by the quality and quantity of briefing that came to us from organisations working in the countryside and in activity there. I draw the attention of noble Lords to a particularly good brief that came from the Ramblers. In case there is any prejudice about the title of that organisation, the brief is anything but a ramble. It is concise, brief and very effective. Let me share some of it with the House.

“Walking is a major contributor to the UK economy. Research carried out in 2003 on behalf of the Ramblers revealed that walkers in the English countryside spend around £6.14 billion a year, generating income in excess of £2 billion and supporting up to 245,000 full-time jobs”.

That suggests that this is a brief worth bringing to the attention of most departments of government, not least the Treasury.

According to the Outdoor Industries Association, £9 billion a year is spent directly on outdoor leisure goods and services, including walking as well as other outdoor activities, such as climbing, and an additional £10.5 billion is spent in the local economy by people engaged in outdoor activities. The outdoor economy employs 2% of the UK workforce in rural areas and is worth 1.2% of the UK’s GDP.

It is worth noting that the foot and mouth disease outbreak in 2001 revealed starkly the extent to which our countryside is valued as a recreational amenity; the miserable closure of the countryside during the outbreak was estimated to have cost the rural economy and tourism industry £5 billion.

There is good evidence that clear, easy to use, well promoted path and trail networks influence more people to make day trips to an area or to stay for longer periods, thereby increasing visitor spend. This directly supports vital services such as shops and pubs, as well as local business such as hotels and small accommodation providers. For example, in 2010, £7.2 billion was spent visiting the countryside, while Hadrian’s Wall path has brought in £19 million to local communities since it was created in 2003. It is estimated that the south-west coast path national trail, running along 630 miles of the coast from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour in Dorset is worth £307 million annually to the regional economy. Natural England estimates that the English adult population participated in an estimated 2.73 billion visits to the natural environment during 2011-12 and that just over half—52%—of visits to the natural environment were to the countryside.

Despite the popularity of countryside visits, our access infrastructure is not effectively or adequately supported. The extent and quality of public access opportunities is patchy; good-quality access exists in some areas, but in others the recreational infrastructure is fragmented, in poor condition or access is not signposted. The last national survey on the condition of public rights of way was undertaken in 2000 and revealed that on average users were likely to come across a serious obstruction every two kilometres.

In a timely way, the organisation Living Streets reminded us in its useful brief of a recent article in the Lancet. It revealed that increased levels of walking and cycling have the potential to save the National Health Service more than £17 billion over 20 years through reductions in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes, dementia, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and cancer because of increased physical activity.

All this is powerful evidence of why we should take more seriously the economic dimensions of the countryside and what it means for Britain, but I do not make any apology for turning to another matter. I recognise that it is subjective, but I cannot believe that I am alone. It must be shared by many other noble Lords. I mean the priceless side of the value of the countryside.

What sort of Britain do we want our children and grandchildren to inherit? Is it one that has become so preoccupied with the mechanisms of creating wealth that there is nothing there of value to enjoy with the greater wealth at the disposal of the population? Do we want a Britain in which people are materially existing or a creative, living Britain in which youngsters—as an ambition, all youngsters—have the opportunity to discover themselves physically and spiritually and fulfil their lives by their experiences? For me, that is the value of the countryside and why all those who fought to make it available and enjoyable were so important.

I live in the Lake District, and when we are going home, my wife says that I become just about liveable with when we reach Preston on the train. I ask myself why that is so. I am sure many others share my experience that when I am on the west coast route from Oxenholme to Penrith between the two national parks and see the hills, the sun, the rain, the sheep battling with the environment and the rivers racing and flowing, there is an excitement and a dimension. I think, “My God, why are more people not able to enjoy this? Why have they not seen this potential in life?”. I know that when I have struggled, panted, climbed and clambered up a fell—although not at the moment, because my chassis plays me up a bit—and come over the brow of the fell, and there was a range of hills and mountaintops in front of me, it was an extraordinary experience. Why is it not more available to people of all ethnic groups in our society or to the handicapped? We should find ways to make it available, sympathetic ways that do not spoil the objective. There must be ways in which that can be done.

There is a small fell near my house. Until recently, I enjoyed going up it whenever I could. When you get to the top, on a clear day you can look one way and see in the distance the hills above Buttermere—the Gables—and Scafell. If you turn round, beyond the lake of Loweswater is the view of the Isle of Man and, on a very good day, looking across the Solway, you can see the Mull of Galloway and the Southern Uplands. I challenge anyone to have that experience and not say that life is about more than just making money and increasing one’s material well-being. That should be there for all.

The danger is not that we will see an all-out blitz on the countryside but that there will be a gradual erosion of what I am talking about. There will be what has been described as a suburbanisation of what I am talking about. The paradox, incidentally, with suburbanisation is that people like me who can afford to live in the countryside and enjoy it have to face the reality that local people are no longer able to afford to live there. There is the huge challenge of affordable housing, and how that is done sympathetically. I am vice-president of the Lakeland Housing Trust, which specialises in using existing buildings for accessible housing and is committed to the principle of ensuring that it is done in a sympathetic way.

A society like ours, with the psychological and other pressures that operate on people, needs places which are contrasts and provide peace in the context of living. In government departments and in opposition, we have to be rigorous in saying that, whatever the other immediate economic pressures and the rest—and you would be a fool to deny that these are of course important—we are here to protect this heritage and to enable it to be enjoyed by our people into the future. There must be a strong inter-departmental strategy to make sure that that is happening.

I conclude with an anecdote, which I have perhaps used more than once before in the House; I do not apologise for that, because it had a deep effect on me. Down on Windermere, there is a YMCA training centre. I was talking to a really rather impressive middle-aged lady who was utterly committed to the work going on there, and she said, “The other day, I had a youngster here from an inner-city area, aged about seven or eight. In the evening, I said to this youngster, ‘What did you do today?’. The youngster looked at me with wide eyes and excitement, and said, ‘Miss, I saw far!’. A few days later, I said to her, ‘What did you do today?’, and she replied, ‘Miss, I saw very far!’”.

That is what the countryside can mean. That is why it is invaluable. That is why those who want to ride roughshod over green-belt land because of some immediate economic opportunism when there are perfectly good brownfield sites available need to be challenged. They are destroying the soul of Britain.

My Lords, I add my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Greaves on securing this debate. I declare my interests: I am president of the Friends of the Ridgway and a member of the Green Lanes Environmental Action Movement, GLEAM.

When I was a member of Oxfordshire County Council, we moved to erect traffic regulation orders on the Ridgeway. This was a joint action between the county councils of Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. I was also a member of the Thames Valley Police Authority, which was willing to enforce the traffic regulation orders. The reason for these was the need to protect the Ridgeway against the depredations of motorcyclists and 4x4 sports vehicles, which were turning it into an absolute quagmire. My noble friend has referred to the fact that it is a wide way, but it was muddy, dangerous to ride a horse and quite impossible to ride a bicycle. It really was a disgrace. We managed to do something positive. I am sorry to hear my noble friend’s story of the water across the Ridgeway, but I think that that is perhaps beyond the control of the county council. In any case, we should do something about it. Maintaining a footpath or bridleway costs a lot of money, but they are so easily destroyed by the activities of a few—and I use the phrase advisedly—pretty irresponsible people.

We have managed to make some improvements under the Traffic Management Act 2005 and the NERC Act 2006 making it a little bit easier to face down the Trail Riders Federation and their fairly substantial supporters. However, there are many more things to do. I will not talk for a long time about the Peak District, but it is an absolute disgrace in most places. The noise and intimidation that are presented to walkers, cyclists and horse riders are quite awful. This goes on because no traffic regulation orders are even being sought by the several local authorities in the Peak District. The reason for this is that traffic regulation orders can be difficult to obtain. The procedure is convoluted and allows lots of scope for objectors to make their views known, which they do. That makes the process very expensive. The result is the destruction of the countryside. The noise of many of these vehicles is really quite awful in a place that should be peaceful. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, has referred to his returns to the Lake District, and it is the peace of the place that is part of the appeal he describes. However, I am afraid that the peace of the Peak District is being very severely eroded.

Obviously, the House will not want to hear a list of the technical things that need doing. I will not repeat it. However, the highway authorities have rather ill described objectives to assert and protect the rights of the public to the use and enjoyment of any highway for which they are the authority. That can be read as if they are there to protect the rights of people who use noisy and intimidating vehicles. The highway authority is probably not the best body to initiate much of this activity.

I hope that the Minister, when he replies to the debate, will give me some comfort. We ought to be prepared with the necessary secondary legislation, and indeed the primary legislation, so that when the opportunity occurs we can move forward. This will never be the major substance of any Bill, but we have in the past made quite a lot of progress through being ready and able, when a piece of legislation comes forward, to tack a clause on. I stress the serious condition of many valuable rights of way that causes immense heartache and suffering to the people who would use it if they could. I hope that the Minister might today offer some hope to those people.

My Lords, I am most grateful to the House for the opportunity to speak in the gap, and it is a great privilege to follow my noble friend Lord Bradshaw.

I have been involved in this matter for over 10 years, and I declare an interest as a member of GLEAM. My noble friend was far too modest about the achievement of the Ridgeway, which was a masterpiece of leadership and communication with the various authorities and the police. He has emphasised the contrast with the Peak District, which, with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, is certainly one of the most beautiful bits of this island. Ironically, however, seven highway authorities are involved there, and certainly up to spring of this year not one traffic order had been made.

It is worth pointing out that the cost and time involved in making one of these orders is far outweighed if the matter goes to appeal and the appeal goes against the authority, when it is faced with the costs of the appeal, of making good the damage and of enforcing the traffic regulation order. Therefore my noble friend Lord Greaves, who has done a great service in securing this debate, will provide the opportunity to get those local authorities, particularly in the Peak District, to look again at this matter.

I am told that the Peak District National Park Authority was only starting to look at this matter seriously two years ago, and it is said to be overwhelmed by the problems it faces. That may well be true, but it means that there is no time to lose. The off-road fraternity is very quick witted, shall we say, and very good at exploiting local authority inertia. That is one of the real problems that we face in this matter.

My Lords, I, too, thank and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, on his initiative in securing this debate, and if I may say so, on his excellent introduction to our debate. He is very well known in your Lordships’ House for the way he has championed the great outdoors, as he calls it, and it is a privilege to be able to take part in the debate.

As the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said, the great outdoors means different things to different people. His comments and those of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, have reinforced the fact that while most people who use the great outdoors are able to get along with each other with a degree of tolerance, there is a problem. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, mentioned 4x4 vehicles, and we could have talked about speedboats in certain parts of the national parks. I hope that the Minister will reflect on the particular points made about the Peaks, which is a wonderful, beautiful area in which people’s enjoyment is being spoilt at the moment. If there is a real issue about the laying of traffic orders, one might want to look to primary legislation as a way of helping local authorities to do the right thing. I hope the noble Lord can give some comfort on that.

The great outdoors, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said, means different things to different people. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, was very clear as to what the outdoors means to her. To me, of course, it means the great city of Birmingham, and rather different circumstances, but we have wonderful parks—and canals, which, in some parts of the city, meet the description by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, as open and wild places—and we have cycling paths, which are being developed. I was reflecting on the comments made by my noble friend Lord Judd that when he reached Preston he began to feel better and that he was beginning to get into the great outdoors. I use the same west coast main line, and I feel the same sense when I get into the city centre, just past Birmingham City football ground, as I look at the green spaces that greet you as you go into the city, particularly as a result of the recent development in the city centre.

I declare an interest as chair of an NHS foundation trust and as a trainer and consultant with Cumberlege Connections, as we cover health issues. My daughter is a director of policy at the organisation Living Streets, formerly the Pedestrians Association, which is sponsoring Walk to Work Week this month. Comments were made that if we are to encourage people to exercise more—and the evidence in favour of that is overwhelming—often the best way to do that is to incorporate it into people’s daily working lives. That is why the walking to work initiative is very good.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, mentioned the Welsh and English coastal paths. He said that although at the beginning of the coalition Government’s term of office he feared the worst for the implementation of the Act, which many noble Lords here today spent many happy months debating, he had been reassured that the intention was to implement the coastal pathway. However, I have been very disappointed by the pace of implementation. Is the Minister able to give us any words of comfort about when we might be able to see the full implementation of the coastal pathway? I gently remind him that when I took the Bill through, we came under great pressure from the Conservative Benches on some aspects of it. It is right that we press for its speedy implementation.

The health evidence of an active lifestyle, including a lifestyle in the great outdoors, is overwhelming. The WHO estimates that around 6% of global deaths are caused by physical inactivity. It also estimates that between 20% and 35% of cardiovascular disease could be prevented if people became more active throughout their lives. We have the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines, which is 30 minutes of physical activity on at least five days a week for adults, and at least one hour of moderate or intense activity a day for children aged five to 18. We also have a 17 year-long study of 10,000 people, published by the University of Exeter last month, which looks at the impact of living in a green area, and which concluded that it has a significant positive effect on well-being. My noble friend Lord Haworth made the point that the green space effect is that you can have lower levels of mental distress and higher life satisfaction, which can still be seen, even after changes over time, in participants’ income, employment, marital status, physical health and housing type. Although we are talking about the great outdoors, and inevitably think about the national parks, of course a green space can be in a city if planners are imaginative about their provision of facilities.

My noble friend Lord Haworth is going on the John Smith memorial walk this weekend, and I wish him well in that endeavour. He showed, and mentioned, the economic benefits of rambling, and mentioned the coastal path, as did my noble friend Lord Judd. It is interesting that the national parks have estimated that 110 million people visit them each year. They contribute about £4.5 billion to local economies, and more than 100,000 jobs are directly dependent on the national parks. In other country areas one can see similar impacts. Therefore, there is an overwhelming case for the economic, health and well-being benefits of encouraging the use of the great outdoors. Again, I would be interested to know what the Government are doing to recognise that and to encourage us to see even more positive impacts on the economy in future. The next debate, which is coming up a little earlier than some noble Lords thought, is about growth in the economy.

Perhaps we could send a message to the noble Lords taking part in it, although of course I very much share the point made by my noble friend Lord Judd that although the economic benefit is to be celebrated, the main issue is the intrinsic value of the countryside rather than any materialistic goal.

My final point comes back to an issue mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller: children and schools. Unfortunately, not many young people meet the levels of exercise recommended by the Chief Medical Officer. My information is that in England, 32% of boys and only 24% of girls meet the basic levels of activity that the Chief Medical Officer recommends. For adults, the figures are 39% of men and 29% of women—so they are low, and there is a gap between men and women. There is also some doubt about whether the figures are accurate. Some people responding to the surveys were tested to see whether there was evidence that they were engaging in physical activity. This reduced the figures that I have to 6% of men and 4% of women. Clearly, the overwhelming evidence is that although activity of the type mentioned by noble Lords is good for people, only a small proportion of people in our country engage in it.

This brings us back to schools. I have to mention my disappointment at the Olympic legacy. Of course not all young people will engage in the physical activity involved in competitive sport—although we should do everything we can to encourage those sports. There is no doubt that when the Olympic bid was won, and when we had the wonderful Olympics, we expected there to be a positive impact in schools on sport and physical activity generally. Mr Gove’s decision to get rid of funding and then bring some of it back is having a direct impact on the levels of physical activity in schools. I hope the Minister will be able to say that the Government acknowledge and recognise that this is a problem that needs to be put into reverse.

In conclusion, it seems that the case argued with great passion and conviction by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is one that noble Lords have found to be proven.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend on securing this debate and acknowledge his long-term commitment to these matters. I also reiterate, as noble Lords said, that outdoor activity means many things to many different people. That is its appeal. It provides millions of people with the opportunity to participate in a diverse range of activities. It gives them much pleasure and improves their mental and physical health and general well-being. It also contributes to the economy.

Inactivity is associated with many diseases. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, suggested the figure of 6% of early deaths globally. My figure is 9%. Whatever the correct figure, it is a very serious issue. For those reasons and more, in July 2011 the Chief Medical Officers of the four home countries published Start Active, Stay Active, setting out the new guidelines for physical activity. For adults, the new recommendation is for at least 150 minutes of physical activity spread across the week. Importantly, the guidelines address the whole-life course, from early years to older people, and include advice on avoiding sedentary behaviour.

As we have just lost a Garden but there is a Gardiner on the Front Bench, I will raise the issue of gardening. That is an activity that millions of us engage in, all year round. Only two days ago I read that gardeners can burn off 19,000 calories a year. There were 20.9 million visits to allotments and community gardens between March 2012 and February 2013. The 100th anniversary of the Chelsea Flower Show is approaching next week—I declare that I am a member of the Royal Horticultural Society—and millions of us enjoy walking round this country’s wonderful parks and gardens. There were 34 million day visits to gardens in 2012 alone. As I gardened as a schoolboy, I was particularly struck by the important observations of my noble friend Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer on school gardens.

Much is being done to encourage people to take more exercise, but in England, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, suggested, six out of 10 men and seven out of 10 women exercise less than the guidelines would like us to. For children, the guidelines recommend at least 60 minutes of daily activity, but, again, participation levels are too low. I shall address how we should tackle some of these issues.

In the face of the statistics, the Department of Health has established a national ambition for physical activity of a year-on-year increase in the number of adults doing 150 minutes of exercise per week, and a similar reduction in the number of those who are inactive. This represents what could be achieved if all sectors worked together, supported by the new delivery system for public health. The ambition is reflected in the public health outcomes framework indicator for physical activity.

There are so many health benefits from outdoor activity. Walking brings important mental health benefits. The noble Lord, Lord Haworth, and other noble Lords spoke powerfully about these benefits. It can help prevent dementia in older people. I read recently of the important ways in which depression can be helped by people walking much more. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, also raised this point.

I turn to the Olympic and Paralympic legacy, which was mentioned. Grass-roots participation is crucial to a successful legacy. To support this, Sport England’s Places People Play programme is making a significant investment in local sports facilities, with more than 1,000 community sports facilities receiving grants totalling more than £50 million. It is also protecting playing fields, which are so important in enabling all members of the community to take part in sport and physical activity.

The latest active people participation figures for England from December last year showed that between October 2011 and October 2012 more than 15 million people aged 16 and over participated in sport at least once a week. This was a significant increase in sports participation over 2010-11, with more than 750,000 more adults taking part. Surely we must build on this. The Government recognise the importance of sport for people of all ages, and particularly for young people. In January last year, we launched the £1 billion youth and community sport strategy with Sport England, with the aim of creating a sporting habit for life.

The devolved Administrations are also actively engaged in promoting health and well-being via their sporting agencies. As part of that strategy, in December last year Sport England announced a £493 million investment between 2013 and 2017 in the national governing bodies of sport to deliver a year-on-year increase in the number of people, particularly those between 14 and 25, doing regular sport. Sport England is also funding programmes for community organisations, charities and local authorities, putting sport organisers into colleges, helping disadvantaged young people to develop life skills though sport, and funding to improve participation among those currently least active.

Major sports play a crucial role in the health and well-being of the UK. Sport England’s Active People survey shows that just over 2.1 million people play football for 30 minutes once a week. The forthcoming Rugby League World Cup in October and November this year and the Rugby Union World Cup in 2015 will inspire a new generation to play the game across the country. On the first day of the test season, I must not forget cricket, either.

I would like to highlight three sectors where we did extraordinarily well in the Paralympics and Olympics. First, there is equestrianism. Sport England has funded £6 million to the British Equestrian Federation, which will be used to deliver a number of activities to attract new riders, keep more people riding, and bring former riders back to the sport. I would particularly like to mention an organisation that I know well, the Riding for the Disabled Association, which is such a force for good. Then there is sailing. The Royal Yachting Association is expanding on programmes which introduce new young people into the sport by teaching them new skills in a safe and controlled environment. It is also continuing the successful Sailability programme, which supports disabled people to sail through specialist provision.

Then there is cycling. The huge success of Team GB truly inspired many more to get on a bike. The impact of the Grand Départ of the Tour de France setting off in Yorkshire next year will be immense. The Department for Transport has published details about how it will allocate the £42 million investment in cycling announced in last year’s Autumn Statement. It will comprise an urban element, which I hope will please the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and a rural element for areas that are covered by national parks.

I turn to mountaineering. I am very conscious that the noble Lord, Lord Haworth, has climbed all the Munros. I have a mixture of admiration and dread at that prospect. Of course, I wish him and all his colleagues well in the memorial walk that they are doing very shortly. I also mention the close interest taken by my noble friend Lord Greaves in this matter. Mountaineering is receiving £3 million through Sport England’s whole sport plans. Almost 100,000 people regularly take part in those activities. Figures from Natural England show that there were more than 60 million visits to mountains, hills and moorlands between March last year and February this year. They are much cherished parts of the countryside.

Outdoor pursuits can happen anywhere, be it large-scale events such as the London marathon or the Great North Run, Ramblers’ Association activities, or those at community level. We are now into the Walking to Work week, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, mentioned. My own contribution is to get off the bus one stop earlier, as part of that exercise. It may not be the most robust contribution, but I am with them in spirit. Next week is Walking to School week. I am very conscious of safety matters in that regard. But, clearly, that is something that we should encourage wherever possible.

I turn to the matter of access, raised by quite a number of noble Lords. Defra has announced a £2 million fund for the creation of new permanent access rights, following the rural economy growth review in 2011. My noble friend Lord Greaves, in particular, raised those points. The Paths for Communities scheme, funded by the Rural Development Programme for England, aims to develop and enhance the rights of way network to the benefit of the local economy. Natural England, on behalf of the Government, has appointed Walk England as its partner on national trails at the start of the financial year. Natural England has completed a two-year review programme to develop a new operational management model for national trails. During that review, we are looking into the possibility of taking proposals forward on how we could leverage the economic potential of trails more strongly. It was raised by many noble Lords that the network of national trails is an important generator of local businesses. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, mentioned the south-west coast path, which I understand generates over £300 million a year for the economy of the region, supporting over 7,500 jobs.

I am also very mindful of what my noble friends Lord Addington and Lord Bridgeman have said on these matters, and on the challenges of the multiuse of rights of way, as well as the discussions and negotiations that have to take place to try to find a settlement. I am particularly conscious of the representations that my noble friend Lord Bradshaw has made, especially about the Peak District. I had an opportunity before the debate to discuss those matters with my honourable friend Richard Benyon, the Minister in Defra, and I know that he would be very happy to meet my noble friend. He is actively seeking to find solutions to what are clearly unsatisfactory problems in that part of the world. It has been mentioned that many local authorities are engaged in this matter, but I wanted to emphasise that the Minister specifically asked me to say that he is happy to meet and that he is working on this matter now.

I raise the matter of the countryside—and how could I resist, when my noble friend Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer spoke so wonderfully about its place in the nation’s affections? Its beauty means so much to us, and binds together past and present, nature and culture, and tradition and invention. The countryside is where my soul certainly soars, but I equally respect the fact, along with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, that the urban dimension also has a soul-soaring aspect.

Our “green and pleasant land” is hugely important for tourism. Domestic tourism, as well as that from overseas, plays a vital role in rural economies. I was pleased to know that Chinese visitors place great interest in the British countryside. There is no doubting the British passion for these pursuits, be they camping, country sports, hill-walking, climbing and outdoor adventure. They all play a key role in underpinning many rural economies. Indeed, Sport England has recently announced its largest ever investment in angling, of £1.8 million over four years, with 1 million people fishing once a month.

Outdoor leisure is a key area for the GREAT campaign, as it enables us to promote the UK as a fantastic destination for adventure and exploration. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, spoke very strongly about the economic benefits that derive from outdoor activities. We received many excellent briefs stressing that point, and it is important that we should emphasise it. The GREAT campaign is run directly from the Prime Minister’s Office and celebrates our country’s rich heritage, countryside and contemporary culture, our people and places to visit, as well as our great economic strengths. Only last week, VisitEngland launched the follow-up to last year’s hugely successful Holidays at Home are GREAT campaign. There is no doubt that outdoor activities would have played a very considerable part in that success, with an additional £300 million spend, equivalent to 4.5 million nights away.

VisitEngland is also promoting outdoor activity in its work with the Regional Growth Fund and with DCMS investment. In March, VisitEngland and Blacks, the outdoor retailers, launched a £1.2 million multimedia campaign to run alongside VisitEngland’s Rural Escapes and Active Outdoors campaigns. One of the most powerful experiences that I have had in connection with children and urban schools is a visit to the countryside that I undertook with Kate Hoey with a Vauxhall primary school some years ago. It was among the most powerful effects that I have seen on children who have never had any opportunity before to see the countryside—and there they were with brushes, grooming cattle and running through fields of corn, barley and wheat. I have to say I was quite horrified but it was encouraged because they came back with ears of cereal and were asked what food came from them. It was probably one of the most effective ways of capturing those children’s imagination as regards where their food comes from and what a great place the countryside is.

The School Games initiative has been mentioned by noble Lords. It will be jointly funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Department of Health and the Department for Education. The initiative will provide more pupils with the opportunity to compete in a wide range of sports regardless of ability, gender or disability. As of May this year, 13,271 schools are fully engaged in this.

The Prime Minister has also announced details of the new school sports premium, which will see £150 million a year going directly into the hands of primary school head teachers for them to spend on improving the quality of PE and sport for all their pupils. This will complement the £1 billion already being invested in youth and community sport. I would also like to mention the launch of the Britain on Foot campaign, led by the Outdoor Industries Association, which is working with other organisations to get us fitter, healthier and happier by encouraging us to participate in outdoor activities. The Department of Health’s Change4Life programme is also an integral part of Britain on Foot.

I do not have a brief for health matters but I am encouraged to hear what the Department of Health is doing, working with Natural England, to fund the expansion of the Living Streets Walk once a Week to school scheme, which was specifically mentioned by my noble friend Lord Greaves. The Department of Health is also involved in creating Walk4Life as a sub-brand of Change4Life and Natural England is championing Outdoors for All on behalf of the Government.

I would like to mention quickly the national parks. I am very conscious that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and my noble friend Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer are particularly involved in national parks. They are, indeed, national treasures for their wildlife, landscapes and cultural heritage. For millions of people they offer amazing opportunities to experience the natural environment, engage in outdoor activities and contribute to the economy and quality of life in our country.

We have had a fascinating debate. As someone new to your Lordships’ House, it is a great privilege for me to learn from the experience that is always displayed on these occasions. I now better understand that outdoor activities are key not only to our personal well-being but to the nation as a whole. The Government recognise the importance of all these activities and many government departments are co-ordinating to ensure that the public sector plays its part. It is very clear that many businesses, communities and organisations in the private sector are equally determined to achieve more. The activities of last year’s golden summer of sport show us all what we can do. We must now fulfil the next stage by encouraging even more participation in outdoor activities with all the benefits they undoubtedly bring.

My Lords, I am more than grateful to everybody who has taken part in this debate, which has exceeded my wildest expectations. I am very grateful to the Minister for his comments, which I will read very carefully. I am also grateful to him for covering in detail many of the current initiatives which I did not have time to cover in my opening speech.

The noble Lord, Lord Haworth, reminded me of when members of the Mountaineering All-Party Parliamentary Group walked in a long crocodile up Blencathra, otherwise known as Saddleback, in the Lake District. He and I, as befits Members of your Lordships’ House, were proceeding at a stately pace at the back of the group. One of the people who thought they were looking after us stopped, waited for us to catch up and asked, “Are you two okay?”. We said, “Yes, of course, we are sweeping up to make sure nobody gets lost”. I pay tribute to that group, of which I am a member, which does a very good job.

My noble friend Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer talked about playing outdoors when she was a young person. That reminded me that for the first 11 years of my life I lived on the edge of a very built-up, working-class area of Bradford—Bradford Moor—but across the main road was the huge great open air playground of Myra Shay, which had a stream going through it. We used to dam the stream there as well and fish for sticklebacks, minnows and others. I do not think that would be allowed nowadays as it would be considered far too dangerous. The important point here is that children nowadays are often provided with activities which give them a thrill but are totally and utterly safe. Many of the things that I did in my childhood, with semi-official approval, would never pass a risk assessment. However, we are all exposed to risk in our lives in all sorts of ways. Learning to cope with risk and to deal with it is very important. I do not think that we are quite getting the balance right at the moment with the whole compensation culture, health and safety and so on. I am sure that outdoor activities have a part to play here. People have to realise that many outdoor activities are dangerous by their very nature but there is nothing wrong with that. What is important is being able to cope with that danger. In many cases, modern equipment has been developed for use in caving or skydiving or whatever which was never available in the past.

I desperately tried not to blush when the noble Lord, Lord Judd, spoke about me. I thought that I would write down his comments and if I ever apply for a job again, which is not very likely given my age, I will appoint him as a reference. I was very grateful to him for his comments. I get off the train at Preston. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, cheers up at Preston when he looks out of the window. He can look east and, if it is a nice day, he will see the wonderful whaleback hill of Pendle. That is what really cheers him up when he gets to Preston.

A delightful and wonderful wheelchair bound lady lives in Colne. Her ambition in the next few months, together with her friends, is to get to the top of Pendle Hill despite her disabilities. My noble friend Lord Addington said that the great outdoors mean different things to different people. The great thing about this huge range of sporting and recreational activities is that they are not like cricket or football, they are activities where you set your own challenge and level. For one person taking a walk round the park is the same as undertaking an extreme rock climb or discovering a new cave is for somebody else. It is all to do with individual personality and that is why these activities are so wonderful.

I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, was going to lead us in a rendition of “Hills of the North, Rejoice”, but perhaps that would have been inappropriate. The great Scottish rock group Runrig has what I think is a great song entitled “I’m Alive on a Lifeline”. Part of it reads:

The rockface inclines

Hold her, leave her

Rise to glory

Over mankind”.

All outdoor activities provide the people who take part in them with that kind of experience. That is why they are so wonderful and why the small amount of government money, local authority money and other public money which goes into them has such a huge leverage—I think that is the modern word—and why we should do our absolute best to maintain and protect it.

Motion agreed.

Economy: Growth

Motion to Take Note

Moved By

To move that this House takes note of the current level of growth in the United Kingdom economy.

My Lords, the international financial collapse in this country and many other countries around the world produced a situation which in many ways was very similar to that of the 1930s and had a devastating effect on the economics of family life here and elsewhere. It is not something that was born and bred in the United Kingdom, as some people say. If anybody has doubts about the seriousness of the problem, they should look at the excellent BBC money programme on the subject—the second part of which was on last night, and there is a third part coming soon. One of the things that slightly troubled me about the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Deighton, in the debate on the Queen’s Speech, was his comment that,

“we need to complete our work in fixing the financial system so that it is able to sustain growth in the economy”.—[Official Report, 13/5/13; col. 143.]

He was absolutely right to say that. However, if we wait until we have fixed the financial and banking problems we will, frankly, have to wait at least four years before we can expect growth.

Although I, like everyone, hope that the outgoing chairman of the Bank of England is right, I cannot be sure. I have not argued much about whether we are in a second-dip or third-dip recession, but few people in this country or elsewhere would disagree that we have been bouncing along the bottom. Events in the euro area will be a further challenge to us, as I am sure the Minister will be the first to agree. Although I accept that there is a need to reduce the deficit, the key problem is growth. If we do not get growth into the economy we cannot deal with the deficit quickly enough. We will be constantly chasing our tail, trying to cut the deficit without getting back to growth.

Contrary to popular opinion, the United Kingdom has on many occasions had far worse debt-to-GDP ratios—sometimes up to 225%. Britain has never defaulted and has had one of the best reputations in the world for financial management, and we still have it. Interestingly, the Government were concerned enough to say that if we were not careful we would lose our triple-star rating, but when we lost it they said, “It doesn’t matter so much anyway”. It does not matter that much. If we can get growth to go back into the economy, we will deal with the deficit.

I remember a Minister—I cannot remember who—saying that future generations would never forgive us because we would be burdened with this debt for generations to come. This might be a good time to remember that we finally paid off the debt for the Napoleonic wars in the late 1990s. My worries when I was at school did not include the debt which had been dumped on us during the Napoleonic wars. Britain has always borrowed and done what most other advanced economies do; they grow themselves out of the debt problem. That is why growth is so important and what we should focus on.

As a politician I know the temptation among all political parties to blame the Government whom you are trying to replace for just about everything which has happened anywhere in the world including the weather—in fact, particularly the weather. At the last general election it was clear to me that the outgoing Labour Government had already lost the argument on this subject. The then Conservative Opposition and the Liberal Democrats were going round saying that this was the most desperate situation that we in this country had ever been in, but that was not true. It was not true that the deficit was the key problem. The international financial collapse caused the problem.

We talked ourselves down in that election. Once you do that, people will naturally pull back. They will not spend money—they tend either to save it or to wait to see what will happen, and that adds to the problem. The debt-to-GDP ratio showed only small changes between 1970 and 2010, and a number of economists are now stating that much more clearly. They say that history suggests that the current radio of debt to GDP is not alarming. If my views on that do not satisfy noble Lords, let me quote the IMF’s World Economic Outlook of October 2012. It states:

“Throughout the past century, numerous advanced economies have faced public debt burdens as high, or higher, than those prevailing today”.

That was the view of people such as Robert Neild, the Cambridge economist, and others who have said that the debt-to-GDP ratio is not alarming. That does not mean that it is desirable or that we should not reduce it, but it suggests that we have had the argument the wrong way round for the past few years, and that is what troubles me. I suppose that I am a natural Keynesian, and I felt that although we had to give the Government space in their deficit-reduction programme, the position should have been reversed and we should have been saying that growth comes first. If you do not get growth, your debt problems will be far worse.

I should like to provide another quote from the IMF’s World Economic Outlook. It states:

“First, support for growth is essential to cope with the contractionary effects of fiscal consolidation. Policies must emphasise the resolution of underlying structural problems within the economy, and monetary policy must be as supportive as possible”.

Again, I am not arguing that getting the right public sector and public debt relationship is unimportant. I am saying that you should use your fiscal policies to underpin policies for growth. The coalition’s focus on cuts in expenditure is a repetition of the 1930s, and only recently has it begun seriously to address growth. That is what I should like us to do a little more, and I hope that the debate will focus on it.

The key question is, “How do we get growth?”. Recently, the Government have rightly been saying that we need to do more on infrastructure, and they have mentioned a range of issues. I should like to deal with a couple of those issues.

It is beginning to be recognised—certainly by many economists—that you need to have a more balanced approach to how much you borrow in order to invest. It is no good borrowing simply to pay off debt. We all know that and no one has any doubts about it. Borrowing to invest, as long as that investment is leading to growth, is not a bad thing. That balance is right.

I agree that infrastructure is a crucial element that gives us opportunities. The United Kingdom’s infrastructure is not as good as it ought to be. I refer to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Deighton, who said:

“We are committed to creating a single local growth fund for the key areas of skills, housing and transport. The final size of the fund will be set out at the spending round next month”.—[Official Report, 13/5/10; cols. 140-41.]

I look forward to that. Quite rightly, he focused on two of the big issues that are always good for generating growth: transport and housing.

What has troubled me not just about the current Government but for a considerable time is that when they talk about transport, they are referring to rail and road and do not mention aviation. The Minister knows my strong views on Heathrow. Before he gets worried, I should tell him that I am not about to embark on a debate on Heathrow; this issue goes much wider. I have always argued that growth in aviation is crucial, and is important for the regions. The Government have placed great emphasis on high-speed rail. I agree with that and do not have a problem with it. However, high-speed rail deals with the transport of people, not of goods, whereas every aircraft that flies out of this country with passengers also usually has in its belly large quantities of high-value export goods. I shall mention Heathrow once and try not to mention it again. Only 0.001% of flights in or out of Heathrow are cargo aircraft. All the cargo comes and goes in passenger aircraft. The same is true for all our local regional airports. If you want to encourage exports, we must allow aviation to grow.

Therefore, my first question to the Minister is: are the Government taking seriously enough the contribution that aviation can make to growth? There is enormous potential there. It is no good telling people in Exeter that the high-speed rail line will help them because it will not. However, flights from Exeter airport to other airports around the world will help them. Birmingham Airport, which is currently trying to expand, needs to have permission to go ahead—again, because Birmingham can export more if it has growth. Therefore, the growth factor is very important.

There are two other points that I want to make in relation to aviation. First—again, the Minister will have heard this before—air passenger duty is a disaster for the aviation industry. It is massively outpricing us in competition with other countries and other airlines. We need to reduce air passenger duty. I know that we cannot do that quickly—it cannot be done overnight—but the duty is a major hindrance to the expansion of growth for the British aviation industry and that presents it with very real challenges at the moment.

The second thing that I have to say about aviation also applies to other areas of transport. One reason that aviation has not been focused on by successive Governments in the way that it should have been is the fear of climate change. I yield to no one in my concern about climate change. I first wrote about it back in the early 1980s and I still have the same views about it. However, I do not believe that you deal with it by closing down aviation. There is a terrible warning here from the way we conceded to the green movement the argument about nuclear power. Only now are we catching up with the green movement and saying, “Yes, we must have nuclear power”, when the whole argument against it was what held us back early on. The same is happening with aviation and we have to be very alert to that. All sorts of efforts are now being made—frankly, they should have been made earlier and I have been very critical of the aviation and aerospace industry on this—to deal with climate change issues through, among other things, fuel research, which is showing real possibilities.

The other area that I want to touch on is housing, which every political party is saying is important. We now have the Green Investment Bank and a business investment bank. It may interest the noble Lord, Lord Newby, that many years ago in the 1980s, when I was dealing with housing in the House of Commons, we put forward a proposal for a housing investment bank. The proceeds from the sale of council houses, which were very high at the time, would be placed into a housing investment bank, which would then receive matched money from the building societies and big building companies. They were very positive about that process and they wanted to do it. Unfortunately, the receipts from council house sales were simply used to cut taxes, whereas if they had gone into the investment programme, that would have been far more effective. I ask the Minister to look again at this possibility.

I am in favour of selling public housing up to a point. However, that housing must then be replaced, and you do that by having sufficient income from the sales to fund a replacement programme. That would enable us to have a steady housebuilding programme, instead of what tends to happen in this country, which is a lurching from excessive building to none at all. We have gone backwards and forwards with some pretty disastrous consequences, as we saw in the 1950s and 1960s.

My final point concerns the other area on which we need to be much more focused—the emerging countries. We have tended to talk about just the Brazil, Russia, India and China group but we really must not forget Africa. I have seen some very interesting articles. The other week, Chuka Umunna in the House of Commons made a very good point about this. Nigeria has a dramatically growing economy, as have many other countries in Africa with which we have good relationships. There is an expanding market there, particularly in high-tech goods. It is high-technology that can drive our expansion.

In conclusion, I hope that today we will look at how we can achieve growth. Over the past year or two, I have heard the Government shift their position away from simple deficit reduction to growth. Very recently, I have heard some of their suggestions on infrastructure, transport and housing in particular, and I should like the Government to say a bit more today about how they are going to deliver that growth. That is the key question. We could bounce along the bottom for a long time yet but, if we get growth going in the economy, frankly we will do what Britain did very successfully in the 19th and 20th centuries, which was to grow itself out of its economic problems. That is what most advanced countries do. I have the IMF on my side on this, as well as a large number of economists, so I think that I have quite a strong argument.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Soley, for organising this excellent opportunity to debate this matter. It is critical that we have debates such as this, and they are not to be confused with the manifest subjects involved with the Queen’s Speech. It is a slight shame that it is taking place in the graveyard slot of lunchtime on a Thursday but it is an important issue.

I also wish to apologise to the House for the fact that I have to leave after I have spoken because my boss has called me. There are very few people to whom I say yes but he is one of them. Therefore, I give my apologies if I have to leave.

The Prime Minister has put trade and the enhancement of British trade at the heart of economic recovery. I congratulate him on the leadership he has shown—he has led huge delegations all over the world. Wherever he goes abroad, he takes a very big delegation with him to further those efforts.

I have the honour of being the Prime Minister’s trade envoy and have visited roughly 30 countries in the past 18 months. To respond to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Soley, I have been to Mozambique, Angola, two or three times to Algeria, Morocco and Libya. I am planning on being in Gabon in the next month and, I hope—if that is the appropriate word—Ghana in July. The noble Lord is absolutely right: Africa is an important area for us. It has been left unnurtured for far too long by successive Governments. We have been complacent over it and so we are going into overdrive. My noble friend Lord Green, the Minister for Trade and Industry, has also travelled extensively, taking big delegations with him.

We have reorganised UK Trade & Investment with a change of board, having brought in commercially focused people from industry. We have reorganised the way that they interface externally, working with our ambassadors, who are being driven by the Foreign Office to be much more outward-focused. We have set up a trade envoys programme. We have eight trade envoys from across the parties—Liberal Democrats, Labour, Cross Benches and Conservatives—to focus on territories on which we have not focused previously. We have a business ambassador’s programme, where business ambassadors who are leaders of industry across the country are sent to various countries, and I am also honoured to chair that programme.

I note in her place the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, whom I would call a friend, although she is not a “noble friend”. She is a friend to this country in the work that she does overseas, particularly leading delegations in the Gulf region. She has just returned from Saudi Arabia—a vital market.

We are establishing a Ministers travel programme, where Ministers will continue to lead trade programmes, and of course we have invested time and money in making the export guarantee fund a very flexible fund to support businesses.

Everywhere I travel, I discover that people want the British offering. One feature of the Olympics was that they gave us self-confidence. They reminded us of the incredible bandwidth of skills that we have as a nation, from airlines to the arts, and from music to mechanical engineering and so on. The Olympics showcased those skills not only to ourselves but to the rest of the world. Excepting that bandwidth of skills, why do people want to do business with Britain? Simply, we are a transparent nation. Transparency is the key to how we do our business.

I had my misgivings about the Bribery Act but now I am completely behind it because it sets us above other countries which continue to indulge in corrupt dealings. It sets Britain apart, and that is something of which we should be unbelievably proud. Indeed, we can take our open government programme and what we have done through the Bribery Act to overseas countries which are desperately trying to find a way through this corruption. Of course, we also have the rule of law, which is a fundamental basis for doing trade and is being adopted by many countries.

I shall not dwell for too long on the headline deals that have been done in the past few months alone but they include a £10 billion contract for Shell in Abu Dhabi, a new cybersecurity programme in Kuwait, an award for the new Kuwait airport, companies being appointed for the metros throughout the Arab world, and warships being sold to Brazil to protect their coastlines against piracy. All manner of big sums are being generated through this trade activity.

The Government are creating the weather. Government is an enabler and it has to create the weather. In many ways, we are turning a marathon into a sprint. That is what we are driving ourselves to do. As Mervyn King says, there are signs of good news out there. However, the key point he makes is that this is not a time for complacency, and he is right. A damning statistic from the Federation of Small Businesses shows that only 20% of its members’ businesses export. That is a terrifying figure for a trading nation which, as the noble Lord, Lord Soley, mentioned, for years has gone out and exported its trade. Another damning statistic is that 70% of small and medium-sized businesses export only when someone from abroad has knocked on their doors to buy something. This is a damning and frustrating challenge not only for us in government but for the businesses themselves.

My plea to everyone in this House, the other House and elsewhere is to persuade the local companies you have got to know to get out there and trade and make investments overseas. We are doing our best to take the horses to water but they have to drink it. They will only do that if they work through UK Trade & Investment and the various business associations in which many Members of this House are involved, where they allocate funds for export and travel, and ultimately take the risk. However, the most important thing is that we have a Government focused like no other on helping them to trade.

My Lords, I join in the congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Solely, on obtaining this debate. He is absolutely right—there is no more important issue than growth in our economy—and we in this Parliament and the Government have to focus directly on these crucial issues.

However, I would challenge him on his analysis of how we got where we are today. I fully accept that a financial crisis came—some say like a meteor out of the sky; others, who have looked at the banks, thought it was predictable—and hit us hard in 2007-08. This country was in no position to sustain that blow. We were at a point where the former Labour Government had raised public spending and public borrowing to a point where it offered no resilience. I can understand how the Labour Government got there. They bought into the idea that boom and bust had ended and that there would be a constant flow of substantial tax receipts coming from the financial services industry and that they therefore could let loose the leash on both spending and borrowing because there would be a constant flow of money coming into the Treasury. They should have recognised that we were at the top of an economic cycle—we do not end boom and bust; economies cycle—and every Government have prudently to take cognisance of that. So that is the situation in which we found ourselves.

We also found through that process that the underlying British economy was in very weak shape. We had become so dependent on financial services that we had bled much of the life out of our other activities, both in the service industries and manufacturing industries. We had allowed the balance to swing so heavily to London and the south-east that much of the north was being sustained only by having public service activities there—the private sector had not been building and thriving for a long time—and, worst of all, we had failed to recognise for more than a generation that the backbone of the economy is our small businesses. Twenty per cent of all the small businesses in the EU are in the UK. This is a thriving location for small businesses but it has not been receiving the kind of support that it needs to grow, to take risks, to create new jobs and to build its export base.

For the past few years, the rebalancing of that shift has been the work of this coalition Government. I am encouraged by the comments of Sir Mervyn King and the CBI made earlier in the week which suggest that they can finally see that we are going into a modest recovery. It is very dangerous in this current unstable international environment to focus too much on green shoots, but the same verdict is coming back from small businesses, from the accountants who spend time up and down the country with businesses and even from the commercial section of the banks. They identify that the beginnings of a real recovery are under way, in part because of the rebalancing and redevelopment of those abandoned areas. This work will turn out to be absolutely crucial.

I have often said before that the neglect that most appalled me, not only during the Labour years but during the Conservative years before, was in the area of building skills among our young people. The fact that there was a lack of apprenticeships and that the whole apprentice structure had been allowed to collapse was irrelevant in many people’s minds. There has been a turnaround in that area: more than 1.25 million young people are now either in or have gone through apprenticeships in the past couple of years. That will be important.

We all thought that any debate introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Solely, would undoubtedly touch at some point on aviation and I admire his self-restraint in not addressing the issue of Heathrow. I shall therefore limit my comments on this issue out of common respect to his self-restraint.

However, I wonder whether he recognises the inconsistencies in his own position. I agree that regional aviation capacity is the key issue we must look at. As he knows, that is not hub aviation capacity but very much point-to-point. One of the issues that the Davies Commission will have to take on is whether we should try to build a single London-style hub as our primary connection both within the country and outside. Should we have one main hub and a number of minor hubs? Should we build a balance between one hub and a number of point-to-points? We have to come up with a solution that manages and supports the rebalancing necessary for our economy. That means that it must service the north and the west as well as London and the south-east. That is one of the arguments that leads people to think that much of the London hub should now be shifted somewhere between London and Birmingham, potentially alongside an HS2 route, but there are a number of other visions.

The noble Lord also stressed the fact that aviation, usually thought of as passenger aviation, plays a crucial role in freight. I fully accept that. However, you cannot drag those words out of most of the aviation industry because it becomes impossible to argue for the use of Heathrow, an incredibly expensive and scarce resource, when you are doing a point-to-point freight movement. So that issue has to come into the picture and it will be interesting to see where it goes.

There are two issues I wish to address before I sit down. I shall certainly not use my full time today. One is an issue which is sometimes not addressed in the context of economic growth—that is, tax avoidance. I recommend a speech made on this yesterday in the other place by my colleague, Ian Swales, MP for Redcar. As he was discussing the problem that we face—the inherent reality that most multinational companies now effectively enjoy a corporation tax rate of zero because they export their profits to somewhere such as Luxembourg or outside the G20—he said that one of the impacts of that is greatly to disadvantage those very small and medium-sized businesses in our economy that we need to grow for the future. For example, a chain of three book shops within my local community have pasted on their walls that each book shop pays for a trainee nurse through its taxes on an annual basis, whereas Amazon, their great rival, effectively contributes nothing. Yet they face this price differential because, in effect, the international community has provided a taxpayers’ subsidy to the large multinational entities. We have to tackle the tax avoidance problem for that reason in addition to the failure of those companies to contribute as they should to the public spending that, as it were, pays for the society in which they participate and provides the basis for many of their sales. I think that the level playing field argument is an incredibly powerful one.

In my last comments I wish to pick up on the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Marland, on exports. I agree completely that building the exports of our SMEs is absolutely vital. However, sometimes I disagree with BIS about its focus on saying to small businesses, “Come on, go to China, Brazil and India”. It is wonderful if small businesses can export to those countries and I have no problem with that, but when you talk to these businesses, you find that many of them have had very bad experiences when they have tried to do it. It is quite risky to export to China if you have a patent you wish to protect. It is very difficult to export to the United States because of all its non-trade barriers. I have talked to quite a few small businesses, but I shall not use their names because they are quite hesitant about this, which have found that in the end they had to form a joint venture to sell into the United States and essentially surrender most of the upside of their additional revenues and the exports from their US operations. Instead, they just accept royalty payments because, without a joint venture relationship, it is impossible for them to operate on American soil.

From the small business perspective, the ongoing debate that David Cameron was leading on in the United States in his discussions with President Obama on an EU/UK trade negotiation to tackle many of these non-tariff barriers, is absolutely crucial. There is a real need for an awareness that this is the kind of thing we can tackle only as part of the EU. I lived in the United States for 20 years and I know a lot of people in the Administration. The chance that they would ever waste time on a UK/US debate along these lines is close to zero. I suspect the same for China and, indeed, for the various developing economies of the world.

We are at an exceedingly exciting point where there is great potential. We are starting to see movement in the economy, but it is crucial that we have sustainable growth, not growth created by a sudden surge in public spending that sparks a short-term response and transient behaviours. We need long-term, sustainable growth by getting new businesses off the ground and encouraging them to export. Any discussion is too much to try to include in this speech, but it is also crucial that the banks back up that growth with a credit supply, because it will be in huge demand as businesses begin take off when they see the end of the recession and can move into a much more investment-focused and expansionary mode. We are at a very interesting point at which the decisions and the way we shape this growth must be such as to set us up well for future years.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Soley on securing this debate on economic growth. We all have an interest in this subject, but I should declare my interest as chairman of the Warwick Manufacturing Group at the University of Warwick. For more than three decades, we have been working very hard, helping companies to grow. A week ago the gracious Speech pledged that the Government would focus on, “building a stronger economy”—fine words, even if they are undermined by the recent rows about referendums. Britain’s economic situation is extremely weak. Yes, we have avoided a triple-dip recession and it may even be that the double-dip recession will be revised away, but that is little to boast about. After five years of recession, our GDP remains 2.6% below where it was before the crash. Our productive sectors have struggled, with manufacturing gross value added down 10% over the past 10 years. Construction has fared worst of all, falling into deep decline in 2012, and it is now almost 20% down on 2008. Nor will foreign growth rescue us. The European Commission, the IMF and the OECD all say that the eurozone will decline this year. Finally, devaluation cannot solve our problems. Sterling is almost a quarter below its peak, but many exporters are facing increased costs from raw materials and components, which means that we are not benefiting from the short-term competitiveness we enjoyed in earlier devaluations.

Our problems are deep and significant and they require great attention, but if we take the right decisions, they can and will be resolved. I have spoken many times in this House about the need to take a long-term view. The challenges we face have arisen as the result of years or even decades of too little innovation, too little investment, undercapitalisation and not enough support for the physical and social infrastructure which can deliver lasting growth. We must all pull together to change this. Step by step and day after day, we must follow a steady path that supports innovation, investment and infrastructure. I am encouraged that the leader of my party and the shadow Chancellor speak regularly on these issues, and commissioned Sir George Cox’s excellent report on long-termism. Even the Mayor of London now talks about the need to take a long-term view on growth, but unfortunately the Government seem mostly to be focused on the tactical short-termism that got us into this mess. We will not get a recovery from immigration crackdowns and referendums.

To be fair, the Government are doing some good things, mostly at the urging of the Business Secretary. We share the aim that all young people should take up training apprenticeships or go into higher education on leaving school, and I congratulate the Government on pressing ahead with high-speed rail. It is politically difficult, but necessary. While the science budget is declining in real terms, the Government have at least tried to protect it. However, sadly, this is where their long-term vision ends. Despite all the talk about growth, I searched the gracious Speech in vain for a mention of science, technology or research. In the press briefing that accompanied the speech, we heard much about scraping the barnacles off the boat, but these issues are not barnacles, they are the materials from which the boat is built. I want our Government to take a practical, long-term approach to creating growth.

One way that can be done is by supporting reshoring, which when I put it in plain English means bringing back the jobs that left Britain due to globalisation and cheap labour overseas. In both manufacturing and services, rising wages abroad and technological innovation at home could mean that these jobs come back, and we should make such a return our priority. A recent RSA/Lloyds Banking Group report, Making at Home, Owning Abroad, argues that more than 200,000 jobs could be created through reshoring. The question is less whether jobs can come back to the West, but which countries they will return to. How can we encourage inward investors to choose Britain? The first way is through procurement.

In America, there is an expectation that those who get government help will return their back-office and IT functions to the US. That is why “Buy US” clauses have appeared in many bailed-out companies’ purchasing contracts. Today, a combination of informal pressure, immigration rules, tax changes and US wage competitiveness means that companies such as General Electric and General Motors are creating IT jobs in America, not in India. Indian outsourcing companies are facing tough times because of this. Their growth and profits are down, and the outsourcing market is projected to stagnate or even decline. Yet the UK seems to be uninterested in supporting the reshoring of its own money. The NHS spends millions of pounds on offshoring IT and data management. For example, half of the NHS shared business services staff are based in India. If we were to demand that such direct government spending was done in the home market, we would immediately create many hundreds of thousands of jobs in Britain.

The next rule of procurement is that it should act as a capacity and innovation builder for British business. Many people ask me, “Why can’t we have a Google or an IBM in this country?”. Britain is a small country. The reason those companies succeeded in the beginning was by growing in their internal market. Government procurement must be such that it helps small companies to create an internal market and then grow. If we use procurement to support innovation through a major extension of the Small Business Research Initiative, we would help UK businesses develop new products and services for both the home and the export markets. As I said, we are a relatively small country. We do not have the critical mass to support innovation in the domestic market unless we focus resources on it directly. This is needed to help small companies grow.

Next, we must transform our approach to skills so that investors want to create jobs in Britain. The government response to the Richard report was full of warm words but kicked the question of funding for skills into the long grass. We need to find a better response. We do not need government to spend more but our businesses to invest in their people. We should create sector training boards, with the power to issue training levies, as they do in construction, so that all firms have a common incentive to invest in their employees. If we approach skills in this way, we might be able to rid ourselves of our cumbersome skills bureaucracy. Some object that this means a new tax on business. I understand this concern, but if firms train their people they will more than get that money back.

Perhaps I might make a counterproposal. I am no fan of corporation tax. As the IFS says, much of corporation tax is,

“passed on to workers in the form of lower wages”.

Ideally, I would like to see corporation tax fall to 15%. Of course, that would be expensive and people would argue that it cannot be done. So why not reduce or even abolish corporation tax for firms with a tax liability of less than £10,000 which are subject to sector skills levies? Such firms contribute only £2 billion of corporation tax receipts—less than 5% of the total—but they represent more than half the companies that pay the tax and their profit is essential to the future growth of Britain.

The next challenge is to help our businesses secure finance. At the micro level, I have much sympathy with the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Young, in his report Growing Your Business. I agree that support for small business should be extended, with start-up loans made available to all entrepreneurs, as should the enterprise finance guarantee. But we need to go much further. As the noble Lord, Lord Young, says,

“when banks started to remove the manager from their branch network they inadvertently broke many of their links with SMEs. This has had a disastrous effect”.

I have long argued for a dedicated business bank with real scale, preferably with a regional or sectoral focus, so that lending decisions are made by bank managers who know their businesses. Such a bank could be focused on the sectors supported by innovation catapults, thus making investing in British innovation and British production in key sectors more attractive to both inward and domestic investors. I am delighted that my party has embraced this proposal as part of its policy review.

Next, if we are to reshore contracts in advanced sectors, we need to transform our overall innovation capability. This means reforming our research funding councils and boosting innovation agencies such as the Technology Strategy Board. We pride ourselves on being a great nation for science, but our real-terms R&D budget is declining and we are doing little to get the maximum economic benefit out of what we spend. I am pleased that our research councils are giving more attention to economic impact, but we have to do much more to ensure that the research we fund contributes to economic growth.

Let us compare our approach with America’s. In his State of the Union address, President Obama said:

“Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing”.

He announced a $1 billion investment in innovation institutes to encourage the return of manufacturing. In Britain we have to fight for years for an extra few million. Whether it is the huge American investment in innovation, the Canadian reform of research councils to make applied research their top priority or Germany’s Fraunhofer Institutes, KfW and Sparkassen, it is other countries that are trying to secure long-term growth through industrial innovation. We are far behind, and falling further. All parties share the blame for this, yet there are many on all sides of your Lordships’ House who regret these missed chances.

Outside politics, this agenda is widely shared. Last week I attended a seminar at the Royal Society, where scientists, entrepreneurs and business leaders discussed how to bridge the academic-industrial divide to support growth. For the first time the Royal Society has taken on that challenge. There is a real opportunity for growth here, if only we seize it. We should use procurement to stimulate demand and get scale for innovation; push firms to invest in skills, and give tax incentives to smaller firms; use business banks to support innovation investment in sectors and regions with high growth potential for reshoring manufacture and services; and refocus research funding and increase applied technology funding to encourage both inward and domestic investment in innovation. Of course, the obvious question is: how we can pay for such a programme? It is not easy but it could be done.

Today there exists a rare opportunity to borrow cheaply to invest for the future. We should take it. However, that will not last long and we will certainly need to be fiscally very tight for a long time. The key is gradually to switch resources from unproductive to productive spending—what used to be called the costs of failure. That means pay restraint, reducing welfare and housing benefits over time, and perhaps removing benefits from those on above-average incomes. It may even mean more co-payments for public services so people understand the cost of the services they use.

None of this will be easy, but if sustained restraint helps encourage the job-creating, technology-led growth we need, it will all be worth while. Our growth problems are significant and real. But by backing the skills, ingenuity and ability of our people, they can—and will—be solved.

My Lords, it is always a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Bhattacharyya, who has done so much to promote Britain at home and abroad in terms of economic growth. I listened very carefully to what he said and I think a lot of his remarks will probably be more warmly received on this side of the House than his own Front Bench, particularly when it comes to identifying the importance of tax reductions and controlling public expenditure, as well as the focus on enterprise.

As the noble Lord was talking, particularly about developing IT, I should have been paying more attention but I was flicking through pages 4 and 5 of the excellent House of Lords Library briefing that has been prepared for this debate. I found a lot of very encouraging things. Some things, I have to say, had passed me by, such as the tenfold increase in the annual investment allowance for small enterprises; the introduction of a seed enterprise investment scheme offering investors 50% income tax relief to encourage investment in early-stage companies; doubling the lifetime limit on gains for eligible entrepreneurs’ relief to £10 million; providing 100% business rate relief for small businesses seeking to get going; a £200 million growth accelerator scheme designed to provide business coaching for high-potential firms, which 4,000 SMEs have signed up with; start-up loans and, of course, the Funding for Lending scheme. I commend those pages to the noble Lord but I very much appreciated his contribution, and his record.

Of course, I also pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Soley, for securing this debate and the measured way in which he introduced it. My only disappointment is that more colleagues from the Back Benches did not want to take part in it. I know that we have just had the debates on the gracious Speech but this really is the most important issue for our country at the present time—because everything else flows from it. If growth gets under way and strengthens, revenue yields will grow and therefore we will have more to fund the public services that we talk about. That would have been good but I thank him for securing this time.

In his opening remarks, the noble Lord made mention of the farewell comments of Mervyn King as he presented his final quarterly review of economic outlook as Governor of the Bank of England yesterday. I thought that it was cause for encouragement. Certainly, the front page of the Financial Times today was very positive—you do not often see there reasons to be cheerful, and nobody could necessarily accuse Mervyn King of being an unbridled optimist. When he says:

“There is a welcome change in the economic outlook … and growth is likely to strengthen over the course of the year … That’s the first time that I’ve been able to say that since the start of the financial crisis”,

it should give us some cause for optimism. Of course, everybody immediately then rushes to say, “Well, we don’t want to be overoptimistic; we’ve got to be cautious”—my noble friend Lady Kramer reminded us of the “green shoots” of recovery described by my noble friend Lord Lamont—but there is a balance here, because part of what leadership and government are about is creating confidence in the economy. Confidence is hugely important, whether you are a Premier League football team, a small business or a Government. It is hugely important that people have confidence in our economy. We are led to believe that corporations are currently sitting on a mountain of some £750 billion of cash which could be invested to drive forward the economy. While we all need to be cautious, we need also to talk up our economy and the fact that Britain is becoming internationally more competitive, having fallen substantially down the competitiveness league tables produced by the World Economic Forum. We are now steadily climbing back up and re-entering the top 10.

Many noble Lords travel extensively around the world—the noble Lord, Lord Marland, referred to the excellent work of the trade envoys. I was in Kuala Lumpur last weekend and met SP Setia, which is investing in the Battersea power station redevelopment. It has £600 million of investments. I met there our tremendous team of UK Trade & Investment representatives, including Tony Collingridge, which had been instrumental in bringing that investment to the UK. I met many other people there who thought that SP Setia from Malaysia had got a cracking deal and wanted to know whether there were any more going in Britain, because they regarded Britain as the most favourable destination for foreign direct investment in Europe. That is a great thing. I sometimes wish that we could spend more time overseas seeing ourselves as other people see us, as Robert Burns chided us to do, because we might then be very encouraged.

A few weeks earlier, I was in Shanghai with the McLaren motor racing company, which is undertaking significant investments. The Chinese appetite for British advanced manufacturing technologies is incredible. We should take pride in British engineering, manufacturing output and in the way we are moving forward, albeit slowly, to a projected 1.2% growth in the current year and a return to pre-recession, pre-crisis levels in about 12 months’ time and about six months ahead of normal.

This will come in sharp contrast to other parts of the world; for example, in Europe. The same newspaper has heralded the encouraging performance of British business in terms not just of growth figures but of greater confidence, as evidenced by the Purchasing Managers’ Index report on new export growth, which had gone from expansion from contraction, tipping over the 50-point threshold for the first time in recent years. It pointed to the fact that 500,000 vacancies were being advertised in jobcentres, which was their highest level since 2008. Let us contrast that with the eurozone. We do not want to point to other people’s suffering, although, sometimes, when I hear the policy prescriptions put forward by the party opposite, they remind me of something that you can point to as if they were on “Blue Peter” and say, “Here’s one where we can actually see it being road-tested”. You have only to go across the Channel to see President Hollande putting forward his solutions for the economy. They are having a disastrous effect. His wealth tax of 75% is driving people through the Channel Tunnel to London to build up our economy rather than build up their own at a rapid rate. We need to remember that, in an age of intellectual capital, intellectual businesses are highly mobile and pay attention to tax rates, as the noble Lord, Lord Bhattacharyya, reminded us. At a time when we are reporting that we have perhaps come out of that phase of the recession, that is why the French economy has gone back into it. The unemployment rates are another indicator here that we have to look at. According to the Economist this week, the unemployment rate in France is 11% and rising; the UK’s is 7.9% and stable or falling. That is a very important indicator along with GDP.

The other thing that we need to look at is the number of new jobs being created in the economy. One and a quarter million jobs have been created in the economy since 2010, which is the fastest rate of job creation that we have witnessed since 2000. Moreover, for every one job lost in the public sector, six jobs are being created in the private sector. That addresses one of the points made earlier about one of the objectives that we set out with being to rebalance the economy away from relying just on financial services towards relying on manufacturing—we are seeing a growth in exports. We need to move away also from overdependence on the public sector to a more balanced economy. We are seeing a rate of growth in new enterprise that is almost unprecedented, with 471,466 new businesses, new enterprises, established in the past year. Anyone who has ever set up a business will know that the first year is incredibly tough, and the number of start-ups which go out of business in their first year is tragically high, but the ones which stay the course are where the growth will come from—in employment, in revenues and in taxes. Therefore, the fact that we have an enterprise-friendly culture in this country is important.

Perhaps I may offer a note of caution about the growth figures for an unusual reason. Understanding national accounts is something which I never really got to grips with—even when I was a Treasury Minister, I have to confess; understanding corporate accounts comes a little bit more naturally. National accounts are incredibly complex and faceted. We chase after this half-time score of the GDP growth rate every quarter, and sometimes we are happy and sometimes we are sad. Knowing what goes into a lot of indicators is a bit like the old argument about pasties: if you knew what went into them, you perhaps would not eat them quite so readily. We have to get better at measuring what is happening and following the right KPIs for the growth of our economy.

The GDP figures are collected by way of a survey, as those who have worked in that area will know. The mix of the survey, which is organised by the Office for National Statistics, includes 6,000 manufacturing companies, 25,000 service sector companies, 5,000 retail companies and 10,000 companies in the construction sector. I am always suspicious of round numbers. We should look into this and ask why we define progress and growth in our country by that mix of samples. How often is that looked at? I encourage my noble friend, who I know takes these matters seriously and perhaps understands them much better than I ever did, to undertake a review of what goes into the GDP statistics. That in itself would make for an interesting debate. At the time that the first data are released, only 40% of the information is in and available. That is why we constantly get revisions and it comes down. At the end of the day, it is only a survey.

In business, the only thing that people watch when they are in charge of the finances is cash. You can waffle your way through a P&L account or set of accounts but you cannot waffle your way through the cash you have in the bank. That is one of the things that we should benchmark ourselves against. There are some better indicators. VAT receipts would be a very good indicator to use to track the health of the economy: they are reported quarterly and are one of the highest levels of adhered-to taxes. We have to look again at the basket of what we are measuring to ensure that we make the right judgments and policy prescriptions for the economy.

When we talk about cash at the bank, the reality is that we seem to be doing a little better. We have not paid down any of the debt and our overdraft currently stands at £111 billion but that is down from £159 billion three or four years ago. The deficit is down by a third but there is still a very long way to go before we ever get to the point we need to reach of paying down some of the debt as well. That has now been moved to 2017-18. It is encouraging that that cash element in the transaction between what is going out of the government bank account and what is coming in seems to be heading in the right direction and confirms the optimism of the Governor of the Bank of England.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Soley on securing this debate and concentrating on the issue that must be of prime importance to all of us: how we restore growth to a flatlining economy. Of course, there are rather fewer contributors today than there were in the economics debate on Monday. It is also true that just before the end of the previous Session we had a major debate on the issue, so one would have thought that the relatively small number of noble Lords participating in this debate reflects the fact that others have made their contributions already.

This debate concentrates on growth. I hope that the Minister in replying will indicate where he thinks growth is coming from and acknowledge the danger our society is in from an economy that has flatlined, as ours has. It is all right for the noble Lord, Lord Bates, to indicate that six times as many jobs are being created in the private sector as are being lost in the public sector, but then why do the latest unemployment figures show a distinctive and frightening rise? Why are a million of our young people still unemployed? What does it mean for the next generation when jobs are so difficult to obtain?

I also appreciate the self-restraint of my noble friend Lord Soley on aviation, which is nothing like the self-restraint of this Government, who have pushed aviation policy not into green shoots but into some distant long grass before any decision will be taken. Let us look at long-term investment by the Government. In aviation we have to wait a considerable time before decisions will be taken, and the much-vaunted HS2, which we welcome, is also a considerable period away from any significant investment being made. In the depths of a recession at least certain factors ought to work to the country’s advantage. After all, sterling has depreciated by almost a fifth. Yet has that produced a significant increase in exports? No, since that devaluation of sterling we have seen our balance of payments deficit get worse.

No one should underestimate the problems that accrue from the crash of 2008, but our challenge to the Government is that they have pursued the wrong priorities. The noble Lord, Lord Bates, compared Britain with France. There was never a mention from the government side comparing Britain with the United States of America. Has no one from the government Benches looked at the Michigan economy and seen what the response has been to a Government who pumped in resources to save two of the biggest car manufacturers in the world and to sustain employment and their balance of payments position by ensuring that such critical industries were not lost? Of course, for our Government such action would be complete anathema.

We are content to see austerity being pursued to such an extent that no one in our society with resources has the confidence to invest. Quantitative easing goes to banks, but banks do not have the confidence to lend to industry. In industry, many of our major companies are awash with resources, with £670 billion in cash, but they do not invest either. Why? Because the pursuit of austerity and impoverishing our people throttles demand. What is actually happening is that there is very limited purchasing power in the economy. It is of course right that we pay some regard to the activities of the Government in seeking to promote small businesses, but every noble Lord knows that the contribution made by small businesses to our balance of payments and exports is quite limited, although I note the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, and agree with a number of them. We have to get our major areas of investment right, and at the present time we have not because of the absence of demand.

My noble friend Lord Bhattacharyya indicated how we could improve crucial aspects of the supply side of industry. There is no doubt that the Minister ought to respond positively to his recommendations in this debate. With such a low level of demand in society, it is extraordinarily difficult to get investment going again. It is not as if the Government exude confidence by their actions. After all, their austerity targets are missed. We were meant to see the deficit disappear by 2015, but we are now working to a longer-term cycle of 2017, with a certain elasticity even in that. We were meant to make ourselves pristine for the credit agencies, but two of the credit agencies have reduced our three-star status. We were meant to hold our heads high in the international world, but a visitation from the IMF has been presaged by serious criticisms of the Government’s position for having produced an economy so devoid of growth.

That means that the Government are patching up rather than following an intelligent strategy. They have to patch up. Think of the schemes that have already failed. Think of Merlin, which was meant to give some substance to the banks. Think of the insurance strategy, which the noble Lord, Lord Bates, welcomed because the north of England was included, whereas London and East Anglia were not. The problem is that the strategy produced only a tiny fraction of the jobs that it was predicted would follow.

Even in the most recent Budget, have the Government learnt lessons? Of course they are right that we should address the issue of housebuilding and achieve stimulus in those terms, but they have not suggested that the resource should be directed at the first-time buyer. They are not even suggesting that the resource should be directed only at someone buying their first house. It looks as if all that they will do is give a further twist to the house price spiral, thereby making even more remote the opportunities for people with limited resources to get into the housing market.

When we are critical of the Government about demand, it is because every Budget under the Government has significantly reduced purchasing power. The Government must recognise that if they slash benefits, many of which also apply to people in work, they are cutting demand. They must appreciate that if they direct their significant resources to the elite in our society, particularly those who enjoy millionaire status, it will be such an unfair society as to be demoralising for people who work hard but receive very little. One statistic of which the Government should take note is the significant fall in real wages since 2009. That is not just a real reduction in purchasing power among people at work but a worrying reduction in confidence.

If all that was the result of government incompetence, we would have real worries, but it would always be hoped that lessons could be learnt. It is not government incompetence. This strategy is pursued by a Government who believe fundamentally in a smaller state, who want significantly to reduce public expenditure and, in doing so, deliberately create circumstances in which there is higher unemployment and lower demand in society. That has underpinned the whole strategy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister since 2010, and that is why the Minister must respond on the state of the economy, which at present is a cause for concern on every side.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Soley, for initiating this debate because he asks the single most important question facing the country: how do we get more growth? He and the noble Lord, Lord Davies, have a relatively straightforward answer. Sadly, we believe that it is the wrong answer. Their answer is to borrow more. It was not the answer of the previous Labour Government. The Fiscal Responsibility Act required the Government to have halved the deficit by the financial year 2013-14. I am not sure whether the Labour Party has finally and formally renounced that legislation, but that was the course that it set.

The noble Lord, Lord Soley, points out that we had 225% of GDP borrowing after the Second World War, but I should have thought that he could see that the circumstances at the end of the Second World War were so fundamentally different in almost every respect from those of today that that is not a useful analogy.

There are a number of reasons for getting the deficit down. In my view, the most clearly demonstrable one is that a higher deficit and an incredible fiscal consolidation programme would undoubtedly lead to higher interest rates. Why is it that at the end of last week the UK was paying 1.84% on its debt, the US was paying 1.86%, Italy was paying 3.89%, and Spain 4.25%? The answer is: because this country has a credible economic policy in which the markets believe. Without that, there is no reason why our interest rates could not rise by 1% or 2%. Bear in mind that a 1% increase in interest rates means that a mortgage payer with a £100,000 mortgage is paying out an extra £1,000 per year, leaving aside the additional costs to industry and the additional billions of pounds extra that the Government will be paying to service their debts.

When the Government came in, national debt was running at 11.2% of GDP. That was possible in a crisis. I do not think anybody believes that such a level of national debt, which seems to be the level that the Opposition are talking about—we still have national debt running at more than 7%—is sustainable. The noble Lord, Lord Soley, talked about Keynes. People disagree about Keynes, but I am pretty certain that he never advocated sustained levels of borrowing over a long period. He knew, as everyone else knows, that although such a thing is possible, and desirable, over a short period, it is not possible in the long term.

Today, in part, we have been discussing another of Keynes’s aphorisms, which is hugely important at the point at which we find ourselves in the economic cycle: his emphasis on the role played by “animal spirits”, to use his phrase, on investment decisions and a whole raft of economic decisions. Indeed, that was the burden of the speech by my noble friend Lord Bates. At this juncture, the turn in the cycle that we are clearly seeing will accelerate because the view of people in the markets—“animal spirits”: what people are saying to each other—is changing positively.

I would like to address specifically several of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Soley, about the components of growth. Indeed, most of these features have been about one or more components of the growth picture. I start with infrastructure, where there was widespread agreement that more needed to be done. Last year, according to the World Economic Forum, the overall quality of our infrastructure was 24th in the world. We do not believe that this is good enough, which is why we are investing more in transport infrastructure in this Parliament than was the case under the previous one. Our railways are seeing the largest programme of investment since the Victorian era. Incidentally, I am pleased to see, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Soley, is, that the amount of freight carried on the railways is going up significantly, which reverses a very long-term trend and is very welcome.

Total public and private investment in infrastructure between 2010 and 2012, at £33 billion per year, is higher than that of the final five years of the previous Government. At Budget 2013, the Chancellor unveiled an increase in capital spending plans by £3 billion per year from 2015-16. That is in addition to the £5.5 billion of investment in infrastructure announced in last year’s Autumn Statement. This included £1.5 billion for the road network.

The noble Lord, Lord Soley, and my noble colleague Lady Kramer talked about airports, which is clearly a significant component of the nation’s infrastructure. I do not believe that there is total agreement that we need to have a major national airport hub in this country, but the Government believe that it is a requirement. As noble Lords know, the Airports Commission, headed by Sir Howard Davies, is looking at airport capacity in the short and the long term. We are looking forward to seeing his interim report later in the year. In the mean time, Heathrow has spent £1 billion upgrading and Gatwick is spending £1.2 billion, so it is not as though our airports are atrophying. We know that it is a long-term issue and has been a long-term problem with no consensus within or between parties, but that is what the Davies commission is looking at.

The noble Lord, Lord Soley, talked about housing, which again is a long-term challenge. All parties have taken their eye off that issue over the past decade as house prices have risen inexorably and the proportion of the population owning their own homes has risen. There are three components to improving the stock and appropriateness of housebuilding. First, we have to make it easier to build houses. Secondly, we have to help to supply more houses. Thirdly, we have to make sure that there are no artificial restraints on demand for housing.

We believe that the National Planning Policy Framework, which we published in March 2010, has had some effect in a positive direction. The proportion of planning applications being approved is at a 10-year high, a significant proportion of which are around housing. As for building more houses, we already have an £11 billion commitment in the spending review. The Budget 2013 announced a housing package totalling £5.4 billion, including the Help to Buy and mortgage guarantee schemes. There is a lot of activity on that front. However, I agree with most noble Lords that we have to do more, and we are actively attempting to do so in three strands: to make it easier to get planning, to help have more finance to build houses, and to make it easier for people to afford a mortgage.

The international component of our economic activity is clearly crucial. To rebalance the economy, we need to export more. Last week’s evidence of a narrowing of our trade deficit is a positive sign that UK exporters have faced significant challenges in recent years. Yesterday’s data confirmed that the recession in the euro area, which is our most important export market, continued in the first quarter of this year. Therefore, as the noble Lord, Lord Marland, explained, we are right to be looking more widely.

In the period 2009-12, our goods exports to China increased by 96%, to Brazil by 49%, to Russia by 133% and to India by 59%. Last year, while our exports to the rest of the EU fell by 2.5%, our exports to the rest of the world rose by 1.2%. While we look elsewhere, we should not forget that we are still exporting 42% of our goods and services to the eurozone. As we try to get more SMEs involved in exporting, many will go to the eurozone because it is so much easier for a whole raft of reasons. Getting on a plane or a train to get to a potential export market in an hour is very different from going to Brazil or China.

I have seen that with a small manufacturing company in West Yorkshire which exports mainly to Europe. Through its website, out of the blue it has had a couple of orders from Brazil for £25,000, which is pretty good for this company. The question is what it will do to capitalise on it. It has no idea who the people are who have asked for this export. The directors have had a long discussion about whether they should go to Brazil. Eventually, they decided that they would go but the cost, in time and money, meant that that was a very difficult decision. If that order had come in from Spain, they would have been off straightaway. Therefore, as we rightly put more emphasis on the rest of the world, we must not ignore the fact that the bulk of our exports are to the EU and will remain to the EU. The EU is where people dipping their toe in the export market will start.

Over the past year, we have increased UKTI’s budget by £70 million to help to deliver world-class services to move SMEs into exports and to focus our activities on the high-growth market. I hope noble Lords will feel that we are making a real impact in that crucial area.

My noble colleague Lady Kramer discussed the challenge of corporates paying the right amount of tax, an area on which we the Government have put a lot of additional emphasis. At the G8 meeting, we made clear that international tax avoidance and rebalancing the rules around taxation are our top priority. At the recent meeting of G8 Finance Ministers, which included George Osborne, it became clear that we had the support of all the leading countries to look at this. It is not something that we can do unilaterally. It has to be done on a global basis. I think that for the first time ever there is a global consensus that we have to do more around corporate tax avoidance.

In that respect, I should like briefly to mention the personal and corporate tax avoidance in tax havens where up to now there has been a huge degree of secrecy. There is a growing momentum of considerable proportions to open up data about people and companies that have set up entities, which until now have been secret, in the principal tax havens of the world. It is worth while looking at what has happened in the past year. Having signed an agreement on the automatic exchange of information with the US in September, we have done the same with the Isle of Man. In March, we reached agreement with Jersey and Guernsey. In April, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK agreed to develop and pilot multilateral tax information exchanges. Also in April, we set out our priorities around tax transparencies for the May European Council. Most significantly of all, perhaps, within the past month the overseas territories have agreed to greater automatic information exchange with the UK. Here, we are talking about the Cayman Islands, the BVI and other places that have had a degree of secrecy which we believe is simply no longer acceptable.

The noble Lord, Lord Bhattacharyya, spoke with his unrivalled knowledge about the constraints on innovation and investment. I had a great deal of sympathy with much of what he said, particularly about supporting reshoring, which to a certain extent is happening anyway. However, as he suggested, I am sure that the Government should look at ways of doing more. I am particularly aware of an initiative that my noble friend Lord Alliance is heading up on the textile industry and which is bearing considerable fruit. His view is that the potential from reshoring textile manufacture, so that we can have the just-in-time manufacture of textiles in the UK, could be as much as 250,000 jobs in the north-west. This is potentially a huge thing.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bhattacharyya, that we could be doing more. I was particularly interested in his suggestion of how we might use public procurement to help. We should look at that further, and I will discuss it with my colleague Vince Cable, because it seems an interesting idea. I say in passing that the suggestion that we should be emulating the Americans to increase car manufacturing here seems to ignore the fact that car manufacturing has increased here substantially, without government bailouts but with government support. That is because we have had fantastic investment by companies such as Tata, which have completely turned around iconic British brands by investing more than £100 million of their own money in innovation and investment. They are working very closely with the universities, possibly including the university of the noble Lord, Lord Bhattacharyya, and are placing their own research people in those universities. That has happened without direct government subsidy, on the American model, but because this is a good environment for that kind of activity.

We have a raft of initiatives on the table. There are the Catapult centres, whose work includes high-value manufacturing, initiatives on science and innovation and capital projects from the research partnerships fund. We have done a raft of things to help small businesses to generate capital and have access to it, from abolishing stamp duty on shares and expanding the small business research initiative to £100 million and having further funding committed via the new investment bank, which we are in the process of establishing.

For three-quarters of his speech, the noble Lord, Lord Bates, did a tremendous job in helping the movement of animal spirits in a positive direction. Then he slightly undermined that by saying that the figures on which we are placing a certain amount of hope are perhaps not worth the paper they are written on. I paraphrase slightly. However, I think we will have in the UK what has just happened in the US, where the basis of the GDP figures is being looked at. I believe this is the case, although it may not be on exactly the same basis as he wants. The sad thing is that if the consequence of that rebasing of GDP leads to GDP figures going down, everybody will say that this is the Government’s fault for being completely incompetent, while if it shows them going up, that will lead to everybody saying that they have been fiddled, so I do not place too much hope on that. A consistent series of figures is probably the best that can be done. Although it does not necessarily reach an absolutely precise representation of the truth, that is good enough.

If the noble Lord will allow me, I just need to correct for the record that I did not say that the GDP figures were worthless. I never used that term. I simply queried the mix between the construction and service sectors—be it 5,000, 10,000 or 12,000—and whether that mix was under review in order to ensure that we are accurately reflecting the performance of the economy.

I apologise to the noble Lord. As I was saying, I believe that the ONS is doing a pretty fundamental review of that at the moment.

The Government are under no illusions at all about the challenges ahead in respect of growth. Implementing our ambitious programme of reform and securing strong, sustainable growth will not be easy, but the Government will not deviate from their course. The prizes in the global economic race are great and we are determined to win more of them.

My Lords, I am very grateful to everyone who took part in this debate. In his opening comments the noble Lord, Lord Marland, described vividly the work he is doing around the world to encourage British exports. I very much support that. Indeed, I was quite excited, so maybe we ought to have a word outside afterwards. I must declare an interest as the chairman of the Good Governance Foundation. He mentioned corruption and the rule of law, which is precisely what we are trying to do through the company. The amount of work available for British universities on promoting the rule of law is considerable.

The noble Lord, Lord Bhattacharyya, gave a very good speech on a wide range of things. I simply say to him that science and technology deserves a debate on its own when it comes to growth. The high-tech part, which I work with, deserves so much to be put forward. The noble Lord, Lord Bates, also mentioned the importance of confidence in the economy, and I entirely agree with that.

I was slightly disappointed by the Minister’s response because I feel that he slipped back a bit. Yes, Keynes did say to take interest rates into account, but in view of the fact that the noble Lord referred to the long term and the short term he should also remember that Keynes said, “In the long term, we are all dead”. That is perhaps worth remembering, but the important point was really what the IMF and various economists are saying. I simply remind the Minister of the quotation I gave from the IMF report: that many advanced countries had debt to GDP ratios much higher than we have now, and they have dealt with them through growth. It is the alarmist approach, which I thought the Government were moving away from, that undermines confidence, because it says to people, “Oh, we are like Greece”. Well, we are not. That was a silly argument in the first place. Britain is in a much stronger position and we should not talk ourselves down in that way.

Finally, because a number of people chided me again for my interest in aviation, let me say one thing about why this is so important. This is not about hub airports but about airports generally. It is not about the Davies report. I gave evidence to that and will do so again. It is that Britain invented the Industrial Revolution. The second stage of that revolution resulted in railways, which produced the first country in recorded history where manufactured goods could be delivered from one part of the country to the other in large quantities. In other words, we had the world’s first integrated manufacturing economy.

This is such an important point because what aviation is doing for the global economy today is what railways did for the British economy in the 19th century. We lost our lead on railways after the end of the 19th century. We still have the second most advanced aerospace industry in the world. Do not let us lose our lead in this as we did on railways, otherwise we will regret it deeply. Aviation delivers goods, and people, all over the world, and it does not require public money. Most of it can be done with private money, so your Lordships can relax a little more about debt. I thank everyone for this debate.

Motion agreed.

Adoption: Adoption Legislation Committee Reports

Motion to Take Note

Moved by

To move that this House takes note of the reports of the Adoption Legislation Committee on Adoption: Pre-Legislative Scrutiny (1st Report, Session 2012–13, HL Paper 94) and Adoption: Post-Legislative Scrutiny (2nd Report, Session 2012–13, HL Paper 127).

My Lords, I was delighted and honoured to be asked to chair the first post-legislative scrutiny Select Committee on the current adoption legislation. As we went along, we also became a pre-legislative scrutiny committee. Consequently, we published an interim report to express our views on the first two clauses of the Children and Families Bill in December 2012 and our final report in March 2013.

I begin by thanking the committee staff and our specialist adviser, Professor Harris-Short, for their dedication—I use that word deliberately—extremely hard work and the efficiency of their support in the evidence-gathering and in writing the two reports. I am also very grateful for the enthusiasm and enormously valuable input from the members of the committee. It would be invidious to single out any particular organisations among those which gave evidence, and we are extremely grateful to all of them for their invaluable contributions. In writing each report, we felt that we were running to keep up as we received, and had to digest, the Government’s adoption initiatives at short notice. Our committee staff wrote and rewrote the reports to meet those initiatives and our views on the adoption clauses in the Children and Families Bill.

We heard evidence over several months and made a considerable number of recommendations. In the time available, I will pick out several of those that I consider the most important and refer to the Government’s initial response. Inevitably, I shall omit important issues. As we considered the evidence presented to us, we had very much in mind the right of the child to be brought up in his or her birth family, whenever possible, and the right of parents and their children to respect for their family life. Children should not be removed from their birth family unless their welfare requires it, but, sadly, not all children are able to remain with their birth families. The welfare of the child is the paramount consideration.

It was abundantly clear to us from the evidence that there is no need for far-reaching changes to the adoption legislation. The main issues of concern we found were the unacceptable delays in the adoption process, failures of the processes and practice, and the shortage of adopters. Even for babies and young children, who are seen as easier to adopt, the delays are significant. The average age of a child at adoption is three years and eight months, and the average length of time taken from entry into care to adoption is two years and seven months. The longer children wait to be placed, the more difficult the adoption outcome for them and for the adopters.

From the evidence presented to us, we identified numerous failures of procedures and, particularly, of practice contributing to those delays. Consequently, much of the evidence we received focused on those failures and how they might be addressed effectively. Our recommendations have therefore been largely directed to those issues. They are set out at some length in our final report. The initial response of the Government sets out sensible steps to be taken—and steps that are being taken—to reduce delay, but there is nothing much new or that we did not know before we started our investigations.

There is undoubtedly potential for more children to be adopted. Adoption is unique as a change of the status of the child who becomes the child of the new family. The Government are to be congratulated on recognising the importance of adoption and seeking practical ways to improve the situation in guidance as well as proposed legislation. However, there are not enough potential adopters and, further, there are many children suitable for adoption and placed for adoption—that is, ready from the court procedures to be adopted—but who are not adopted for lack of available adoptive parents. In March 2012, there were 4,263 approved adopters and more than 4,600 children who had completed the adoption process and were ready to be matched with adopters. The process of matching is slow. In addition, there were many more children for whom an adoption decision had been made but who had not completed the court process. Until now, potential adopters have been largely recruited by individual local authorities and retained by them on their books. The national register is an excellent initiative and will, I hope, mean that approved adopters will be more widely available, which should improve the matching process from a wider pool.

However, adoption is only one relatively small solution to the large numbers of children entering the care system. For various reasons, adoption is not appropriate for many children. On 31 March 2012, there were 67,050 children in care, of whom more than 60,000 were placed away from their families. Proper provision has to be made for these vulnerable children who need to be looked after away from their birth parents. All these children need to be loved, cared for and provided with stability and long-term security. Most of them may be cared for by other members of their family, friends, special guardianship or long-term fostering. However, a danger was articulated to me by a district judge this week that the 26-week requirement for the completion of care proceedings may concentrate on process rather than on the welfare of the child and may create injustices through the inability of some social workers to make adequate assessments of the birth family and of the wider family who might otherwise be able to take over the care of the child. I therefore stress the importance of early family conferencing throughout all local authorities.

The committee was concerned that the Government’s proper concern with and focus on increasing adoption may risk disadvantaging those children in care for whom adoption is not an option. Improving the outcomes for all children should be the priority. All routes to permanence merit equal attention and investment. In the initial response, the Government have set out a number of steps already taken to improve the fostering process and commissioned research on special guardianship.

The committee believes that early intensive work with birth parents where there is capacity to change has the potential to allow the children to remain safely with their parent or parents and would reduce the number of children entering the care system. There are excellent government-supported early-intervention initiatives, but the committee was concerned that a substantial sum—£150 million—is to be removed from early intervention to help local authorities improve their adoption procedures. The Government’s initial response has, rather surprisingly, been to point out that fostering for adoption is a form of early intervention. That is true, but it removes the child from the birth family. Early intervention, working with the birth family, can be successful and, if so, the child can remain in the family and fostering for adoption would not be necessary. It would be most unfortunate if the potential benefit of early intervention were to be undermined by the greater focus on adoption.

We are told that a significant increase in the budget is being allocated to early intervention. I should like to hear from the Minister how that increase is to be distributed. I provided the Minister with my draft earlier today.

On post-adoption support, most children are adopted from the care system and most of them, other than babies, will have had unhappy experiences in their birth family, which is why they have been removed from the family. Adoption provides the opportunity for the adopted children to have a secure and stable childhood. It does not rid them of the unhappy early part of their lives. Some of these children present major problems for their new, adoptive families and both the children and their new parents often need a great deal of practical help, counselling and therapeutic help. It is much to the credit of the Government that they now recognise the importance of post-adoption support. The adoption passport will be available online to be accessed by potential adopters and sets out the help which may be available to them.

The committee recommended that there should be a statutory duty on local authorities and other service-commissioning bodies to co-operate, to ensure the provision of post-adoption support. The Government have not responded directly to that recommendation—it would be fair to say that they avoided doing so—and I hope that it will be seriously considered when the Children and Families Bill reaches this House.

We invited adopted and looked-after children to come and talk to some of the members of the committee; we are indebted to the Children’s Rights Director, Roger Morgan, for arranging for these children to come. Both groups ranged in age from about 17 down to eight and were most informative, particularly the younger children when they developed sufficient confidence to tell us what they really thought. The two points I pick out today were said by both groups of children. First, they were not consulted. They did not expect that their views would be accepted, but at least they might be asked. Most of them were very critical of independent reviewing officers whom they had not met or who were not helpful to them; to the contrary were one or two children whose independent reviewing officers had done a very good job with them. Some children were critical of their guardians, who neither spoke nor listened to them. I am disappointed that the Government have rejected our recommendation that IROs should be genuinely independent—it is an important issue—but I hope that something effective will be done about the IRO case overload.

The second point the children raised concerned the training in schools of other pupils about the meaning of adoption and the meaning of being “in care”. Much more importantly, however, they focused on the training needed by teachers. Two adopted children told us that they were criticised by their teachers for being unable to complete a family tree. They were actually put in front of the class and told that they were being unhelpful. I cannot believe any teacher could be so insensitive as to tell an adopted child that he or she was not supportive of the class when they were unable to produce a family tree of their new family. I am glad that the Government are looking at this important issue of teachers.

I turn briefly to outcomes and data. The Government have rightly concentrated on the importance of improving processes, but there has not yet been sufficient focus on outcomes. Some adoptions fail, with disastrous results for the child and for the adopters and with considerable additional cost to the state in taking a seriously damaged child back into care. We need much more data and research on breakdown and how it can be avoided. The Government say that they are looking at it. I hope very much that they take some effective steps to find out what lies behind these breakdowns.

It would also be helpful if a child’s passage from the moment of going into care to being placed in adoption, and thereafter, was monitored so that one has a graph of what happened to that particular child, which might also help with the issue of breakdown. We need much more data and research on breakdown and how it can be avoided, and I do not apologise for saying that again.

The other recommendations the Government have rejected are likely to figure in amendments to the Children and Families Bill when it comes to this House. I beg to move.

My Lords, it is a great privilege to come immediately after our splendid chairman. Age before beauty, of course, as one of the lonely men on the committee, my goodness, it was a pleasure to serve under our chairman and to have such a riveting and exciting time studying a very difficult subject.

I will not follow in any detailed way what has been done, what the law is and what is now proposed. I would like to speculate a little on the relationship between Government and local government, and all the other agencies that are involved in the very complicated matter of care and permanent placements.

Clauses 1 to 3 of the Bill all do things that are entirely relevant to what we studied. There is a new duty, a change in the rules about how you look at matching on grounds of ethnicity, and in Clause 3 there is the headmaster’s stick behind the curtain, which is the possibility of directions. I have to admit to a personal dislike of any clause that has directions in it as there is no parliamentary procedure for appealing against the decision of a Secretary of State.

However, that may be—let us hope that Clause 3 never needs to be used—when thinking about these complex matters we need to remember quite a number of things. A lot of very expert people are involved in these complicated matters: not least, of course, the courts. Views about child psychology and the best interests of the child are a moving target. I was an economist at one time and, as noble Lords will know, no two economists agree. I am not sure that any two child psychiatrists entirely agree either. There is a very wide intellectual background to these matters and of course there are wide differences on the ground.

The demographics of Bradford are not the same as those of north Yorkshire and Hackney is very different from Southall. The divergences of circumstances on the ground—between local authorities and between individual circumstances—are enormous. As the chairman has already said, we found—and the evidence completely supported this—that the behaviour within the existing system is much more important than the probably helpful tweaks that can be given to it in legislation. This issue of the behaviour within the existing system will stay with us. That is why I am very interested in how the Government approach their relationships with local authorities in a matter such as this.

Of course the financial relationship does not help. The fact that local authorities are responsible for such a small part of their own funding does not help at all. I do not want to draw parallels with the governance of the eurozone and the monetary problems that arise from that, but there are parallels. If you split these responsibilities in a quite draconian way, it does not help and it contributes to the public not turning out in very large numbers in local government elections and coming to think of their elected representatives as delegates—a very non-Burkean position. Centralisation makes the question of the postcode lottery more difficult. Dealing with children in care in Kent will remain a very different matter from dealing with children in care in Northumberland or—again—Hackney.

In pursuing these difficult judgments about whether a child should be taken into care, and how quickly a decision should be made about the best possible placement, when to go to court and so on, we need throughout the system—in the department, in local authorities, among elected members and in social services departments—confidence, professional certainty and an acceptance that now and again the judgments that are reached in pursuit of minimising delay will have risks to them, and occasionally will turn out not to be as successful as we would have hoped.

The Government’s initial response to our December and March efforts was pretty general. I have read it carefully and I am not filled with certainty that everybody in the system knows how to handle these matters in the best possible way. I suppose that that is inevitable. Therefore, the question becomes whether the difficulties are properly recognised, and whether there is a dialogue about them and an acceptance that we have to get on with thinking about this very carefully, even if we are somewhat uncertain about the right answer. Otherwise, uncertainty will have to be rationalised out and so will become indifference and certainly delay. Therefore the central issue is how the Government intend, in their relationship with local authorities, to impart a degree of confidence that will lead to a degree of certainty and a willingness to make decisions in a timely fashion. That goes right through all the people involved in the system, including the adoption agencies and all the other people who contribute to the very important wish of all of us to see a greater number of successful adoptions.

The challenge is to ensure that when John Humphrys gets into a dialogue on a problem that has arisen—and problems will arise—everybody in the system, when they are interviewed, can say, “We thought this through together, we are all in it together and not one of us is trying to make sure that somebody else carries the blame”.

My Lords, I thank the House for appointing me to this committee. It was my first Select Committee at this end of the building, and I enjoyed being part of a very thorough piece of work with a very interesting and varied group of people, with very different expertise and experience. Of course we were expertly chaired by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. I had the enormous privilege of encountering her chairmanship much earlier in both our careers, when she chaired the Cleveland child abuse public inquiry. I was new to the House of Commons but I had been working as a social worker in the north-east, so was involved and interested in the issue. I was also serving on the then Education Bill Committee in the Commons. This was, I think, in 1998—the Bill became the 1998 Act. I was able to learn from her work and report in getting a much firmer framework for child protection in this country. She was immensely gracious to those of us who were new to Select Committee work in this House, and very tolerant of our different approaches, and I am very grateful to her for that. I am also grateful that she has today given us a much more expansive report, in a sense, of the overall conclusions of the committee, because I want to concentrate on a much narrower area of the committee’s considerations. However, it is important for noble Lords to remember the whole context in which the committee was working.

Adoption is, of course, an important option for children who are not able, for whatever reason, to be cared for by their birth parents, but it is sometimes forgotten that the pattern of adoption has changed significantly over the past 50 years. No longer is it dominated by newly born babies, probably put up for adoption because their mothers were out of wedlock. These days, that is not the main reason for children coming into care or, indeed, being placed for adoption. Many of the children who are placed for adoption today will be from what the Government often call “troubled families”, which means that many of them will have had very traumatic experiences in their childhood and will be very damaged by the neglect, violence or abuse that they have already suffered.

The report is trying, in the areas with which I am concerned, to establish that careful balance between the importance of achieving early permanence for vulnerable children alongside that key recognition that the best place for a child is to be raised within the family network, provided that it is safe and in their best interests. I remember as a social worker many moons ago just how anxious and obsessed were many adolescents with whom I worked because they did not have contact with their birth parents or their early family. It did not matter what we did in the care system; they wanted to know, wanted the reasons and wanted to see what we could do to establish contact. Today, if they go down the adoption road, that is very difficult for them. For me that means that we have a responsibility to take early intervention seriously. The committee felt that the careful balance that I am talking about could be met only by effective early intervention. Again, my experience as a Minister in tackling social exclusion was that there are good evidence-based programmes around the world on early intervention. There is now a lot of knowledge and work around that, and we have a responsibility to use that knowledge, now that we know.

There is increasing evidence of the importance of the time from conception to the age of two in the development of a child. We know that this is the crucial phase of human development. It is in this period that children form those solid psychological and neurological foundations to optimise lifelong social, emotional and physical health, and that of course then has such an important effect on their educational and economic achievement. Lack of attachment, neglect and abuse all have serious detrimental effects on children, and severely affect that development.

I commend to the House a report that has been published since the committee deliberated this issue from the special interest group for nought to two year-olds set up by the Government. The report was co-written by Sally Burlington at the Department for Education and George Hosking, CEO of the Wave Trust. I remind the House of my interest as a trustee of that organisation. I hope the Minister has been briefed on that report as it clearly points out that the most effective interventions are often preventive rather than reactive. The report says that preventive interventions address risk factors likely to result in future problems for particular families without waiting for those problems to emerge. That is precisely what I urge the Government to do. Although we considered early intervention we were not able to look at that report, but I think that many of us on the committee agree with that finding.

We heard from the NSPCC about some of the work that that organisation has done in this area. I talked about evidence-based programmes such as the Family Nurse Partnership, and continue to do so. Indeed, some people think that I am obsessed with those programmes. I had the privilege of witnessing the Family Nurse Partnership in the United States of America and then persuading my Cabinet colleagues to fund pilot programmes in this country. It became clear from that work that health visitors and midwives are the key to achieving better health and well-being for children in their foundation years. We are simply not sufficiently innovative in how we use their knowledge and expertise to understand what is happening to children and prospective parents in these most vulnerable families. If we used their work much more creatively, we would be able to take decisions which could well achieve the Government’s ambition of providing more early placements and early decision-making. We have the opportunity to change the manner in which parents behave, or are likely to behave, towards their children. We now know about that from the Nurse Family Partnership; or the Family Nurse Partnership, as we have rechristened it. We know what can be done. We know how we can change the behaviour and ambition of young mothers undergoing their first pregnancy. That should be the overarching ambition in early intervention.

The challenge for the Government is to get the legislation right to ensure that families are given the right support at the right stage to avoid problems of neglect and abuse so that the child’s interests are attended to before damage is done. If that work is guaranteed, if there is no prospect of the parents’ behaviour changing, or of other appropriate kinship carers, families or friends taking on the care of the child, permanent solutions should kick in quickly. We have just not been good enough at this. We have not been good enough at early identification or early intervention to optimise the child’s opportunities. Too often potential carers among family and friends are not investigated at an early stage: it comes as an afterthought. Too often there is insufficient support for kinship carers. Earlier this week, I popped into the Family Rights Group reception in the Palace of Westminster. Members of that body gave evidence to the committee. At the reception we heard about the experience of kinship carers, which was incredibly moving. However, we also heard their pleas for greater support.

I accept that there is, on occasion, risk in kinship placements. Anyone who has listened to the remarkable story of my very good right honourable friend along the Corridor, Alan Johnson, about his experience of kinship care, knows that taking a risk is important. He had a remarkable social worker who was prepared to take that risk and leave him with his sister who was 16. However, such risk should be mediated by the guarantee of support, and that is the issue on which many kinship carers feel we let them down. The Government sort of acknowledge that in their response to the report, but I want more action on that. I would like them to take account of the recommendations of recent research by Oxford University for the Family Rights Group, which gives us a menu of how we might provide that support more effectively.

I know that I have not covered many other aspects of the report. I conclude by saying that sometimes the rhetoric from the Government about adoption overshadows the other things that the committee knows are important—indeed, our chairperson has identified them as being important—such as early identification and the menu of different forms of permanence for children in care. It is important to recognise the complex jigsaw of ways forward, and I know that that is where the Government are, even if the rhetoric sometimes belies that. We have responsibility to ensure that the legislation that we are shortly to consider enhances opportunities for the most vulnerable children. I look forward to that.

My Lords, I, too, sincerely thank our chairman and all who advised and assisted us, who, from where they are sitting probably want to join in this debate. They joined in very helpfully in the committee. They made it an enjoyable and productive process, about which I want to say a word.

I have been involved for some years in judging awards, mostly in the local government field but more broadly, to scrutiny committees and scrutiny branches of organisations. I have been increasingly aware that scrutineers are being involved by their executives in co-operative and forward-looking, not merely reactive, responsive work. I hope that we have fulfilled something of that function in our work. Our chairman has referred to some of the evidence given by children and their carers about their experiences of care and adoption. She, like me, might sometimes put quotation marks around the word “evidence” but they contributed to our consideration. I have been wondering about whether, as Bills come before committees of Parliament, there might be more scope for combining our current work with the sort of post-legislative/pre-legislative scrutiny that our inquiry became. This is done more by the Commons than it is by us. Is there room for more liaison? Perhaps I should pause while I am struck by a thunderbolt for suggesting any such thing. However, I hope that both Houses can continue to explore new ways of looking at what we are doing.

Like other noble Lords, I found the leapfrogging government announcements somewhat frustrating at the time but, with hindsight, I recognise that there was more of a pattern to them than it felt when we were doing it.

I have come across some amazing people in the adoption world. I first became involved with adoption towards the end of the 1970s, and I want to use this opportunity to put into Hansard the names of two couples who formed the agency, Parents for Children, with which I worked. Both couples—Sheila and Michael Crawford and Hilary and David Chambers, who also founded the Parent to Parent Information on Adoption Services that later became Adoption UK—were adopters of children with considerable disadvantages. With the first director, Phyllida Sawbridge, some really ground-breaking work was done in this country with, as I said, children who had multiple disadvantages.

Last year, I met Phyllida Sawbridge again, and we reminisced about, bluntly, the advertising of children who needed to be adopted, requiring permanence, and about other mechanisms, such as activity days, when potential adopters met children, involving picnics on Parliament Hill and that sort of thing. I wonder about the wheel sometimes being reinvented.

I was quite young at the time and maturity gives one a different perspective. What it has given me is a perspective on the importance of identity—one’s own identity. The first report that the committee produced dealt with the Government’s proposal regarding changing legislation concerning the place and consideration of religion, race, language and culture. We felt that our proposal gave those matters appropriate weight and an appropriate place, and I am sorry that when the Bill was published it was clear that the Government did not accept what we had to say.

Legislation is not everything—that was something that we felt time and again in our work—but changing the legislation, as the Children and Families Bill will do if it is unamended in this regard, sends a very particular message, and it is not a message that I am comfortable with. A parent’s understanding and a child’s sense of who he is seems to be one of those issues which is rather susceptible to the swings of the pendulum in thinking. The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, referred to this as a moving target—a phrase that I may adopt at some point.

Another pendulum is where responsibility lies between the local and the national. I am naturally a localist but I found myself thinking again and again during the committee’s work that adoption is in some sense a national service.

The committee has expressed concern about the Secretary of State’s power to direct local authorities to outsource recruitment, and reference has been made to that. We encourage the Government to allow time for the sector to develop alternative proposals. I am not entirely sure what the Government mean in their response by saying that they will not impose a solution,

“unless it becomes clear that the sector as currently constituted is unable or unwilling to address these problems”.

The response goes on:

“We will, however, not hesitate to intervene if the sector is unable to make the urgent changes that need to happen”.

That sounds to me more top-down than I am comfortable with.

The Local Government Association, in its briefing for today—and I have no doubt that it will brief us extensively for the Bill—makes the point that, as many adoptive parents say, the relationship between adopters and their council lasts long after they adopt. It says:

“This is why it is so crucial that we have a joined-up adoption system”.

The committee identified issues regarding social workers’ training and continuing professional development and status following Professor Munro’s report. I was not left with complete confidence that the Government had understood what we were saying in this regard.

I understand that each local authority is accountable for its own performance but we heard interesting and encouraging things about joint working and consortia, to use the term quite widely. I hope that the Government’s response rejecting joint scorecards and joint inspections does not mean that they are rejecting out of hand ways in which authorities can work together. Like others, I was disappointed by the way in which the early intervention grant had been regarded, although we have been given information about new moneys which will become available.

The committee was fortunate to have members directing us to evidence and data. One of the areas in which more information is required is the breakdown of placements. Our chairman has referred to this already. I know that work is being done in this area but I am not clear how breakdown is defined and, in particular, whether any longitudinal work is going on or whether the Government, who I know have already commissioned some work, are looking only at the relatively short term. A problem with a placement arising from a child’s background may evidence itself perhaps only in the teenage years, and it may be quite difficult to untangle the components at that stage.

We have raised the issue of value for money and the costs and benefits of adoption support in this context and we learn from the report—or, at any rate, I learnt; others may have known of this before—of work commissioned from the Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre. I have given the Minister notice—not very much notice, I am afraid—that I would be interested to know the terms of reference of that work, how it is being carried out and, in particular, of course, who is being consulted. I have looked at the centre’s website and I notice that one of the partners in the work is part of the Coram Foundation, which has much experience, including in concurrent planning, but presumably a wider trawl is being undertaken.

The committee argued for post-adoption support, not only an assessment of adopters’ needs. I understand there is a lack of information as to how assessments are carried out by local authorities and adopters report varied experiences. There seems to be no model for the assessment—I would not necessarily support a single model—and that means that there is no benchmarking. I wonder how evaluation of the assessments is being undertaken.

The Government’s response to our reports also referred to work on a social impact bond. Again, I hope the Minister will be able to say more about developments for funding mechanisms which the Government are monitoring. I think I have used almost all the words which were applied to this issue in the report. It was a very short paragraph.

Finally, let me raise a narrow point which the noble and learned Baroness had in mind but did not develop—she is leaving it for the Bill—and that is access to information by the descendants of adopted people. We have evidence of the need for a change to the legislation. A woman who was affected was not herself adopted, but her father was, and she made an application to the court. She said:

“I believe that knowing my origin is an important part of who I am, and having access to my father’s birth information would restore my sense of identity and belonging. Society’s attitude towards adoption has been changing for some years, and these are amendments which should reflect a more open approach”.

The Government responded that:

“This is a complex and sensitive issue which needs careful consideration before any change to legislation could be considered”,

and went on to say that they are in discussion with the Law Commission. Can the Minister say today what considerations there are which are greater than or different from those applying in the case of adopted people? I might be able to imagine them, but I would be glad to hear them at this point.

We were asked to look at legislation and of course, as has been said, what we found was that there were issues mostly around practice. For reasons of time, I will not rehearse the arguments about the importance of early permanency, but I want to end by going back to some of my own early experiences, which still apply. In essence, although it is not the whole of it, if permanency is not achieved early, a child becomes a child who is difficult to place.

My Lords, I, too, had the honour of being a member of the committee, although for a large part of the time I was being looked after by the National Health Service, so I can thank the chair for her excellent work more objectively than the other members of the committee and, indeed, I can thank my colleagues. Between them, they have made a superb contribution to the thinking around the needs of vulnerable children in our communities. I want to concentrate today on that wider aspect.

Noble Lords who take part in debates such as this will know the sinking feeling that you get as you listen to the speeches that have gone before—I am sure that those who are to speak after me are having the same thought—and you realise that most of the points that you want to make have already been made, but I would say to the Minister that in this instance I think that that is important, because it reinforces the central message. I felt that the noble and learned Baroness and my computer had been in collusion, but I can assure him that they were not. I have known the noble and learned Baroness down the years because she was president of the Family Division when I had the somewhat mixed experience of being the deputy chair and then chair, like the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services. That experience of children is something else that I bring, apart from being a social worker.

The Government are right to concentrate hard on this aspect of children’s needs because, as the Minister must know, there really is a crisis at the moment in childcare. Care applications in April 2013 were 20% higher than in the previous year. We really cannot continue on that sort of trajectory. To quote the chief executive of CAFCASS, the number of children legally freed for adoption but without an adopter available is increasing relentlessly. As has been said, the figure is just below the 5,000 mark. Not only do we need to ensure speedy but appropriate planning for these children, but we must stem the flow by questioning what it is in our society, our services and our systems that brings so many children into care. What can we do better in order to support children at home?

Apart from the possibility of safe reunification with one or both parents—sometimes it is with one parent if the other parent can be distanced; I will return to that later—children can find secure, loving relationships through kinship care, permanent fostering, special guardianship and good residential care. We have seen that, as special guardianship has increased, sometimes adoption has gone down. That has been seen as a reduction in adoption but what we should be looking for is permanence, not a particular answer. Children often need combinations of care at different stages of their childhood and the development of their family. By overemphasising one—adoption—we may demean the others. Different pathways also require a variety of support services. We acknowledge gratefully what the Government have proposed through the adoption passport, recognising the wide need of adopted children, but we regret that the provision of the services identified is not to be a statutory duty. We hope that the Government will look again at this through the Children and Families Bill.

It has been said several times this afternoon that the committee endorsed the importance accorded to the right of a child to be raised within their birth family wherever possible. If I could say that in bold and underlined, I would do so. I have spent enough of my working life, as many of my colleagues know, developing safeguarding programmes, dealing with the worst of neglect or harm and indeed the murder of children by their parents, to have a more than realistic picture of what life can be like for some children left in unsafe situations. Indeed, we know from consultation directly with children that top of the list of things that they look for is to be safe.

However, I also spent enough years as a social worker involved with families with complex problems to know that, with clear assessment, proper planning and support services such as Sure Start and Home-Start, parents can make changes. We have heard about the NSPCC programme, which has had very good outcomes. All this will lead to positive family life, but it takes skill, time and, especially, good social work intervention, and that is where there is a key difficulty for local authorities at the moment. In this regard, where parents have the capacity to change, the committee was clear that evidence in favour of that early, intensive intervention to address family problems is compelling.

As I said, local authorities, particularly their social workers, are under severe pressure. It was therefore with deep concern that we learnt that adoption reform is to be funded by taking money from the early intervention grant. I ask the Minister directly: how can good early decision-making based on these clear assessments be achieved, with permanency planning being prioritised one month after entry into care, without the financing of a skilled workforce to carry this out? Social workers continue to have a bad press and remain undervalued in terms of pay and conditions of service, and I wonder sometimes why any person joins the service. But we need teams who can approach every new situation with a broad understanding of children and their families, where adoption is fully integrated into child protection and family support. We need a more rounded approach, which we had at some point in the past.

The Government’s response to our recommendation that,

“the Government need to give further consideration to the practical effect of the proposed change … on social work culture and practice”,

was simply to say that further information to support the Bill’s provisions would be provided. Is the Minister in a position to provide the information or will that come at a later stage? What will be done to support and develop social workers in their practice? As our chair has done, I draw attention to the position of independent reviewing officers and ask what is to be done to ensure that their decisions are independent of their employing authorities and their workloads are manageable. We heard during the inquiry of one case where a reviewing officer really took the brunt of a serious mistake and then discovered that his workload was totally impossible. Anyone carrying that workload was likely to make a mistake.

The committee came to the conclusion that concurrent planning is essential and I am delighted that CAFCASS and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services are undertaking work on early permanence analysis. This approach reflects the concern and commitment of those working for children—people who know that a week in a child’s life is a long time. I welcome the Government’s response to make it a duty of the local authority to place a child with carers who may go on to be their permanent carers at a very early stage. However, I hope that care will also be taken in ensuring the human rights of families, which means having the right length of time for social workers to engage and make their decisions. In saying that, I again acknowledge that there are times when immediate intervention must take place.

It has been said previously that we have no evidence, except anecdotal evidence, of the broad success or failure of adoption. I found this astounding having been involved in childcare statistics for many years. We urge the Government to undertake research that, by gathering statistics of adoption breakdown, would give some basis for planning. While everyone in the children’s social care field welcomes any plans to reduce the time taken by care proceedings, I repeat that there must be enough time to make appropriate plans. Nothing that I have said in support of social work with birth families indicates a lack of value for adoption; it simply indicates a need for a balance. I have direct personal and professional experience of the security that a good adoptive family can achieve, but we must assess each child’s situation on its merits.

To meet the expectation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we must wherever possible ensure that the child is an active participant in their future. We have heard how often children felt that things were being done to them rather than with them. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has recently introduced an advocacy service to ensure that children can be properly heard and their views incorporated into decisions at the child protection conference stage. That is a good deal earlier than family conferences. When the child is old enough, it is essential that their views are known. The NCB only yesterday published a report, Time to Listen, showing how advocacy can enhance children’s involvement. If we are to get the placements right, including adoption, we must know what the children think and feel. It does not necessarily mean that that will the right plan, but how can you make a good professional assessment without listening to the children? Recent events in Oxford surely illustrate what happens when they are not heard. I wonder what else the Government are doing to encourage child participation and advocacy.

I repeat: a week in the life of a child can be a lifetime. Whatever path we take to ensure that each child has a happy and secure permanent placement must be found with skill and application. I look forward to the Children and Families Bill and to the Minister’s response to the issues raised today, but I ask him and his colleagues to remember that, while leaving a child in an unsafe situation and without adequate support can be a death sentence, removing a child from parents is for them a life sentence. Those difficult decisions, keeping the child always at the centre of consideration, require professionals who can deliver what the Government in partnership with local authorities need to do. It is practice rather than legislation that will make the difference. I hope to hear what the Government are going to do to ensure that that practice is adequate.

My Lords, it has been a great pleasure to serve on this committee. One of the things I liked most about it and this subject is that we were more or less able to approach it from a non-party-political angle. No one in this House would not want to see Britain treat its most vulnerable children in a fairer manner. I say that almost as a disclaimer at the beginning before I have a little bit of a go at some of the Government’s approaches to this issue.

Clearly, I welcome the Government’s desire to improve life chances for children in the care system but you have to look at who these children are. I was shocked and must confess my ignorance because I did not realise that when we talk about children in care today in Britain some 56% of them are over the age of 10 and will never realistically be adopted. Although I am evangelical on the subject of adoption—even more evangelical than the Secretary of State in the other place as I have three adopted children—to focus on adoption at the expense of other permanent care solutions would inevitably be to neglect over half our children in care. That simply is not an option.

The best way to help children in care is to change circumstances in their birth families so that they are not taken into care in the first place. That is why every single member of the committee to speak so far has brought up the subject of early intervention and the fact that the grant was raided, manoeuvred or manipulated. Whatever word you want to use, the Government announced they were taking £150 million from councils’ early intervention grants. The Government argued they were doing so because adoption is a form of early intervention. Of course that is true but the whole point of “early” early intervention is to prevent children being removed from their birth families in the first place. In that respect, adoption is not early intervention but an act of last resort when all else has failed.

Worryingly, we heard time and again that either families today are failing more and more often or their failure has now become unacceptable. Whatever the reasons for that, the upshot is clear: we heard again and again that the water table is rising. All the professionals we took evidence from were alarmed by the rising tide of children coming into the care system. If more money is taken out of early intervention then even more children will be put up for adoption. The NSPCC has said:

“Whilst we welcome more support for adoption it simply doesn’t make sense to take the money from the early intervention pot. This funding actually helps stop family breakdown which often leads to the need for adoption in the first place”.

I understand that the Minister will state that early intervention funding is increasing in 2014-15, up from 2011-12, but I have been told by various local authorities that this does not make up for all the money that they have lost.

While we are on the subject of money, I want to mention post-adoption support. This was one of the committee’s most important recommendations. We proposed a statutory duty to co-operate so that families which adopt Britain’s most vulnerable children receive the professional help they need. Of course, they do not know when that help will be required. It might be six weeks after they adopt a child or it might be six or 10 years. We are talking about children who have been abandoned, neglected or abused—whether physically, emotionally or sexually. They may be withdrawn when they arrive at their new families. They may be physically aggressive towards their new parents. I have spoken to many adoptive parents who were literally taken aback at what hit them when newly adopted children arrived in their families. The idea that these new parents should be left to deal with the consequences of early abuse and neglect is unconscionable. It is also financially irresponsible. The costs of adoption breakdown are met by the state and it is invariably more expensive to take a child back into care than to give those families the help they need at the appropriate time.

The Government themselves state that there is a strong moral and financial imperative for providing high-quality adoption support. I welcome that statement, but if they are to stand by it, will they please undertake to review the committee’s suggestion of a statutory duty? If the Minister does not think that a statutory duty to co-operate among the different agencies that provide such services—such as the NHS, adolescent mental health services, or whatever—is appropriate, will he agree to review that advice on statutory support, as it is a lifeline to adoptive families?

I also welcome the Government’s commitment to equalising rights between adoptive parents and non-adoptive parents. I was contacted by an adoptive parent who was forced to return to work early. She was not eligible for statutory maternity pay because her child was adopted and she worked freelance. If you are freelance and you have a baby, you receive SMP, but if you are freelance and you adopt a baby, you do not. I know that that is true because the same thing happened to me. I submit that I am more able to deal with that situation than many freelancers. It is iniquitous and a clear case of discrimination that if you adopt a baby and are freelance, you do not get the same support as if it was a birth baby. That is despite the fact that an adoptive child has an even greater need than a birth child to form healthy attachments with its new parents. I should be very grateful if the Minister would undertake to write to me on the issue, if he cannot give a response at this point.

Social impact bonds have been mentioned by other noble Lords. The Government say that they are monitoring innovative funding mechanisms such as social impact bonds. Do they have any plans to use social impact bonds to fund post-adoption support? What more can the Minister tell us about that?

I end by thanking the chair of our committee, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, for her excellent leadership. I imagine that her breadth of experience on the subject is almost unparalleled in this House, notwithstanding the many experts we have here. I also thank those who so ably helped the committee in its work. It was an absolute pleasure to serve on the committee, but it will mean something only if the Government can take firm and clear steps in the areas that we have outlined so that our desire to give Britain’s most vulnerable children a fair chance in life becomes reality.

My Lords, this debate has been interesting, stimulating and challenging, as was membership of the committee. I am sure that the debate will continue to be as stimulating. Being on such a committee, so ably led by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, was a great honour and pleasure. One felt that one was doing something really worth while. I very much thank her, the members of staff who supported us and all those who gave an enormous amount of time to present us with evidence. It was the evidence to which we listened and responded and which has been produced in our report. If we are interested in evidence-based policy, we should listen carefully to what those people said, which we have reflected in our report.

I have been involved with adoption since I was three years old, because at that point I suddenly acquired a little brother. This was not because my mummy had had a big bump in her tummy. At that age, I did not realise that that was a bit odd. I acquired a little brother through family adoption. A close member of the family died immediately after she gave birth and the baby became my little brother. Subsequently, his older siblings became regular visitors to our house and became sort of second-stage members of our family.

It is because of the great success of that adoption that I very much understand the need and importance of an adopted person to understand their identity, and where they belong in a family and more generally. I very much support what my noble friend Lady Hamwee said as regards the importance of information about the person’s background in aiding their ability to understand their own identity.

I am still involved in adoption because I now have an adopted granddaughter. This is a transracial adoption which so far is highly successful and I am delighted. It has shown me how adoption is a two-way street. The adoptive parents go through all the hassle of being approved and all the decision-making because they want to add to their family. They want to give a child a loving home. However, the child brings something terribly important to that family and we must never forget that when adoptive parents give the wonderful gift of a home to a baby, the child also brings something very important to that family.

It is because of that experience that I shall focus on racial matching. Current legislation on racial matching came in under Section 1(5) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002. It states that consideration has to be given to,

“religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background”,

when placing a child for adoption. Of course, with a baby there is not any language, but there is for most children who are adopted.

That was put in legislation because racial issues are an important consideration in the identity of the child. When the Select Committee was taking evidence, we heard pretty unanimous evidence that people felt that there was not a lot wrong with the Government’s intention when that recommendation was put into what was then the Bill. However, there were a few cases—this should not be overemphasised—where there was excessive delay in the system because the practice was not quite right. Some social workers took that part of the legislation as a message to say that racial matching was an overriding consideration when matching a child with a family. Most people told us that that was not widespread but it was accepted that it occasionally happened.

Clearly, the Government are very keen to reduce delay from whatever cause. Therefore, they have looked at this issue and said, “We are going to cut it out completely from the legislation”. The Children and Families Bill before us, which, I imagine will go through in 2013, has removed that consideration. Our Select Committee recommended something slightly different. Accepting that racial matching is an important factor and that the adoptive family must be aware of the needs of the child because of the racial part of his or her nature, we need to put it in somewhere. It has to be taken account of by practitioners. It should not be an overriding consideration but it is important. We suggested that it should go in the previous subsection, subsection (4) of the Adoption and Children Act, as part of the checklist. But I do not see anything like that in the legislation before us to implement that recommendation.

We have to remember that where you have an interracial adoption which involves a visible difference between a child and the rest of his or her family, they might as well have a sign on their forehead saying, “I am adopted”. To me, that is a great thing to have because it means that your family has chosen you. You have not just happened. Your family wants you and there is no doubt about that, which is a wonderful thing. Most of these adoptions are highly successful, but really only when the agencies work with the parents to ensure that the parents understand that this is an element they have to take into consideration when bringing up that child.

That is why our committee, which was remarkably unanimous on most issues, felt that this issue should not be taken out completely but should be in the checklist. I am a little confused because I understand that when this was being discussed in a committee in another place the Minister, Mr Edward Timpson, for whom I have a great regard, assured the committee that it was going to be in the checklist. However, it is not being put into the legislation, so I wonder whether my noble friend the Minister can clarify that matter because I think the committee all felt very strongly that while it should not be an overriding consideration, it is a very important one and must be taken into account when finding the right family for the child.

Of course, we have a problem because black and ethnic minority and mixed-race children are overrepresented in the cohort of children waiting for adoption and we do not have enough parents of that kind of ethnicity coming forward and asking to be adoptive parents. One way of solving that problem is to try to get more of those parents to come forward and foster and maybe move on to adoption, or just to go straight to adoption. I am sure that the Government are taking initiatives in that direction, which is very welcome, but we need to do more.

Personally, I think it is quite dangerous because of the message it sends out to practitioners, which has been mentioned. Those practitioners who took the wrong message from the previous legislation might swing in completely the opposite direction and say, “The Government do not want us to take any notice at all of ethnicity when matching children and families”. We know that is not the Government’s intention. The previous Government’s intention was not that it should become an overriding factor but because of what happened, we need to think very carefully about the message if we take it out completely.

Perhaps I could move on to a couple of other issues in relation to overseas adoption. First, I am very disappointed that the Government have rejected our recommendation to extend priority access to schools for children adopted from care overseas. Why not? This is very mean-minded, as we are not talking about a large number of children. These children, as much as any who have been adopted from care in this country, have gone through difficult situations and if the parents have chosen the school they think is most suitable for them, they should be given their wish.

Secondly, there is the visa applications delay. It is complete agony for parents who have gone through all the processes of being approved to be parents of a child adopted from overseas to then have to wait for a visa application. It comes as no surprise when a visa application is put in for a child to be adopted from overseas; the parents have been going through this process for years. Is there no way in which some kind of conditional visa could be issued, subject to the proper approvals and the adoption going through with the authorities both in this country and the country of origin of the child, so that could then be ratified quickly once the adoption has gone through? It is not a good start to the adoption of a child from overseas to have to be separated from the new parents.

Finally, perhaps I might say a quick word about family group conferencing. Again, best practice is something that we as a Government should be doing everything to disseminate. I noticed that where we recommended that family group conferencing should always happen, the Government’s response to our report said that it is not appropriate in some cases and that the family has to agree to it. You could always make it conditional on the family agreeing to it. At the very least, should we not be saying in guidance that family group conferencing should always be considered as long as the family accepts it? It can reduce delays, which is what we all want. We can avoid situations where family members come forward at the last minute, when all the other processes have gone through, so that we have to do all the assessments and there will be further weeks of delay for that child. We have heard that every week’s delay is bad and contributes to the damage that that child suffers. I hope that the Government will consider those few suggestions.

I add my thanks to the members of the Select Committee and to my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss for their hard work and for this debate. Their work could hardly be more timely or the committee’s membership more expert and authoritative. I declare my interest as a patron of the National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers, a trustee of the Michael Sieff Foundation, a patron of Voice, which provides advocacy services for looked-after children, the Who Cares? Trust, which provides publications to children in care enabling them to know their rights, and the Caspari Foundation, which provides support for children with learning difficulties in schools.

I thank the Government for their welcome endeavours on adoption. We have been extremely fortunate to have had an outstanding Minister for Children in Tim Loughton MP, and his successor, Mr Edward Timpson MP, seems set to be equally remarkable. The commitment of the Secretary of State, the right honourable Michael Gove, is deep and derives from his personal experience.

I strongly support the Select Committee’s call for stronger rights to post-adoption support and highlight the need for the Government to extend their zeal to the full range of placements and services for vulnerable children and families. I praise the developing policy on children’s homes, which is not mentioned in the report but can be considered one route into placement stability. Will the Select Committee reconsider its recommendations on independent reviewing officers? Having heard what I have heard, I think the committee may well be right, but it is a contentious issue. It is very worrying that IROs have such high case loads. I join the Select Committee in asking the Government to gather more information about adoption breakdown.

On Her Majesty’s Government’s response to the report from the committee, I have mentioned independent reviewing officers. Much has already been said about the comments on post-adoption support, but I shall highlight one area. The Government have commissioned the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence to produce materials for health professionals and will be looking to NICE to consider how teachers might be provided with a wider range of resources in this area. I commend the Government’s work in this area. I know its importance from the Caspari Foundation. It is essential that teachers have a better idea of child development and of what happens with children who have experienced trauma. I hope the Minister has a chance to speak with Charlie Taylor, the head of the National College for Teaching and Leadership, about these matters. He is well informed about them as a former head teacher of an EBD school.

The importance of expertise in the family court was mentioned in the debate. I highlight the need for the best expert witnesses to advise the courts in these matters. I understand the Government’s concern that in the past too many expert witnesses have been appointed in the court. This may perhaps have been because of a lack of confidence in judges, but in reducing the number of expert witnesses and saving the courts money I hope the fact that the court still needs to attract the best expert witnesses is not overlooked. As has been mentioned, there is a lot of contention about the judgment of psychiatrist and psychologists. One needs to attract the best of these people, to give the best advice and have the best outcomes for children.

There are concerns about the reduction of payments to expert witnesses. It causes me concern because we need to attract the best experts and get the best evidence for these courts. The noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, raised the importance of the first two years of life and intervening early to prevent such problems as we are discussing today. She talked particularly about the importance of health visitors and midwives in early intervention. I take this opportunity to say how concerned I am about the need for the best support for children under two. I was pleased to hear the Minister’s recent comments on the changes in childcare ratios, insisting that whatever happens the result will be better childcare. Indeed, it must.

Reflecting on a time not so long past, I recall the noble Earl, Lord Howe, making an eloquent case for the assessment of adopters’ needs and for duties on local authorities to meet those assessed needs in the course of past adoption legislation. I remind your Lordships of the young man I worked with a few years ago in north London. I had a summer placement on a play scheme and this 10 year-old was just about to be placed for adoption. In the lunch hour, he would rock himself in a tractor tyre in the setting. During activities, he would simply walk away and a member of staff would have to trail him on his journeys. He repeatedly got himself into arguments and fights with the other children. One saw in him what one would expect in a child who has experienced multiple trauma, multiple losses of carers, abuse or neglect. He had regressed to a much earlier stage of his development: he was more an infant than a 10 year-old in many ways.

Adopters need to be supported when they adopt such challenging young people. I am grateful for the recognition of this in the Government’s response. The prospect of inadequate support and a further placement breakdown, a further trauma or loss for the child, is unthinkable but not so unusual. As has been pointed out many times today, we simply do not know how often placement breakdown happens, and the details of why. That needs to be addressed.

Adopters also need to be supported in managing any contact the child may have with his biological parents and his siblings, and in speaking with the child about his past. Yesterday, I spoke with a care leaver about his experience. He repeated what he had said in the past: good communication is key to a child’s success through care. Adoptive parents need to have the confidence to be honest with their adopted children. The current film release “The Place Beyond the Pines” has a scene in which an adolescent tells his mother that she had lied to him, before he leaves the house to seek revenge for his father's killing. He had been told by his mother that his father had had an accident rather than that he had been shot dead. That moment seems uncanny in its appropriateness to our debate today. The young man says to his mother, “You are a liar”. One would not wish that to happen in any adoptive situation. Unless adoptive parents are really well supported, there may be similar difficulties when adolescence comes.

I will make a few comments on the challenges of adolescence. I have worked with 16 to 23 year-olds over a number of years. I have witnessed a teenager self-harming, have come across girls who may have been at risk of being groomed, have spent time both with young men who can suddenly start an outburst of anger and hatred from seemingly nowhere and with young men who in depression, as has been mentioned already, are unable to stir from the couch on which they lie.

It is generally accepted that children in the course of their development go through a period of latency between the ages of five to 10 years-old and then, as they enter adolescence, a period in which they recapitulate their earliest development, from nought to five, with its jealousy, tantrums and all its uncontrollable feelings. However, in adolescence, they experience this in bodies that can act on these impulses. They can hurt themselves or others, they can take what is not theirs, and they can set the house on fire if they choose to. Adopters need help, therefore, when their child enters adolescence. Early trauma that may have lain dormant will more than likely reappear in these years. Adopters need a right to the assessment of need and to services when their child enters adolescence.

I will now say a few words in praise of the Government’s developing policy on children’s homes. The Select Committee asks the Government to look across all placements for vulnerable children for routes to permanence and not to restrict its attention to adoption. I hope I can reassure members of the committee and the chair that progress is being made in the small but important area of children’s residential care.

There is scarcely time to do justice to this topic. The coverage on the front pages of the Times, the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph yesterday on the abuse of girls as young as 12 who were in the care of Oxford local authority illustrates both the need for action and the distance we need to travel. This is just about a year on from the conclusion of the Rochdale case.

I will quote from the website of Ann Coffey MP, who has led work in this area and who refers to information released by the Government on 4 April of this year, which says:

“In future the police will be given the names and addresses of children’s homes in their area so that they can better protect vulnerable children. Rules will also be changed so that children’s homes in unsafe areas—such as in the same street as a bail hostel housing paedophiles—can be closed down or refused registration. There will also be stricter rules on out of area placements where children are placed in homes miles away from their home areas. Almost half of all children are placed in children’s homes out of their areas and this makes them susceptible to sexual predators … In future the government wants a decision to place a child in care away from their home town to only be made by a senior council official, who will have to be satisfied that the placement is in the child’s best interest. The new rules will also set out a requirement for the placing authority to consult with the local area authority before they place a child in a home. There will also be a duty on homes to notify local area authorities when children move in from other local authority areas and when they leave the home. … Better and more intense training will be set up for staff working in children’s homes and rules tightened to ensure that existing staff have completed minimum qualifications within a set period of time”.

I could go on. I pay tribute to Ann Coffey, whose report last year on children missing from care, facilitated by the charity the Children’s Society, led directly to these changes. Indeed, she sat on one of the working groups leading to this policy.

I hope your Lordships will find the Government’s progress on children’s homes encouraging. I am confident that they will feel, as I do, that much more needs to be done. However, the Government should be commended for a good start in this area. I conclude by repeating my thanks to the Select Committee, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the committee for their very impressive work on the adoption legislation.

Both reports that we are debating today represent a thorough and wise insight into the real issues being faced by adoption agencies and families around the country. I was impressed that the Committee has drawn extensively on its witness interviews and the evidence it had received and that, as a result, its recommendations are not based on ideology but on cold, hard facts and real experiences. As such, we see the reports as a genuine opportunity to embrace some fresh thinking in this area.

We remain proud of the fact that the last two pieces of adoption legislation in 2002 and 2006, introduced by the previous Government, genuinely transformed provision and put children’s rights at the heart of the process. However, we also see the need to reflect, learn and move on, and I hope that we can do this today.

I also hope that the Minister is genuinely minded to listen and engage with the debate given the imminent arrival of the Children and Families Bill in your Lordships’ House, which will result in the opportunity for these issues to be debated even more widely. While on this subject, can the noble Lord update us on the proposed timetable for the Bill’s arrival in this House, as there seems to be an ominous silence on that matter?

Having read through the reports again, I was struck also by how little the legislation requires changing. This point was made by a number of noble Lords. The more fundamental challenges that we face are about funding, training, the quality of reports, joint working and improved communication. I hope that these issues will not be lost when we finish debating the Bill, and that we can find a way to return to them. Perhaps a post-post-legislative scrutiny report will be required from the committee. I am sure that it would do a very good job.

I will highlight some issues in the report where there might be differences of approach between us and the current Government. A number of points that I will make echo those raised by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, in her excellent introduction to the debate. First, we believe that the benefits of adoption over other permanent care solutions have been overstated. As the report points out, adoption is a sensible route out of care only for a proportion of children, and there is a danger that the current emphasis on this option will skew resources away from those providing equally beneficial forms of care. This point was made eloquently by my noble friend Lady King. Therefore we believe that it is essential, when a child’s future care options are assessed, that all potential provisions are considered on an equal footing, including long-term fostering, kinship care and special guardianship. We would like to see this in the Bill.

Secondly, we believe absolutely in the importance of early intervention. This means early intervention in supporting birth mothers and early intervention if a decision is needed to remove a child into care. This is why we have been so frustrated that the Government have allowed the Sure Start schemes to wither on the vine through lack of funding. This was and is a cost-effective way of providing community support and education to new mothers, particularly in deprived areas. It encourages new mothers to step out of the isolation of a potentially dysfunctional home environment and learn how to nurture their child successfully. It is crucial for identifying family problems from birth. I echo the points made by my noble friend Lady Armstrong concerning the role that health visitors and midwives can play. No other schemes that the Government are proposing come anywhere near the scale and comprehensiveness of the services that are being disbanded.

Early intervention also requires social workers with the training, judgment and experience to act decisively when a family is unable to meet the expectations of basic care and nurture. This is inevitably a tough call and should not be made alone. Equally, we should not allow bureaucratic form-filling to get in the way of social workers acting in the child’s best interests, and should not allow parents to play the system and drag out any chance of their child being removed and having a better life. These issues go to the heart of how we value, judge and reward good performance among social workers. I agree very much with the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, with her considerable experience.

Thirdly, there has been considerable debate about the status of ethnicity in matching children to potential adopters. We believe that the wording on this in the previous legislation was clear. It made it clear that the interests of the child were paramount, and that in this context due consideration should be given to their religion, race, culture and linguistic background. Since then, there have been a number of allegations that the requirement is being overprescribed, leaving children trapped in care and awaiting a perfect racial match. The extent to which this has happened is difficult to quantify, but if the fundamental principles of placements need to be restated, let us use this opportunity to do so.

We are concerned that the Government have moved too far in the opposite direction by attempting to remove altogether the reference to ethnicity. Again, I echo the point that it would be helpful if the Minister would clarify the Government’s position, because it appears that by denying that we risk causing real hardship and unhappiness to children by placing them in families that do not understand their heritage. That is why we will push in the Bill for ethnicity to be listed as a welfare factor in the checklist to be taken into account in the matching process. This point was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley.

Fourthly, we absolutely understand the argument that there are too many adoption providers in England, which reduces the scope for making successful matches for adoption. Clearly, it is not acceptable that agencies guard information about suitable adopters or children awaiting adoption and are not prepared to share it for the common good. We are pleased to see that consortia and joint local authority working, combined with improvements to the national register, are beginning to address these problems. Further funding and inspection mechanisms could be used to make this the norm.

However, we share the concern of the committee that it is premature for the Secretary of State to take on extra centralising powers, in addition to the swathe of powers that he has already taken across the education sphere, to force outsourcing of adoption services. If anything, this might result in a greater fragmentation of the service at a time when streamlining is required. In addition, we want to be assured that proper measures are in place to scrutinise the decision-making process of the Secretary of State and hold him to account when the outsourcing of services is imposed. This is something that has been missing in other aspects of education provision, and we will return to the issue during the course of the Bill.

Finally, the key to judging how successful any measures are is to look at the outcomes. We know from statistics that looked-after children have worse health, education and employment outcomes than their peers, and this should continue to be a real worry for us. We have also heard that the older the child being adopted, the more likely it is that the adoption breaks down. However, as the report suggests, we need more hard facts on this. We believe that it is our responsibility to compensate looked-after children for the effects of early trauma, including removal from their birth mother, by providing extra investment in their care and support so that they can catch up and have parity with their peers. One way of doing this is to provide all looked-after children with a virtual school head, who will take responsibility for their educational attainment. We are also keen to explore other means by which outcomes can be measured and improved. Again, we will raise these issues during the course of the Bill.

I am grateful for the opportunity to raise these issues today as a rehearsal for the issues arising in consideration of the Bill. Again, I thank the committee for providing such a comprehensive prism through which to judge the Government’s proposals, and look forward to the Minister’s response.

My Lords, I would first like to congratulate the noble and learned Baroness on securing this debate. I would also like to thank her and other noble Lords for giving me the opportunity to hear the many thoughtful contributions to it. Finally, I would like to thank the noble Baronesses and noble Lords who served on the Adoption Legislation Committee for the authoritative and considered report that we are debating today.

Every child has the right to belong to a family. When they cannot live with their birth parents, we must ensure they are provided with a safe and loving alternative family that can meet their needs. There is overwhelming evidence of harm being done to vulnerable children and inexcusable levels of drift and delay in care and adoption services. That is why, alongside our work to improve outcomes for children in care, the reform of the adoption system is a major priority. I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for his words about that matter. This reform really matters, for deep, personal reasons, to our education Ministers—to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education, who was himself adopted, and to my honourable friend Edward Timpson, whose parents fostered 87 children and who has two younger adopted siblings. I assure noble Lords that that experience drives Ministers to care equally about all children in care.

I appreciate that the committee is as disturbed as the Government are by the unacceptable delay in matching an adoption for those children for whom adoption is the right decision, as well as about the delays in processes and the shortage of adopters. We are already addressing many of those issues, but the report is extremely valuable and a considerable contribution to the debate on adoption reform, and we will continue to reflect on its recommendations in our work going forward. We will submit a full response to the report before the Children and Families Bill is considered in detail by a Committee of this House.

I should now like to respond to some of the points made by noble Lords. I am delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, thinks that the Bill is in relatively good shape and I look forward to its speedy transition through your Lordships’ House. I believe that our hearts are all in the same place on this matter although we may differ on some of the methodology used to achieve these goals.

We believe that the Children and Families Bill carefully strikes the necessary balance between putting in place a maximum 26-week time limit to tackle delay in all cases while also allowing sufficient judicial discretion to extend time where necessary to resolve the case justly, having explicit regard to the child’s welfare. The Bill also ensures that when making any timetabling decision, including whether to grant an extension, the court must have specific regard to the impact on the welfare of the child. As the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, said, a family group conference helps to ensure that all relevant measures are considered.

I am pleased to address the points concerning reform of adopter recruitment. We have identified several problems with adopter recruitment such as the small scale of many adoption agencies and the fact that local authorities look first to their own adopters and then to adopters recruited by organisations with which they have an arrangement. Only if these are unsuccessful, and after an unnecessary delay, might they consider adopters recruited by voluntary adoption agencies. Not only does this create delay for children, but it also artificially narrows the choice of adopters that social workers have when looking for the best match for a child. This is simply wrong. Decisions should legally and morally be on the basis of what is best for the child, not on the basis of organisational convenience. It is for this reason that, while we welcome all improvements in recruitment of adopters, we want to be certain that bureaucratic arrangements do not lock out choice for children. Because of the nature of this problem, while we would like to see the reforms we need being put in place by the sector itself, and we would like, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, to see local authorities working together. We have had to accept, based on historic experience, that it may be necessary for the Government to direct local authorities to achieve changes, as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said. We would, though, use this power only if the Secretary of State felt it was absolutely necessary to direct that services be pushed outwards, not to achieve efficiencies or because of ideology but to improve the lives of children now and in the future. This is about opening up services, not centralising power.

Many noble Lords spoke about post-adoption support. I appreciate that the committee considers that the package of reform does not go far enough without a duty to provide support. We are listening carefully to all the arguments on this issue. We published on 3 May an “adoption passport” setting out all the rights of adoptive families. This will improve awareness among adopters and local authorities, particularly of the right to an assessment, remove any stigma from seeking help and improve access to support when parents move to another local authority area and over the lifetime of the child.

The noble Baroness, Lady King, referred to freelance workers. I am pleased to say that, through the Children and Families Bill, we are bringing greater equality for adopters in terms of rights to pay and leave. I will write to the noble Baroness on self-employed adopters.

Racial matching was raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee, Lady Walmsley and Lady Jones. Our view is that an overemphasis on this area has contributed to the delays, such that black children take on average a year longer to be adopted, and that that conceals a number who wait so long that they never get adopted. We believe that a nudge on this is not the way to change behaviour but that we should remove the wording altogether, as is proposed, so that we can change practice, which is what we are after. Of course, we will be looking for social workers to come to a balanced decision, weighing up all the relevant factors, one of which will, of course, be ethnicity. However, as I say, we are convinced that to change practice we should remove the wording as the fact is that for certain children there are just not enough adopters of the appropriate race. If, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, says, the use of the provision is not widespread, why does it take a year longer for a black baby to be adopted? As I understand it, we will not be putting the wording into the checklist. We do not believe that it is realistic that social workers will swing back to no emphasis on ethnicity. It is just not in their nature, particularly if they are better trained, as we intend them to be.

The noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, made points about changing the behaviour of parents in early intervention. The points were well made and we have a substantial programme under way across departments on the most challenged families with multiple problems, but I agree that there is more to do. We remain committed to early intervention, continue to be interested in local initiatives, and are pleased that the ADCS acknowledges that local areas are already working hard to address this issue. Ofsted inspections are looking at the effectiveness of early intervention and will share good practice when it is found.

There is no firm data yet on the number of adoption breakdowns, although some research has looked at subsets of adopted children. The Department for Education has commissioned research into the number and causes of adoption breakdowns, and it is expected to be completed early next year. We began collecting data on the number of adoption breakdowns from April 2013, and the data should be available from October next year.

On the points made by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, about children not being consulted, they are supposed to be, and we will look at sharpening up our guidance on this and what we can do to encourage child advocacy.

The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, raised the question of the status of social workers. We are determined to do something about this. We continue to work to raise their quality and improve their recruitment and retention. We have asked Sir Martin Narey to undertake a review of initial social work training, and his findings will inform further work.

On the point about overseas children referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, we mentioned the matter in our response to the Select Committee’s post-legislative scrutiny. I have the wording here, which I will send to her and we can discuss it.

We are carrying out work on social impact bonds. I am very encouraged by the progress being made by the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies in the development of a social impact bond approach to finding and supporting families for children with complex needs. This kind of innovative approach has the potential to shift thinking about adoption support, whereby it can be seen as an investment rather than a cost. This could be of great benefit to the increasing number of children with complex needs who are waiting for families. Although not directly involved in the bond, my department is keeping in close contact with the CVAA as plans develop.

I understand why the descendants of adopted people may want to find out more about their relative’s history. We need to balance this, however, against the rights and wishes of adopted adults and, where the adopted adult has died, their birth family. It is open to anyone to apply to the Registrar-General for a copy of any person’s birth certificate, and this includes the birth certificate of an adopted person. However, there are cases in which the applicant does not have sufficient information to apply for a birth certificate. The issue was referred to the Law Commission in 2010, and although at present we have no plans to change the law, we intend to keep it under review.

On our adoption reforms, in March 2012 the Government published An Action Plan for Adoption: Tackling Delay, setting out the steps to be taken to streamline the adoption system so that more permanent loving families for more children can be found quickly and effectively. Through the action plan and subsequent policy announcements, we outlined our proposals for tackling delay and improving the involvement of adopters in different parts of the system. Collectively, our reforms are intended to reduce the delays faced by children awaiting adoption and create a system better able to focus on the needs of those children with more active involvement and support from adopters.

The new adoption website and helpline that we have just launched, First4Adoption, is an example. Noble Lords will also be aware that we have recently laid regulations before the House that will bring into force on 1 July this year the new two-stage adopter approval process, the fast-track procedure for adopters and foster carers, and other changes that have been welcomed by the sector.

Noble Lords may also be aware that we have been fulfilling our commitment to publish more and better data on the adoption system through adoption scorecards, so that the progress of those organisations that are doing the most to help the children who need adoption can be recognised, and those that are not can be identified.

Finally, as I have, I hope, made clear, we welcome the committee’s thoughtful and informed contribution to developing adoption policy and legislation. Again, I thank the noble Lords who served on the committee and contributed their thoughts today for the breadth of the issues that have been raised, many of which the Government will consider in more depth over the coming weeks and months. I look forward to debating the Bill in your Lordships’ House, and that is likely to be in July.

I know that noble Lords share our commitment to improving the lives of children and I hope they will agree that we are addressing many of the issues raised in the committee’s reports. We will, none the less, continue to reflect on the committee’s extremely helpful recommendations as we continue to reform and improve adoption. I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to today’s important debate.

My Lords, I thank all those who have contributed to the debate for the absolutely fascinating speeches that we have heard this afternoon. They have ranged widely over all sorts of areas of child need and welfare.

I say to the Minister that I personally accept the very good work that is already being done by the Government on adoption and, indeed, fostering, as well as in dealing with children’s homes, as my noble friend Lord Listowel said. However, will the Minister, and particularly his officials, look at the very cogent evidence that we received on the danger of entirely excluding ethnicity from the legislation? We got that evidence from people whom we thought were worthy of listening to and whom we would have thought the Government would think were worthy of listening to. My recollection is that Coram and BAAF were among them. As I think the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, there is a danger that social workers who make ethnicity too important a consideration will say, “Well, now it’s gone, we have to ignore it”. That is what the people on the ground who know about it were telling us. Therefore, I should be grateful if the Minister’s officials would have a look at the evidence that we received. They have all that evidence and it is well worth looking at.

In this debate there have been some preliminary shots across the bow concerning what is likely to be coming in the Children and Families Bill. As we heard from the Minister, that is now likely to be in July—and, I assume, well beyond July. The Minister is likely to be challenged by me, among others, over several issues to which I have not yet referred. I look forward to those opportunities and hope that the Government will be a listening Government on matters which we will press and on which the Government might be well advised to listen carefully.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 5.13 pm.