House of Lords
Thursday, 27 June 2013.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Bristol.
Overseas Development Assistance
My Lords, the department keeps its strategy under review. Indeed, since 2011 it has announced a new development relationship with India and South Africa. In addition, the multilateral aid review is being updated, with full publication planned for the end of 2013. That, of course, relates to the international organisations with which we work. Our policies continue to evolve with the progress that countries make on issues of governance, economic development and, of course, the ability to self-finance themselves out of poverty.
Between 1993 and 2005, Burundi lost almost one in 20 of its population during the civil war, and today it is still the 10th poorest country in the world. Despite that, and despite the fact that it is increasingly stable, the UK withdrew all overseas development assistance to Burundi two years ago. Given that the Government have been willing to review the decisions on India and South Africa in one direction, would they be willing to reallocate some of that money to Burundi and reinstate a programme?
The issue of Burundi is an important one, and I acknowledge the efforts that the Burundi Government have made. The review that was done on the allocation of bilateral aid resulted in the decision to which the noble Lord just referred. Nevertheless, I assure him that DfID continues to support Burundi through a range of other channels. For example, DfID contributes to multilateral efforts in Burundi by providing 15% of EU funding and more than 14% of World Bank funding. DfID is committed to development in Burundi and will continue to support it through efforts with international organisations.
My noble friend raises a very important point. In all DfID funding, this concern has been expressed across the board, by both the previous Government and the current Government. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has taken up this issue personally. Indeed, in his golden thread, he sees the rule of law and good governance within countries as essential features of continuing support. Indeed, we are looking at countries such as Pakistan, where tax collection is very low, to ensure that tax levels and collection rates are improved domestically.
My Lords, can the noble Lord say something about the relationship that the Government seem to be proposing between Ministry of Defence expenditure and DfID expenditure? What sort of expenditure is meant to be covered, what sort of events are now meant to be part of the DfID budget as opposed to the MoD budget, what proportion of the DfID budget is covered by this, and how does it affect the overall commitment to funding of 0.7% of GDP?
I am delighted to say that, as no doubt the noble Lord heard, my right honourable friend the Chancellor announced yesterday that DfID funding will continue to be at 0.7%. Indeed, we are the only country to do so and we are leading on this, which is something to be proud of. On the issue that he raises of the Ministry of Defence and the FCO, we continue to work across government with DfID to ensure initiatives that can be run and where there are economies. The Building Stability Overseas initiative is a great example of how DfID, the MoD and the FCO work together. However, DfID funding is for DfID purposes and, as my right honourable friend announced yesterday, is being protected at 0.7%.
My Lords, my noble friend mentioned Pakistan in an earlier answer. I believe that the Government plan to more than double aid to Pakistan to more than £350 million per year, making it the largest recipient of UK aid, dependent on progress with reforms at federal and provincial level. I think my noble friend will be concerned by reports from global aid agencies of a failure to deliver effective provincial health organisations, while at the same time dismantling the national federal systems, which is compromising the country’s vaccination programmes. Are the Government now reviewing Pakistan’s aid package in the light of what appears to be a failure to achieve the reforms required?
First, I say to my noble friend that we should be encouraging countries such as Pakistan. For the first time, we have seen a successive Government take over and democracy and corporate governance in the country are being strengthened. We should welcome that. Certainly, as a key partner in various initiatives, Pakistan is very important to the future of our relationship. The noble Lord raises an important point about the work done with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation. I pay tribute to the work it does, particularly in countries such as Pakistan; indeed, it is about to announce a new initiative to tackle the measles epidemic that is sweeping Pakistan. However, my noble friend the Minister for Pakistan, who happens to be sitting right next to me, has several times raised the importance of ensuring that aid at local and regional levels reaches the people we intend it to assist.
I think I have made my position clear. We as a Government have ensured that DfID funding at 0.7% will be protected. That is unequivocal; it was made clear by the Chancellor and the Secretary of State, and we should welcome this. As for international development, we are not only playing our part but leading the way on the world scene. We can be very proud of that.
Would my noble friend give a warm welcome to DfID’s proposals to reactivate and reinvigorate the Commonwealth Development Corporation? It was originally a superb instrument for promoting entrepreneurship, small business and farm development throughout the developing world, particularly the Commonwealth. It rather lost its way, but now, with DfID’s help, it is getting back on stream again; it is a very good instrument. Does the Minister recognise that we have strong support for what DfID is doing?
I thank my noble friend, who of course comes to this with great knowledge, for enlightening the whole House on that initiative. Of course the Government welcome this—it is important that DfID plays its part. The family of Commonwealth nations is an important part of Britain’s development programme across the world. The more we can work in collaboration with institutions such as the Commonwealth in demonstrating development and progress in the developing world, the better.
My Lords, everything that has been said shows how important aid is in terms of our position and status in the world and what one might loosely call impacts on soft power, although I hate that term. Does the Minister agree that perhaps we should relook at whether DfID should be back within the Foreign Office? Even though there might be a loss of some ministerial jobs, the whole thing might be approached with a closer focus.
I assure the noble Lord that DfID and the FCO work in close collaboration, perhaps best demonstrated by the two of us sitting on the Front Bench together. Collaboration across departments is very important. I take the noble Lord’s view on board, but it is important to sustain DfID’s work on the world scene, and its independence and autonomy is an important part of that.
My Lords, seamlessly the FCO now appears at the Dispatch Box. No decision has been made to send weapons to the Syrian opposition. The agreement to lift the arms embargo for the Syrian national coalition sends a clear signal to the Assad regime that it has to negotiate seriously, and that all options remain on the table if it refuses to do so. Our priority remains to advance a political transition that ends the conflict, allowing refugees to return to their homes, and to prevent further radicalisation in Syria.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. I am sure we all recognise the dilemma that faces anybody who wants to see the end of the Assad regime. However, the Government argued long and hard to secure lifting the EU arms embargo, so can the Minister explain how sending arms to Syria will decrease the violence there, particularly as, if it were to happen, it is likely to incite more arms to go in from Russia to support the Assad regime? Can the Minister also tell the House how the Government could be certain that any arms exported to Syria did not fall into the hands of al-Qaeda or other terrorist organisations that we believe are fighting alongside the legitimate and indigenous Syrian opposition?
The noble Baroness raises important questions, and we can see from the way the House is responding that these are questions that other noble Lords want answering too. I have a huge amount of respect for the noble Baroness, but it would be wrong of me to start hypothesising about a decision that has not yet been taken. I can assure her that a decision has not been taken at this stage to supply arms to the Syrian opposition. I hope that she and the House can take great comfort from the fact that when we have, for example, supplied non-lethal assistance to the opposition, we have been incredibly cautious about ensuring that even that equipment, whether in the form of humanitarian support or indeed armoured vehicles, does not get into the hands of extremists.
Would my noble friend agree that many in this House welcome the fact that no decision has been taken to send arms to Syria or to aid the insurgents? Many of us hope that it never would be taken. The most urgent and important challenge now is to get Russia and China, together with Iran, on board in a wide-ranging conference, so that proper attention can be given, and quickly, before this terrible Sunni-Shia split spreads right across that region with serious consequences. At the same time, the other most urgent thing is help for Jordan, which faces the most appalling refugee problem at the present time.
I am acutely aware of the issues that my noble friend raises. I think he will accept that it is important that we continue to respond to the situation on the ground, and that we can see that the Government have responded at various stages as the situation on the ground has changed. However, 93,000 people have now died and over half the population has been displaced. There are no no-risk options and no perfect solutions. For that reason, we must continue to monitor the situation on the ground and to respond to it.
My Lords, does the noble Baroness not accept that the bankruptcy of the international community’s policy towards Syria stands revealed for all to see? The failure to intervene more robustly earlier has brought about the very situation that was given as the reason for not intervening, and the failure of the supposedly game-changing use of chemical weapons to change any games robs the West of its last vestiges of credibility, showing it up as little better than an ignominious rabbit trapped in the headlights.
Given our own history of intervention, it is important that we get appropriate legal and international support for what we do. That is why the Prime Minister has consistently tried to get agreement at the UN Security Council. It is no secret that Russia has not been prepared to move to get that agreement, but—my noble friend referred to this—we still believe in having a conference where the UN, the US and Russia sit round the table with the opposition and members of the regime to try to find a political resolution. As for chemical weapons, I think noble Lords will understand why it is important that we are incredibly clear about what weapons have been found, where they have been found, who has used them, and that there is international agreement, based on the evidence that we have so far, before we start using that as a basis for intervention.
Our position has always been that it is for the people of Syria to decide who should govern Syria. Hearing the views of the Syrian people and seeing the conduct of Assad, we find it difficult to see a solution whereby Assad would remain in power. However, I am clear, and the Government are clear, that this has to be a decision of the Syrian people.
My Lords, given that the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have assured the House of Commons that there will be a vote prior to any decision to give arms to the Syrian opposition, what are the arrangements to consult the House of Lords, particularly if the Commons is recalled in a recess?
Both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have been clear that the House of Commons will have the opportunity to discuss the issue, should any decision be taken in the future on providing arms to moderate elements of the opposition in Syria. It would very much depend on whether the House was sitting, but I can certainly speak to the Foreign Secretary and ask the necessary House authorities what would happen in that situation, if it were to arise, and possibly write to my noble friend and put a copy in the Library.
My Lords, it is an unchallenged fact that huge sums of money are now going from Saudi Arabia and Qatar to help fund Salafists, Wahhabists and extremists in jihadism, not just in Syria but elsewhere throughout the Maghreb. Have the Government done anything to try to persuade these two Governments to stop it?
My Lords, we recognise the importance of economic growth and we support such growth across Africa to hasten poverty reduction. As the latest African Economic Outlook report says, sustaining economic growth requires capable, accountable government, well balanced tax systems, new and growing businesses, investment, for example in infrastructure and education, and freer trade across African borders.
I thank the noble Baroness for her response. Is she aware that the chair of the Africa Panel, Kofi Annan, has pointed out that some companies are using unethical tax avoidance, transfer pricing and anonymous company ownership to maximise their profits while at the same time millions of Africans suffer inadequate nutrition, health and education? NGOs, civil society and responsible businesses, such as Rio Tinto, are therefore calling for mandatory transparency rules. Why, then, did the Government not take an active lead in pursuit of the same objectives by pressing for the inclusion of mandatory rules in the G8 communiqué?
My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Ahmad said on an earlier Question, the previous Government and this one have taken this matter forward. As the noble Baroness recognises, it was very actively addressed at the G8. She will also appreciate from her time in government the difficulties of taking it forward. I hope she will pay tribute to the progress that was made in this regard because we all recognise that this is extremely important. We need to ensure that companies operating in Africa contribute to the development of African countries.
My Lords, in relation to elections in Africa, the AEO report notes that aspects of democratic change, such as the institutionalisation of state structures that respect citizens, social and political rights and foster political and economic transparency and accountability, have not yet taken root in many African countries. What measures are the Government taking to address that in their search for aid effectiveness across the DfID programme?
As my noble friend will be aware, this is clearly a major concern and it is also flagged up in the report. I note with some interest the greater success and prosperity among those countries in Africa that are making progress in this regard. Those countries should very quickly be able to see that it is in their self-interest to take this forward for their greater prosperity.
I applaud the Government’s continuing commitment to the 0.7% figure for the aid budget. In view of the growing risk of weak countries, particularly in west Africa, being caught up in the trafficking of drugs, can the Minister give me some assurance about the priority being given to those very weak states to help them build up and develop governance institutions, the police, justice systems and so on in order to prevent them becoming narco states?
The noble Baroness is right and she will be aware that DfID’s priority is fragile states for those very reasons. I know that DfID has great concern about all the issues that she has flagged up and is doing its best to try to improve the governance and justice systems within those countries. Looking at the report mentioned in the Question, I note that half of African countries still depend on aid and the other half do not. Of the half that do, those are the ones that suffer the kind of fragility that she referred to.
China is obviously now making a bigger contribution to investment in Africa. China was not invited to the G8 and in some respects that might be a pity because China is now claiming that it is observing all international norms and that it is not an exceptional country, as it was thought to be. Is there some way in which the Government are encouraging dialogue with China to ensure that this is the case and that it is observing international norms with regard to investment in Africa?
The noble Lord flags up an area that has caused some concern. One of the reasons why Africa has been particularly resilient in the last period is because of trade with China and other developing countries whereas trade with the EU and the US has been dropping off. There is clearly a benefit for Africa. It is important to try to convey to those who are involved in trade in Africa that it is in their long-term interests to follow the kind of rules referred to by the noble Lord.
My Lords, my noble friend the Minister commented on the half of the countries that depend on trade rather than aid. Can she comment on recent reports that there is a growing risk of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and that there are more reports of piracy there than off the coast of Somalia? That, of course, is the massive trade route for all goods out of west Africa.
There are a number of challenges and my noble friend has referred to just one. There are many challenges in terms of trade out of Africa and within Africa. The international community and the African countries themselves are trying to take forward better inter-country trade and more effective trade out of Africa.
Last week, Members of both Houses had the opportunity to have a very interesting dialogue with the new chairperson of the African Union Commission, who outlined very clearly her priorities and the priorities of the commission for the next few years. Is it now time for the UK, other European donors and the European Union to put in place a long-term strategy to build up the capacity of the African Union and its institutions to help the continent to support its own development rather than it always being done through bilateral relationships with ourselves and others?
The AU and African countries are building that kind of experience and are doing so in a way that might lead one to be cautiously optimistic. According to the report, more progress has been made where there is better gender equality, and I note that that is also represented in the AU.
My Lords, we have provided £470 million over the spending period to prevent rough sleeping and tackle homelessness, including £34 million to the Greater London Authority to tackle rough sleeping across the capital, and £20 million to support the national rollout of the No Second Night Out initiative and protect vital front-line services. The ministerial working group on homelessness is continuing to tackle the underlying causes of homelessness and has published two separate reports on rough sleeping and preventing homelessness.
I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Does he agree with the conclusions of the report produced yesterday by St Mungo’s, which suggests that the factors more often present in the lives of those who slept rough were, first, a traumatic childhood; secondly, drug and alcohol use; and thirdly, mental ill health? Will the Minister and the Government be ready to join with organisations such as St Mungo’s, which do tremendous work with the homeless and rough sleepers, in setting up a permanent group to look continuously at these issues?
On my noble friend’s final point, of course the Government are always looking at such groups and how we can take good practice forward. I will certainly take that suggestion back to the department. The homelessness figures for London, for example, show that more than 53% of those who are sleeping rough are non-UK nationals. However, my noble friend raises the important issue of mental health and there are statistics to substantiate his point. Many people who find themselves homeless suffer from mental health illnesses, and it is important that that responsibility is not shunned in any respect.
My Lords, further to the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, does the Minister agree that the vulnerability of a growing number of young people who are sleeping rough is the real cause for concern? Will the Government not just give further thought to their safety in the No Second Night Out initiative but address their needs and continuing well-being?
Again a valid concern is raised. I should add to the noble Lord’s comments that last year only six young people under the age of 18 were found sleeping rough in London, for example, out of about 6,500. That said, they are among the most vulnerable. Certainly young people between the ages of 18 and 25 are predominant among rough sleepers, and it is important that we look after their needs and future development.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that one of the reasons for homelessness, and in particular rough sleeping, may be that there is often a delay in benefits being paid? People simply do not know what to do, particularly if they are on their own, and they therefore end up sleeping rough.
On the point that the noble Baroness raises about benefits being paid, I know that we are considering moving from a three to a seven-day period. I heard the shadow Chancellor say in the other place only this morning—and certainly in his media appearances—that he would perhaps support the move to a seven-day period. It is important to share information so that we can get people who are entitled to benefits validly assessed and off the streets in order to develop their lives and those of their families.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that homelessness and rough sleeping have some connection with human trafficking? A BBC documentary of 27 February last year suggested that some rough sleepers may have paid huge amounts of money to agents abroad to come to the UK, only to find themselves on arrival homeless, out of work, suffering from various illnesses and ending up sleeping rough. What measures are being taken to tackle this complex issue?
My noble friend raises another important point. As I have said in a previous answer, 53% for example of the homeless in London constitute non-UK nationals. I share with him that it is important that the Home Office together with others take initiatives to ensure that people who travel to our shores are checked and vetted for their employment opportunities and whether they can afford to sustain their lives here. If not, that information needs to be shared with them at the port of embarkation, not in the UK. We are working with some of our partners in Europe to produce that information, and translating and making it available in Europe and other countries, to ensure that, before travelling, people are aware of what they are doing and that if they do not have a job or a place to live they need to reconsider their options.
Is the Minister aware that while, to their credit, the Government are spending the £470 million that he mentioned in combating homelessness, they are simultaneously pursuing policies that will increase homelessness, notably the way in which the changes that they have made are gradually taking effect on housing benefit? How much extra have the Government committed to try to combat the further homelessness that will arise as a direct result of their policies?
Let us put the issue of the welfare benefit cap into context. In 2010-11, £201 billion was spent on welfare and pension payments. We simply cannot sustain that. The Government are ensuring that we tackle homelessness. I am delighted to say that my right honourable friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has just announced in the other place a new, three-year affordable homes programme for 2015 that adds close to £2.8 billion to what has already been committed up to 2015. The Government are taking action across the piece to tackle homelessness and the availability of affordable housing.
Business of the House
Timing of Debates
My Lords, I refer the House to the “Investing in Britain’s Future” Statement made earlier in another place by my right honourable friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, copies of which have been made available in the Printed Paper Office and the text of which will be printed in full in the Official Report. I commend my right honourable friend’s Statement to the House.
“I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for allowing more time than is usual for a Statement, given the range of announcements to be made today.
Yesterday, my right honourable friend the Chancellor set out the difficult decisions that the Government have taken to continue the process of restoring our country’s finances. I pay tribute to his work to see the country through these most difficult of times.
Today, I will set out how the British economy can succeed in the global race by creating balanced growth and delivering lasting prosperity. Most past Governments of every colour have prioritised short-term convenience over the long-term national interest. Today, we change that. We are shifting the Government’s policy horizon to match the modern economy’s horizon, because the coalition Government want to make the right long-term choices for Britain.
I therefore announce the most comprehensive, ambitious and long-lasting capital investment plans this country has ever known. We are putting long-term priorities before short-term political pressures. I tell the House in all candour that these are not easy choices. There is no easy way to create jobs and prosperity. It is a difficult path, but the right one.
Today, it is clear that the British economy is moving from rescue to recovery. We inherited an economy in dire straits. Official statistics published this morning show that the recession in 2009 was even deeper than we first thought. We have made painful choices to get our economy back on the right track. We are making good progress—the deficit is down, jobs are up—but as we move from repair to renewal, we need to invest in the fabric of our nation. I can do that because we have chosen to find savings from day-to-day budgets, allowing us to recycle billions into long-term capital spending. That is not the easy choice, but the right one.
We can guarantee £300 billion of capital spending by the end of the decade. Today, I can set out our plans for more than £100 billion of that for the infrastructure of our country: the biggest public housing programme for more than 20 years, the largest programme of rail investment since Victorian times, the greatest investment in our roads since the 1970s, fast online access for the whole country and the unlocking of massive investments in cleaner energy to power our economy forwards, all at a price that we can afford to pay, without adding a single pound to our borrowing forecasts. Investing in stronger communities, in better infrastructure, in new sources of energy—that is how we will build a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.
At every stage of the process, we have sought to cut waste and inefficiency first, focusing on the back room, not the front line. We should not pretend that that is painless. Back-office efficiencies mean thousands of job losses. Contract renegotiation means rightly asking more for less from our suppliers. But that is the right way to make savings, while improving the quality of our public services.
Across government, we are using our capital budgets to help our public sector become smaller, more efficient and more effective. In 2015-16, we will invest £25 million in the best digital equipment for our police and £100 million in a new prison in north Wales—a scheme that will eventually save £20 million every year. More than £200 million is being invested over three years to increase the digitisation of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ customer services, a move that will save more than £50 million every year in administrative costs.
I pay tribute to the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General and his team for their expertise and insight in unlocking these savings. I am the first Chief Secretary ever to have had this pool of commercial expertise at my disposal during a spending round. They tell me that we can do more to save money for the taxpayer. So, working closely with the Minister for the Cabinet, I will conduct a further rolling efficiency review of all departments to unlock savings to support our economic priorities. I will strengthen the financial management capability in government, too. We will take action to sell off £15 billion-worth of public assets by 2020. Some £10 billion of that money will come from corporate and financial assets, such as the student loan book, and the other £5 billion will come from land and property.
The Government are the custodians of taxpayers’ assets. When we no longer need them we should sell them back at a fair price and not act like a compulsive hoarder. Too often, local and national government sit on an area of land that could be put to good use for the economy, housing or schools. Today, we say this to businesses and communities, ‘If there are any publicly owned sites out there that you can make economic use of, then tell us’. Unless Ministers can be convinced that the site is needed, we will sell that land at a fair price and we will use the proceeds to pay down our debt and invest in our economy.
Let us not forget that the plans we inherited from the previous Government included significant cuts to capital spending in this Parliament. We have added to those plans year-on-year with more money for investment in this Parliament. Some people say that we are not delivering, but since we came to office more than 30 transport schemes have been completed, 150 railway stations have been upgraded and we have built 84,000 affordable homes. However, we need to work more smartly to improve delivery. No single Government infrastructure project in recent memory has been quite as triumphant as the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, so we appointed Lord Deighton, the man who oversaw that success, to improve infrastructure delivery across government. He is working his way through Whitehall department by department, helping to develop clear delivery plans. Today, the Government are accepting his central recommendation that we take crucial infrastructure delivery out of the hands of civil servants and into the hands of commercial experts.
Our innovative UK guarantee scheme is enabling privately funded projects to go forward, too. It has already provided certainty to investors in the Drax power station and the Northern line extension. I can announce that UK guarantees will be available for two more years to December 2016. I can announce today that we will offer a guarantee of up to £500 million to support investment in the Mersey Gateway bridge and a multimillion pound guarantee to advance the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, a guarantee that could provide growth in Liverpool and a guarantee that could provide power to 8% of the UK’s homes. These deals are not yet done, but they are a major step forward for our country’s future.
Let me turn to how we will invest in stronger communities. The Government have made a very strong commitment to education. We have protected the schools budget, including the pupil premium. We know what parents want: a good school nearby in a good state of repair, and this is how we will give it to them. First, some buildings simply are not good enough, so we are rebuilding 261 of the worst schools as part of the Priority School Building programme. With the moneys I have committed today, we will complete this by 2017—two years early. There are many other schools in need of repair and investment. The previous Government stopped even checking just how many schools were in need of repair. We have started again. We will put £10 billion behind this, which will be enough to clear the urgent backlog. We are investing, too, to create 1 million new places in a decade across the country, including in Lancashire, Leeds and London—better buildings and a place for every child are the best investment in our future generation.
We will continue to invest in the health of the nation, too. The health budget will rise in 2015, including on capital. That means we can begin redeveloping the Royal Liverpool hospital next year, and I can also announce a further £150 million for health research infrastructure, including facilities for our world-leading work on dementia.
Our new approach to housing is truly transformative. Our Help to Buy scheme is already getting people on to the ladder. But, put simply, this country does not have enough homes that people can afford. The previous Government allowed the number of affordable homes to fall by a shocking 420,000. A good home should not be a luxury for the few, but an achievable aspiration for the many. We are already ensuring that the affordable housing supply increases every year, not decreases, as it did in every year but one under the previous Government. But our housing associations have told me that they can do more. To do that, they need certainty on rents, alongside public investment. So today I can provide both those things: I can guarantee that social rents will be set at the consumer prices index plus 1% out to 2025—the longest period of certainty ever; and I can provide £3 billion more capital over three years from 2015 to deliver 165,000 new affordable homes. On average, that is more each year than in any of the past 20 years; it is more in three years than the previous Government managed in seven. And we can do all that because our approach gets twice as many houses as they did for every pound we put in, getting more for the taxpayer and more for this country. This spending round also funds over 2,500 more new homes specifically designed for older and disabled people, and £160 million for decent homes, mainly in London. I know that issue is important to many MPs, particularly my right honourable friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes). This is the most ambitious and significant investment in affordable housing for a generation.
Too many Members of this House, on both sides, have in recent years seen the devastation that flooding can cause in their constituencies. We need to work with the private sector to protect families from the threat of flooding, so we will provide £370 million in 2015 and increase that in real terms every year to 2020. More than 400,000 households will be protected over this decade. Insurance also has a vital role to play in helping households deal with the consequences when flooding does occur. I am pleased to tell the House that we have now reached an initial agreement with the Association of British Insurers on the future of flood insurance. The industry wants to do the right thing and so do we. We have always said that we wanted to find a solution that works for households at risk of flooding, wider bill payers and the taxpayer. The industry’s proposed scheme, known as Flood Re, promises to do that by effectively limiting insurance prices for high-risk households. Up to 500,000 households would be helped, with support targeted towards those on lower incomes. Support would be funded by a levy on insurers, something the ABI has promised us will not increase customer bills in general. Importantly, there will be no cost to taxpayers.
There remain many details to work through, so we propose also to take powers to allow us to regulate for affordable flood insurance should that prove necessary. We are seeking these powers in the Water Bill, which we are today introducing to Parliament. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is today launching a public consultation on our proposed approach, and we welcome views on it. He will introduce our final proposals to Parliament as a government amendment in the autumn.
Local businesses, local communities and local authorities know best how to make the decisions to support growth in their area. For decades we have not given them enough chance to do so, but now we are. Yesterday, the Chancellor confirmed that we are establishing a single local growth fund to transfer funding streams to local enterprise partnerships, as recommended by Lord Heseltine, with £2 billion in 2015 and at least that in every year for the rest of the decade. In total, at least £20 billion will be under the control of LEPs to 2020. The details of how that will work are set out in the document published today.
We have also reached agreement with Greater Manchester on its innovative ‘earn back’ scheme, which will allow it to invest in its priorities, such as the Trafford Metrolink and the A6 to Manchester airport relief road. I know that many honourable Members, including my honourable friend the Member for Cheadle (Mark Hunter), have been campaigning on that for many years—as indeed has the Chancellor, for that matter.
The regional growth fund has also been a fantastic success, thanks to the drive of people up and down the country, led by my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister. The £2.4 billion in this Parliament is safeguarding half a million jobs, spread across every English region. Furthermore, we are today investing an extra £600 million so that we can do even more to strengthen our communities.
For our economy to grow, however, we need those communities to be better connected. In the last two decades, rail passenger numbers have doubled, and that figure is set to rise by nearly 15% over the next five years. More people are using our railways than at any time since 1927, so we have set out a clear, long-term plan to cope with that demand. Last year, we announced that Network Rail had been funded to deliver the largest programme of rail investment since the Victorian era, and today I reaffirm that commitment. This investment will bring new life to our rail networks, upgrading stations such as King’s Cross, Manchester Piccadilly and Birmingham New Street, improving links from Liverpool to Newcastle through the northern hub and opening up a new line from Bedford to Oxford. We are also electrifying 850 miles of railway. By comparison, the previous Government managed nine miles in 13 years.
My honourable friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) will be pleased to hear that Network Rail is conducting a feasibility study into electrifying the Lakes line between Oxenholme and Windermere. We are going one better in London, and from 2015, we will fund Network Rail to begin work on electrifying the line connecting Gospel Oak and Barking. Nowhere is fast commuter transport more important for our economy than in London, and our investment in Crossrail will support more than 120,000 additional peak-time commuters every day. The Government are committing £2 million to support a funding and financing study into Crossrail 2. The challenge for the Mayor of London now is to determine how at least half of the cost of the scheme can be met through private sources, ensuring that it will be affordable to the UK taxpayer.
Keeping London connected is crucial, but it must not be done at the expense of our other great cities. It is not good enough that the UK has just 68 miles of high-speed rail, compared with 1,000 in Germany and more than 2,000 in France. We want a high-speed line that connects eight of the UK’s 10-biggest cities, making daily commuting between them possible for the first time. Today, therefore, we provide long-term financial certainty for High Speed 2, setting a funding envelope of £42.6 billion for construction costs and £7.5 billion for rolling stock, and we are setting a clear budget for the scheme of £16 billion for the next Parliament.
Yes, that is a higher overall budget than previously put forward. We are learning from our Olympic experience and setting a long-term, realistic financial plan with the right contingencies. This is the longest and largest transport budget the Treasury has ever set aside, and the people running the project will have to deliver within it. This project will change the economic geography of our country, and I urge honourable Members to support it. It is not being built at the expense of a single other rail project. Taken together, we are supporting more than £30 billion of investment in rail, making this coalition the most pro-rail Government in history.
We also need to think of the remote parts of the UK that HS2 will not reach. Air connections are crucial to those regional economies, so to help maintain those connections, I can announce today that we will provide £10 million a year for a new regional air connectivity fund. I look forward to Howard Davies’s report into that and other aviation issues.
Millions of people rely on our road network. We have worked hard over the past three years to protect road users, cancelling fuel duty increases and saving 13p on a litre of petrol, but our road system has been decaying for decades, and without further significant investment now, by 2040, nearly a quarter of motorists’ travel time could be spent stuck in traffic. I can therefore announce today the biggest programme of investment in our roads in 40 years. The Government will invest more than £28 billion over the six years from 2014 in the enhancement and maintenance of national and local schemes. First, we will take action to fix the backlog of maintenance that has left road surfaces crumbling in communities up and down the country. We are committing £10 billion of investment in road repairs between 2015-16 and 2020-21. More than £4 billion of that money will be spent on national road maintenance—enough to resurface more than 21,000 miles of road, which is the equivalent of London to Beijing and back—while the other £6 billion will be spent locally, allowing local authorities to fill the equivalent of 19 million potholes a year.
Secondly, we will deliver all the major projects in the Highways Agency’s pipeline. We will add two lanes to the busiest motorways, bringing another 221 lane miles to our road network, and we will tackle some of the most congested parts of our network, through projects such as the £1.5 billion A14 scheme between Huntingdon and Cambridge. This scheme is of strategic national importance and will unlock jobs, housing and growth in the region, as well as providing key relief for a major freight route. I am delighted to announce that we will be bringing forward the start of construction by almost two years, to 2016.
I can confirm today that there is more: the A19 between Newcastle and South Shields, the A63 in Hull, the M6 junctions between Birmingham and Manchester, the M5 junctions from Bromsgrove to Worcester, the A38 Derby junctions, the M1 junction near Long Eaton and south of Rugby, the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury, junctions on the M4, the M23 Gatwick junctions and the A27 Chichester bypass.
This money will pay for us to identify and deliver solutions for the most notorious problem spots across the country. Any honourable Member from the Prime Minister down who lives in Cornwall or who has driven there for their holidays will want to see a better A303. Any hon. Member planning a trip to Scotland—Scotland as part of a strong United Kingdom—will want to see a better A1 north of Newcastle. We will also look at the A27 corridor, the trans-Pennine route and connectivity to Leeds airport.
We will ensure that these investments are delivered, because I can also announce that we are transforming the Highways Agency into a publicly owned corporation, an organisation that will have the long-term funding certainty and flexibility to deliver the best possible road network for the UK’s motorists. We are legislating to ensure that these reforms and this investment are guaranteed.
Where our predecessors left the road network on the hard shoulder, we are bringing it into the fast lane. We are not only building the roads of the future but developing the cars of the future. This Government remain committed to ensuring that the UK remains at the forefront of decarbonising road transport and investing in electric vehicles.
In the 21st century, good communications are not just about faster roads and high-speed railways, however; they are also about high-speed internet access. The Government have already committed £1.2 billion of public investment to fixed superfast broadband. I saw at first hand the impact that that investment is having on smaller communities when I visited Rothbury in Northumberland. It is crucial, if we want to rebalance our economy, that it is not just the biggest cities that have access to the fastest broadband.
The UK already has better broadband coverage, usage and choice than Germany, Italy, France and Spain, but we want to go further. I can announce today that we are providing a further £250 million to ensure that fixed superfast broadband reaches 95% of the population by 2017. We will work closely with industry to ensure that at least 99% of the UK population have access to superfast broadband—whether fixed, wireless or 4G—by 2018.
Let me now turn to how we support the private sector to deliver our energy needs. Some Members will know that I was privileged to spend my early years on the Hebridean island of Colonsay. Then, the island had no mains electricity. Unreliable diesel generators powered the island, and regularly broke down. Until mains electricity arrived, we never quite knew when the lights would go out. We do not want any community in our country to face that problem in the future. Our existing power stations are closing, as they are too old or too dirty to continue. They must be replaced and added to as our need for electricity grows.
Thanks to the hard work of the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, we are ready to unleash the energy revolution that our country needs. Today’s news from the British Geological Survey of 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas—double the previous estimate—confirms its huge potential for the UK. That is almost as much hot air as the shadow Chancellor produces in a year. The plans that we are setting out today provide the framework to kick-start this industry in a way that protects the environment and supports local communities.
As well as revolutionising the way in which we get our energy, we are transforming how we generate and supply it. As we face the challenge of climate change, we need to bring forward investment in low-carbon technologies. This country has massive potential in wind, wave and tidal. We need to harness it. We are putting in place a comprehensive energy policy through the Energy Bill that is in front of this House. This is an approach that we know will work for consumers and investors alike. Last year we made the unprecedented decision to set out funding plans for low-carbon generation all the way to 2020, providing up to £7.6 billion in real terms.
Now we can set out what this means for investors. We do this through setting strike prices. If future prices are below this level, we will guarantee a price to the generator, giving them the confidence to invest now. But if they rise above it, we will claw back money for consumers. We were planning to set strike prices next month, but we have been able to make faster progress so, today, I can announce that we are publishing the prices for renewable generation ahead of schedule. Prices have been set for key renewable technologies, including onshore and offshore wind, tidal, wave biomass and solar. The prices are broadly similar to those we would have to pay under the renewables obligation. We will set the price at the level we need to bring forward sufficient investment, but not a penny higher. As these technologies develop, costs will fall, so we will reduce the price too. For instance, next year we will guarantee generators £155 per megawatt hour of offshore wind. By 2018 this will fall to £135. We expect our reforms to bring forward 8 GW to 16 GW of offshore wind capacity. Industry asked for certainty; we have given it. Now industry needs to get on with it.
Yes, this approach has costs now but, in the long term for consumers, they will be more stable than they would otherwise have been. In fact, when this investment goes alongside our plans for energy efficiency, overall our policies could save an average of £166 per household by 2020. We are taking the right decisions now for the good of our country.
In addition, we need to guarantee that capacity will be available at short notice to meet spikes in demand, for instance through gas-fired stations. Today we can provide details on a new regime that will achieve this. The first auction for this new capacity market will run next year to provide certainty for the winter of 2018. But there is financial risk for construction, too. That is why we have set up a Green Investment Bank to back green energy projects. It has committed over £600 million already; for instance, it has invested in the Walney wind farms off the north-west coast of England, which are expected to provide energy to the equivalent to 300,000 households. We have already pledged to provide £3 billion for the bank and, today, I can announce that we will provide an additional £800 million so that it can expand further. Crucially this will include, for the first time, the power to borrow half a billion pounds in 2015-16 from government. This is a real milestone in green investment, delivering a key promise we made in our election manifesto, unlocking over £100 billion of private investment into our energy networks, and supporting jobs, growth and prosperity for years to come. Our energy policy is a win for consumers, a win for investment and jobs and a win for our climate; the greenest Government ever.
In the last three years we have re-secured for this country a very precious commodity: credibility. No one doubts that the coalition is serious about sorting out the economic mess that we have inherited. People have the right to know that we will continue to work hard to repair the economy, that interest rates will stay low and that we will get our country back on an even keel. But repair is not all we do, because people also have the right to expect that Britain stays one step ahead in the world, that we ease congestion on our roads and deliver faster broadband to make sure businesses in every corner of this country can serve their customers, and that we make sure all parts of Britain keep going. They expect that we will invest in a modern railway so that commuters get to work on time and home in the evening to see their kids. People have the right to expect that we keep spending serious money on the schools and hospitals on which all families rely, and that we make sure that the lights stay on in our homes, even when the demand on energy is surging.
The plans I have set out today deliver all that and more. This is an ambitious plan to build an infrastructure of which Britain can be proud and, in doing so, to help build a stronger economy in a fairer society where everyone can get on in life. I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for laying the Statement before the House, but perhaps I may also express surprise that the Minister with responsibility for infrastructure is not in the House to respond to questions. The Government describe this as a major Statement on infrastructure, so the House would expect him to be here, unless he has a compelling obligation elsewhere of which I have not been informed.
I offer the noble Lord my commiserations that the Statement contains so many words chasing the construction of so little real infrastructure. Can he confirm that the £300 billion of infrastructure investment that the Chancellor trumpeted yesterday is a forward projection right to the end of the decade, with no new funding for this year or next, and a real-terms cut in capital investment in 2015? Can he confirm, as the Office for Budget Responsibility has, that in the three years since 2010 the Government have actually spent £5.6 billion less than the previous Government had planned on infrastructure? Can he also confirm that, in consequence, in 2010 the Government cancelled a string of shovel-ready infrastructure schemes, some of which they are now trying to reinstate although, of course, they are no longer shovel-ready? These include the cancellation of 715 new and refurbished schools and a string of major road schemes, including upgrades of the Al, the A14, the A19, the A21 and the A47.
Turning to the national infrastructure plan, which in reality is the longest fairy tale since “Snow White”, can the noble Lord tell us why of the 576 projects in the last version of the plan, 80% have not even been started, and why only seven have been completed, five of them started under the previous Government?
On housing, can the noble Lord confirm that the Homebuy scheme, which the Chancellor said would support 100,000 home purchases and stimulate housebuilding, has so far supported only 2,000 purchases, suggesting that it will take half a century to meet its goal?
On energy, despite what the Statement says about shale, can the noble Lord confirm that investment in energy infrastructure has decreased in this Parliament? Specifically, can he tell us when he expects the Government and EDF to sign a real contract to build Hinkley Point as the first of the proposed new nuclear power stations?
On transport, will the noble Lord confirm that Crossrail 2, which is highlighted in the Statement, does not even yet have an agreed route let alone a funding plan, and that construction could not start until the 2020s or even the 2030s?
To take a specific immediate project of considerable economic importance to the country—the A14, which links the port of Felixstowe with the Ml, the M6 and the Midlands, a project which was cancelled in 2010 and is now being revived—can the noble Lord tell us when he expects construction to start and finish and whether part of the new A14 will definitely be a toll road, as announced last year, since there is still no published plan for how the tolling will work on an A road with the prospect of mass diversion on to untolled roads going through Cambridgeshire villages? Can he also tell us when we will see the actual plans for the delivery of each project in the Highways Agency pipeline as promised in the Statement?
Surely the Minister is also aware that there is a gaping black hole in the Government’s entire transport infrastructure plan, namely airport capacity in the south-east of England. The previous Government published plans to expand Heathrow which the private sector would have financed entirely. The present Government cancelled that plan and then did nothing for two years. Then, last year, the Prime Minister appointed a commission, but the commission will not even report for another two years. Does the Minister accept that five years of total inaction on extra hub airport capacity serving London, which is desperately needed by business, exemplifies the Government’s failure on infrastructure?
On HS2, the plan for which I published three years and three months ago, can the Minister tell us why this is moving ahead at a snail’s pace? Why is there still no Bill to grant planning powers for the first London-to-Birmingham section of the line, and do the Government still stand by their pledge in 2010 to enact such a Bill by 2015, something which is now an absolute impossibility given the hybrid Bill procedure?
The only thing high speed about the Government’s infrastructure delivery is the speed at which Ministers read out long lists unrelated to real projects being delivered in the real world. Will the Minister confirm that in the real world, 84,000 construction jobs have been lost since 2010; that the World Economic Forum ranks the UK lower than Barbados for infrastructure delivery; that, again according to the ONS, infrastructure spending in the first quarter of this year plunged by 50% on the previous quarter, and by 40% on the same quarter last year; that the pensions infrastructure platform launched in 2011 to help deliver £20 billion of new roads, railways and utilities, has so far raised commitments of just £2 billion, none of which has yet been invested; and that the UK guarantees scheme announced in July last year, with the promise of up to £40 billion of projects, has so far guaranteed only a single project? The Chief Secretary spoke of two more today—the Mersey Gateway bridge and Hinkley Point—but he then concluded by saying that these are not done deals.
Summing all this up, it is hardly surprising that John Cridland, the director-general of the CBI, said yesterday:
“While the Government talks a good game on infrastructure we’ve seen too little delivery on the ground”;
or—even more damning—that the director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce has described the Government’s national infrastructure plan as,
“hot air, a complete fiction”.
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord for his tour d’horizon. He asked why the Minister for infrastructure is not here. There are two reasons why he is not here: first, in the spirit of the coalition, I am repeating the Statement as my colleague Danny Alexander made it in the other place; and secondly, the Minister for infrastructure is spending every moment of his waking hours ensuring that the infrastructure programme moves forward more rapidly.
The Minister for infrastructure does regard himself as accountable to this House; that is why he made the Statement here yesterday and why he will make further contributions to the work of your Lordships’ House over the next few weeks.
The noble Lord made a number of scathing comments about the forward projections in the infrastructure programme. Perhaps I may remind the House that this is a proposal for long-term planning for infrastructure. What was the long-term legacy left by the previous Government of whom the noble Lord was a member? It consisted of a note that said, “There is no more money left”. His Government presided over what we now know was a GDP falling by 7.2%, which we have spent the last three years turning round. We are now doing what everyone involved in infrastructure wants to happen—that we set out a long-term, credible plan for infrastructure development. He talks about the level of planning and the expenditure planned. However, this Government, and these plans, would generate a degree of expenditure on capital investment and infrastructure over this decade that is greater than that achieved over the lifetime of the last Labour Government. These are ambitious plans that we are determined to carry out.
The noble Lord raised a very important point about the speed at which things happen. This is one of the reasons why my noble friend Lord Deighton is now part of the Government and why, for the first time, we are setting up in each department dedicated teams with commercial experience to enable infrastructure expenditure to take place on a sensible and sustainable basis.
The noble Lord talked, for example, about schools. We are delivering a school building programme with a cost per school that is 40% less than was achieved under the previous Government. This is absolutely essential if we are to undertake the degree of new expenditure required.
The noble Lord talked about affordable housing. This Government will deliver more affordable housing than the last Labour Government, and in much worse economic times. The noble Lord talked about whether plans to stimulate the housing market and house purchases had been successful. He will know that the announcements made by the Chancellor at the general election have already resulted in many people who would otherwise not be able to afford a deposit for a house, being able to get a house. Not only are mortgage approvals at their highest level for a considerable time but private sector housebuilders are now saying that they are making significantly enhanced plans to increase housebuilding. These are real, positive developments in an area where everybody agrees we needed to do more over a number of decades, and now we are doing more.
The noble Lord raised a number of questions about rail. He asked why we have not got an agreed route for Crossrail 2. We are looking at developing the route and at the detailed feasibility plans for Crossrail 2. I remind the noble Lord that we are in charge of the biggest rail construction programme since Victorian times—not just High Speed 2, but also a huge electrification programme that completely puts into the shade anything achieved by his Government. As for the pace of High Speed 2, we are bringing forward the hybrid Bill and a paving Bill.
The main reason for the delay on High Speed 2 is, as he knows, that we have undertaken a huge public consultation. Many aspects of the scheme have been changed because very strong public opinion was expressed against certain aspects of the original programme. For example, there will now be more tunnelling. Is he saying that he would rather we tried to bulldoze the whole thing forward without that consultation and without ensuring that when the scheme goes ahead, it is done with the minimum of disruption to the communities through which the railway will pass?
I know that the noble Lord has considerable interest in the A14. This is a programme that will cost £1 billion. We have announced today more detail about the balance of funding and the fact that we are now going to be getting £100 million from the local authorities that stand to benefit from the road. He said that he was not sure whether it is still planned to toll the road. As the document makes clear, it is still the plan to toll it, but the details of how that will be done have yet to be finally worked out. I am sure that he will barely be able to contain himself until they are.
The noble Lord said that there is a gaping black hole in our airport policy. There is no gaping black hole in our airport policy; rather a process is under way which will lead to proposals for a new hub airport in the south-east—
I am sorry, for an enhanced hub airport. I do not want either to enthuse or depress the noble Lord as to what the outcome of that process will be. He knows as well as I do that no conclusion has been reached and, equally, he knows that all parties went into the last election with very clear plans for what they would not like to see happening in terms of enhanced capacity. As with High Speed 2, we need to try to produce something that is not just deliverable but capable of generating significant public support.
He commented on the fact that we have not made as much progress on the UK guarantees scheme as he would like to see. As he said, we have made considerable progress with the Mersey Gateway bridge and at Hinkley Point. He asked when there will be a real contract with EDF for Hinkley Point. There will be a real contract as soon as we have a sensible contract that is fair to both parties. The noble Lord and the whole House know that if it was easy to sign contracts on nuclear energy, perhaps his Government would have done that. We will certainly be doing it more quickly, but it is not easy in this environment to reach agreement on these extremely complicated, long-term, multibillion pound contracts. Again, is he saying that he would prefer that we rush into an arrangement like some of the PFIs, which have turned out to be extraordinarily bad value for the taxpayer, rather than make sure that we get it right? We are committed not only to doing this, but to getting it right.
This programme sets out the biggest degree of capital expenditure in the railways since Victorian times and the biggest capital programme for the roads since the 1970s. It puts forward affordable housing plans that are significantly greater than the noble Lord’s party was able to achieve when it was in Government. It gives me great pleasure to commend it to the House.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that these long-term plans—in some cases very long-term—are mostly welcome, but that the problem lies in their delivery and implementation over the years? He may be too young, but does he recall that back in 1980, I announced in the House of Commons on behalf of the Government the introduction of a programme of nine new giant pressurised water reactor nuclear power stations, but only one ever got built? Of course, life would be very different today for our power sector, and we would have much more opportunity for low carbon, if we had those machines in place but the programme failed. Will he make sure that his colleagues in government, particularly in the Department of Energy and Climate Change, are fully aware of why the failures occurred, why the vast stabilisation and drop in fossil fuel prices undermined most of the economics of nuclear and why the political resistance built up? There are lessons to be learnt there which, unless they are absorbed properly, may yet damage our own attempts to move to a low-carbon, long-term nuclear base load for electricity.
My Lords, I am happy to give that assurance but the noble Lord underlines what has been a leitmotif of the nuclear programme. On paper it has looked a lot better in a number of respects and easier to deliver than has been achieved in practice. What we are committed to trying to achieve when we set our face to get new nuclear capacity is that we are able to deliver it on a reasonable budget and within a sensible timeframe.
My Lords, will the Minister confirm that, as a result of the postponement of major capital projects until the later part of the decade, they will incur significantly higher interest rate costs than they would have done if they had been planned and financed earlier? Will he also confirm that, as a result of the postponement of employment-generating projects, the social security bill will be significantly higher than it would otherwise have been in the interim?
My Lords, the Bank of England has expressed the view that low interest rates are here to stay for a significant period ahead. Only an idiot would predict what interest rates will be in 2020 but if we look at the next three or four years, I do not think that anybody would say that interest rates were going to rise significantly, if at all. As for whether employing lots of people to build houses or roads means that fewer people are unemployed, that is self-evidently the case. That is why we are keen to get these programmes moving as quickly as we can.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for the Statement on infrastructure investment, in particular the commitment to removing bottlenecks on the A19 in Tyne and Wear, both to the south and to the north of the Tyne Tunnel. May I ask him about the proposals for the A1 north of Newcastle and the western bypass? As I understand it, there is a feasibility study to consider problems and solutions to the A1 north of Newcastle. The solution is clear; it is the dualling of the A1. I interpret the Statement as saying that the Government are now moving to the next stage of dualling the A1 north of Newcastle and that we should have cause quietly to celebrate.
May I ask him one thing on affordable housing? I welcome the Statement that has been made today. Has any further thought been given to increasing the borrowing cap on local authorities? The average debt on a council house at the moment is £17,000. There is enormous headroom to increase borrowing. It should not be on the public balance sheet, following decisions to make this a trading account from April last year. There is the capacity to deliver around 40,000 to 50,000 council houses as a consequence of raising that borrowing cap if the Government would do it.
My Lords, in respect of the A1, the noble Lord is absolutely right. There is a commitment to a feasibility study. Upgrading the A1, as he says, means dualling it. I think that quiet optimism strikes the right note. Obviously, if local authorities had their borrowing powers increased they would be able to do as he says. As he knows, the Treasury down the ages has set its face very firmly against such a move. I would be happy to raise his suggestion again with my colleagues in the Treasury.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that the north-east has suffered most since the last general election? Our unemployment is higher than any other region’s and the prospects coming from the spending review yesterday mean it is likely to increase rather than decrease because of the push on public-sector employment. The change in benefits will also have a significant effect in the north-east.
Despite all that, we are a region that always looks to be optimistic. I hope that the Minister’s noble friend is right about the A1—I have a bit more scepticism—but that is not enough. What else will the Government do to make sure that they invest in the region that is paying the greatest cost but still manages to be one of the best exporting regions in the country? The Government are letting the north-east down. People in the north-east want to contribute to the future. What will the Government do to enable them to do that? Maybe some affordable housing before the next election would be a good idea.
I absolutely agree that the north-east has had a high level of unemployment for many decades and compared to the rest of the country. I accept also that it has suffered particularly in recent years because there has been a high level of public sector employment there, which has fallen significantly. The attempts by the Government to shift priorities towards manufacturing and the private sector have already, in some respects, begun to bear fruit in the north-east. Nissan goes from strength to strength and the number of apprenticeships that we are funding helps people in the north-east, as elsewhere, to get skills that enable them to get jobs in the long term. That is how we will get sustainable growth in the north-east.
My Lords, I seem to recall that we were discussing dualling the A1 when I was Secretary of State for Scotland nearly 20 years ago. What is needed now are projects that are actually happening on the ground. So what on earth are the Government doing, for example, in persisting with this HS2 project, which we were told yesterday has increased in cost by a third even before a single activity has happened on the ground? It is now set to cost more than £40 billion. It is perfectly possible to have privately funded projects, such as the third runway extension at Heathrow, going ahead, creating jobs and dealing with the very substantial disbenefit created by the chaos at Heathrow. Why is it jam tomorrow when we could have jam today?
My Lords, the noble Lord is usually very good at reminding us about the financial constraints under which the Government are operating. It is not a case of jam tomorrow and no jam today. As I said earlier, in the housebuilding sector, we are putting more money into building affordable housing and all the big housebuilders have said in the past three months that they are increasing their plans for building private sector housing. The great thing about housing is that it starts quickly. As the noble Lord knows, we just do not agree with him on High Speed 2. We find it surprising, when the rest of Europe and much of the rest of the world are investing very significantly in high-speed rail, that some people in this country feel that it is not a sensible technology and a potential source of economic development.
My Lords, for many years, I campaigned for an A27 bypass around my constituency of Worthing. Just before I left the House of Commons in 1997, preparations were well advanced for this to happen. However, the project was dropped completely by the Labour Government. Can my noble friend give me an assurance that he will do everything possible to ensure that the appalling congestion on the A27 is relieved by the building of a bypass as soon as possible?
My Lords, will my noble friend accept that those Members of this House who will be engaged in the Committee stage of the Energy Bill are extremely grateful that in this Statement, the Government have brought forward the details of the arrangements for the low-carbon generators. However, as has already been mentioned, it makes no reference to nuclear, only to renewables. They are also grateful that the Government are bringing forward details of the auction for the capacity market from next year, together with this Statement today. However, will he tell us why there is, as far as I can see from the Statement, no reference to investment in network transmission, where there is certainly a need for work to be done in the near future?
My Lords, I shall have to write to the noble Lord about network transmission. I know that this is something that concerns my colleagues in the Department of Energy and Climate Change, but I am afraid that I am not close enough to it to know exactly where we have got to.
Economy: Sustainable Jobs
Motion to Take Note
My Lords, three years ago when this coalition Government were first formed, both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives made it plain that despite our political differences, and there are inevitably many, we had to come together to focus on the economy, moving the country out of recession, and to get spending back into balance. I think that most Governments across the world have found coping with the effects of the global recession challenging, and we are no exception.
Yesterday’s comprehensive spending review announcement showed that we are not through the tough times. However, talking to businesses, I am beginning to hear a different tone. The heads down, “let’s just survive this” approach is beginning to lift, and for some sectors, notably the knowledge economy, there are some signs of early growth. Vince Cable MP, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, has created an effective industrial strategy, investing £5.5 billion in supporting science, high-tech manufacturing and renewable energy to build jobs for the future, many of which will be competing globally.
This focus on the global market is critical to growth. Some 80% of the UK’s small and medium-sized enterprises are not exporting. While for many local businesses exporting is not appropriate, there are some that would really benefit. Statistics show that there is a 34% increase in productivity in the first year of exporting. It also helps with the survival rates of businesses. UK Trade and Investment has a key role in supporting local businesses as they take their first steps in exporting, which will strengthen their chances of survival and help them to grow.
They also need help from banks. I am pleased that the Secretary of State for BIS has launched the regional growth fund—£2.6 billion—to help leverage additional funding from investors, as well as providing clear expectations of the banking sector in its approach to lending to SMEs. To date, the first three rounds of the regional growth fund have leveraged £13 billion of private sector investment, and either created or protected half a million jobs.
I am less pleased to report that the banking sector still seems to be very slow in responding to this challenge. What measures are the Government taking to ensure that banks lend to small businesses? Without that finance, businesses will find it hard to create new, sustainable jobs.
Jobs are absolutely critical to the economy, and for an individual’s life chances. We need a strong economy to be able to compete on the global stage and we need sustainable jobs for a fairer society, helping everyone to get on in life. Yet business organisations continue to report that serious skills shortages are getting in the way of them competing effectively. Worse, many report losing business to international competitors. The UK Commission for Employment and Skills reports that 16% of vacancies are due to skills shortages; that is, there are not enough qualified applicants for specialist roles such as technicians. Nearly half of those businesses say that they struggle to meet their customer service objectives, and that they also have to delay developing new products or services.
Businesses also report that an estimated 1.5 million employees—that is 5% of the UK workforce—do not have the right skills to be able to carry out their job. This is known as skills gaps in the jargon. This often causes friction, with other staff having to help out, and difficulties in meeting quality standards. Nearly a third of businesses report that skills gaps have increased their operating costs and therefore reduced productivity. The UKCES highlights the importance of workforce skills, making it one of the five drivers of productivity; in turn, that increased productivity will help growth.
Skills are absolutely critical to sustainable jobs. Frankly, UK plc has not done well enough in the past. Future Governments must address this. Courses, particularly in science, technology, engineering and maths, at further and higher education levels, must be promoted and supported, particularly for these critical technician jobs. Core skills in literacy, numeracy and ICT must be strengthened, and it should not be possible to drop either literacy or numeracy at 16. Applied short courses should be available for 16 to 18 year-olds—for example, English for engineers, or statistics for humanities students such as my son, who went on to read psychology at university—that will help give them the skills they need.
Full-time study is not always appropriate for young people. For many, the best route into work is through an apprenticeship. This Government have created more than 1.2 million new apprentices. Last year there were 11 applicants for every apprenticeship, which says quite clearly that currently there are not enough employers offering apprenticeships. Those that do offer apprenticeships use them to train staff over a number of years, so that the progression from intermediate level, at which most young people start an apprenticeship at 16, to advanced level and on to higher apprenticeships is becoming more common.
Last year there were 3,700 new starts for higher apprenticeships—a whopping 67% increase on the previous year—specifically responding to the skills shortages to which I referred earlier. Marshall Aerospace in Cambridge is one such employer to offer apprenticeships across the company, not just in technician roles. Young people from all over the country apply, knowing that they will be supported from the age of 16 right the way through degree-level courses and some postgraduate study for a satisfying job, which also helps the economy and exports. In evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee in 2010, the CBI presented data showing that 90% of higher-level apprentices found employment or self-employment at the end of their training and that 40% received an upgrade or promotion shortly afterward. Apprenticeships work.
Since Labour left government, across the country there have been 164,000 new apprenticeship starts in business, administration and law alone, showing that it is not just in technical subjects where there is a large growth. Businesses say how important it is for them to be able to train staff in the work that they want them to do, and they are also able to provide remedial help in literacy and numeracy.
Another myth is that apprenticeships are just for men. The majority of new apprenticeship starts are now women. Increasingly, they are starting in non-traditional female work such as construction and engineering. I concede that they are still very much in the minority but it is an encouraging start.
Unemployment is a scourge and youth unemployment particularly devastating. OECD figures just published show that young people aged 16 to 29 in Britain spend about two years and four months out of work, many having given up, more or less. Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s deputy director of education, says:
“The short-term impact on individuals, families and communities beg for urgent policy responses; the longer-term impact, in terms of skills loss, scarring effects and de-motivation, will affect countries’ potential for recovery”.
It is worth pointing out that we do not do as badly as many of our OECD competitors. For Spain, the figure is 3.6 years, for Italy 3.5 years, and for Ireland 3.3 years. But he is absolutely right that this must continue to be a priority for this Government. That is why the Liberal Democrats pushed for £1 billion to fund the youth contract, aiming to create 410,000 job opportunities for young people, with a wage subsidy of up to £2,275 for employers taking on a young person.
The youth contract is beginning to work. The number of young people deemed to have been unemployed is beginning to reduce. The latest figures show a fall of 185,000—the lowest since the three months to May 2008, before the financial crisis.
There is also evidence to show that employers are unaware of the support available. What are the Government doing to ensure that employers get this information? Then further jobs will be created and we will see more young people who were formerly out of work starting on their careers.
I return briefly to the OECD report. The lower your skills level the more chance there is that you will be out of work. Of young people who are unemployed, a quarter are without five good GCSEs, 14% have good GCSEs but no further qualification, and 8% have a degree. That is stark. Skills are essential for jobs in the 21st century. Young people without qualifications need both education and employment, whether apprenticeships or courses at their local FE college. Last year, further education colleges saw an 83% increase in applications from unemployed young people recognising that they needed to increase their skills level. Over a quarter of these moved quickly into sustainable employment as they left their college.
Liberal Democrats believe that careers information, advice and guidance are absolutely critical for young people. While welcoming careers advice now starting at the age of 13, we regret the removal of face-to-face independent advice to all pupils. We want to see more young people moved into vocational training and education that is right for them. The evidence from colleges shows that inconsistent rules about what type of courses are funded, the availability of local jobs and the difficulty of colleges in tracking student progress are the biggest barriers to working effectively with the unemployed.
Worse than that, the APPG for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning recently heard of Jobcentre Plus staff pulling young people off courses at colleges, as it was—in their advisers’ view—time they went for a job interview. They thus lost their place on a course that would have given them a better chance of a skilled job. This silo working between departments needs to stop. Can the list of DWP-approved courses be agreed with BIS, rather than in isolation, to prevent this happening again? It is, of course, a waste of public money, as well as being demoralising for the young people concerned.
Despite problems like this, the youth contract and apprenticeships are clearly having an impact on youth unemployment, unlike the problems with Labour’s New Deal and the Future Jobs Fund during the previous Government, which did not create new jobs or help people into work, and were very expensive. For example, the Future Jobs Fund cost £6,500 for every job it created, and in Birmingham, only 2% of Future Jobs Fund placements actually led to jobs. Compare that to some of the figures that I have referred to earlier in this speech.
We are on the right track. Even though the road from the economic collapse in 2008 is hard, we are making progress. Sustainable jobs are a key part of the rebalancing needed in the economy. We have helped businesses to create more than 1 million private sector jobs since taking power, which has more than offset the number of public jobs lost—painful as that is. We have created 1.2 million apprenticeships and provided £2,000 worth of support for employers. We have created 110,000 work placements for unemployed young people. Being in work improves your health and well-being; it gives workers’ children a better start in life; and it helps prevent isolation and social breakdown. More than this, jobs created to help companies grow increase productivity and the UK’s ability to export and trade abroad, bringing in much needed extra wealth. It is a virtuous circle which will give us a stronger economy and a fairer society in which everyone has a chance to get on in life.
My Lords, I was at the final two debates last night, one of which was about small and medium-sized enterprises and exports. Many noble Lords commented that language was one of the challenges for small and medium-sized businesses in exporting. One of the most difficult areas of language, with which Google Translate would never deal, is sayings or colloquialisms. One of the first I ever learnt was, “To every cloud there is a silver lining”. I want to talk about the cloud, and then I will talk about the silver lining.
The cloud is literal: it is carbon emissions. It causes global warming and is a real issue. Now that we have passed 400 parts per million in carbon emissions and are moving towards higher temperatures, we have, as noble Lords know, the retreating polar ice caps and sea levels going up some 3 millimetres every year. It is carrying on. I was obviously delighted by my noble friend’s pronouncement about investment this morning, but I was even more ecstatic about President Obama’s recent pronouncement about the United States restarting its global and national engagement on climate change and global warming, particularly on restricting American coal emissions and making a major contribution to the reduction in global carbon emissions.
I say that because that agenda is being restated globally. Although we think of China as one of the world’s greatest polluters, it is a major agenda item there. I hope, particularly with the involvement of the United States, that the world will move forward on that. However, there is still a cloud up there that threatens our planet, our lifestyle and our economy into the long term.
What is the silver lining? It is clearly that this offers opportunities to us as a nation, uniquely, to take advantage of the technologies and how the way in which we live needs to change. As someone who often speaks on energy and climate change, that is why I supported the coalition so strongly when it was formed and the coalition agreement was authored: we were to be the greenest Government ever. I agree that we have struggled with that. We are still there and are still moving forward, but that aim and the policies arising from it—I will go through some of those—are the major reasons why we can look forward to growth beyond our recent track record and that of other European nations. Over the past couple of years, growth in green industries has been at around 2.5% per annum, while we have had relatively difficult economic performance elsewhere. Jobs have gone up in that area as well.
Green jobs and growth will really help us in three main areas, and they are not always the ones that we think about; we sometimes think about investment in wind farms and that sort of area, but I will come back to that. One of the key areas is competitiveness. We often hear about how shale gas has reduced energy costs in the United States and about how, because of that, US industry has become more competitive. However, that is an economy that thrives on energy inefficiency. That is the background to the power of the United States: wasteful carbon emissions and energy use making it the great manufacturing and industrial nation that it was.
In this country we have a very different model for potential energy efficiency. For the long term, we can perhaps reduce energy costs for business through the lower gas prices that we are yet to see from any shale gas development, but clearly we can ensure that we can do so through energy efficiency. That is why the programmes that the Government have brought forward, particularly the Green Deal, are important for our future not just for our homes but for businesses as well.
That initiative has only just started. The Government have been absolutely right to make sure that the programme has had a fairly soft start so that we learn, as that process goes forward, that it does not rely on public expenditure, making it future-proof against budgets and Chancellors of whatever colour taking decisions. Once that investment programme works, it has the benefit not only of relieving fuel poverty and reducing fuel bills but of making our industry more competitive and producing a large number of real jobs in the semi-skilled area, which are so important, as well as the skilled areas as we move through the long term to the future.
I think that we have made the right decision on energy-intensive industries, although I was somewhat iffy about this at the time. I have to admit that we risk increasing carbon and energy costs and offshoring energy-intensive industries. By doing that, we just shift those emissions geographically from the UK, where there is relatively better environmental regulation, to other economies where perhaps that is not the case. Therefore I welcome a transition for those industries, and it has to be a transition until we have a much more level playing field across the rest of the world.
Moving on from competitiveness, we come to investment. In the green economy, we have, as my noble friend the Minister has already announced, a huge programme of potentially £100 billion for energy investment. Much of that will be very highly skilled work, which will be local and will produce local jobs and local skills. We have to make sure that we get the current Energy Bill on to the statute book and make some of the detail better than it is at the moment, but we have a real focus on making sure that that happens.
In Sunderland in the north-east—I will probably defer to my noble friend Lord Shipley on this, as he knows that area better—Nissan has been producing Leaf electric cars since April this year. It is the only plant in Europe to do so, and provides some £450 million of investment and 500 extra jobs. In addition, we have a number of potential wind farm sites. In Scotland we have AREVA, where we hope to have another 750 jobs. We will see if those arrive. This is all about making sure that the industry has confidence in the green economy.
Apart from investment and competitiveness, we will make this business work only if we have the skills in the economy to drive it forward. This requires two things. The first is certainty about government policy. The Government have not always been hugely successful in that between the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Treasury. It is much better now, given the deals that have been done and the road map that we have before us. In addition, we require investment and skills. That is why the Government’s target, particularly in BIS, to increase investment in apprenticeships is really the right way forward. We have a great opportunity there.
I conclude by quoting John Cridland, who I think has already been mentioned once this morning. He said:
“it is easy to understand why some people are fearful that ‘going green’ might further dent the economic recovery. For me, this is a false debate”.
He goes on to say:
“tackling head-on the critical challenges of energy security, affordability and climate change … isn’t a lofty ideal to aspire to—there is a hard-nosed economic argument that moving to a low-carbon economy can drive significant business investment and create many new jobs across the country”.
I think that is the fundamental view of this Government in their growth and economic strategy, and they must keep to it. We will have in the end not only the greenest economy but one of the most successful economies, not just in Europe but in the world.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, on instigating this important debate and thank her for providing your Lordships with the opportunity to discuss a subject vital to the economic well-being of this country.
In these austere times in which we live, it is not rocket science to realise that jobs are extremely difficult to come by and that each and every opportunity that exists to create jobs must be exploited to the full. SMEs provide vast opportunities for job creation. They simply must be encouraged, be it through the ability to borrow funds for expansion, or through the simplification of bureaucracy and unnecessary red tape, or excessive interference by Government. I will address that latter point in this debate.
I live in an industrial part of the West Midlands, very close to JCB, which is an enormous success story in Staffordshire. I agree entirely with what the noble Baroness said about apprenticeships and the creation of such—and JCB creates them. It employs about 10,000 people and has an engineering academy, which is to be applauded. For many years I have taken a considerable interest and have acquired friends in various industries both within and outside that region. I am well aware of the many obstacles which normally face SMEs. Recently I have been made aware of situations in which a government agency is making life exceptionally difficult and, tragically, sometimes terminal for some businesses in areas where it is difficult to obtain employment. That body is the Environment Agency.
I would be among the very first to acknowledge the absolute necessity of having an agency that is charged with protecting the environment and regulating the various industries which deal in potentially hazardous material and the recycling and disposal of such materials. However, I am aware of a number of cases where the all-powerful EA has acted in a thoroughly heavy-handed manner and shown itself to be the judge, jury and executioner. I have attended meetings with the EA and have received details of actions taken by it with regard to one particular firm based in Sheffield, the 4R Group. I have no interest in or connection with that company, but it contacted me on the recommendation of a mutual friend.
The company alleges that the EA’s local officer took action which is most likely to have the effect of closing down that business, rendering the staff unemployed and meaning that waste material that was being processed and sold to the agricultural sector as a thoroughly useful fertiliser will now be forced to go to landfill. In short, it is alleged that the EA posted some details on its website without any adequate consultation, which had the effect of frightening off the customers of the company. Those customers were fully satisfied with the product that they were purchasing but did not wish to risk the wrath of the EA, which can be very dangerous indeed. However, the company had the benefit of the opinion of one of the absolute experts in that field, the leading QC Stephen Tromans, and other expert legal advice, which stated that it was complying with the European directive that governs this area. It appears that the EA takes very little notice of the European directive’s spirit and purpose. Instead it follows entirely its own agenda, leaving its target businesses to let the issues be tested in the courts. Such actions are sometimes lost by the EA and sometimes not brought by the business due to the vast cost of litigation and because the EA appears to have bottomless taxpayer-funded pockets. This is disgraceful. These are small businesses that are struggling to survive.
Add to this sorry tale the bureaucracy and red tape involved by the agency, with the very lengthy times of turnaround of applications for end of waste status, and it is easy to see that the agency’s actions, repeated in numerous cases throughout the waste recycling industry, are holding back opportunities for the employment of hundreds of people while sending thousands of tonnes of perfectly recyclable material to landfill. That is bad for the economy, bad for the environment and bad for employment, and thoroughly bad for the nation’s finances.
In the case of a company with which I frequently discuss matters of this nature, the agency’s intransigence and plain obstructive behaviour regarding the classification of a recycled material which enjoys the support of major cement manufacturers in the UK has cost the business around £4 million in potential profit over the past three years, with the consequential loss of tax revenue to the Treasury and potentially an extra 15 to 20 jobs in a region that needs them badly.
In conclusion, the examples I have given point fully in the direction that the Government need urgently to commission a root and branch review from the very top to the bottom of the Environment Agency, to investigate its practices and culture and fix whatever is wrong. Until that is done, job creation and profitability in the recycling industry will suffer, and with it the economic well-being of this country.
My Lords, I apologise to the House for missing the first few moments of this important debate. I congratulate my noble friend Lady Brinton on bringing it to the House.
From a perspective looking at the figures behind what is happening in the field of employment and unemployment, there are of course some very welcome signs of improvement. It would be wise to note at the beginning that the direction of travel is correct. For example, unemployment in the UK over the past year has fallen faster than in Germany and the G7 as a whole.
Since the 2010 election, the number of people who claim the main out-of-work benefits has fallen by more than 300,000, while the youth claimant count—a very important figure—fell by 2,500 this month and is lower than it was at the May 2010 election. The other side of the coin is that private sector employment is up 46,000 on the latest quarter, which more than offsets the 22,000 jobs that were lost in the public sector. If you take that as a whole since May 2010, private sector employment is up by 1.3 million jobs, while of course public sector jobs have fallen by 423,000 over the same period.
The direction of travel is good and encouraging but there is no reason for complacency. It is important that we continue to tackle what is of fundamental importance for our people. For those of us who want a fairer society, ensuring that people can get into work will have dramatic effects on health and well-being and on future life chances, for them and for their families. For those who want to see a stronger economy—of course the subject of this debate covers both those topics—each new job adds an average of about £9,000 to the economy. For those who just want to reduce welfare spending, the best way to do that is to get people into sustainable, well-paid work, not to slash support for the vulnerable.
I will concentrate on the demand side. Today we have clearly had some important news. This morning we published the latest figures on the UK Government’s Work Programme, the Government’s main vehicle for getting long-term unemployed people into work. The key headline message that I take from today’s figures is that the Work Programme’s performance has significantly improved. It is designed to help people who are at risk of becoming long-term or very long-term unemployed. Many of those supported by the Work Programme are in receipt of benefit for nine or 12 months before joining and are then supported for a minimum period of two years. The Work Programme has not yet been running for two years, so today’s signs are very encouraging.
The Work Programme not only supports people into employment, but is also designed with the crucial aim of keeping them there. It encourages long-term private sector employment and is not just a short-term fix. Today’s figures show that 132,000 people have escaped long-term unemployment and got into lasting work, normally for at least six months. This is a large increase compared to the first year of the scheme. However, that is not the whole story. Far more people have started work but have not yet reached that target point of six months in work. Therefore, today’s figures from the Government are only for those who have been in work for six months or longer. However, figures from industry that were published last week showed that 321,000 people who were on the Work Programme have now started a job. The Work Programme is helping people who would otherwise have been consigned to the unemployment scrapheap.
There has been a significant and very welcome improvement from the providers. About half of the contract holders are now getting more jobseekers into lasting work than the level to which they were contracted by the Government. Last year not a single one managed that. We also know that, unlike the short-term job focus of previous schemes, which left many people on benefits after they had been completed, most people now stay in work well beyond three or six months.
The evidence of that improvement is clear. Figures this morning show that contractors are measured on how many participants they get into work each year, as a proportion of people who are referred to the scheme in that 12 months. As I just said, in year one of the scheme, not a single provider met its contractor level of getting 5.5% into work for that period. However, in the second year providers got an average of 31.9% of jobseeker’s allowance claimants below the age of 25 into sustained work. They were contracted to get 33%, so it is very close. For jobseekers aged 25 and over, the providers got an average of 27.3% into sustained work, against their contracted level of 27.5%—almost exactly bang on target.
More people are getting into work within a year of joining the Work Programme. The UK Statistics Authority has said that it was wrong to claim that only 3.5% of people got into work in the first year of the scheme. It says that the performance is best measured by counting how many people got into sustained work in their first year on the scheme. While on this measure just 8.5% of those who started the programme in June 2011 completed at least six months of work in their first year, this success rate dramatically increased to 13.4% for the more recent recruits who joined in March 2013.
This is a clear and demonstrable improvement. If you join the Work Programme now, you are more likely to get a lasting job. Of course, the Work Programme is also designed to give taxpayers a good deal. Providers are paid when they get jobseekers into work, rather than getting most money up front, regardless of success. Significantly, more people being helped by the Work Programme are moving off benefits and into work, and providers are keeping them in sustained employment. Most claimants have been on benefits continuously for nine or 12 months before even joining the Work Programme. Now providers are either exceeding or hitting the level set out in their contract for getting jobseekers into long-term work after substantial improvements in performance.
Last time it was too early to say whether the programme was working. Today’s figures reinforce the point that we now know where we stand. Unfortunately, the figures also reveal some weaker parts of our agenda, mainly related to the people who move into the Work Programme from employment and support allowance. The numbers of ESA claimants moving off benefit and gaining a job are lower than I would have hoped. Previous attempts to help these claimants into work were not successful. We still have a lot to learn about what works for ESA claimants. We have to work with those providers to improve performance for this group and build expertise in supporting those who are hard to help.
There is a ladder of helping people back into work. The rungs may be very short, and it may take a long time to get to the top of the ladder and into employment. First, people may have to be encouraged into self-belief. They have to have confidence in themselves and know their self-worth. We have to learn from those who have experience and expertise in that area. The term that is used for this in the Work Programme is the “black box”. I always thought this was rather a strange term to use when talking about a work programme. It gives me the impression that when you open the lid there is darkness inside and you do not know what is there.
What it really means—and the purpose of the black box approach—is that it allows providers helping people back into work to use whatever approaches they find work for those groups of claimants: localised results helping people individually. I hope that the Minister will tell us in his summing-up what approaches have been the best. Which are the ones we have to learn from, because these particular groups on employment support allowance are the most difficult to help? It is important that we learn lessons from the best providers and learn them rapidly.
The other area that is still of concern is youth unemployment. It is good to note that it has fallen, but it is still far too high. I know that we have to use the international comparators, which include all full-time equivalent students, so full-time students are included in the figures. However, if they are stripped out of the figures there are still 659,000 unemployed people in that youth category. I know that this is down 13,000 over the last quarter, but it is still a great problem because it has a scarring effect on young people. It is a distinctive scarring effect, because it is caused solely by the single experience of being unemployed. This brings a loss of personal esteem and of earning potential and can persist for decades. Youth unemployment, of course, can also lead to an increased crime rate.
This is not a new phenomenon. Over the years from 1993 to 2011, the figures show a substantial growth in the unemployment rate for 18 to 20 year-olds. Crucially, the bar of five GCSEs or more shows the level at which young people can escape from youth unemployment in a large way. One of the crucial things we have to do is ensure that people reach that standard of skills. That is why the apprenticeship programmes are also crucial to building up those skill levels. That five GCSE bar, the bar between level 1 and level 2, is the one that distinguishes between those who gain employment and those who do not.
There was some interesting analysis by the think tank CentreForum last year, which simplifies some of the issues. It stated:
“Academic research has been unable to find any robust evidence to substantiate the claims that rising levels of immigration or the introduction of the National Minimum Wage is responsible for the rising levels of youth unemployment”.
We should bear that in mind. This Government have focused their attention on universal credit and helping people back into work. It is work in progress and I hope that there is even better to come in the months ahead.
My Lords, I join others in thanking my noble friend Lady Brinton for introducing this timely debate. The subject is the importance of sustainable jobs to the Exchequer and the British economy, and there is a certain truism in that statement. Obviously the more jobs that we can create, the more tax revenues there are for the Exchequer, and the less it has to pay out in welfare payments—so it is very good for the Exchequer—and the more jobs that we can create the more we add to GDP and therefore to measurable growth, which is the yardstick by which we currently measure success in the economy.
What do I mean by sustainable jobs? There is in fact considerable churn among the unemployed. Some 70% of those who register as unemployed find jobs within six months. However, there are differentials between different quintiles of income distribution. Of the lowest-earning quintile, the bottom 20%, 30% of those who were unemployed had spent less than a year in their current job. This compares to only 7% of workers in the top quintile spending less than a year in their job. Of those in the bottom quintile, 24% were in temporary, not permanent, jobs. One-third of those claiming jobseeker’s allowance claim benefits again within eight months of starting work; 8% of them work less than 16 hours a week.
The good news that we heard from my noble friend Lord German about the way in which the Work Programme is becoming effective perhaps makes one a little more optimistic about what Jobcentre Plus can achieve. However, to some extent its role is to place people in jobs, with the emphasis on getting them off welfare and into work, and perhaps too many of the jobs are short-term and non-sustainable. This is disproportionately the case for the bottom 20%, many of whom have very low or no qualifications, a point again picked up by my noble friend Lord German.
The group I am particularly worried about comprises young people in the 18 to 24 age bracket who now find it extremely difficult to find jobs. As my noble friend Lord German mentioned, the group that experienced unemployment in the 1980s and the 1990s is now referred to as the lost generation, as the unemployment had knock-on effects on their self-confidence and their ability to hold down jobs. Many of them have experienced substantial periods of unemployment since then. It is noticeable that in this recession there has been relatively less unemployment. Nevertheless, 12% of the 22 to 24 age group who make a new claim to Jobcentre Plus have spent at least half of the past four years on benefit, so while there is good news here we also have to address problems, such as the paradox raised by my noble friend Lady Brinton in introducing the debate, of there being very high levels of skills shortages in some industries. Currently, 16% of vacancies exist because employers cannot find people with the critical skills. As I think she mentioned, this applies particularly to intermediate skill levels—the three-year apprenticeships for craftsmen and the two years on top of the three-year apprenticeships to gain the equivalent of higher national diplomas or foundation degrees. We are particularly short of people qualified at technician level.
As my noble friend Lord German mentioned, although there is no relationship between youth unemployment and immigration, it is certainly true that many employers are importing people with these skills because we are not growing them ourselves. As I say, a somewhat difficult paradox exists at the moment, as we know we have these crucial skills shortages, which are limiting the degree to which some of our new industries can grow, yet we do not have the skilled people to fill the vacancies that need to be filled. We are failing to train our own people to fill these vacancies, so the apprenticeship programme is very important and is a great success story, and we are beginning to see some of these vacancies being filled due to that programme. However, that takes time. To train somebody to HND level can take five years. We are beginning to see this progression within the apprenticeship programme, but it is a slow process.
As I say, the fact that 1.2 million young people now have apprenticeships is good news. However, those apprenticeships are still disproportionately at level 2: that is, one or two-year apprenticeships whereby participants qualify immediately as plumbers, electricians, retail workers or workers in hospitality or care services. The level 2 qualification is now the minimum qualification that is required. We are seeing more young people going on from a level 2 qualification to gain a level 3 qualification, which is the craftsman qualification, but sadly not nearly enough are doing so. Of the 1.2 million, only about 300,000 are going on to the higher-level qualification. We need to see many more of them proceed to the level 3 qualification. Indeed, the Government have made it known that they would like to see most apprentices move on to a level 3 qualification.
The other problem that has arisen is that these apprenticeships have been taken up disproportionately by 19 to 25 year-olds, and indeed by those in the 25-plus group, as opposed to 16 to 18 year-olds. In many senses this is very good and reflects the fact that employers want to take on as apprentices those who have some experience of work and who they can rely on to get to work on time. Nevertheless, it creates something of a problem for the 16 to 18 year-olds. For that reason, the Government have created the trainee programme, which is a pre-apprenticeship training programme. Yesterday, we had the good news that this pre-apprenticeship training programme is now being extended to the over-19s. It had been concentrated on 16 to 18 year-olds, but its extension is good news. However, it is very important that we get more of these younger people into apprenticeships that not only provide them with very satisfactory training programmes but help them to get satisfactory, sustainable jobs over the longer term.
This raises three questions that I would like to put to the Minister. Are we doing enough to make sure that these young people know about the opportunities that are available in the apprenticeship field? Raising the participation age in schools means that next year those aged 17 will stay on in education or training. Training is very important, but many of them, perhaps too many of them, may be told by their schools that the choice is for them to stay on at school in the sixth form and take subjects that may or may not include some form of vocational training, rather than being told about alternatives such as apprenticeships or other more practical vocational college courses. We need to look to the schools careers service, but that is experiencing real problems. Indeed, it has collapsed to a considerable extent. Does the Minister feel that the careers service is sufficiently engaged in schools, particularly in advising young people aged 13 to 14 to know what opportunities are available, as they face crucial choices at that age?
Secondly, is Jobcentre Plus geared too much towards finding short-term jobs rather than helping young people into training to enable them to get sustainable jobs? I, too, was present at the APPG meeting at which two principals from FE colleges gave evidence that indicated that a number of young people were taken off college courses by Jobcentre Plus in order to fill short-term job vacancies. Rather than thinking holistically about what was necessary to train the young people, they were pushed into short-term jobs that were jobs not careers, if you like, and were not given the opportunity to develop a career. Should we not learn rather more from the Scandinavians, who see unemployment as an opportunity for people of all ages to upgrade their skills and move into higher levels of employment within their range?
Finally, it is entirely in this country’s interests to minimise unemployment and maximise job creation, but in doing so it is also vital to upgrade the skills profile of the population. We have succeeded in encouraging a lot of young people to go on to university, but far too many still leave school with no, or low, qualifications. They are the ones who find it difficult to find jobs. I suggest that for these young people unemployment should be seized upon as an opportunity to undertake training to gain a career and a sustainable job and should not be seen just as time out before being pushed into another short-term job.
My Lords, like other speakers in your Lordships’ House this morning, I would like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, for introducing this significant debate about the importance of sustainable jobs to the Exchequer and to the British economy. To this, I would add their importance to the millions of people whose lives are currently blighted by unemployment, and the communities in which they live. With the noble Lord, Lord German, and the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, I am thinking in particular of the nearly 1 million young people who are out of work.
I want to use this opportunity to highlight the potential contribution that co-operatives and other social enterprises have to offer to sustainable job creation. In delivering the spending review yesterday, the Chancellor talked about the need for growth, reform and fairness. The growing social enterprise sector meets all three of these criteria, providing a business model that delivers sustainable economic growth while fostering innovation and social change.
Damage to the reputation of the important parts of the UK economy in the wake of the financial crisis and concern about the social impacts of the recession and public spending cuts have brought social enterprise to the fore. People want a different way of doing business that is about creating shared value, not just profit—where the motivation is more than just making money, where the proceeds are reinvested locally for the benefit of the whole community and where employees and customers are actively engaged in decisions that directly affect them.
Here are a few statistics that demonstrate the potential of this sector, courtesy of Social Enterprise UK. At present there are around 70,000 social enterprises in the UK, contributing at least £24 billion to the economy and employing more than 800,000 people. Social enterprises are twice as likely to have grown in the past year as other small and medium-sized businesses, and 82% of social enterprises reinvest their profits in the communities where they operate. Social enterprises create more jobs relative to turnover than mainstream businesses, and 39% of all social enterprises operate in the 20% most deprived communities in the United Kingdom, helping to create jobs where they are most needed.
This is a dynamic and fast-growing sector with the ability to create and sustain employment. One in seven social enterprises is less than two years old, more than three times the start-up rate for small businesses generally. At the same time there is a core of older, well-established social enterprises. Nearly half of all social enterprises have been trading for more than 10 years.
Jobs created in this sector are sustainable in other ways, too. Research shows that employee engagement correlates with increased productivity and performance. Engaged employees are much less likely to leave their organisation and are more likely to report high levels of job satisfaction. For a voluntary sector organisation, income from social enterprises can provide a more reliable source of income than external grants.
Enough of the statistics. Now for two examples that I hope will show why I believe that social enterprises have so much to offer. The first is an initiative set up by Portsmouth’s Anglican cathedral to support entrepreneurs and business start-ups. The Cathedral Innovation Centre provides entrepreneurs with office space, start-up loans and mentors, helping to create jobs at the same time as providing a new purpose for underused buildings. There are already nine businesses at the Portsmouth Cathedral Innovation Centre, including a computer games firm, a catering company and a business that redevelops old land for wider civic use. Together they occupy 14 desks and are currently recruiting three new apprentices with support from the centre. With hardly any resources, they have levered in-kind support worth around £500,000. The initiative is also being funded by local people who are being asked to invest £75 or more as shareholders. Discussions are already taking place to open similar centres in Derby, Cheshire, East Anglia, Bournemouth and the north-east. As the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, who attended the official launch in May of this year, said:
“This isn’t just one cathedral innovation centre, but the start of a movement. It’s about providing jobs, which is the best expression of hope [and] providing a real sense of self-worth”.
The second example is Worth Unlimited, a Christian charity based in Birmingham, which has established a family of social enterprises offering skills training and employment opportunities for disadvantaged young people at risk of social exclusion. One of these social enterprises is the DevenishGirl Bakery, which produces a range of home-baked cakes using locally sourced, organic and fair trade ingredients, as well as vintage tea parties and picnic hampers. Young unemployed people are given accredited training in how to run a small business, as well as practical cookery and personal development skills. The six-month programme is specifically designed to help move the young people they work with into sustainable employment, whether through job creation within the organisation or other opportunities outside the enterprise.
These two examples illustrate that, as a church, we are not just about high-flown rhetoric; we are very much on the case and very willing to partner with others who seek to meet the noble goal of sustainable jobs for the young. I am also encouraged that the Government, too, are beginning to see the huge potential of the social enterprise sector. I urge the Government to do all they can to maximise the contribution of social enterprise to economic growth and sustainable job creation.
My Lords, it is a signal pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate because I agree with every word that he has said. He was absolutely correct to concentrate on the contribution that social enterprises can make to our economy. I can say that as a non-remunerated, non-executive director of the Wise Group in Glasgow, which is a social enterprise that has been involved in employability for the past 30 years. It adds value to the provision of support for unemployed people in a way that I think other more statutory government bodies struggle to do. I am very pleased to endorse everything that the right reverend Prelate has said.
This is a very timely debate. I add my congratulations to those already offered to my noble friend on securing the time. I want to take a slightly different approach to the debate and I want to start by making a political point. I hope I can carry the House with me on this but I am very concerned about the potential stigmatisation of the unemployed. In my experience, which is mainly derived from my work in the Wise Group, people in households that suffer worklessness are strivers as much as anyone else and they try to better themselves and their families.
Of course, I have been in politics long enough to know that a game is played but I do not say that pejoratively. I know that there are points to be scored in the public debate in trading positions and policies as part of the coming and going of politics, but I am worried. I have been concerned about this policy area for some time and I have never known the psychological effect to be so bad on people who suffer unemployment. My plea to my noble friend on the Front Bench—this is certainly not directed at him personally, as he knows—is that he will take the message back from me, if from no one else, that we need to be careful about our use of language.
The second thing that I want to talk about is the environment of unemployment and welfare-to-work, which has substantially changed, certainly since I was initially elected to the House of Commons in 1983, and whose development I have been following during that time. It is now harder to make work pay. Colleagues are probably now familiar with the substantial change that is encapsulated by the fact that the majority of poor, working-age adults and children in the United Kingdom now live in families containing at least one worker. That is a hard prospect for policymakers and none of this is easy. The adage that we all used to hide behind, because it was true 10 or 15 years ago, that you could work your way off benefits and out of poverty is not necessarily true at all. We therefore need to weigh that in the balance when we make changes.
The environment that we are now in is characterised by no guarantees of secure work in contracts of employment. The labour market that we now face has a problem about low wages, temporary jobs and zero-hours contracts, which used to be peculiar employment devices used in proper circumstances and for understandable reasons in industries such as hotels, catering and entertainment. These contracts are now being used much more widely, including in education and health. If we do not recognise that, we are not properly doing our job as policymakers. It has also been suggested to me that a massive 20 million hours a month of underemployment persists in the United Kingdom labour market. That is completely new and none of us has properly started to address it in a way that is necessary.
I wish to make a final point about the context because I have noticed from working with a client group in Glasgow that the level of uncertainty about being in work has changed significantly. Even if you can get people off benefits—and you can if you give them proper support—they go into a world of work that is full of uncertainty. It has one of the most destabilising effects on households because you never know just how long it will be before you are going to have to switch back to benefits, low-hours contracts or low-pay contracts. I accept that universal credit will help, at least in theory, if we can introduce it safely and as soon as possible. However, we need to do more to address uncertainty in the workplace, which is a serious problem.
I listened carefully to what my noble friend Lord German said about the Work Programme, of which I have some experience. I am interested to hear that the figures for the second year of the programme are now available. I should be grateful if my noble friend, if he has the figures, could differentiate between the minimum performance levels that are in the contracts for the prime providers—levels that I have always thought were unrealistically high; and the DWP was not sensible in setting them at these levels. As far as I can recall, the JSA 25-plus minimum performance level for providers was 27.5% of the referred group, the JSA 18-24 cohort figure was 33%, and the ESA caseload was 16.5%. These are not targets. DWP expectations were much higher. I have not had the benefit of access to the latest figures and I look forward to studying them as soon as the debate concludes because I am interested, but I should be reassured if my noble friend could confirm that if the minimum performance levels are not reached by prime providers their contracts will be re-examined. That was the promise made: if they did not reach these levels in year two, the contracts would be at risk, and rightly so because the figures for the first year were de minimis. That was perhaps understandable in year one but we would be looking for serious progress in year two. I am not satisfied that we are looking at only minimum performance requirements. We should look at the DWP expectation levels for these client groups in order to test whether we are making progress in the Work Programme.
It is also foolish for the DWP to offer people who have done their two years on the Work Programme and have still not found work to the Troubled Families programme run by the department. These client groups are chalk and cheese. The Work Programme people are there because they are required under the jobseekers commitment to be there. The Troubled Families initiative, which I support and was pleased when it was given extra money from the Government in the past few days, is a voluntary programme. In my experience, you cannot put conscripted people into a programme that was originally designed for volunteer clients and have any expectation that it will succeed. That idea needs to be rethought.
Finally, given the £248 million underspend on the Work Programme—I think we can all understand that an underspend might be a consequence of not having as many people on the unemployment lists as we had anticipated in the first year—can my noble friend confirm that the full amount for the programme will be spent supporting moving people from benefits into work? It is a flagship, essential and crucial programme, and I wish it well. I support it but I have some serious concerns about how it is being implemented. In fact, it may well be that we should talk to colleagues on local authorities about increasing their involvement in delivering and implementing some of these national programmes, some of which have been more successful than others.
I wish briefly to raise two other matters before I sit down. First, can we work more with employers? It is absolutely right that we concentrate on supply-side measures, upskilling people, and helping people who are furthest from the market. There remains a problem of “parking and creaming” in some of the schemes and I understand that we will need to address that issue. However, can we get alongside employers more systematically? They need help as well if they are offering contracts of employment to people who have sometimes been out of the labour market for more than two years. That would be a development that would help the Work Programme to improve and be more successful.
Finally, there are three priorities, all of which have been touched on by colleagues in their excellent speeches in this debate in which I am pleased to take part. The three priorities for me include youth unemployment, which affects just shy of 1 million young people. They in particular suffer from the precariousness of unemployment—and employment, even when they get jobs. We really need a concerted cross-party approach to youth unemployment. Also, nearly 36% of the caseload is made up of people in long-term unemployment. It is a proxy for household distress, which the Troubled Families programme is beginning to address. If people are unemployed, have been through the Work Programme for a full two years and still cannot find their way into the labour market, we should treat them more holistically. A multiagency approach such as that provided in the Troubled Families programme—it is a horrible name and I wish we had a different one—is important. Finally, there is the hard-to-reach group, who are the third category of clients whose chances we need to do more to improve in the future.
My Lords, this debate is timely and essential, as noble Lords have said, and we thank my noble friend Lady Brinton for introducing it.
We need jobs—at least, many people of all ages need them—but I am particularly concerned about young people’s jobs, and for those we need growth in this country. This is a widely held view. As the CBI said just the other day:
“We believe that the government’s priority must be to protect spending that promotes growth”.
At one time this nation of ours was a great manufacturing country. The tide has changed, but we still have the potential. However, in recent years we went off the rails for many reasons, some of which were in our control, some of which were not. We are a great country when it comes to innovation and imaginative ideas. Many great inventions stemmed from the UK. It is therefore welcome that in the spending round that has just been announced, protecting and thus encouraging investment in science is the right thing to do, and the Government intend to do that.
I welcome the Government’s stance, but can the Minister say as a matter of record what our level of investments in R&D in this country is? Among the G7 at one time we were at the bottom, or second to bottom. Can the Minister clarify that? It is only through growth that we in this country are going to turn the corner and increase jobs. We are living in a time when much is changing in technology. We need to be in the forefront, which means that it is key that we maintain science resources and capital budgets. That is a good story, because the Government intend to do that.
In the struggle that our young people are having to find jobs, there is not such a good story to be told. Time and time again, as noble Lords have already said, when the issue of careers advice and guidance is raised, the message is still that this is just not being done effectively. Only yesterday I was a meeting and was told that once again apprenticeships—this route to jobs—are still not being mentioned in schools. This has been going on for years and years. In many parts of the country, certainly when I have had meetings with educators in the south-west and elsewhere, the message is the same: the advice and preparation for work are just not good enough. I get this from employers as well, who say that sometimes young people are not prepared for the work ethic. This is of great importance.
To go back to the point about manufacturing, we have not been encouraging enough pupils to go for the hands-on vocational jobs over the last few years. If I had a pound for the number of times I have heard the cry, “We need more engineers”, I would be quite well off. It happens time and again, and it is going to take a while correct it, but we must do just that. It is my contention that it is just not adequate to say that our young people can look up the opportunities for jobs on the computer. As has been said already, they need more face-to-face encouragement and help to find jobs.
Incidentally, on the practical side of life, it is welcome that the Government are planning more university technical colleges. Further education is a vibrant and vital sector in many parts of the country, as I can attest. In Weston-super-Mare, for example, our local college, Weston College, is spearheading apprenticeships, which my colleagues have referred to before, is successfully working with local employers to create local partnerships, and is in all senses providing a hub of activity. I know that this is also happening in further education colleges throughout the country.
The Government have a number of schemes to try to help people into jobs, but to assist in this they need to concentrate on growth and on encouraging various sectors to provide the necessary jobs. I will mention one sector in which for a number of reasons I have a personal interest, and which, like other colleagues, I have raised in this Chamber: the hospitality and tourism industry. This offers jobs over a complete range of abilities, from the unskilled to those with top skills. For that reason, and because it is a major source of jobs throughout the country, we look to the Government to encourage people to come to this country as tourists. On a little negative note, I regret to say that it is an area that needs more sharpening up.
I have in my hand Travel GBI, which has the headline:
“Tourists put off from UK visits by ‘wall of tax’”.
The Minister will know that this problem has been raised many times and that the Government say time and again that they are aware of it. I will raise it again, because I think it is so important, particularly because I have an interest as secretary to the All-Party Parliamentary China Group and in the difficulty that Chinese tourists have in coming here. When they come here they spend something like 10 times as much as the average tourist from other countries, yet we lag severely behind even a close neighbour, France, where the tourism level is 10 times higher than it is here. I do not want to end on a negative note, and I hope the Minister will reassure us again that we are looking at this serious issue.
The tremendous increase in apprenticeships is very welcome, and has been mentioned by many colleagues. Apprenticeships are, of course, a direct way into work. My noble friend Lady Sharp and others have said that there are concerns about ensuring that this is the real route to real jobs.
Finally, I know that the Minister shares the view, as we have talked about it before, that we must talk about apprenticeships and training, but I make the plea that in training and for all who are concerned with it in this country we give a very high priority to training for management. Sometimes we do not attain the very best level of management, and we are seeing this increasingly day by day in various spheres of activity. Without good management, we cannot create and keep good jobs.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Brinton for initiating this important debate on sustainable jobs, in which the word “sustainable” is of crucial importance. This is about creating growth and long-term employment opportunities for everyone who wants to work.
We should note some helpful trends in the overall position on jobs in the past year or so. There are almost 30 million people employed in the UK, which is up by 432,000 from a year ago. Unemployment remains stubbornly and worryingly high at 2.5 million. It is, however, down by 88,000 from a year ago. More than a million jobs today are held by the over-65s. Nearly 10% of those aged over 65 are now employed, which is the highest level since records began in 1992. I welcome that. It is in part a sign of the times and, no doubt, with the rise in the pension age that figure will continue to rise.
In vacancies, there has been another helpful trend. In the latest quarter, there were 518,000 job vacancies, up 48,000 year on year, which is the highest number of vacancies since 2008. In March—the latest figures we have—there were 24 million private sector jobs, up 46,000 from December 2012, and 5.7 million public sector jobs, down 22,000 from December 2012. We can see a reduction in public sector jobs but an increase in private sector jobs, and we should note that, despite the loss of public sector jobs, 1 million private sector jobs have been created since 2010.
Nevertheless, there are major disparities. The employment level in the south-east outside London is 75% but in my home region, the north-east of England, it is 67%. There are some 458,000 people who have been unemployed for more than two years. I agree with my noble friend Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope about the stigmatisation of those who are unemployed through no fault of their own. We need to be very careful about our use of language. There are 458,000 people who have been unemployed for more than two years, and we need to get that figure down. There are 401,000 people aged 18 to 24 who are on jobseeker’s allowance. That figure is down 63,000 since May 2012. There are 950,000 unemployed people aged 16 to 24. That figure is down 60,000 since the previous year, but it is still worryingly high. The Government have recognised the geographical and sectoral imbalance across the country that needs to be addressed.
Sustainable jobs depend on growth. Skilled people are needed to do the jobs that drive growth, and can drive exports and reduce imports. As we know, with more people in employment, tax revenues will rise. I shall address the first of those four statements on growth. I have no doubt that government actions are helping. The funding mechanisms include: the regional growth fund that my noble friend Lady Brinton referred to, and I declare that I am deputy chair of its advisory panel; the single local growth fund which was announced yesterday by the Chancellor; the £500 million committed for superfast broadband in rural areas; the Green Investment Bank; the business bank due next year; and, as announced in the Budget, the reductions in national insurance to give employers a £2,000 cash payment to make it easier for them to take on staff.
We should note the success story on apprenticeships. This Government have created more than 1 million apprenticeships. We want to double to 200,000 the number of businesses that offer apprenticeships. There are 5 million businesses in the UK, but only 100,000 offer apprenticeships. I feel optimistic that the Government are doing a lot to deliver growth, but one of the barriers is skills and vocational education. We need to enhance the offer in vocational education to give people skills to do jobs rather than, as we have done in the previous decade, encourage very large numbers of people to go to university, at the end of which they may not have the skills to undertake some of the jobs we need done. For example, there is a critical shortage of engineers at senior levels.
I shall make a point about gender: there is a shortage of women in business. Just one in 10 engineers is a woman and just one in 20 engineering apprentices is a woman. Something needs to be done about encouraging girls at school and in education to become scientists and engineers. When I read that in half of state secondary schools not one girl is doing A-level physics, I become very concerned about the career pathways that are being discussed with pupils.
We need to understand why we have unemployment at the same time as we have skills shortages. Employers in all parts of the country say the same thing: there are serious difficulties in recruiting skilled staff in engineering, processing and manufacturing. We have a large number of young people who are unemployed—410,000 of them in receipt of JSA—but at the some time we are being told by employers that there are many jobs that they want to fill but they cannot find qualified people to fill them. We have to get a far better balance between those two things.
My noble friend Lord Teverson talked about the language issue in imports and exports. It is a major barrier for firms exporting from the UK. Another problem has emerged in a recent survey undertaken by the British Chambers of Commerce. It is the lack of knowledge about regulation in other countries. That chamber of commerce survey showed that 60% of chamber members say that they do not export. We need more companies to export, and that means that UKTI, local enterprise partnerships, British embassies and local authorities have to make it a greater priority because exports drive growth. I am proud to live in the one region of this country that has a positive balance of trade. The north-east of England exports more than it imports. We should build on the potential of that record.
One of the problems we have is that we import too much because our indigenous supply chain is not strong enough. If we imported less by building up our own supply chain, we would reduce the amount that we buy from overseas. I particularly pay tribute to the Government for the fact that we now have an industrial strategy in place, with a British supply chain as an important element.
I mentioned the number of long-term unemployed young people. Sustainable employment is part of social inclusion. We have to make sure that everybody is able to take part in the future growth of this country. That means that jobs need to be created, preferably though apprenticeships, for everybody. It is an obligation not just on government but on the private sector, the voluntary sector, the third sector and the public sector. We all have to do everything we can to get everybody who wants a job into one. There have been many schemes in recent years: the Community Programme, Employment Action, the Community Action Programme, the New Deal, Step Up, the Community Task Force and the Future Jobs Fund. History suggests that it is difficult. There have been so many of these schemes, but I was somewhat surprised to discover yesterday that there are 33 different funds and schemes supporting young people in England at a combined cost of more than £15 billion per year. There are two ways of looking at 33 schemes. You can say that each one has a specific aim and is doing a specific job, and that may well be true, but it is also possible that it simply confuses the landscape so that those who want to employ more people find it more difficult to do so and young people find it difficult to engage because they do not know where they should be engaging. We need to look at that very carefully.
I am absolutely convinced that apprenticeships are the way forward. I believe that we can double their number to 2 million. Giving people skills through an apprenticeship builds a trained workforce and the skills of employability enable an individual to move on into sustainable work.
I shall just mention self-employment. I am chair of the Prince’s Trust in the north-east of England, and I am excited by a number of projects now taking place across the country that encourage self-employment and enterprise skills in young people. A lot can be done.
My final question for the Minister is whether he agrees with me that doubt over EU membership does not help inward investment and the creation of sustainable employment, not least through the single market and access to EU trade agreements with other parts of the world. This is not helping our need for sustainable employment and I hope that the Government will do all that they can to fight for the case that membership of the European Union is absolutely central to the delivery of sustainable employment.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, for this debate. I have learnt a lot from the various excellent contributions over the past hour.
The economic downturn that followed the crash of 2008 has been the most severe since the great depression and the most protracted since the Industrial Revolution. However, a conventional wisdom about the crisis has taken root, that although it is a growth crisis and a living standards crisis, it is not an employment crisis. This excellent debate has shown how misleading that conventional wisdom is. It is of course true that the headline unemployment rate, although too high, has remained remarkably stable over the past few years, despite a very poor record on growth over that period. However, it would be complacent in the extreme to point to the headline rate, or to the new private sector jobs created, and think that that is the end of the story. The truth is that we should be concerned not only by continuing patterns of unemployment but also by dramatic changes in the quality and conditions of employment in Britain today.
I will start with unemployment, and with youth unemployment in particular. We may not have a crisis of the proportions of Spain or Greece, but youth unemployment in Britain is now at an all-time high. There are now just under 1 million 16 to 24 year-olds unemployed in our country. This sits alongside a continuing rise in long-term unemployment, as discussed by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley. The number of people out of work for over a year is now at 900,000, three times the figure of seven or eight years ago. Just under half of this group have been out of work for two years, not just one. It is cold comfort for this group to hear that unemployment in Britain is lower than many economists expected.
The coalition’s response to this problem was to scrap Labour’s Future Jobs Fund and introduce a new welfare to work scheme, the Work Programme, discussed in detail by the noble Lord, Lord German. Last year, not only did this programme miss its targets but evidence showed its success rate in placing the long-term unemployed was lower than the expected rate if there had been no programme at all. Recent evidence suggests that it is doing better. However, I am afraid that there is a big gap between doing better and doing well. More than 900,000 of the 1.2 million people who have gone through the doorway of this programme do not yet have sustainable employment.
The lack of urgency in relation to youth and long-term unemployment is baffling and should concern us all. We know that protracted spells out of work have stigmatising effects, as the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, described so eloquently, as well as lifelong effects on well-being and physical and mental health. They also rack up huge costs to the taxpayer. Therefore, preventing worklessness must be a priority as much for people concerned with social justice as for people motivated by fiscal prudence.
I now turn from the world of unemployment to the changing world of work. One of the reasons that overall levels of unemployment have been lower than many expected is that much of the burden of adjustment in this crisis has been borne by those in work. For millions, pay, conditions and security of employment have changed significantly for the worse in the past five years. Let us take pay. Workers in Britain have experienced unprecedented cuts in real-terms pay of, on average, 6% since the global financial crisis began. Over two-thirds of all workers have experienced real wage cuts. One consequence of this has been the rise of in-work poverty. More than 6 million people in poverty are in working households. Some two-thirds of poor children are in working households.
Related to this is the growth in underemployment, also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood. My colleague Liam Byrne has called this,
“the untold story of Britain’s jobs crisis”.
One in 10 people in work are now unable to work the hours that they need to make ends meet. There are 1.4 million part-time workers wanting but unable to get full-time work. This is the highest figure in 20 years, double the figure from five years ago. Add to this the numbers of people who would like to work additional hours in their existing jobs and there are a million more underemployed workers than five years ago.
These figures show a growing problem in terms of sustainable employment. For millions of working people, having a job is no longer sufficient to keep their heads above water and they are unable to find the extra hours or better work that they need to do something about it.
The composition of employment is also undergoing significant change, with a marked shift away from longer-term, more secure work to shorter-term, more precarious work. First, the number of jobs that are temporary contract jobs has gone up by a staggering 76% since 2008. Secondly, we are seeing a substitution away from full-time work. Since 2008 the number of full-time jobs has fallen by more than half a million while part-time employment has risen by well over a quarter of a million and part-time self-employment—mostly among lower-income workers—has risen by the same figure. Thirdly, we have seen a dramatic rise in the incidence of zero-hours contracts. Official estimates are that more than 200,000 British workers—predominantly younger and unskilled workers—are now on zero-hours contracts. The real figure is undoubtedly higher than this. That is a 150% increase since 2005. In 2012 alone, there was a year-on-year increase of 25%.
These contracts are often used to abuse vulnerable workers. Here is an anecdote from a care worker in the north-west from a recent excellent Resolution Foundation report. She said:
“It’s the uncertainty that gets to me … These contracts only work one way—they don’t offer any flexibility even if you wanted it because if you turn down hours you suffer. One of the girls had her hours permanently reduced because she asked the line manager for a day off to take her child to the doctors. From that day on her card was marked”.
That kind of treatment cannot be tolerated. I welcome the fact that the Government have at last woken up to the scale of this problem and announced a review into the practice. I hope that this can be a priority across the party divide.
This is the new world of work for too many in our country: a shift from permanent to temporary contracts, a shift from full-time to more part-time work, a shift from more secure to more insecure work, a growth in self-employment and a growth in employment in less well protected sectors of our economy. I firmly believe that these developments should give us cause for concern whatever our political affiliation, and whatever we think the Government’s priorities should be.
Why is that the case? First, the effects of long-term unemployment and insecure work are becoming increasingly obvious wherever you look in Britain and they are imposing significant costs on us. The Trussell Trust, a charity that operates food banks in the UK, says that many of the 300,000 people that it is helping are low-income working families. The national helpline charity National Debtline says that almost half of the 250,000 calls that it received in 2012 were from people in work. The size of the UK’s payday lending industry has increased in size by about 150% since 2008. Paying less in more insecure jobs is far from costless for all of us.
The second reason that we should be concerned is that restoring strong wage growth and building more secure jobs is sensible fiscal policy if we are to relieve the ever-growing pressure on the social security system to support low-income families. We must aim to shift some of the burden of supporting lower-income workers from the state to the private sector over time. This is why, of course, policies such as the promotion of the living wage are so important.
The third reason that we should be concerned is that it is hard to see how Britain can compete internationally with an economy that is increasingly characterised by lower-wage jobs in more and more precarious conditions. We cannot hope to compete with China, India and emerging African economies over the next 50 years if our model of competition at home is one of a deregulatory race to the bottom. There is no low-wage, low-skill, low-investment route to our country succeeding in a world where labour costs are significantly cheaper and skills are being built up significantly faster, as they are in many developing and emerging economies. We will succeed only if we build a higher road to economic success, not one built on insecurity in our labour market or tolerance of entire cohorts of people in our country who will never engage in productive work.
What can we do to bring about more sustainable employment? In the short term, there is a lot that we can do. We could and should introduce a compulsory jobs guarantee to get the young unemployed into work and to get the long-term unemployed into jobs too. We should reform the Work Programme so as to have better integration with the employment and support allowance tests. Most importantly of all, the Government should realise that they are not powerless to get the economy motoring again and that they should take action now to get growth up and unemployment down.
In the longer term, we need to think about how we can reshape the way our economy works. Better jobs have to be created in the context of a different kind of economy. If we want to have a higher-productivity, higher-skilled, higher-wage economy, we cannot do that by pulling one or two levers alone. It means reforming our banking system and re-examining the rules that generate short-termism in too many of our largest companies. As the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, discussed, we need to address the UK’s poor record on technical skills and ask how our education system and our employers who do or do not offer apprenticeships need to be challenged to turn this around. We should use the power of government procurement to say that any company that wants a contract with the Government has to offer training and apprenticeships to its workforce.
The Government talk constantly about the need to rebalance our economy, but as this debate has shown, the world of work in Britain today is rebalancing, but in ways that are making lives tougher and more insecure for millions. That is not just bad for social cohesion; it is bad for our economy and it undermines our competitiveness. If we really want to break from this, we have to abandon an approach to economic management that sees wealth creation as the preserve of the wealthiest and which mistakenly seeks to succeed by giving lower taxes to the best off and less protection to the vast majority of workers. That way lies national decline, not national success.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Brinton and all noble Lords who have spoken in this extremely interesting debate. The Government remain committed to creating the right conditions for the private sector to grow and to create jobs. Despite the challenging economic context, employment has been increasing robustly and today it stands at record levels. While employment in the UK is higher than it was before the recession, it remains below its pre-recession level in the US, Japan and all the major European countries except Germany. Over 2012, UK employment growth was the strongest of all the G7 economies, and the Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast employment to continue rising, to reach 30.5 million by 2017. The performance of the UK labour market has also been strong compared with previous downturns. At this point after the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s, employment was still around four percentage points below its pre-recession peak.
Some of the increase in employment that we have seen since 2008 has come from an increase in part-time working and self-employment. While these increases have been part of a longer-term trend, the last few years have also seen an increase in those who are working part-time but would like a full-time job. The shift in the composition of employment during this downturn has been a testament to the flexibility of the labour market. This is something we have not seen to the same extent in previous recessions. While it means that some may be working fewer hours than they would wish, they are employed, keeping unemployment lower than it otherwise would have been and meaning that, as growth strengthens, we will be in a better place to benefit from the recovery. Over the past year alone, over 80% of the increase in employment has come from full-time employment.
Policies announced by the Government have increased the incentives for people on benefits to enter paid work. Participation in the labour market is now around its highest rate for 20 years and is in stark contrast to previous recessions when vast swathes became discouraged and gave up looking for work. From our experience in previous downturns, we have learnt the potential lasting costs of detachment from the labour market, a point that a number of noble Lords made clear, so we are encouraged by the flexibility and resilience of the labour market over the past five years. This flexibility has also been demonstrated as a result of relatively low earnings growth, which has supported the strength we have seen in employment. While earnings growth has not been keeping pace with inflation because of the strength in employment, household income has risen by 2.1% more than consumer prices over the past year, and that is not least because of the increase in the income tax threshold. With less flexibility and higher wages, employment would be lower and unemployment would be higher, and this would be a less fair way of making the necessary adjustment after the crisis.
When this Government announced the difficult decisions we had had to take to reduce the budget deficit and reduce employment in the public sector, we were told that the private sector would never replace the public sector jobs being lost. But, instead, private sector job creation has offset public sector job losses more than three times over. Nevertheless, as many noble Lords have pointed out, unemployment still remains too high, particularly youth unemployment. We are not complacent, but have introduced several policies to support those out of work back into employment, alongside the £3 billion a year the Government spend on employment support to job seekers through Jobcentre Plus.
This Government recognise that young people may be more vulnerable when the labour market is tough, and so last year we launched the £1 billion youth contract. This support brings together a menu of options to help young people build the experience and skills that they need to compete in the job market. These options range from getting young people into the jobcentre on a weekly rather than fortnightly basis to help focus their job search, to funding more work experience and sector-based work academy places so that we have at least 100,000 of these places to offer our young people, and offering 160,000 wage incentives worth up to £2,275 to an employer who recruits an 18 to 24 year-old who has been unemployed for at least six months. For an employer, this wage incentive covers four and a half times the national insurance contributions cost of taking on a young person. The point of this, and of the youth contract more widely, is to help provide young jobseekers with sustained job outcomes and to help them build their longer-term employment prospects.
We know that long-term unemployment can have potentially damaging effects on a person’s longer-term employment prospects. While 90% of those claiming jobseeker’s allowance move off benefit within the first 12 months of their claim, there is still 10% who do not. To help combat the cycle of worklessness and despondency that long-term unemployment can bring, the Government launched the Work Programme in 2011, the purpose of which is to provide personalised support to an expected 3.3 million long-term and vulnerable jobseekers over the next five years. The premise of this support is simple. We have given providers the freedom to design interventions that are better tailored to individual and local needs. The incentive is strong: to providers we say, “If you do not get these people into work and stay in work, you do not get paid”. Moreover, the concept is innovative. For the first time, providers will be paid partly out of the benefit savings that they help to realise by getting these people into sustained employment. This is the biggest individual payment-by-results programme ever attempted in the United Kingdom.
As my noble friend Lord Kirkwood observed and as we recognise, people coming out of the Work Programme who have still not found sustained employment are the hardest to help and many in this group face significant and multiple barriers to work. Building on the expert training and support that the Work Programme will have delivered, all claimants will receive flexible support tailored to their individual needs and underpinned by a core regime of face-to-face meetings. Those who do not take the necessary steps to prepare for work face a tough sanctions regime. These programmes replace much of the complex range of employment support that was previously on offer, such as the New Deal, employment zones and the Future Jobs Fund. Those programmes were overly prescriptive, failed to achieve enough sustained job outcomes, and did not deliver good value for money for the taxpayer.
My noble friends Lord German and Lord Kirkwood discussed the effectiveness of the Work Programme. As my noble friend Lord German pointed out, the figures released today show that since March this year, the number of people who have found lasting work through the programme has increased to 132,000. I am not saying that that is enough, but it is a very significant increase from the position in the previous year. My noble friend also pointed out that the outcomes in terms of ESA recipients were significantly below those we had expected. That is undoubtedly the case, but this is by common consent the most difficult group to deal with. We have a double problem here in that it is not just about getting recipients ready for work but about persuading employers to consider them as potential employees, particularly in an environment where many people are looking for a job. Lastly, my noble friend asked what we could learn from the black-box approach. As I said, we are allowing providers to innovate and test new methods. We are asking them to share best practice and we are doing our best to facilitate it so that when we can see that something is working, we can replicate it.
The noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, asked what happens if providers do not reach their targets. We are taking decisive action with those who are not delivering the standards we expect. We have issued performance improvement notices on 12 contracts that we deem are not delivering the Work Programme to the agreed standards and we are also introducing the concept of market-share shift, which means that we will be increasing the proportion of claimants we refer to those providers who have outperformed their competitors by reducing the number of claimants we send to the lower-performing providers. We will be implementing this programme in at least 16 instances from August.
The noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, also asked what happened to the underspend. Any underspend in the Work Programme will be subject to the usual budget exchange rules, which means that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has the discretion to allow a proportion of a department’s budget to move across to the following financial year. I direct the noble Lord to my right honourable friend Danny Alexander because he is the man who can deal with that issue.
The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, very astutely started with export, an area where we have seen and will see many new jobs. She talked about the need to build up the work that UKTI is doing. We are doing that. More resources are going into UKTI, as we announced in the Autumn Statement. We are redirecting people working for UKTI to the higher-growth markets and we are already beginning to see some improvement in that area. The British Chambers of Commerce survey of members which came out earlier this week showed that the proportion of its members who were exporting had increased over the year from 32% to, I think, 39%. That is a sample but over a year it is a significant shift. However, there are major barriers to exporting and one of the chilling figures in that survey was that 70% of BCC members who export do not have a single member of staff with the relevant language skills to undertake business. So language training, among many other things, is very important.
The noble Baroness raised the point that if we are going to get small businesses taking on more staff, we are going to need greater bank lending. This, as she knows, has been a huge source of frustration to the Government. We have introduced the Funding for Lending scheme with the express purpose of incentivising banks to lend to SMEs and in the last Budget we increased that incentive by introducing a 10:1 ratio in terms of the amount that banks can draw down under Funding for Lending for every pound they lend to SMEs. There is a bit of evidence that that is beginning to work. Much more encouraging is the growth of new, admittedly smaller, challenger banking institutions which are lending to SMEs. We have discussed in this House before the success of Handelsbanken and Aldermore. Cambridge & Counties is a very interesting new institution which has been set up by Trinity Hall and the Cambridgeshire County Council pension fund specifically to lend to SMEs in the east Midlands. It is new but it has grown at a rapid rate, which gives the lie to the argument that there is no demand from SMEs for borrowing. The more these challengers grow, the quicker we will see a more positive response from the larger lenders, who, in fairness, are trying to do more.
The noble Baroness talked about the importance of literacy and numeracy, not least in respect of apprenticeships. From next year all apprentices who begin an intermediate apprenticeship with level 1 in English or maths will have to take up study of level 2 in those subjects, and apprentices who begin their apprenticeship without level 1 in English or maths will be offered the chance, but not be obliged, to study at level 2. They will still be required to achieve level 1 in English and maths as part of their intermediate apprenticeship, so we are doing something about that. I will not repeat the extent to which apprenticeships have increased in numbers and the extent to which they are popular. I was very struck by the point the noble Baroness made about Jobcentre Plus pulling young people off college courses to go for job interviews so that they then lost their place. This seems short-sighted and I will certainly raise that with ministerial colleagues because that is not what we are seeking to achieve.
The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, talked about the possibilities of generating more jobs via the move to the green economy. I completely agree. The Government announced yesterday that we will be making an additional £800 million available to the Green Investment Bank, which is doing very well and is proving popular. We are already seeing a growth in employment in that sector and the Government will be doing everything in their power to promote that.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, talked about the skills shortage paradox. There has been a skills shortage paradox for as long as I have been involved in these debates. I seem to remember as a student hearing about it. I was pleased that she talked about the trainee programme being expanded and felt that was a good start.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol talked about the value of co-operatives and social enterprises. I completely agree. I was pleased to be able to help pilot through Parliament the Public Services (Social Value) Act, which makes it easier for public sector bodies to take on co-operatives and social enterprises, and I hope very much that it has the effect that we wish. The most telling figure the right reverend Prelate gave was that 39% of social enterprises operate in the top 20% most deprived wards. I urge him and his fellow prelates and the church as a whole to build on the Portsmouth model. I cannot help saying that if the church spent more time doing that and less time worrying about sex and gender it would be to the benefit of the church and to broader society.
With that sideswipe I move quickly on to the noble Lord, Lord Cotter, talking about the importance of the hospitality and tourist industry. I agree with him. It is a very large and undervalued industry in respect of jobs. The visa issue has been widely discussed and we hope that we will move further in a sensible direction on that. I agree with almost everything that the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, said, and I certainly agree that doubt about EU membership generates problems in terms of international employers thinking about the long-term sustainability of jobs in the UK.
I want to finish by touching on the issues raised by the extremely thoughtful speeches by the noble Lords, Lord Kirkwood and Lord Wood, which were on the same theme. It is now a well established, if not hugely long-standing, trend that there is a decreasing proportion of jobs as we know them in the labour force as a whole. Instead, we are seeing jobs with no guarantees, temporary or zero-hours contracts and low wages, even for people in work. The noble Lord’s suggestion that we discuss this on a cross-party basis is extremely sensible because of long-term development. This situation may have been hastened somewhat by the recession but it was not caused by it. It predated it and it will undoubtedly carry on. There are so many examples of very successful companies operating like this. Amazon is a good example as one of its major distribution centres pays a penny more per hour than the minimum wage. There is very little job security. However, it is seen by the outside world as an immensely successful company and a company of the future, and the fact that it is doing that kind of thing is rather depressing.
We need to think about how we can engage with employers to ensure that they think, in some cases, rather more about the long-term implications for their employees of these extremely difficult economic conditions and how we can confront them with the uncertainty that these kinds of practices cause. It cannot, at the very least, be good for productivity. These are hugely important, long-term issues and we will definitely return to them.
I hope that I have gone some way to answering the points that have been made in the debate this afternoon and to reassuring noble Lords that encouraging job creation is a key priority of this Government. We will continue to build on the progress that we have already made to ensure that we are creating the conditions that businesses need to grow and create jobs and that we are providing people with the support that they need to get back into work.
My Lords, I thank your Lordships’ House for a fascinating debate over the past couple of hours and for the contributions that noble Lords have made. My noble friend Lord Teverson rightly focused on the green economy and its critical role in creating sustainable jobs. The noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury, highlighted the excellent JCB apprenticeship scheme and raised worries about bureaucracy and red tape in the Environment Agency. My noble friend Lord German rightly brought in the plight of the long-term unemployed and my noble friend Lady Sharp, in her usual insightful way, reminded us of the lost generation of 18 to 24 year-olds in the 1980s and that we must never let it happen again.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol talked about the key role of co-operatives and social enterprises in creating sustainable jobs and contributing to growth. Along with the Minister, I loved the idea of the Portsmouth Cathedral Innovation Centre. My noble friend Lord Kirkwood reminded us about careful use of language—the unemployed are strivers too. My noble friend Lord Cotter once again demonstrated his passion for supporting young people into work and talked about the lack of advice for young people in schools about apprenticeships. This must be remedied. My noble friend Lord Shipley spoke about the importance of the regional growth fund and reminded us that sustainable employment is key to social inclusion.
The noble Lord, Lord Wood of Anfield, rightly echoed the concern of my noble friend Lord Kirkwood about zero-hours contracts and part-time employment. I am grateful for the response from my noble friend the Minister on that. I believe that zero hours is a scourge, an abuse of the power of employment and needs to be addressed.
Finally, I thank my noble friend the Minister for all his responses to the varied questions that we have raised for him today, in particular the response about the level of English and maths in apprenticeships. It is lovely that they will be asked to study up to level 2 but my belief is that level 2 is not enough. I particularly thank him for taking up the issue of jobcentre staff pulling young people off courses and colleges to go for interviews. With that, I thank everyone for their contribution.
Women: Developing Countries
Motion to Take Note
My Lords, it is a privilege to stand here today and see so many of my colleagues keen to contribute to this debate. However, when I look around me day to day, I am more struck by who is not here. In our lifetimes, we have seen such radical change to the opportunities open to women and to their legal status in the UK that it can be tempting to rest on our laurels and feel that we can lecture other countries about removing obstacles to women’s participation in public life.
However, the figures tell a very different story—422 women missing from our own Parliament. Where are the women who ought to be here contributing their expertise and their scrutiny? World wide, 80% of politicians are men—even now, when women’s representation is at a record high. With some exceptions—the right reverend Prelates will understand what I mean—politics is open to women in this country. However, like a shop that is open for business but forgets to turn on the light and flip over the “Closed” sign on the door, it is not doing very well.
The title of this debate speaks of the challenges facing women. It is time that we, as a Parliament, challenged ourselves to develop a zero tolerance to sexist attitudes and comments, to promote and encourage women, and to show the country and the international community that women’s voices must be heard. Achieving this may involve asking tough questions about how we challenge entrenched attitudes. The Hansard Society issued a report last year that said:
“Without special measures across all parties there will always be a risk of constant ‘boom and bust’ in women’s representation. But a backlash against positive action is now rife in all the parties. There remains a stubborn insistence that selection has to be ‘on merit’ as if no mediocre men had ever been selected in the past”.
The three main parties are committed to bringing more women into politics but we often hear the excuse that women are just not interested in participating. Why would that be? Reports of sexual harassment, patronising attitudes—for example, a female Member being told to, “Calm down, dear” by our own Prime Minister—and intense media scrutiny of parliamentarians from their hair to their shoes, are all looked on as separate issues to the underrepresentation of women in politics.
Too often the emphasis is put in the wrong place. A recent report noted that events aimed at improving the prospects of women within my own party were almost all aimed at the women themselves. I have attended more events than I can count that attempt to solve the problem of underrepresentation of ethnic minorities. The solution cannot be looked for only among those who suffer from the problem; you have to look at those who are causing it or choose to ignore it. Asking women and those from ethnic minorities to solve the problems caused by sexism and racism is like trying to help someone trapped under a car by suggesting that they lift it off themselves.
It is not just the political world that should be asking itself where the women are. No one wants to see future generations miss out on a cure for cancer, a new source of clean energy or an inspirational advocate for peace because these solutions are germinating in the mind of a girl who will never have the chance to fulfil her potential. The millennium development goals have been a powerful means of pressurising countries into ensuring better access to education, and the charity ActionAid reports that there is now parity in girls’ enrolment in primary schools. However, we still have a long road to travel before we can get to the stage where every female child can hope to contribute on an equal level with her brothers.
In Liberia, for example, the success of bringing girls into education is marred by barriers that are not accounted for in the current MDGs. Violence at school and while travelling to and from home, child marriage and the pressure to help with domestic work all mean that girls across the developing world are still far less likely than boys to complete their education and gain qualifications. I am sure that no one will need reminding of the example of Malala Yousafzai, one of a huge number of children targeted with violence for the crime of going to school while female. A girl growing up in South Africa is still more likely to be raped than to learn to read. Perhaps it is not surprising that even today twice as many women as men are illiterate.
This is why it is so crucial that the next series of MDGs looks at the obstacles to equality far more comprehensively. It is encouraging that the 12 goals proposed by the high-level panel include a stand-alone goal to empower girls and women and achieve gender equality. This reflects the priorities of DfID and the inspiring work done by my noble friend Lady Northover. This specific and wide-ranging goal must be protected. The advantage it creates will stimulate Governments to look at the whole experience of women and girls, and open up funding streams to projects where women are leading the way in creating societies that are more equal.
This on its own is not enough. It is vital that we retain the current commitment to integrate gender equality into all the goals. Considering the experiences of women and girls cannot be an optional extra when trying to reach targets that include ending poverty and creating sustainable livelihoods. Some 70% of the world’s poor are women. Ending poverty without tackling the inequalities that make it difficult for women to study, gain properly paid employment, own and inherit property and retain access to their earnings is impossible.
I declare my interest. My own organisation, the Loomba Foundation, is funding UN women in Guatemala, Malawi and India to end violence against widows and support them socially, economically and politically. Too often, certain practices are glossed over under the guise of cultural sensitivity. Culture is not set in stone, and it should never trump basic human rights. When I started out in business in the early 1960s, it was the culture in the UK to pay women less than men for doing the same work. Legislation that came into force in 1975, alongside societal changes, makes that completely unacceptable, even unimaginable, for young people entering the workforce today.
When one race restricts the economic and social opportunities of another, we call it apartheid. When, in some countries, men do the same to women, we call it culture. Ending poverty means agreeing, as a global community, to eradicate cultural attitudes and practices that restrict women’s rights. We cannot hope to reach the goal of ensuring healthy lives without taking into account the unique impact of inequality and gender-based violence towards women and girls.
Just last week the World Health Organisation reported that more than a third of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence. The same report puts the proportion of female murder victims who died at the hands of a husband or partner at 38%—a “conservative estimate”, the authors say. With a corresponding figure of 41.2%, high-income countries, including England, were above the global average, demonstrating that so-called developed countries still too often let down women by failing to protect them from violence.
Ensuring safe access to sexual health and maternity services is a key factor in ensuring women stay safe from disease, as well as empowering them to safeguard their own health by allowing them to plan how many children to have and when. Child marriage brings with it health risks, with the likelihood of maternal death and complications greatly increased for girls in their early teens where pregnancy puts too great a strain on a body that is still developing.
It is important to acknowledge how far we have come. I congratulate my noble friend the Minister on her landmark statement earlier this year that helped ensure access to life-saving abortions for women and girls raped in conflict. This was a huge step forward in recognising that women’s health is an absolute right, regardless of national law.
In recent years, FGM has become a topic of mainstream political debate, and is the subject of Lynne Featherstone’s current campaign. Opening up discussion and raising awareness of research about the mental and physical risks of such practices is a key to bringing about the legal and cultural changes that will end them. It is crucial to remember that women in developing countries do not need or want Britain or other rich nations to be a knight in shining armour. Every country has determined women and men who see injustice and want social and political change. The campaign against FGM would never have happened without leadership from brave women taking a stand against cutting in their own communities.
Our role is to give the financial, political and moral support that people need to effect changes that will end gender inequality. We must also ensure that our own Government create situations that make women’s lives better rather than worse. One of the most prominent stated aims of the conflict in Afghanistan was ending the horrific treatment of women by the Taliban. Yet successive UK and US Governments have failed to ensure that fair representation of women and the criminalisation of violence against women, including child marriage and marital rape, are integrated into the new administration.
Withdrawing aid to India on the grounds that the country is a net donor ignores the fact that the aid we give goes to help many women’s organisations working to achieve equality and fight the endemic gender violence which has come to global attention in recent months.
The great activist Martin Luther King once said:
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”.
Recognising the challenges facing women worldwide is a huge task, but recognising that women’s equality is something we all need to aim towards is an easy one. Mitigating those challenges is sometimes seen as women’s work, as I am sure many of my female colleagues would testify. It should, however, be all of our work, as legislators and as champions for human rights. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am delighted to participate in this important and far-reaching debate. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, for introducing it so ably, and for the wonderful work that his foundation does for women.
Honestly, where does one start? I will start with a topical event which I sponsored this week in this building. Along with a number of other noble Baronesses, who I thank for their interest, I was filmed this week for a project called What I See—a global initiative that explores the similarities and differences of women’s experiences, perception and self-expression. It reminds us how fascinating, strong and extraordinarily original women are, but also that their voice and perspectives are too often missing from public discourse, including in this country. I welcome the What I See project, and all other efforts like it, that give women an opportunity to express themselves without bias, judgment or agenda. It will also, I hope, give encouragement to women and girls who lack self-confidence and self-esteem, and I look forward to supporting the project as it develops and goes live online in March 2014.
Before I travel across to the developing world, I will briefly mention domestic violence. I am sure that other noble Lords will expand on this particular challenge to women both in this country and, of course, throughout much of the rest of the world. We had a very constructive debate on this earlier in the year and I was privileged to participate in it. I only reiterate that domestic violence is a hidden scourge. We all know someone, however unlikely, who suffers from it. I was struck by a recent people’s panel blog on the Guardian website and the more than 400 responses to the four women who had described their struggles with domestic violence. If nothing else, people are now far more aware of the issue and discussing it openly in a way they would not have done previously.
To put this debate in context, two-thirds of the world’s poor are women, as the noble Lord said, but they have the least say about what needs to be done to tackle poverty. So where should we start in the developing world—in Afghanistan, as the noble Lord said, with the problems that women and children will face when our troops leave next year; in the DRC, known as the rape capital of the world and the worst place on earth to be a woman; or in Saudi Arabia, where women cannot drive and have no right to vote? I was struck by a photograph I saw yesterday of a conference about women without a single woman present. As Bill Gates put it, when asked whether he thought Saudi Arabia could become one of the top 10 tech nations in the world:
“Well, if you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country, you’re not going to get too close to the Top 10”.
Along with the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, and others, I will travel to Burma next month with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health. I therefore turn my remarks to that area of policy, which is so crucial for women and girls in the developing world. I start by thanking the Secretary of State for her commitment to women and girls in development and to the UK Government’s support for family planning in particular.
Healthy women and girls ensure social and economic development for families, communities and states. Having women at the forefront of building strong economies can happen only if women are able to control their own fertility and destiny. We are all too well aware that the world’s population is growing rapidly. I remind the House that in 1927 it was 2 billion, in 1975 4 billion, in 1999 6 billion, in 2011 7 billion, and it is projected to reach 9.2 billion in 2050, with ever increasing demands for food, clean water, schools, housing, et cetera. This makes little sense when there are many millions of women with an unmet need for family planning, and 30% of 287,000 maternal deaths could be averted with the provision of family planning services alone.
I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to DfID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and UNFPA for last year’s family planning summit and the commitments made at that summit. The UK Government are committed to providing an additional 24 million girls and women in the world’s poorest countries with family planning services between now and 2020, which will prevent the deaths of 42,000 girls and women, for whom an unintended pregnancy carries the risk of fatal consequences.
Earlier this month, ahead of the G8 and G20 summits, we had a global summit of parliamentarians entitled—not very snappily, I fear—We Need a Decade of Family Planning: the Vital Factor for Global Development and Women’s Reproductive Health and Rights. I am really pleased to note that the G8 leaders’ communiqué refers to maternal health and identifies that more action is required to deliver on promises in some areas. I also welcome the reference to preventing sexual violence in conflict adopted by the G8 Foreign Ministers, and pay particular tribute to the Foreign Secretary’s leadership in this area.
The High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development released an important report entitled A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development, setting out the universal agenda to eradicate extreme poverty from the face of the earth by 2030 and to deliver on the promise of sustainable development. I draw the House’s attention in particular to goal 4, which makes explicit reference to decreasing maternal mortality and ensuring universal sexual and reproductive health and rights.
To quote briefly from the report:
“Women continue to die unnecessarily in childbirth. The World Health Organization estimates that every minute and a half, a woman dies from complications of pregnancy or childbirth. Women living in poverty, in rural areas, and adolescents are especially at risk. Timely access to well-equipped facilities and skilled birth attendants will drastically reduce this risk. Universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is an essential component of a healthy society. There are still 222 million women in the world who want to prevent pregnancy but are not using effective, modern methods of contraception. This results in 80 million unplanned pregnancies, 30 million unplanned births and 20 million unsafe abortions every year. About 340 million people a year are infected by sexually-transmitted disease. Every $1 spent on modern contraception would save $1.40 in maternal and newborn health care. But access to SRHR, especially by adolescents, is low. The quality of such services is generally poor. The public health case is clear—ensuring these rights benefits not only individuals, but broader communities”.
Empowering women to make their own choices about pregnancy and birth spacing is critical and essential to reducing gender inequality and poverty.
A woman’s ability to control her own fertility is something that we take completely for granted in this country. When I became sexually active—please do not show this debate to my mother—all I did was go along to the Marie Stopes clinic and it was all available; those of us who are in the post-pill generation sometimes take for granted how incredibly lucky we are. A woman’s ability to control her own fertility is an effective way of positively influencing all other parts of her life and the lives of her family. Fulfilling women’s rights to contraception can play a key role in extending birth intervals, which in turn promotes maternal and child survival.
Women around the world are calling for sexual and reproductive health rights to become a reality, and we need to help deliver reproductive health for all those women by ensuring that reproductive health is front and centre of the agenda for the post-2015 framework and our Government’s priorities, to close the gap in unmet need for family planning, to eliminate unsafe abortion and to ensure universal access to reproductive health services. We need to ensure that all pledges made at last year’s family planning summit are realised and for national Governments to remove unnecessary barriers that prevent access to reproductive healthcare, choices and information.
Let us return to this country with a plug for my honourable friend Bill Cash’s Private Member’s Bill, which is to be read a second time in another place on 13 September. The Bill is,
“to promote gender equality in the provision by the Government of development assistance and humanitarian assistance to countries outside the United Kingdom”.
I, for one, hope that it makes some progress through Parliament.
I will end where the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, started, with the perennial problem of women in Parliament. As he pointed out, across the world the average percentage of women in Parliament is 20% and we are not doing much better here. As co-chair of Women2Win, which campaigns to get more Conservative women into Parliament, I fear that the experience of Julia Gillard in Australia may well provide another excuse, another reason, why women will not want to put themselves forward or to start the journey towards a parliamentary career. But the point is that every woman and every girl in Australia now knows what we in this country already know—that a woman can make it to the top.
I appeal to any woman who may stumble across this debate: if you think you have the guts, the determination and, most of all, the resilience to sustain you in a political career, come and find me or any of my colleagues around the Chamber and talk to us. We all want you to succeed. As Julia Gillard said in her final press conference yesterday:
“it will be easier for the next woman and the woman after that and the woman after that”.
My Lords, I am somewhat out of my comfort zone in speaking on this subject, but I should not complain, considering how important it is. I put my name down partly because at that point, apart from my noble friend on the Front Bench, only men had put their names down to speak, but also out of a sense of responsibility, guilt and appreciation of the privilege that I have had throughout my life, and as a tribute to my noble friend Lord Loomba, who has made such a wide-ranging and riveting speech, which will certainly bear re-reading.
As for privilege, I had a secondary education which never suggested to me or my classmates that there was anything at all that we could not do. I was one of seven women on a course of 200 people at Cambridge. I do not know what the statistics are which lead to two of the seven speaking today. I am doubly fortunate in that I am not where my grandparents were born—in Aleppo.
The messages from me have been slightly mixed because my family’s religion, Orthodox Judaism, firmly placed women in a subservient position. I have never entirely understood that. We are necessary both for reproduction and for chicken soup. Things have moved on, but not everywhere. Even where they have moved on, traces of those attitudes inevitably linger a little. In some places, of course, there has been no change.
I hope it will not offend sensitivities if, in thinking about my own experience, I wonder aloud about the impact of religions and strands of religions which place women in second place—if as high as that—around the world. Perhaps because of that, I particularly want to mention the role of men. We are all aware of rape as a weapon of war and the considerable difficulties in prosecuting rape, despite its recognition as a war crime and a crime against humanity. I must say here that I acknowledge that men are raped too.
In Bosnia there have been around 30 convictions for what are thought to be something of the order of 50,000 rapes. The difficulties include getting evidence and supporting the victims so that they can be witnesses. We know that it is has happened in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Rwanda and of course it is going on in Syria. Rape within the refugee camps is particularly corrosive because it means that women are vulnerable to those running the camps.
Women who are raped suffer terrible stigma. So too do their children. They are outcasts and they are denied very necessary treatment. The very deeply held attitudes, which are incomprehensible to me, mean that abuse is piled on abuse. I have heard it said, “Destroy one woman and you destroy the next generation”. They become less than second-class citizens. I heard today that the Save the Children Fund is talking of a lost generation in Syria because of the deaths. The rapes too contribute to that.
There is a responsibility on men who are part of this culture. It has to be men who educate and persuade other men—members of their own community and their own religion—not just that rape is wrong, but crucially that women who are victims of rape are just that. They are victims. They are not to be shunned. They are not in any way different as human beings, except that they are survivors. Documenting the accounts of atrocities with a view to prosecution and redress is essential. I wonder whether noble Lords are familiar with the website Women Under Siege. It has digital media recording of reports of rape in real time. It is sobering to look at the crowd map of sexualised violence and to read individual reports. I will share a few points from one of the reports that I have read on that website. This is from Syria where women are,
“terrified to talk about the brutality forced upon them … doubted, ignored, and made invisible through shame … they only speak about their ‘neighbour’ or ‘friend’ who was raped”.
One rape survivor told a woman doctor working in Amman:
“I’m sure if my husband knows he will divorce me the same day, the same hour”.
Her experience was having been raped in her own home in front of her children. Of course, she felt responsible; responsible for her own rape. The writer of the report stated:
“In a society, as in Syria, that places their purity in their physical bodies, when women are no longer thought to be virgins, they are discarded like dirty tissues”.
The writer continued:
“Beyond divorce, I’ve heard multiple stories that detail honor killings after women have been raped in Syria—a survivor is shot by her own brother/husband/whoever in the family. Social workers and doctors who have interviewed rape survivors from Syria have told me that women believe that speaking about their rapes will end their lives … The concept of purity, and honor, kills women”.
I applaud the Government’s preventing sexual violence initiative and the work particularly of the Foreign Secretary. He said very recently in a speech at a meeting of the UN Security Council that he paid tribute to,
“the organisations and individuals who have worked for years so that the world knows and understands the scale of rape and sexual violence in conflict, and have helped persuade Governments to take it seriously as many of us are now doing”.
He referred to grassroots organisations. They are often led by women who do so much to respond to sexual violence. We should remember that very small amounts of funding produce often disproportionately very significant results when spent by such organisations.
UN Security Council Resolution 2106, which has just been adopted, emphasises the,
“important role that can be played by women, civil society, including women’s organisations … in exerting influence over parties to armed conflict with respect to addressing sexual violence”.
Secondly, it mandates envoys and peace mediators to engage with women’s organisations and survivors of sexual violence, and crucially to include their concerns in all peace provisions. Thirdly, it highlights the roles of local level women’s rights organisations in providing community-level protection against sexual violence. I urge the Government to continue what I would describe as recognising that peacebuilding goes on outside conference halls and that women are essential to peacebuilding.
I asked some Questions about this a few months ago. They were printed in Hansard under the same headings as questions from my noble friend Lady Tonge. The Questions were about the proportion of aid spent on peacebuilding. The Answers were that the format uses codes which allow DfID to report how much funding goes to gender issues, but does not allow funding for peacebuilding to be disaggregated. There are always more data that one might hope to see. Those data are important.
I return to the men. For the cultural change that is needed, both to tackle the prevalence of rape as a weapon of war and to treat its victims humanely, men have a pivotal role. As my noble friend Lord Loomba said, no culture is set in stone. The challenges to which he referred in the title to his debate are challenges for men too.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, on securing this debate, but congratulate him even more on the topic he has chosen—and indeed on his excellent speech which drew out the issues that we are debating. It is absolutely crucial that these issues are raised here and everywhere; and raised with the force and vigour which the speakers in this debate have shown.
I will concentrate on health and disabilities in developing countries, but I will take in a bit about the bigger picture. At the beginning, I declare two interests. First, my wife is a member of the International Gender Studies Centre at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and, secondly, I chair Sightsavers.
In the wider picture to which noble Lords have already referred, there are so many issues to discuss, as the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, mentioned, such as violence against women, their lack of representation, issues of access to employment, the fact that so many of the poorest people in the world are women, and access to all kinds of rights such as property and health. All are connected and will be anatomised by others in this debate. Essentially, however, they are all about power, position, mindsets, traditions and, of course, economics.
There is another part of that wider picture which I will draw out. It was mentioned in the House of Lords Library briefing for this debate in the form of a quotation of Kofi Annan, saying that women are the most important actors in development. It also made the point that the empowerment of women, the equality agenda, is right in itself but is also an instrument for progress in the world. We can all think of positive examples; I will mention just two. The first, well cited in health circles, is that if a girl in India has five years of education, her child is 40% more likely to reach the age of five. It is that simple. Education of girls is probably the most effective intervention in healthcare. The second is of course microfinance. The story is well told there as well, of how women have been able to revitalise communities and save their families from difficult situations through the application of microfinance. These issues are not just about women as victims; they are also about releasing the potential of women world wide.
On health more specifically, I start with a wider point about gender and the importance of disaggregating data—which I know is an issue close to the heart of DfID—and knowing the facts. An important paper by Sarah Hawkes and Kent Buse appeared in the Lancet on 18 May entitled Gender and Global Health: evidence, policy, and inconvenient truths. The inconvenient truth that it brings out is that—obviously leaving aside reproductive and sexual health—men have the bigger problems in terms of the global burden of disease and shorter lives. I am not going to talk about men, but the point here is that gender is not just a women’s issue. We need to disaggregate our data much more clearly if we are to have a real impact on health for everyone in the world. We need to think about gender as a key factor in that.
On women and health, all the issues are linked to the wider picture I mentioned earlier. I suspect that we are going to hear lots of numbers on pregnancy-related mortality today. The numbers I have are that 287,000 women died from pregnancy-related issues in 2010—that figure may have halved in 20 years but it is still extraordinarily high—and 99% of those women lived in developing countries. Again, as I suspect we will hear today, it is not just about mortality; it is also about morbidity. I have seen estimates varying from six times to 30 times as many women being affected as result of pregnancy-related complications or injuries.
The issues here are in part about how you get healthcare and proper health provision to people. They are partly about money, and ensuring that there are facilities to which women can get, but they are also fundamentally about society. They are about, as has already been said, unwanted pregnancies. They are about girl brides whose bodies are too small to bear the pregnancy which they have had inflicted upon them. It is about how men handle that. It is interesting to see a number of interesting projects around Africa where male, often traditional, leaders have been encouraged to develop programmes to ensure that their wives and women actually get access to hospitals and facilities when they need them. For example, there is an interesting project in Zambia where traditional leaders in some parts of the country inflict punishment on the men if their wives do not attend antenatal care four times. There is scope within these communities to make serious change.
Linked to that is sexual health. It is not surprising when one thinks of powerlessness and violence that more than half the people affected by HIV/AIDS in the world are women. They are often powerless on contraception. I was staggered to hear that some surveys indicate that men in developing countries understand the importance of contraception and the relevance of using a condom more than women do; that says something about education. Of course, we have already heard about child marriages and the fact that, according to the latest figures, something like a third of girls in developing countries, excluding China, will be married by the time that they are 18. The other aspect of health is that most carers and informal carers are women, a point to which I will come back.
Let me move on from health to disability. Women have higher rates of disability; perhaps that is connected with longer lives. To take the area of disability in which I am particularly interested through Sightsavers—eyes—some two-thirds of people who are blind are women; the ratio is almost 2:1. Blinding trachoma is caused by dirty water. Women are clearly much more vulnerable to it: they are dealing with the children and dirty water. It is not surprising that this infection carried in dirty water affects women far more than it does men.
Disabled women have a double disadvantage: the disadvantage of disability and the disadvantage of being women. That is borne out through all the statistics, which is another important argument for disaggregating the data. Disabled women are twice as likely to have AIDS as the general population. They have much poorer access to education and jobs. More of them are in poverty.
My final point about the challenges facing women is to recognise that it is often the women who pick up the pieces. In the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, the principal carers of dying people are their female relatives. They are in a difficult position. There is some interesting research on this from the Commonwealth Secretariat which shows that, because of the stigma of HIV/AIDS in many countries and the weakness and poverty of the people involved, they are working in the most desperate conditions. The people bearing that burden are highly disproportionately women relatives.
In other research, I note that in Tanzania, for example, women are literally left holding the baby when their husbands have gone off to be miners elsewhere. They therefore figure among the poorest people in the country. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, has done his own work to address the disadvantages that widows have faced.
Women face all these challenges. What is the way forward? Some of these are societal and cultural issues, as I have already said, although I was struck by the opening words of the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, who said that when people discriminate on the grounds of race we talk about apartheid, but when they discriminate on the grounds of gender we talk about culture. Culture needs to be handled sensitively; I speak as the husband of an anthropologist, and I understand that. Changes have to happen within societies, and to come from a society’s own leaders. We need the skills of the anthropologist as well as those of the legislator and project manager. However, there is much that we can do as a legislative body, and as part of so many international bodies, as we are.
It is good that the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, has raised this issue here. As my friends in IGS have told me, we must continue to break the silence around violence towards women across all communities and nation states. There can be no well-being and good health without freedom from fear. I urge that the international focus on development, going beyond the millennium development goals, continues to address the silence that perpetuates this violence, whether it is state-sponsored violence towards women in conflict, or within the apparently safer environment of the home.
I am delighted that the millennium development goals and the high-level panel that has recently reported have focused on gender issues. We have fewer than 1,000 days to achieve the millennium development goals, and it is clear that the central role of health and education in empowering women and encouraging greater action to ensure the sexual and reproductive health rights of women and their educational needs needs to be sustained. I encourage the British Government to continue to do so, although they need no encouragement from me.
There is, however, more to say to persuade the Government on disability. I was delighted that the high-level panel on replacing the millennium development goals talked about disability and the disaggregation of data to ensure that disabled people were properly treated. This needs to be maintained. I am much more fearful here, so my only question for the Minister is: will this emphasis on disability be maintained in whatever replaces the millennium development goals, and will there be a continuing emphasis on the double disadvantage faced by disabled women? We need to make sure that we leave no one behind.
Finally, it is easy to talk about large-scale policy in terms of millions, and so on. Ultimately, this is personal; it is about individuals. So I will end on a personal note. I well remember, some years ago, my mother holding my daughter—her granddaughter—when she was just born and saying, “What a different life she is going to have from me”. She said it both with sadness and with confidence. This surprised me, coming from somebody who had more advantages than many of her generation, having graduated from one of our top universities almost 80 years ago; but she spoke with confidence. Are we holding out the same promise for today’s daughters and granddaughters? Can a woman anywhere in the world hold her granddaughter or, even better, her daughter, and see her future getting better equally confidently?
My Lords, I begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, on securing this debate. It is important to bear in mind, when we talk about developing societies and developed societies, that the picture is quite complex. It is never the case that developed societies have been able to achieve equality for women or that the women’s status in all areas is necessarily better. After all, it is striking that, for example, the first woman Prime Minister was in a developing country and not in ours; and that at one time India had far more women ambassadors than we had.
It is also very striking that, if you look at religion, in many developing societies the tribal religions based on fertility cults tend to be far more sympathetic to women than many of the organised religions in developed countries. It is also very striking that when Christianity and other great religions travelled to developing countries, they were suitably interpreted so as to support the position of women. I say this simply to make it clear that not all developing societies are necessarily places where women are always in an inferior position; nor are developed countries necessarily free from the problems that women face.
Having said that just as a point of clarification and qualification, I move on to developing countries, because they are the main subject of our debate. The question is: what are the major challenges that women face in those countries? I want to highlight five. The first challenge is the question of personal insecurity. In developing countries, women generally tend not to enjoy the same degree of physical security, at home or outside, as do men. Rape and sexual harassment are fairly common, and this tends to be particularly acute during situations of civil war. For example, in the Bosnian war, between 20,000 and 50,000 women were raped, and some 400,000 women were raped during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. It is not just a question of rape and the brutality; violence and humiliation also go with it. Rape also becomes a political weapon, forcing women indoors, making sure that they do not come out into the street or the public square and making them suffer from acute isolation and depression.
The second challenge has to do with education. In many developing societies, the literacy rate among women is rather poor. Among men, it generally tends to be around 60%; for women it tends to be between 30% and 45%. Although it is widely realised that better education for women generally means faster economic development, less sexual violence, later marriages, fewer children and better health, education for women is by and large neglected in many developing countries. In order to deal with this situation, sometimes female education is made compulsory—and rightly so—and this is imposed by law. However, some countries have tried an experiment that has been extremely successful and is worth thinking about: cash transfer, conditional on school attendance. This has been tried very successfully in Mexico, Turkey and Pakistan, and has delivered very good results.
The third challenge facing women in developing societies has to do with the economy. A large number of them are not allowed to go out to work or, when they do, they are subject to discrimination, and promotion prospects for many of them are inevitably limited. Very few of them engage in independent business. It is striking, for example, that, in developing countries as a whole, only between 2% and 4% of the women are in independent business and function as employers. Furthermore, they have no control over household resources, although it is generally known that, when women do have control over household resources, they tend to spend the money much more sensibly than men, especially on the health and education of their children.
The fourth challenge has to do with their lack of power, not just in politics, with the qualification that I mentioned earlier. Women are not very widely represented in Parliament or in positions of power. It is also very striking that in many of the senior positions in civil society and elsewhere female representation tends to be rather poor. One way to deal with that has been to guarantee not so much a quota system but some kind of positive action, to ensure that a certain percentage of positions are filled by women. It is such positive action that partly explains why Rwanda, for example, a country where one would not have expected an excellent record, has more female MPs than we have. Sweden also has a better record in women’s representation than some other countries because it has followed a policy of positive action.
The fifth challenge goes much deeper. It is not institutional, and it has to do with the prevalence and domination of patriarchal culture. Women are treated as inferior. They are sexualised and largely treated as objects of sexual gratification, and are sometimes expected to meet impossible standards of beauty and therefore suffer from all kinds of physical ill health. They lack autonomy and control over their lives, which very often results in forced marriages. Female foeticide tends to be quite common, which partly creates a certain amount of stigma associated with the female gender. All this results in poor ambition in women, living not their lives but somebody else’s and modelling themselves, not according to their norms but on somebody else’s. It is important to bear in mind that in all developing societies there is an important sociological tension, which aggravates the situation in the short term, although it improves it in the long run. The tension is that there is a still residual patriarchal culture—even more than residual—but at the same time there is a greater awareness of rights for women and a greater assertion of equality. What you therefore have is a legacy of patriarchal culture, confronted by women asserting their equality, which men are not ready to accept, with the result that men strike out in whatever ways they can. Therefore, in the transitional period, you see more domestic violence than you did before. You also see more cases of rape, as a kind of punishment for women’s insubordination or getting too big for their boots.
It is not just in developing countries that this happens. Many sociologists have pointed out that this also tends to happen in developed countries, where there is still a patriarchal culture, although much attenuated, and on the other hand there are men who are used to thinking of themselves and of women in a certain way being confronted by women who have a great sense of their own dignity and equality. That confrontation results in men not wanting to give up their power, and therefore results in acts of rape, domestic violence and other situations.
These are some of the challenges that women face in developing countries. If we are content not just to debate but to do something about it, we will have to think not merely in terms of new ideas and policies, but also about perhaps being more generous with the aid that we give to those countries for specific women and children-related projects.
My Lords, I have visited Sudan, South Sudan and Ethiopia in the last few months, or within the past year. I have come to share some of the findings about what women face in those countries. I will start with the example of Sudan.
Sudan is a developing nation that faces many challenges in regard to gender inequality. Freedom House gave Sudan the lowest possible ranking among repressive regimes during 2012. South Sudan received a slightly higher rating, but it was also rated as “not free”. In the 2013 report of the 2012 data, Sudan ranked 171st out of 186 countries on the Human Development Index. It is also one of the very few countries that are not signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Despite all this, there have been positive changes in regard to gender equality in Sudan. As of 2012, women comprise 24.1% of the National Assembly of Sudan. Sudan’s women comprise a larger percentage of the national parliament than in many westernised nations. However, gender inequalities in Sudan, particularly pertaining to female genital cutting and the disparity of women to men in the labour market, have received attention from the international community.
The difference in education between boys and girls is one of the most obvious and critical inequalities in Sudan. In general, girls just learn how to read and write and some simple arithmetic, then exit school when they reach puberty, which coincides with six years of primary school. The female population with at least a secondary education in 2010 was 12.8% for females compared with 18.2% for males. Although both these figures are very low, males have a statistically more significant opportunity to obtain a secondary education.
On health, women in Sudan do not have the same access to healthcare as men do. A critical measure of the access to basic healthcare services is the maternal mortality rate. This defines the rate of deaths of pregnant women and is directly related to the levels of available healthcare services. In 2008 the maternal mortality rate in Sudan was 750 per 100,000 live births. Comparatively, the rate for a developed nation such as the United States is 9.1 per 100,000 live births. The adolescent fertility rate—the measurement of adolescent births per 1,000 women—is part of the millennium development goals and a general indicator of the burden of fertility on young women in a country. The rate for Sudan in 2011 was 61.9 per 1,000.
I will now move from Sudan to South Sudan. The International Rescue Committee reports:
“Violence against women and girls is both a feature of today’s escalating humanitarian crisis, and a persistent feature of daily life across South Sudan. It is a deeply entrenched problem that has a severe impact on the health, well-being and opportunities of generations of women.
The IRC recently conducted an assessment in Yida, an informal camp of some 25,000 refugees who have fled the Nuba Mountains, across the border in Sudan. Women and girls reported that rape, domestic violence and forced early marriage were common, both during their flight and in the camp. Afraid to speak out, women and girls were often cut off from help, including health care, and other basic services …
While figures are unreliable, we know that violence against women and girls is an endemic problem in South Sudan. Services for survivors of violence are severely lacking, women and girls have few ways to report violence, and even fewer options for care. Women and girls tell the IRC that violence is one of the most significant problems they face and that it limits their ability to benefit from or participate meaningfully in the country’s development. The issue is surrounded by silence and denial”.
Can the Minister say whether DfID will prioritise services in border areas and areas of return? Insecurity and displacement exacerbates risks for women and girls. Additional investment must be made in prevention, without sacrificing programmes that provide essential services to survivors. DfID should develop longer-term initiatives that address deep-seated power inequalities in Sudan and South Sudan. Such programmes should include livelihoods programming that is designed to reduce women’s vulnerability to violence, as well as to cope with the social and economic consequences of such violence.
In most families in Ethiopia the female is of lower status from birth and commands little respect relative to her brother and male counterparts. As soon as she is able she starts caring for younger siblings, helps in food preparation and spends long hours hauling water and fetching firewood. As she grows older she is valued for the role she will play in establishing kinship bonds through marriage to another family, thereby strengthening the community status of her family. She is told to be subservient, as a disobedient daughter is an embarrassment to her family.
Low status characterises virtually every aspect of girls and women in life. Given the heavy workload imposed on them at an early age, early marriage without choice and a subservient role to both husband and mother-in-law, girls and women are left with few opportunities to make and act on their own decisions. In Ethiopia, women traditionally enjoy little independent decision-making on most individual and family issues, including the option to choose whether to give birth in a health facility, or seek the assistance of a trained provider.
Harmful traditional practices, including female genital cutting, early marriage and child bearing, gender-based violence, forced marriage, wife inheritance and a high value given to large families all impose huge negative impacts on women’s reproductive health. Today Ethiopia has the second largest population in sub-Saharan Africa and every woman bears, on average, 5.4 children, placing an insupportable burden on families, communities and a country that faces chronic food shortages and environmental degradation. High maternal and infant mortality rates are inevitable results.
The National Committee on Traditional Practices of Ethiopia identified 120 harmful traditional practices—HTPs—including female genital cutting, early and enforced marriages, rape and wife inheritance. More than 85% of Ethiopians live in rural areas and 48% of women are married before the age of 15, with the highest early marriage rates in the country. The average Ethiopian woman bears 5.4 children during her lifetime. Those who marry very young are likely to bear more children. A pregnancy out of wedlock, whether consensual or by rape, is deeply shameful to the entire family. For many families, marrying a daughter at a young age is understood to be the best way to protect her from sexual advances and unwanted pregnancy.
Women in Ethiopia are subject to a variety of HTPs, including female genital cutting, that qualify as serious abuse. More than 74% of Ethiopian women of all ages have been subject to female genital cutting, a practice that is centuries-old. The health risks associated with FGCs are considerable. The good news is that women held 28% of the seats in the national parliament in Ethiopia in 2011. I hope that this may help in empowering Ethiopian women more and that effective steps will be taken to eliminate practices such as FGC.
TB, HIV and malaria are common in Ethiopia. DfID support in eliminating or reducing some of these problems is essential and I have seen some of the facilities that DfID has funded. They were excellent and many people were using them and were highly appreciative of DfID’s support. I hope that the Minister will assure us that this support will continue.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Loomba on bringing this topic before the House. I am sad that so few people are here, because from my point of view this is a far more important subject than how many injuries there will be at Wimbledon today.
While I was ruminating early this morning about how I would begin my speech, I decided to glance at my e-mails first. You know how it is: you cannot quite get down to composing, so you think: “I will do my e-mails first”. There was a message from a Kevin Rudd. Did other noble Lords receive one? It was quite extraordinary. I do not know why I was singled out for this honour, and it caught my eye. I know some Australian MPs, so that is probably the reason. After pledging to stop the “negative personal politics” of recent years, he said:
“I want to acknowledge the achievements of my predecessor, Julia Gillard. She is a woman of extraordinary intelligence, of great strength and energy. She has achieved much under the difficult circumstances of minority government”.
I have it here. If noble Lords would like a copy, I can send it to them. Yes, it was the new Prime Minister of Australia trying to wipe out a year of insults and abuse that have been hurled at a woman Prime Minister by Members of Parliament in a developed country—one of our own. What example is that to male politicians all over the world, particularly in developing countries: that it is okay to be macho, abusive and insulting to women? Australia is not alone. I still could not settle and found another e-mail, asking me to support an Early Day Motion, which of course I cannot, to call yet again for the banning of topless girls on page 3 of the Sun.
We are ashamed of the violence against women in this country and the way in which so many are portrayed as sex objects. We are appalled by the number of girls who will be taken abroad during the summer holidays to undergo female genital mutilation, and by the number of women who are still silent victims of domestic violence and rape, but all these things have their roots in the general attitude to women that still persists in this and other countries, despite the huge progress that we have made.
Female Members of this House have had free healthcare and every educational opportunity, although I never learnt to make chicken soup. However, apart from that, I had lots of opportunities. I hope that most of us have used those gifts to be useful to our communities and country. In this place, at least, the vast majority of us are free from sexual harassment and denigration, even though we are sorely underrepresented. However, we must always use every opportunity to remind men in this country and abroad that having healthy women and girls will ensure social and economic development for families, communities and, ultimately, whole countries. In other words, it will make them richer and their wallets will be fatter. We must convince them of this—the figures are there. Having women help build strong economies can happen only if they receive maternal healthcare, for all the reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, and are able to control their fertility and destiny.
Countries in the Middle East and north Africa in particular need reminding of this as the so-called Arab spring evolves. Two decades of advances in women’s health and reproductive rights are coming under threat in some areas by conservative religious forces. This was highlighted this week at a UNFPA conference in Cairo, where the executive director Babatunde—I am sorry, I will use his Christian name, as he knows that I cannot pronounce his surname—called for better access to healthcare, particularly family planning, as a way to resolve region-wide economic problems.
I also need to remind the House that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, pointed out, world population is growing rapidly, causing more and more shortages of food, water and infrastructure, which makes little sense when 222 million women in the world want family planning but cannot access it. I was a family planning doctor and ran women’s health services in a health authority before entering Parliament. I know that it is a funny old title and perhaps not as prestigious as being a brain surgeon. My children used to call me “bare foot doc”. My husband, being a man, was, of course, “high tech doc”. However, I was passionate about my craft and had plenty of work to do among many sorts and conditions of women from many different ethnic groups. I felt then, as I feel now, that the single most important thing we can offer women is control over their fertility.
I am no fan of the coalition Government, as I think most people know. However, like the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, I am a fan of their superb international development policy. Their explicit commitment to women, and support for family planning in particular, is such that I dream about it at night. The apotheosis has happened at last. I applaud the Gates foundation and the UNFPA for the FP summit held in Westminster last year, which was followed up by the pre-G8 conference that the all-party group and the European parliamentary forum hosted here in Westminster. We were pleased to see that the leaders’ communiqué from the G8 referred, I think for the first time ever, to maternal health—Hoorah! We are getting places, even if they could not bring themselves to utter the words “family planning”, but we will forgive them that.
I have one more body to congratulate, which again was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin. One of the goals of the panel looking at the post-2015 MDG agenda makes explicit reference to maternal health and universal sexual and reproductive rights. This really is good news and it has come from this Government, I am very happy to say. However, there is a “but”. I hope that the Minister can update us on whether the pledges made at last year’s conference funded by the Gates foundation and UNFPA have been realised and what progress has been made in getting family planning to the millions of women who need it.
There is one aspect of women’s health that is probably the most disturbing of all, and that is the plight of women in conflict. They are driven from their homes, starved and raped and often have no access to healthcare even though they are entitled to it, as we heard from my noble friend Lady Hamwee. If they become pregnant as a result of rape in conflict, there is still confusion about whether abortion services are accessible and whether access is sometimes prevented because of pooled funding, including funding from countries such as the USA, which will not allow abortion services in its aid agenda. We still need to push on this and to keep on mentioning it, as it is still not clear whether those services are there.
This month, the Select Committee on International Development published a report on ending violence against women. It highlights, yet again, the way in which any nation treats its women holds the key to its economic and social development. I quote the chairman, my right honourable friend Sir Malcolm Bruce, who said:
“When you treat women as chattels—when you mutilate them, abuse them, force them to marry early, lock them out of school or stop them entering the work force—you fail to function as a society”.
He put it as bluntly as that. The All-Party Group on Population Development has produced a brilliant report called, A Childhood Lost, on early marriage, and I urge noble Lords to read it. Despite the best efforts of the UK Government in the international community, that remains the lot of millions of our sisters around the world and we must never forget them.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Loomba for instigating this debate and I congratulate him on the marvellous work that he does through the Loomba Foundation.
UN figures suggest that on average women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food, but earn only 10% of the income and own only 1% of the property. That comes from a report by the UNDP in July 2011. That is a dreadful situation and it is the fault of men. We should be ashamed and should work relentlessly to change society to ensure that women are properly appreciated and rewarded for the work that they do.
Lack of proper pay is only one of the challenges that women face. Unequal access to education limits the ability of women to develop their skills so that they can enter the workplace, improve the lot of their families and contribute to the wealth of their country. Two years ago, I visited Sierra Leone and Cameroon on parliamentary strengthening visits organised by the CPA. Sierra Leone is a tough place where all the indicators for women and children are at or near the bottom of world league tables: death in childbirth, maternal health, child mortality and educational opportunities. Cameroon is slightly better but in both countries the attitudes to women are unacceptable.
In both countries we were given a briefing on gender issues that described an uncomfortably grim picture. In Sierra Leone, one MP told us that there was a real problem with witches. I thought he was talking about the punishments that were meted out to supposed witches by lynch mobs, but no, he actually believed that there really were witches causing trouble in the country. I am sure that he and other MPs thought I was mad when I told them that witches do not exist and that they must stamp out this belief. Fortunately, members of the Sierra Leone diaspora who left the country during the long civil war are slowly returning, bringing some capable women and men who are determined to bring about improvements. I wish them well.
In Cameroon, one MP, who was also a chief, told us that he did not understand why every time anyone speaks about gender issues they always talk about women. In his view, there were male issues too. It was right, he said, that boys should go to school and be educated because they needed to work, but he was not sure that it was worth doing the same for girls, because it was their job to help their mothers at home and anyway they would soon have children and be unable to work. He regarded girls as second class citizens. He was equally strident about violence. He told us that men had to keep their womenfolk under control. He also astonished us by saying that what we call female genital mutilation was exactly the same as circumcision for boys. Fortunately, the leader of our delegation, who at that time was a woman Labour MP, rose to give him a good ticking off. After dismantling all the points that he had made she finished by saying: “So let me be clear: girls are equal to boys, women are equal to men, and if you don’t like it we may just have to dominate you”. She was magnificent.
Access to birth control is patchy or non-existent in many countries, leading to women being unable to limit the size of their families. In Sierra Leone, we were proudly told that the abortion law was exactly the same as that in the UK. Unfortunately, that was a reference to the 1837 Act, which decreed that abortion was illegal. The result is that abortions take place in that country but are done illegally in the backstreets, and many women die as a result.
Professor Nynke van den Broek, head of the maternal and newborn health unit at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, tells me that almost 300,000 women—the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, said the figure was 270,000—die each year from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. This equates to a woman dying every two minutes. The noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, said that it was every minute and a half. Professor van den Broek added that for each death, 30 women live but suffer life-long morbidity. She said that there are at least 2.6 million stillbirths every year and that 99% of maternal deaths are in developing countries. Most deaths are preventable. Maternal conditions are the second most common cause of death in women of reproductive age, between 15 and 44 years, in low and middle-income countries. In sharp contrast, in high income countries such as ours, maternal death does not feature in the 10 most common causes of death.
Men often desert women who bear their children. The number of children born outside marriage is startling. I have no figures for most African nations or countries at war, because they are not collected, but many places in the Caribbean reveal extraordinary numbers: St Lucia 86%, Dominica 76%, St Vincent 84%, Panama 83%, Seychelles 80%, Guadeloupe 77% and French Guyana 87%. Before we get too smug, let me tell noble Lords that the figure for the United Kingdom is 46.3%, similar to that of Belgium with 47%. The country with the lowest proportion of children born outside marriage is Turkmenistan with 3.8%. Of course, in many developed countries, couples live together without marrying, but that is not the case everywhere. Noble Lords can imagine how the chances of children are affected when they are abandoned by their father and the burden of parenthood is solely on the mother.
The worst challenge to the well-being of women is, of course, violence. I commend Angelina Jolie for appearing this week before a UN committee to campaign against rape in war zones. However, it is not just in war zones where women are abused. Last year, I attended a conference here in Parliament organised by the UK branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The theme was how to encourage more women to become parliamentarians or councillors—to become leaders. There were delegates from developing countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia, alongside those from first-world countries. The most moving session was on domestic violence. I was one of only three men present among 100 women. The atmosphere was electric. We heard from three inspiring keynote speakers: my colleague Lynne Featherstone, a Minister in the Department for International Development; the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, who is passionate about this issue; and Harriet Harman, who did a lot on this issue when she was a Labour Minister in the previous Government. After the presentations, delegates poured their hearts out about the dreadful conditions that women face in their countries, including violence, mental abuse, rape and female genital mutilation. You name the abuse, it got mentioned, and it was happening in their countries.
Things are bad even in Britain. In recent years, the number of women killed in the home has reduced, but it still goes on. My noble friend Lord McColl of Dulwich cannot be with us today because he has an appointment with his dentist. He told me yesterday of the lady in Dulwich who wore sunglasses in winter, not because it was sunny but because she had two black eyes from an abusive husband. At least a third of women suffer violence at some time in their lives. Figures released this week suggest it is up to two-thirds. Sometimes physical violence is not involved; it can be mental attacks with constant shouting, undermining a woman’s self-confidence. It is still abuse. The effect on children in households where this abuse takes place is particularly corrosive. In one family that we heard of in the conference last year the children could tell from the sound of the key in the front door what kind of mood the father was in and whether they were going to be beaten up that night.
In this country if you hit someone in the street, that is a crime. If you hit someone at home, that is a crime too. We must end this misery. Parliament must oblige the police and social services to protect the abused. If we suspect abuse each one of us should blow the whistle to prevent another tragedy. Women, children and, yes, men need to be able to say: this is my body and you do not touch it unless I say so.
When she replies to this debate, I hope my noble friend the Minister will tell us what our Government intend to do to help women now and for the new post-2015 millennium development goals framework. ActionAid tells me that this must include eliminating violence against women and girls, reducing women’s and girls’ responsibility for unpaid care work, securing equal access to and control over land and other resources, securing women’s participation, voice and influence in decision-making, the completion of quality secondary education for young women in safe school environments, universal access to sexual and reproductive health rights, and access to decent work on an equal basis to men. In order to make a significant difference to the lives of women around the world, it is vital that women are placed at the heart of the global economic architecture post-2015.
My Lords, in joining the congratulation of the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, not only on this debate but his tireless commitment to the plight in particular of widows across the world, I congratulate him too on provoking a debate that has had some extraordinarily good speeches in the mould of his own. I had not intended to say anything about women in this country, but the noble Baronesses, Lady Jenkin and Lady Hamwee, have provoked me to do so. There is also, not least, my noble friend Lord Crisp, whose question has been concerning me during the debate.
One of the few advantages of getting into one’s anecdotage is that you have a perspective over decades. I share the concern about 22% of parliamentarians in this country being women, but I experienced being one of 4%—that is 27 out of 635—and I know the progress that can been made. At that time I also experienced having to come into the House of Commons two days after leaving hospital after the birth of my first child. Maternity leave was not considered relevant. It is an enormous joy when I now see the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister taking paternity leave. Things have improved since the days when there were seven of us women among 200 studying law at Cambridge. It no longer means that you have to be one of one rather than one of 10 who had access to that university education. I never had daughters and now I have a granddaughter, so I have been worrying away at my noble friend Lord Crisp’s question. I am optimistic as well as joyful when I hold my granddaughter.
The only thing I worry about is something we have discussed in this House before, which is the level of pornography and sexualisation and the diminution of women, in ways which are different from how women were diminished in my experience, by a wave of easily accessible material that is bad for boys, bad for girls and bad for society overall. That is an issue to which we need to turn our attention.
I want to talk today, quite differently, about women in the developing world and to echo some of the things that have already been said about the crucial role—the Kofi Annan line—of women in development overall. It is important to recognise that what we consider as women’s rights—access to education, freedom from violence and forced and early marriage, the right to participate in political and civic life, economic empowerment and the provision of health services for women in the developing world—are not just matters of individual women’s rights. Those rights are also the key to development in the families, communities and countries in which those women live. If those women are not empowered, if they are not allowed to thrive, the countries in which they live will not develop and flourish either. Like others, I was enormously heartened by the work that has been done by the Secretary of State and by the Prime Minister in his role as co-chair of the high level panel on ensuring that a stand-alone goal on gender equality will be taken into account in the post-millennium development goals framework.
Today, I want to address particularly one of the goals in the MDGs up to 2015 that will not be reached, which is reduction in maternal mortality. Before I do so, I should declare my non-financial interests as a trustee of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and the Malaria Consortium and as chair of the advisory group for the Maternal and Newborn Health Unit at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, which has already been mentioned.
The noble Lord, Lord Loomba, quoted the chilling statistic that a girl in South Africa is more likely to be raped than to learn to read. I want to quote an equally chilling statistic: a girl born today in South Sudan—a country to which reference has already been made—is statistically more likely to die in childbirth than to complete her primary school education. I read “education” as meaning secondary school education, but it is her primary school education. That is a terrible statistic, and we have heard about the hundreds of thousands of women who die in childbirth, the widowers who are created by that, the children who are left motherless and the tremendous disease that follows from the morbidity that comes from inadequate care in childbirth.
The most awful thing is that the majority of those deaths are preventable. Some of them are preventable by changes in major structural issues which have already been referred to. We know the effects of early marriage, and we know the effects of excluding girls from education and basic healthcare. In development, I normally speak about neglected tropical diseases. Those diseases in themselves create a high risk of death and morbidity in pregnancy and childbirth. The anaemia that comes with malaria means that women are more prone to die. Access to fundamental healthcare is tremendously important as is, as has been said over and again today, access to family planning and the ability to choose when and whether to have children.
There are specific issues, measures and interventions that we know can be made in antenatal and obstetric care. I want to highlight the work of Professor Van den Broek, who has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Jones. I think that the Making It Happen programme that DfID has supported through the Liverpool school is a wonderful example of doing what the World Bank described as,
“closing the deadly gap between what we know and what we do”.
The programme concentrates on looking at the five complications that are well understood and can be readily treated in obstetric care and that account for some 80% of maternal deaths: haemorrhage, sepsis, eclampsia, complications of obstructed labour and abortion. They have devised a programme that is cheap to deliver and sustainable as it involves training trainers within the countries concerned. They are currently working in 11 countries across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia and are achieving tremendous results. Those results are important not only in preventing deaths but also in preventing those terrible conditions, such as prolapse and fistula, that lead to women being not only disabled but also often excluded from their communities.
I think that we know what can be done. We have access to well researched and proven interventions. DfID has been tremendously helpful in supporting that in the past. I hope that the Minister will be able to give some indication that it will continue to be so in the future.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, for initiating this debate. Like him and other noble Lords, I believe it is shameful that in the 21st century the proportion of women in Parliament is so low. I too acknowledge the work done by the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin of Kennington, to raise this issue in the Conservative Party. I know from my own experience as general secretary of the Labour Party that progress is made speedily only if we take positive action. I strongly urge that all political parties follow the method of adopting all-women shortlists which guarantee a higher proportion of women in Parliament. We cannot leave it for another 50 years.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, I quote Kofi Annan. In 2005 he said:
“there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women”.
He also ventured to say that,
“no policy is more important in preventing conflict, or in achieving reconciliation after a conflict has ended”.
Like other noble Lords, I recognise the commitment of the Minister and the department in providing international leadership on improving the lives of women and girls. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, I recognise the Prime Minister’s work in the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Its recent report has proposed a standalone goal on gender and a target to eliminate discrimination against women in political, social and economic life. That report will now inform the global conversation that will continue over the next one and a half years and the recommendations will be put forward when the UN General Assembly meets in September. It is vital that the UK Government should ensure that the ambitious aims set out in the report of the high-level panel are not watered down during the intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development process, to which many noble Lords have referred.
I also understand that the Government will soon review their Strategic Vision for Girls and Women. One question that I know other noble Lords have mentioned is whether they will specifically measure change in the social attitudes, norms and behaviours that constrain girls’ and women’s lives, and which perpetuate exclusion and poverty. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, also highlighted, women are estimated to account for two-thirds of the 1.4 billion people globally who are living in extreme poverty. However, women perform two-thirds of the world’s work and produce 50% of the world’s food, but earn 10% of the income and own only 1% of the property.
Those women who are the most affected by poverty have the least access to and influence over the decisions being made to tackle it. After recent events in Bangladesh, we cannot ignore our own responsibility. The Rana Plaza disaster which killed 1,129 people last April is a stark reminder of the human cost behind behind cheap fashion in our high streets. Some 3.6 million women work in Bangladesh’s garment industry, most of them in factories similar to the Rana Plaza. Retailers have now been forced to react, including British companies like Matalan, Bonmarché and Primark, by signing up to a legally binding building safety agreement backed by the international trade union, IndustriALL and the Bangladeshi Government. Under the terms of the deal, brands including H&M and Marks & Spencer, as well as Primark, have each agreed to contribute up to half a million dollars a year towards rigorous and independent factory inspections and the installation of fire safety measures.
However, Governments need to act too. The disaster underlines why we need decent international labour standards. It is essential that the UK Government take the lead in advocating the change needed to protect the lives of workers around the world. With so many major companies that operate globally based in the UK, DfID must start taking decent labour standards seriously. In March, the Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, gave a speech at the London Stock Exchange outlining how her department would work with the private sector to encourage economic growth in developing countries. I would like to ask the Minister what criteria the department uses to determine whether to award a contract to a UK company for work in a developing country. DfID should ensure that companies receiving its support can demonstrate that they do not undermine the tax revenue collection capabilities of developing countries; that they have decent employment practices throughout their supply chain, including acceptable levels of pay to workers in developing countries; that they do not undertake activities that are degrading to the natural environment in which they operate; and that they have competed in a fair and transparent tendering process. When receiving support from the UK Government, companies should demonstrate support for sustainable and inclusive growth with an explicit focus on reducing poverty and inequality, and ensure transparency and accountability throughout their business and supply chain activities.
The private sector has a central role in stimulating jobs and growth in developing countries. Research undertaken by CARE International shows that women reinvest up to 90% of their income in their families compared with 30% to 40% by men. Despite this, and despite being recognised across the world as a better credit risk, women are more likely to be financially excluded than men. In developing countries 46% of men report having an account at a formal financial institution while only 37% of women do.
Banking on Change, an initiative by CARE International in conjunction with Barclays—and I recently attended the launch—is the first partnership between a global bank and an NGO to link informal village savings and loans associations to formal banking services. It is focused on breaking down barriers that prevent poor people accessing financial services and in doing so proves that no one is too poor to save. It has reached 513,000 people in just three years. On average each member saved $58 per year. If you multiply that figure by 2.7 billion—the “unbanked” people—it could represent a total of $157 billion that could be pumped into the formal economy each year.
As the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, highlighted, such microfinance initiatives have not only delivered on people’s aspirations for themselves and their families but developed enterprise that has helped transform local economies. The personal stories that I have heard from women in Africa have made me realise just how important breaking the barriers of financial exclusion in this country is to helping transform local economies and people’s lives. As chair of a credit union, I hope that the Government’s initiative in expanding credit unions will work, and I certainly welcome the DWP’s announcement in this regard.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, reminded us, violence against women as a tool of war remains one of the least prosecuted crimes. We have to do better to ensure action against the perpetrators. However, not only must we be tough on the crime, we have to be tough on its causes. Many noble Lords have referred to the need to tackle the underlying problems of lack of empowerment, education and inclusion. If we hope to change the harsh reality that so many women live in, particularly those in conflict zones, we need to properly support organisations like UN Women.
Twelve years ago the unanimous adoption of Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security was a landmark decision. It specifically addressed the situation of women in armed conflict and called for their participation at all levels of decision-making on conflict resolution and peacebuilding. The UN recognised that women’s exclusion from peace processes not only contravened their rights but also weakened the prospects for sustainable peace. Since the adoption of Resolution 1325 we have had four supporting resolutions—1820, 1888, 1889 and 1960. All focus on three key goals: strengthening women’s participation in decision-making, ending sexual violence and impunity, and providing an accountability system. Together the resolutions provide a powerful framework and mandate for implementing and measuring change in the lives of women in conflict-affected countries.
As a member of the UN Women executive, Britain has a responsibility to ensure that UN Women has that commitment both from us and the international community. I hope, as I have asked before, that the Minister can reassure this House that the Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, will make that a priority. UN Women has great potential but that potential will not survive without our support. I hope the Government will continue to lead international action to increase women’s participation and influence in decision-making.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Loomba for securing this important debate and for his absolutely outstanding speech in introducing it. It was an astonishing overview, with such understanding of the situation of women and girls, whether here at home or in developing countries. Along with the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, I, too, was struck by my noble friend’s point that racial discrimination can count as apartheid but that gender discrimination counts as culture. I thank my noble friend Lord Loomba for all the remarkable work that he has done through the Loomba Foundation to assist widows who, through the double discrimination of being both women and widows, are often in the most marginal of situations. This week, of course, we marked International Widows Day. The fact that this day is marked in the UN calendar owes a great deal to his efforts and those of his foundation. We have heard many powerful speeches today and I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. As I looked across at my noble friend Lady Hamwee during her powerful speech, I noted that we had a class of Muslim girls in our Gallery, and was touched and delighted. It is because of girls such as those that we speak today.
What we have heard bears out why DfID puts the support of women and girls front and centre of its work. In a world where poverty abounds, it is women who are at the very edge. As my noble friend Lord Jones and the noble Lord, Lord Collins, pointed out, women undertake 66% of the world’s work and produce 50% of the food but earn only 10% of the income and own only 1% of the property. We also know that there is much to do in our country. My noble friends Lord Loomba, Lady Jenkin, Lady Hamwee and Lady Tonge, along with other noble Lords, emphasised that there is a lot to do. I note the Private Member’s Bill introduced by Bill Cash and think he should extend it to equality in the United Kingdom as well as in developing countries. I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said about the action taken within his own party and commend that party for those actions.
On the issue of women worldwide, we know that two-thirds of the 750 million illiterate people in the developing world are women. Reflecting the secondary status of women, one in three women are beaten or sexually abused by a partner in her lifetime. The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, pointed to the use of sexual violence as a method of punishment and control. One in nine girls are forced into marriage before they reach their 14th birthday. Investing in girls and women has a transformative effect on poverty reduction and is critical to building freer and fairer societies and economies. When reading the African Economic Outlook report for the Question earlier today, I noted how greater gender equality went hand in hand with greater economic prosperity. DfID’s strategic vision for girls and women, published in 2011, outlines the department’s commitment to girls and women. It focuses on education, combating violence, trying to improve economic empowerment, and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Many of the challenges that we have discussed today are woven through the fabric of our societies, as we know, in social norms and attitudes, legal frameworks and institutions of power such as government and judicial systems. Working with men and boys, enabling greater female political participation and leadership, and improving the legal frameworks for girls and women are fundamental to strengthening this enabling environment.
Internationally, DfID recognises that economic and political empowerment is crucial for the status of women. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, and other noble Lords stressed, education is often the critical first step to opening up opportunities for girls and women. More time in education means that girls face a lower risk of sexual violence, marry later, have fewer children and have better health outcomes for the children they do have. As the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, put it, the education of girls is one of the best health interventions. DfID’s Girls’ Education Challenge aims to get an extra 1 million of the world’s poorest girls into school by 2016 and give them a better quality education when they are there.
My noble friends Lady Jenkin and Lady Tonge focused on sexual and reproductive health and rights. As they know, medical complications from pregnancy and childbirth are still the leading cause of death among 15 to 19 year-old girls worldwide. In bringing this forward, my right honourable friend Andrew Mitchell really understood its significance. The London summit on family planning in 2012 committed to increase access to family planning for an extra 120 million girls and women in the world’s poorest countries. We know that this benefits women, their families, societies and the economies of their countries. I have to say that it is absolutely wonderful to be basking in the approval of my noble friend Lady Tonge; I know it is very hard won.
My noble friends Lady Jenkin and Lady Tonge are right to emphasise the importance of this. As they will know, our commitment to family planning of £180 million per year for the next eight years will enable 24 million women in developing countries to access family planning. Echoing my noble friend Lord Jones, I recall that at that summit last year, a west African leader, clearly expecting much acclaim, noted that his contribution to reproductive rights was that he no longer availed himself of young girls. He was somewhat perplexed by the collective intake of breath.
As I have said, where economic and political empowerment is critical, violence against women and girls reflects their current status. Many noble Lords have emphasised this. That is why DfID now has anti-violence programmes for women and girls in more than 20 countries. We have a £25 million research and innovation fund to find out what works. In March my honourable friend Lynne Featherstone announced a new £35 million programme to support efforts to end female genital mutilation in Africa and beyond. My noble friend Lord Hussain and others referred to this important programme. It is the largest ever donor commitment to this issue, and we hope to see other donors support this African-led movement to end this form of violence.
With the right support, FGM could end within a generation. It has been likened to foot-binding in China. We see embodied in that very act exactly how women are viewed: in a role that is subservient to men. As foot-binding moved into the past, so it is up to all of us to make sure that FGM also becomes a thing of the past.
We are working closely with the FCO over our programmes to combat violence against women and girls. As noble Lords have referred to, in May 2012 my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary launched the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative to end impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict. My noble friend Lady Hamwee and others referred to this.
This newly adopted G8 declaration sets out a further landmark in the international commitment to address violence against women and girls. My noble friends Lady Hamwee and Lady Tonge are right to emphasise girls’ and women’s vulnerability and experience of violence being magnified in conflict. Some 75% of the refugees from Syria are women and children, and they are at particular risk of partner violence, exploitation and forced marriage. We are providing psychosocial care, newborn kits for mothers, reproductive health services and cash assistance for Syrian refugee women in Jordan in Iraq.
My noble friend Lady Hamwee asked me about women and peacebuilding and the disaggregation of data. It is not possible to disaggregate the data on funding in this area, but we recognise that women as peacebuilders are central, as UNSCR 1325 recognises. Recognising women’s unique vulnerabilities and their role as peacebuilders in humanitarian emergencies will be a key theme in the forthcoming call to action on violence against women and girls in humanitarian emergencies, which will be published in the autumn. In this regard, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Collins, of our key support for UN Women.
The noble Lord, Lord Crisp, asked about the disaggregation of data; there was a mini theme there. Our business plan requires DfID to disaggregate all the commitments made under the strategic vision for girls and women where applicable. In the annual report that was published today, he will see that there is close to 100% disaggregation in our targets on education and sexual and reproductive health. I hope that that reassures him on the direction in which we are going.
The noble Lord, Lord Crisp, also asked about the double disadvantage that girls and women face if they live with disability. He will know that we give core funding to various organisations, and we fully understand the situation of those who suffer that double disadvantage.
My noble friend Lord Hussain spoke about Ethiopia. I flag up the programme to end child marriage that we support there, as well as our programme that seeks to change the way in which society views girls—quite a challenge but a very important programme.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, asked about maternal health. DfID’s strategic vision has a particular focus on that, specifically on trying to ensure that adolescent girls delay marriage. As she knows very well, there are many debilitating complications with adolescents having children, such as fistula, which she referred to.
We have heard a great deal about the challenges that women and girls face, but are there any grounds for optimism? Perhaps we can hope so, and I noted what the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, said. Examples could include the overwhelming public reaction to the case of the girl who was raped and later died of her injuries in Delhi; the worldwide revulsion at the shooting of Malala, the case that my noble friend Lord Loomba referred to; the outrage at the way in which Julia Gillard has been treated in Australia; or the concern recently expressed about domestic violence very close to home.
In March, when the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the principal global platform for policy-making on women’s rights, met to secure conclusions on violence against women and girls, many felt that the challenges might be too great to overcome. There was a lot of pressure not to agree conclusions, but despite the many differing perspectives, member states reached a consensus on a text that notably did not simply opt for the lowest common denominator but represented real progress for women’s rights.
The UN high-level panel that a number of noble Lords have referred to, which was tasked to propose a new set of development goals for 2015-30, faced similar challenges. Yet the panel delivered an exceptionally strong framework for girls and women in its final report.
My noble friend Lord Jones asked a number of questions. I reiterate that, as I hope he knows, we wish to see a stand-alone goal on gender and mainstreaming throughout and will do all we can to ensure that this is in the final framework. There are a number of targets in what is proposed and our task is to ensure that those are carried through as the proposals are finalised.
This has been a fantastically wide-ranging debate. We referred to the position of women in Britain today. I recall the abuse that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, received when she took her new infant into the Chamber of the Commons, but I also note that my honourable friend Jenny Willott had to be separated from her new infant when voting only very recently because an unelected person, even a minute one, could not go through the voting Lobbies. So we still have things to do.
However, even with many challenges, we have made progress, as some noble Lords emphasised. That is why it is so important, as we seek greater prosperity and development worldwide, that we recognise the huge and particular challenges that face women and girls and that we do not let them continue in the situations in which they often find themselves.
My Lords, this has been an absorbing and hugely important debate and I am very grateful to all Members who have taken part in it. I pay tribute to the efforts of this Government in placing women at the forefront of so much of what they are trying to achieve. Again, I particularly thank my noble friend the Minister for the immense amount of work that she has done in this area. It is thanks to her dedication and passion that there is movement on so many of the issues that have been covered today. It is a real pleasure to be able to work with my noble friend Lady Northover.
As I said in my opening speech, we need to ensure that we continue to see the work of aiming for women’s equality as work that everyone needs to do. In this Chamber we have the opportunity to do something. We must take that opportunity. Now is the time.
I know we will continue to speak about the issues raised today and to work towards making the world an even better place for women to be in. In the mean time, I again thank everyone who took part in this debate.
Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Temporary Class Drug) Order 2013
Motion to Approve
My Lords, the order was made on 3 June and came into force on 10 June 2013. The order specifies four N-BOMe and six benzofuran substances, including their simple derivatives, as drugs subject to temporary control under Section 2A(1) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. On 29 May, the Government received a recommendation from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) under the temporary control provisions of the 1971 Act, advising that the N-BOMe and benzofuran substances are being misused, and that their misuse is having sufficiently harmful effects to warrant legislative action. My honourable friend the Minister for Crime Prevention was satisfied, in consideration of the latest available evidence and the ACMD’s assessment, that the conditions to make a temporary class drug order were met.
N-BOMe substances are highly potent drugs which are regarded as alternatives to the class A drug LSD. Clinically observed health effects include hypertension, agitation and aggression, visual and audio hallucination, and seizures. Two patients were admitted to intensive care after using this drug. Anecdotal evidence from self-reported users also highlight highly negative effects including confusion, shaking, nausea, insomnia, paranoia and unwanted feelings.
We agree with the ACMD that urgent action is required because of the extremely potent nature of these substances in powder and liquid form, and the high risk of overdose. We are also aware that to mitigate the risk of overdose, some suppliers have used perforated pre-loaded paper doses in the form of blotters and tabs, similar to the way LSD is sold.
The benzofuran substances—such as 5- and 6- APB—are related to the class A drug ecstasy (MDMA). They are most commonly sold under the brand name Benzo Fury and marketed as legal alternatives to ecstasy. The effects of these substances include insomnia, increased heart rate and anxiety, with some users reporting ecstasy-like symptoms. Several deaths and hospitalisations in the UK have been associated with the use of these compounds. There are also risks associated with the long-term use of these drugs such as cardiac toxicity.
The order applies UK-wide to protect the public, enabling enforcement action against suppliers and traffickers, while the ACMD prepares full advice on these substances. The order also sends out a clear message to the public, especially young people, that these substances are harmful drugs. Of course, we will continue to monitor data on these drugs to measure the impact of the order through all available channels, and share this information with the ACMD.
This order was made in consideration of evidence that these substances pose a clear threat to public health and safety, not least young people who believe traffickers’ claims that legal highs are safer than controlled drugs. We have a duty to take action to prevent new psychoactive substances—NPSs—which pose equally serious health risks from gaining a foothold in the UK drugs market.
Our action today, through temporary control legislation, is a vehicle which enables us to act swiftly to protect the public and provide time to the advisory council to gather evidence and prepare full advice on these drugs. Legislative action also plays an important part in supporting our wider public protection policies.
This legislative action is supportive of our long-term strategic objectives set out in the Government’s action plan to tackle the new psychoactive substances market from all angles; to reduce demand by raising awareness of the harms of new psychoactive substances; to make it difficult to obtain and supply those that pose risks to health; and to ensure that statutory services are able effectively to provide treatment and support recovery. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation of the drugs. I am always grateful that these drugs have street names that we can pronounce, because the only light relief there could be on this issue is to hear the Minister reading out the chemical names of all the substances for which he has brought forward the order today.
We on this side of the House put on the record our appreciation of the work of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, specifically for the work it has done to bring forward this order. Its members give freely of their expertise and advice, and we are hugely grateful that they do so. We are content to accept their advice and support the order before us today. There is evidence that these two drugs, N-BOMe and Benzo Fury, and their derivatives and variations have been responsible for hospitalisations and deaths. They are dangerous and damaging and those who trade in these substances care nothing for their impact and the harm that they cause—merely for their own profits.
In supporting the order I refer to some of the key issues that are relevant to this discussion, and on which I would find it helpful if the Minister could provide some clarity and information. I understand and appreciate the process that has brought this specific order before us, but I am not altogether clear on some issues, such as timescales and action taken by other countries, whether it is on similar timescales and whether greater co-operation is now available. The Minister will be aware of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, which has a key role in detection and assessment of new drugs across the entire EU. Can the Minister tell me—I think that we have had similar information from Ministers previously—how many new substances have been identified by the EMCDDA since 2010, and how many of those have now been identified by the Home Office early warning system? The Minister may not have the figures to hand and I am happy for him to write to me. We learnt from the debate on an earlier order that the Home Office had identified only 11 out of 90 substances identified by the EMCDDA in 2010-11. My understanding is that now more than 200 substances have been identified by the EMCDDA. How many of those have been identified by the Home Office? I ask because I am keen to see that we are keeping pace with the rest of Europe in identifying and taking action on new drugs and substances as they enter the UK market.
The Minister mentioned that they are sometimes referred to as legal highs. That lulls some people into a false sense of security that a drug is safe because it is not illegal. Yet the only reason it is legal is that the formal process of making it illegal has not been completed. Yesterday I Attended an IPU briefing on the drugs trade and I was struck by one specific fact: that synthetic drugs now account for 20% to 25% of the drugs market. As their use is growing, the need to be on the ball with identification and action becomes all the more important and crucial.
When debating a previous order I asked the then Minister if he was aware of the reasons for the difference in the number of drugs identified by the EMCDDA and those identified by the Home Office. He was not able to respond to me on that occasion. It would be helpful to know and, again, I shall understand if the Minister prefers to write to me with the accurate statistics and explanation. I suspect that there are probably a number of genuine and understandable reasons. Is there just a short time lag between one body indentifying a substance and the information being fed through to the Home Office? Are the Government waiting for advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs? I will come back to that point, because we do not want any unnecessary delay in identifying and taking action, when the growth of these synthetically manufactured drugs is racing ahead.
I am keen to ensure, as I am sure the Minister is, that we make full use of co-operation with other European countries that are tackling the same issues, which are incredibly difficult. Co-operation across international boundaries is essential as we are all facing similar problems that are having a similar impact on our societies. We all want to be reassured that we are acting on these issues with the sense of urgency that the public deserve and expect. I do not for one second doubt the Minister’s intentions; I would not want that to be misunderstood. However, I am worried that some of the factual information of the timings gives cause for concern. It may be that we need to review the process that we have undertaken to get us to this point to see whether we could act more swiftly.
My understanding is that the information contained in the letter that the Home Secretary received from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs indicated that Benzo Fury, the drug that we getting a temporary banning order on today, was first referred to the National Poisons Information Service in 2009, after being identified as a drug that led to hospitalisations. I am not suggesting that that on its own would be enough to bring us to this point, because obviously the drug has to be properly assessed. However, the chair of the ACMD, Professor Les Iversen, recently said that the council had the resources to assess only two or three new substances a year. If between 70 and 200 dangerous and damaging substances are on the market legally and there is an increase in the manufacturing of synthetic drugs—many of which there will be a strong case for making illegal—to be identifying or assessing just two or three a year is completely inadequate. Is there more that we should be doing now to ensure that we are not constantly lagging behind what is happening in Europe? Such a lagging behind is likely to lead to increased dangers and increased hospitalisations, and possibly worse.
Does the Minister know how long it took for the drug Benzo Fury, for example, to appear on the Government’s forensic early-warning system since it was first identified in 2009? It seems to me that there should be some co-operation and cross-referencing—I have given him notice that I would be asking this question today—between the National Poisons Information Service, the TICTAC database on chemical compounds, the EMCDDA’s register of new substances and the Home Office’s forensic early-warning system. Can he provide some information on how such co-operation and liaison works? Again, I am happy to receive a letter.
Can the Minister also tell us what processes are in place to investigate the effects of a substance once it is recorded? We need a proper pharmacological investigation into these substances, but I understand that this is very expensive. My understanding is that it costs approximately £100,000 per substance. The Home Office has provided just £200,000 from the health budget for this purpose, although I am not sure whether that amount remains following the CSR. European co-operation would be invaluable. I would be interested to know what discussions are taking place with other European Ministers and agencies.
One of the flies in the ointment of increased European co-operation is the Government’s plan to opt out of the police and criminal justice measures of the EU. I know that the Government want to opt back in to some measures. It would be inconceivable if this kind of measure was not included as it is clear that the EMCDDA is very much ahead of the game as to what is happening across Europe as a whole. Are there any contingency plans on the drugs issue, particularly if a Danish type of situation arose where we could not opt back in, as we wanted?
I apologise for taking slightly longer to speak, but I am very concerned about the number of drugs coming on to the market at the moment. Can the Minister say anything about internet sales? A number of internet sites offer what they call “legal highs” as alternatives to already banned or illegal drugs. It is hard, I know, to monitor the actions of all of them, but what monitoring is taking place? Often it can be a way of identifying when a legal drug is getting hold of the market.
It is clear from the drugs listed today that one has to be very precise about the substances involved. I understand that there is a risk that a minor chemical change can create a new drug and then a new order is needed. The Government are trying to address that issue and that is why the order before us today is welcome. Do we need to have a new order each time there is a chemical change? I support the order. I welcome the Minister’s explanation and thank him for bringing the order forward. However, we need a broader strategy to ensure that we are not running behind to catch up on such a serious issue.
My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the Medical Research Council’s ethics and regulation committee. Can the Minister say whether consideration has been given to altering the defaults on this policy? When it comes to prescription drugs, we require proof of safety before a drug proceeds to clinical trials and attempts to establish efficacy. Why should proof of safety not be a prerequisite for the marketing of any substance that is used as a drug?
My Lords, I will answer the noble Baroness’s question before I forget it. I suspect the reason is that the legislation creates serious criminal offences and we have to be sure that the creation of such an offence is necessary. If I have anything more to add—if any inspiration comes from the Box—then I shall do so, but I suspect that that is the answer.
I am grateful for the support from the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and I thank the House for the helpful discussion. I trust that when I have finished I will have fully made the case for the temporary class drug order to be approved in the House on the basis of the latest available evidence and the ACMD’s advice.
I understand the noble Baroness’s concern about resources. The Home Secretary commissions the ACMD to undertake specific pieces of work each year, and it has the flexibility to prioritise its resources accordingly. However, the use of generic definitions means that the advisory council is able to consider and provide advice on families and groups rather than on individual substances. This enables the Government to tackle multiple substances in a single legislative action.
Before I go into further detail on the points raised by noble Lords, I join the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, in commending the ACMD for its continuous work and support of our work priorities, including on “legal highs”. More than ever, the fast pace of this market requires careful prioritisation of our resources and underscores the need for closer working within a broader network of partners, in the UK and abroad, to inform and preserve the integrity of our drug laws.
The noble Baroness quite rightly asked about a sense of urgency. In the case of this particular order we received advice from the ACMD on 29 May; we made the order on 3 June; and it came into effect on 10 July. The noble Baroness also asked when benzofuran compounds were first identified in the UK. Our forensic early warning system, which I will say more about in a moment, first identified the benzofuran substances 5- and 6-APB in early 2011. Together with the advisory council we kept under review the health harms associated with these compounds. The latest evidence suggests that legislative action needs to be taken.
I remind the House that we take action when we see a health harm becoming apparent, not when we become aware that the drug exists. The drug can exist—theoretically it might be on the market in other parts of the world—but we will not legislate until it starts to cause a problem in the UK. We do not need to legislate for everything. I am sure that the noble Baroness will understand that we do not want to legislate for every drug that could be abused.
I appreciate the point that the noble Earl is making and I am grateful for it. I was making a point about the different organisations which all have a responsibility to share information in this area. The poisons body to which I referred first identified this as a problem in 2009. It took until 2011, according to the noble Earl’s information, for the Home Office to become aware of that.
The noble Baroness may or may not be right. However, I will have more to say on co-operation.
We are making progress in reducing the availability of these drugs through UK law enforcement agencies prioritising work on new psychoactive substances. We are also working with trading standards to tackle their emergence using consumer protection legislation and providing guidance to complement drug control. We have a world-leading forensic early warning system that we are exporting, through leading two resolutions at the UN, enabling the monitoring of new psychoactive substances at a global level for the first time.
Perhaps I may first draw your Lordships’ attention to the forensic early warning system. This is a Home Office programme set up since January 2011 in response to legal highs. It detects new drugs in the UK through test purchasing and forensic work. It informs the advisory council’s consideration and our wider response. It works by test purchasing samples for analysis from the internet and “head shops”—whatever they are—collecting music festival and non-casework police samples, and other sensible courses of action. This has made a vital contribution to health and safety at summer festivals. Data from FEWS has been shared with ACMD to inform its advice on a drug called 2-DPMP, synthetic cannabinoids, methoxetamine—which I tried to practice pronouncing—including the latest substances, NBOMe and benzofurans which we are talking about.
I also draw the House’s attention to the drugs early warning system. This works by linking health and law enforcement agencies to provide access to evidence and timely information on NPS—new psychoactive substances. UK Focal Point acts as an information hub, collecting and sharing data from UK and EU drugs early warning systems with ACMD and the Home Office. So we are not on our own. UK Focal Point can also liaise directly with the National Poisons Information Service when required. When, for example, a threat from a new psychoactive substance becomes apparent, the Home Office will ask UK Focal Point—and has done so in the case of these substances and others that I cannot pronounce—to distribute a request for information from national and international partners.
The noble Baroness asked me about the number of new substances coming on to the market. Counting the number of substances identified elsewhere in Europe cannot be used as a barometer to measure the extent of the problem in the UK. Many of these substances have never been seen before in the UK, a point that I have already made, and the majority of those that have are controlled thanks to the generic definitions which capture families of drugs used under the Misuse of Drugs Act. The Government are acting fast to tackle these new substances.
I have talked about the forensic early warning system. In addition, the temporary control power affords a flexibility to control these drugs quickly while the advisory council assesses their full harm and when the evidence base on their prevalence, use or likely use and harm supports legislative action. As I have already said, the use of generic definitions enables us to future-proof our legislation by catching families and groups at a time, and therefore drugs that are yet to appear on the UK market. These systems, including our drugs early warning system, continue to contribute to the considerations of the ACMD, as it has done with NBOMe and benzofuran substances and our previous temporary class drug methoxetamine, which is now a class B drug. In addition, health and law enforcement partners continue to have access to information and the latest evidence from the UK and EU.
The most helpful course of action that I can take is to write to the noble Baroness on some of the further details, which I think she will find interesting. I hope that noble Lords will find that this legislative measure will ensure that the public are protected from the harm of these new psychoactive substances. I beg to move.
Immigration (Leave to Enter and Remain) (Amendment) Order 2013
Motion to Approve
My Lords, the order, which amends the Immigration (Leave to Enter and Remain) Order 2000, creates a consistent legal framework for the effective service of immigration decisions.
Immigration decisions which attract a right of appeal are currently subject to the Immigration (Notices) Regulations 2003. The regulations, which have been in force since 2003, require the Secretary of State to take reasonable steps to notify the individual of the decision. If that is not possible or if service fails, the regulations enable decisions to take effect when they are served to the individual’s file. However, no such framework exists for immigration decisions which do not attract a right of appeal. This primarily affects decisions to curtail leave to 60 days.
The House will be aware that academic institutions and businesses which bring migrants into the UK to study or work under the points-based system are required to notify the Home Office about changes in the migrants’ circumstances. In many cases, the notification relates to compliant behaviour, such as permissible changes in the migrants’ circumstances or early completion of their work placement or course of study. However, if a sponsor notifies the Home Office that they have withdrawn sponsorship from a migrant, the case is referred for curtailment.
If there is clear non-compliance on the part of the migrant, for example they fail to enrol with their college and make no attempt to switch to another sponsor, their leave is curtailed with immediate effect and a removal decision is made. Where non-compliance is less clear—for example because the migrant started to study but subsequently left, potentially to study with another sponsor—leave is curtailed to 60 days to allow a short period for the migrant to find another sponsor or depart the UK in good order.
Leave is also curtailed to 60 days where their PBS sponsor loses their sponsor licence, unless the migrant was complicit in the reasons for the revocation of the licence, for example if there is proof that the migrant was knowingly using the sponsor to enter the UK purely to work and not study. Where the migrant has entered the country having been issued a visa overseas, the Home Office may not have a UK postal address for them. In these cases the notice is served via the migrant’s sponsor, but if it is returned as undeliverable, the decision is placed on the migrant’s file. In a recent tribunal determination it was held that unless these notices are communicated to the person in writing they have no effect. In the absence of an order covering service of non-appealable decisions, the Secretary of State must be able to prove that a notice of such a decision was communicated to the person in order for it to be effective.
The Home Office has taken a number of steps to counter the problems with serving these decisions, for example requiring sponsors to provide contact details with notifications and writing to the sponsor to request postal details if none has been provided. We must now act to ensure that our ability to curtail leave in these circumstances is not reliant on migrants keeping their sponsor, or the Home Office, informed of their contact details.
The message to migrants must be clear: we expect them to pursue the purpose of their leave. If they fail to do that, we will curtail their leave. Our ability to control immigration in this way will not be frustrated by any potential attempts to avoid service or deny receipt of a notice. The order will redress that imbalance and place the service of these decisions on a consistent legal footing with the process for serving appealable decisions, which has been in place for 10 years and supports the operation of effective immigration controls. I beg to move.
I hope that the noble Earl will forgive me if I intervene on a slightly different matter, but a matter directly related to the subject of this order. I believe it to be in the public interest to do so. I shall speak very briefly.
I discovered this morning from my NHS GP—who has a practice in the centre of London, and whose name I cannot put on the record because I do not have his consent to do so—that very frequently he and his practice colleagues come across prima facie evidence of immigration fraud, people being here illegally or indeed people illegally accessing NHS services. Although there is a hotline available to medical practices to report prima facie evidence of benefit fraud, apparently there is no hotline or other mechanism available to GP practices in this country or to medical centres to report prima facie immigration fraud or other immigration irregularities or illegal access to NHS services. I wonder whether the noble Earl will give some consideration to whether it might be a good idea to provide such a mechanism. I believe that the corresponding mechanism that is supposed to alert the authorities to prima facie evidence of benefit fraud works very well.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. I have a couple of questions for clarification on the order. At the top of page 2, Article 4 inserts two new articles, 8 and 8ZA. Article 8 has a new process of an oral grant or refusal of leave, whereby an individual who has been granted leave to remain or refusal to remain can be told that by telephone. I am slightly puzzled about the mechanics of how that would work. I indicated to the noble Earl that I intended to raise this matter.
Some people who apply will, of course, not have English as their first language and may have difficulty in understanding. What process is undertaken to ensure that the person receiving the notice to leave the country or to remain fully understands what they are being told, so that there is no misunderstanding? If someone receives something in writing saying that they do not have leave to remain in the country, they can take it to a solicitor and get advice, but if they receive that information over the telephone they will have to digest it at a later date. I am slightly concerned that someone may get information but not fully understand the nature of that information and not be able to act on it because they are puzzled or do not have any proof of that information. How is it possible to be assured of the identity of someone being notified that they may be granted leave to remain or refused leave to remain in the country if you only talk to them on the telephone? I have questions about how that will work. I am not clear about the security issues involved.
Article 8ZA paragraph (4) says:
“Where attempts to give notice”—
for a grant, refusal or variation of leave in writing—
“are not possible or have failed”.
That is the point that the noble Earl was making. That could be put on file and deemed to have been served. In paragraph (4) it refers to “attempts” in the plural, so obviously two attempts have to be made, but is there any guidance on how those attempts should be made? When it talks about attempts to give notice not being possible, why would it not be possible to make an attempt to contact someone? I am slightly puzzled by the wording.
Paragraph (6) says:
“A notice given under this article may, in the case of a person who is under 18 years of age and does not have a representative, be given to the parent, guardian or another adult who for the time being takes responsibility for the child”.
Does that mean a legal responsibility, or could it be a casual and informal responsibility? I recently raised a case with the Home Office where an individual was seeking to have a passport returned on behalf of another person and I was told that it could not act or intercede with that person because there was no legal authority to do so. I am slightly puzzled how the situation of someone who, for the time being, takes responsibility for a child being able to receive information regarding the granting, refusal or variation of a right to remain in the country would work in practice.
My final point is on the presumption of receipt of notice. The article refers to the notice being sent by the postal service and on the second day after it is sent,
“it shall be deemed to have been given to the person”.
What happens in the event of a mail or postal strike, as we have seen in some parts of the country? I would be grateful if the noble Earl could clarify those points and give me some answers.
My Lords, I am grateful for the supportive and thoughtful contributions made by both noble Lords.
In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, on reporting suspected immigration irregularities, there is a generic hotline for members of the public and stakeholders to report suspected immigration offenders. Information is available on the Home Office website, and I can write to the noble Lord with further information. However, it is a good point that we should understand about the abuse of our NHS facilities.
The problem may be that because of medical confidentiality there is some hesitation to use a regular hotline. There needs to be a mechanism available specifically to and within the medical profession. That may be necessary if the Government really want the full co-operation of the medical profession in this matter.
My Lords, I will write in detail to the noble Lord on the issue of confidentiality and on whether anything else needs to be done. Everyone is aware of the abuse of our NHS treatment, to which a lot of immigrants are not entitled.
The Government have made this order to protect our ability to control immigration and ensure that migrants are treated fairly. This Government are committed to ensuring that the UK attracts the brightest and best migrants but is closed to those who seek to abuse the system. We must be clear to the public, our corporate partners and those who wish to come here that we will take action against migrants who fail to pursue the purpose of their leave. In the most non-compliant cases we will require the individual to leave the UK immediately or be subject to enforced removal.
Where the cessation of sponsorship is a result of the sponsor losing their licence or migrant non-compliance is not clear, we must operate a system that is fair and enables bona fide migrants who want to study to switch to another sponsor—and the system does that. However, our ability to take appropriate action must not be hampered by gaps in legislation or result in delays and the need for time-consuming and bureaucratic processes. We do not want to create a duty on sponsors to have to report every change in their migrants’ address, phone number or e-mail address. That would be far too onerous a task. However, it is reasonable to ask the sponsor to provide the latest contact details with their notifications. That will give us the best opportunity of communicating the decision to the individual concerned in the first instance. If we cannot serve the notice on the individual, whether by post or some other means, we will seek to serve the notice on the migrant’s representative. Only where that is not possible, or the service fails, will we serve the decision on file.
The order amends Article 8 of the 2000 order. These changes are technical and retain the current position in Article 8, which provides that a notice giving or refusing leave to enter may be given by fax, e-mail or, in the case of a visitor, orally, including by means of a telecommunication system. The amending order retains the provision in Article 8 regarding oral notice to visitors but transfers the provisions regarding fax and e-mail to the new Article 8ZA, where other means of giving the notice are dealt with—post, courier and so on—and I will write to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, to confirm the procedure for giving oral notice.
The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, also asked what the purpose was of such a broad definition of adults who are responsible for children. Perhaps it would be helpful if I read out the answer.
My Lords, that would probably be helpful. Perhaps I will just move on.
I trust that the House will agree that this order will ensure that we have a consistent statutory framework that protects the Secretary of State’s ability to control migration and is fair on genuine migrants. As I have already said, this Government are committed to ensuring that the UK attracts the brightest and best migrants. Where it is appropriate, we should give individuals an opportunity to continue working and studying here. It is not just a matter of fairness, ensuring that we do not act disproportionately. It is also about recognising the important role that genuine migrants play in enriching our communities and supporting economic recovery. I hope that the House will look favourably on the order and agree the Motion.
Question for Short Debate
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this important issue, even at the end of a long day, and to noble Lords who have indicated that they would like to take part in the debate.
This began for me in this House when we were recalled in August 2011 following those deeply disturbing riots. I raised the point then that we should perhaps consider some form of national service, or community service, for our young people, and look at the idea of a citizenship ceremony in which they recognised their rights and responsibilities. As a result of that, colleagues on both sides of the House contacted me and we had a series of meetings. The noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, who cannot be here today, and the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, were among Cross-Benchers who took part in the discussions. We were helped, too, by the advice that we received on the recommendation of the noble Baroness, Lady King of Bow, from Professor Ted Cantle. Those meetings inspired me to seek this debate.
There is a very serious and pressing case for formally marking the transition of our young people to full citizenship at the age of 18. It is a sad fact that young people are far less likely to take part in the democratic process these days, or even register, than used to be the case. Perhaps that is not surprising when we do so little to suggest that coming of age matters. Citizenship is about far more than voting. I do not suggest that there are not hundreds of thousands of young people in the country who are proud to be members of their local communities and give real service to them. This is not a critical speech but one that seeks to move forward. Although many make real and important contributions, the idea and the ideal of public service are not as fashionable as they once were.
We need to provide for all 16 to 18 year-olds the opportunity to engage in some form of structured community service, working with civic and voluntary organisations. This should culminate in a citizenship ceremony that could be a real occasion, not only for the young people concerned but for their friends and families. We already have a positive process for migrants and longer-standing residents who wish to become UK citizens, but there is nothing to acknowledge that our 18 year-olds have suddenly acquired new rights and responsibilities. When, for those who wish to become UK citizens, a citizenship ceremony was first mooted, many said that it was a jingoistic, flag-waving and pointless exercise. That has not proved to be the case. Many people in our country have taken part in these ceremonies, accompanied by their families and friends, with a real sense of pride and commitment. Anyone in your Lordships’ House who is fortunate enough to be a deputy lieutenant of a county might have experienced such ceremonies. I suggest to your Lordships that the sceptics have indeed been confounded, because those who come appreciate that they are being formally and publicly welcomed into the fold. They are very happy to take an oath of allegiance in front of the Queen’s representative.
I know the Government—this also applies to the previous Government, because there is common concern in all parties—have developed what the previous Government did and have begun to recognise the need to engage younger people with the idea of citizenship. The National Citizen Service is aimed at 16 and 17 year-olds. It introduces young people to volunteering in blocks of several weeks across the summer. Up to 30,000 youngsters take part. It is no doubt a very good scheme, and I warmly commend it, but I propose a scheme that is, first, much simpler and, secondly, made available to every young person. Around 700,000 young people come of age each year. The formal marking of the 18th birthday—of course, not necessarily on the exact day—with a ceremony supported by a short school or community-based programme would incur minimal costs and would have a great impact. I referred to the role of the lord-lieutenancy a moment or two ago. Every county has a lord-lieutenant who is supported by deputy lieutenants, often several dozen of them, who would be able to support such an extended role conducting ceremonies in the name of Her Majesty the Queen independent of government and political party and at minimal cost.
It would be possible to augment the citizenship process with a more tangible programme of citizenship, perhaps leading to a certificate, and there are many voluntary organisations that I have reason to suppose would willingly take part. One thinks of the National Trust, the RSPB and Age UK; one could go on. There are many such organisations. I envisage a voluntary programme supported by an expectation that all young people would participate in a community-based programme supported by existing citizenship work in schools.
It is crucial that schools and the community come together in this. There is no time to develop at length a series of examples, but noble Lords will know of environmental and heritage problems, and programmes in their areas, of the need to develop greater awareness of the importance of parenting and child development and of community cohesion and integration, and the need for young people fully to recognise their legal responsibilities, the damage that anti-social behaviour can cause and the damage that alcohol and drug abuse can cause.
I emphasise that this is all about service. It is about recognising, of course, the rights that one obtains at the age of 18 but also, and much more important in a sense, the responsibilities to help to build through this recognition communities that are more united, more integrated and more cohesive than many of our communities. Of course, I do not know the answer to this question, but I wonder whether, if we had had such a highly developed programme, those riots would have taken place two years ago. Whether they would or not, I suggest to your Lordships that this sort of developed approach has many benefits and few dangers, and I very warmly commend it to the Government because they are recognising in the curriculum and through the programme to which I referred the importance of developing awareness and responsibility in our young people as they mature and become part of the adult community. They recognise this as being vital. We all recognise this as being vital, and I very much hope that the ideas that I have briefly sketched this afternoon will commend themselves not only to your Lordships in all parts of the House but in particular to the Minister who will be replying from the Front Bench.
My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. I congratulate, and thank, him not only on securing this debate but on introducing it with such commitment and wisdom.
The noble Lord has spoken about a citizenship programme. I will talk about that in a moment, but I begin by talking about citizenship education as it exists in our schools and where I think it can be improved. I am delighted that the Government have made sure that citizenship education remains a compulsory national curriculum subject at key stages 3 and 4. I am also delighted that it continues to include such subjects as our parliamentary system of democracy, the making of laws, the evolution of constitutional monarchy and the way in which it functions, national, ethnic, religious and other identities and the variety of electoral systems through which people can be represented. This is greatly welcomed.
However, I am slightly uneasy about three areas. The first is what is being taught in the name of citizenship education, how it is taught and within what framework. I put these three together because they are closely related. It is very striking that citizenship education concentrates simply on providing information about institutions. It has very little to say about political ideologies: about conservatism, socialism, liberalism, fascism—the variety of spectra through which people have perceived and tried to organise political arrangements. It is very important that our students know what these ideas and ideologies stand for and how to arbitrate between them. That is my first area of concern.
My second concern is that we live in a multicultural society and that it is therefore important that its citizens are able to relate to each other and to form a cohesive community by developing what I call multicultural literacy or multicultural competence. By that, I mean the capacity to recognise and live with differences and to uncover the commonalities that underpin those differences. It is important to be able to relate to people across cultural boundaries and to be able to recognise them as one’s fellow humans and fellow citizens despite those differences. Multicultural literacy is absolutely vital if a society as diverse as ours is to be cohesive.
The third important thing that is badly needed is more directly connected with the way in which we teach. We teach via bits of information, relying on very fine books, such as those written by my dear friend the noble Lord, Lord Norton. I admire those books. However, it is important to take concrete issues and to show how different ideas and agencies play out within them. For example, if I were teaching politics to 16, 17 and 18 year-olds, I would consider it vital to take a real situation, such as the Holocaust, the partition of India or a situation of ethnic genocide, and to use this as an opportunity to see how different forces come to play so that people who have lived together as good neighbours—as brothers—and helped each other out in times of sickness and tragedy can change so suddenly, apparently overnight, to being at each other’s throats. How does this happen? What are the preconditions? If we do not understand these people, we demonise them, saying that they have all gone mad. Have they become fanatics overnight? In five minutes? That is impossible. There must be a culture or climate within which certain forces are already at work. These forces are kept under control in certain situations but may be released from control when the situation changes.
If we want our students to appreciate what it is to live politically, what political life is all about, we have to discuss not merely bodies of information but concrete issues. If we do not want to concentrate on big issues such as the Holocaust or the Rwandan genocide—a fortnight or a month can be devoted to the study of those—another thing that can be done is to ask pupils to bring in headlines from newspapers about important issues that happen to interest them and, starting from there, help them to understand through a range of issues the day-to-day reality of what is going on in the world at large.
While all this is being taught, it is important to stress that citizenship is a lived reality and should be practised. The ethos and practices of the school must therefore reflect the principles that the school wants to impress on its pupils. Pupils can be involved in taking certain decisions within the school so that they can learn that citizenship does not begin once they leave school; it is practised within the school. Decisions are taken on delinquent children, all kinds of acts of indiscipline and managing the school. Pupils can also put forth their views on how the school’s resources should be allocated.
I turn now to the very important point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, on having a specific citizenship programme rather than just education. We must realise the following important point. Having lived here for almost 58 years, having arrived as a student, becoming a professor, and all the things that followed, I wonder why the great public institutions of which we were proud and which we cherished have one by one declined in their legitimacy and people have begun to lose faith in them. We used to be extremely proud of our police service. In India, the British police service was always held up as a model. Of course, it can still be held up in that way when compared to the Indians’. Nevertheless, there are problems. We used to be proud of our print journalism and the quality, variety and depth of our newspapers. We used to be proud of our Civil Service, and of the integrity of the NHS. As one looks at all the cover-ups and so on, one begins to ask what is going on. Citizenship should be understood not simply in terms of serving people but in terms of taking custody of our collective life. If there are qualities that we value, I should have thought that a citizenship programme would help to ensure that citizens take responsibility for their society and cultivate the virtues and competencies that are necessary to have the healthy society that we once had and that was the basis of our great reputation.
My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for giving us the opportunity to debate this hugely important issue. I was much taken with his suggestion, which is worthy of consideration. But, of course, before that we must get citizenship education taught properly and correctly in our schools. I think that citizenship education is vital for ensuring that young people are an active and valued part of our society and, moreover, that they are involved in their communities. All too often, young people are seen in a negative way.
Let us reflect for a moment on some figures that were collected by the Hansard Society. We know for a fact that in the 2010 general election, only 44% of 18 to 24 year-olds voted, although the good news was that that was an increase of 7% on the previous general election, but still well below the average turnout of 65%. Moreover, the Hansard Society research suggests that only one-third of 18 to 24 year-olds claim to know anything about politics while, rather alarmingly, 90% of young people do not know who their MP is or how to contact them.
In my view, citizenship is not about reaching for a syllabus, dusting it down, teaching it and giving students a body of facts. It is about creating an ethos in the school and ensuring that pervades everything that young people do. It has to be about the ethos of the school, whether that is schools having school councils and young people knowing about them, electing their councillors and debating issues; whether it is doing voluntary work in the community—at my school we would go to the local care centre and sing Christmas carols or work at the local Jaguar Land Rover factory; whether it is doing charity appeals; whether it is shadowing people; whether it is bringing speakers in from the local GP to the local midwife; or whether it is having a rolling programme of pupils observing school governing bodies, as we had in my school.
The good news is that citizenship as a programme of study will continue in key stages 3 and 4. We are out to consultation on that but the first draft, as good as it is, is very factually orientated with no real indication of the sort of things that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, was talking about, so no real voluntary or community engagement. I was interested to see that our Prime Minister last year asked Dame Julia Cleverdon and Amanda Jordan to review how we can increase the quality and quantity of social action and engagement by young people between the ages of 10 and 20. There were some interesting facts in their interim report. They found that although there is a wide range of social activity in the UK, much of it takes place in the voluntary sector and very little within schools and businesses. They also found a lack of knowledge and understanding about social action and opportunities and their value in the education sector was very limited. Finally, they found that young people have no facility to develop social action over time. I hope the Minister when replying might suggest it is important that we recognise that fact in the curriculum.
It is also interesting to see what young people think citizenship is about. The National Foundation for Educational Research looked at young people. What did they think being a good citizen meant? Well, 43% thought it was about people having access to their rights—education, health and housing. Interestingly, 39% thought it meant working together to make sure that all members of society are treated fairly. What a lovely result. Only 10% listed voting, politics and government. If we are going to get citizenship right, it must be about the quality of the teaching as well as the quality of the syllabus. Far too often citizenship is seen as a Cinderella subject. I can remember my wife who teaches PE and French—a strange combination—sometimes as a chore being sent in to teach citizenship, never having had any training in it or understanding of it. So we have to get that right and we also have to make sure that from time to time we actually inspect the subject as well.
I will make two further quick observations. First, there is a marvellous organisation run by and for young people called “Bite the Ballot”. Members of all parts of the House might have been involved in it. It is about encouraging young people to understand democracy in all its forms and giving young people a voice in the issues. I was invited to one meeting in the Jubilee Room, packed with young people, and I was astounded by their ability to communicate issues, to listen and to reason. If we can get that happening with this organisation, why can we not get it happening in our schools as well?
I end on a bit of a sad note, and this might seem a bit carping, but we talk about a national curriculum and we laud the fact that we are going to have citizenship in our national curriculum for key stages 3 and 4. The fact is that it is not a national curriculum because half our secondary schools can choose not to teach it. I was sad to see an announcement by Stephen Twigg, who I admire greatly, saying that the Labour Party was going to hand over those responsibilities to all our schools. So in a sense it is only this party which believes that a national curriculum should be, as it says on the label, for all children—slimmed down, yes, but all children should be taught those important things, including citizenship.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for calling this debate. Citizenship education is an important subject and I will speak mainly about it as it is lived in, through and around what happens in schools rather than necessarily what happens after those school years; although what the noble Lord spoke about is important.
Citizenship education prepares young people for life in a complex, modern society where we all need to take our political, legal and economic responsibilities seriously, within the context of a sustaining moral framework. I want just to draw attention to a particular partnership which should exist in this whole field of citizenship education, which is the one with religious education. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Education held a meeting last week where a whole number of young people, from different schools, spoke movingly about how important RE has been to them as the only opportunity they have at the moment to examine how they can live respectfully with difference, how they can understand people who have a very different world view and how they can live together in a harmonious community when they are encouraged to be in an adversarial relationship.
It is undoubtedly the case that you cannot understand the modern world without understanding religion, which has become more, not less, important in the past 20 years. Some of that religion of course, as we know, has been unhealthy; but most of it is of huge value, especially when it is realised that religious faith is the driving force behind the lives of over 70% of the world’s population.
Good RE encourages respect, tolerance, participation, community building, charitable activity, social engagement—all the things that we believe are part of citizenship education as well. Good RE creates active, informed and responsible citizens. The trouble is that RE is under severe strain at present, not through the intentional actions of the DfE, but through the unintended consequences of several key decisions. The English baccalaureate excludes RE; the reform of the so-called national curriculum excludes RE; RE is way down the list for GCSE reform; RE teacher training places have been halved in the last three years; bursaries for teacher training in RE have been removed; and so on. This has resulted in a reduction in staff, in classroom time, in resources and in exam entries and a deep fall in teacher morale. The British Humanist Association is as concerned about this as the RE council of which it is a part.
I mention this because RE is a natural handmaid for citizenship education and this malaise in RE is deeply damaging to the long-term health of society. WB Yeats said that the purpose of education is not to fill a bucket but to light a fire. The fire here is that of young people believing in a healthy, participative, respectful, values-based democracy. Citizenship education and RE are the best tools we have to shape such a society and to rescue it from utilitarian ideology. The noble Lord’s Question concerning citizenship education is therefore deeply important and I am very pleased to take part in this discussion.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for giving us this opportunity to debate an important subject and for introducing the debate so powerfully. Like others, I would like to concentrate on the educational issues raised by the topic and to widen the meaning of citizenship education.
I think we all recognise that education is more than academic subjects. Parents in the wider society expect more than subject learning. Schools must play their part in helping pupils to develop moral and spiritual values, to foster an understanding of good and healthy relationships and to grow the character which will enable them to become contributors to,
“the publick wealth, peace and tranquillity of the Realm”,
as our daily prayer puts it. I can think of few phrases that better describe what citizenship education should achieve.
We face enormous challenges in our society. This Government have commendably identified the so-called problem families who are at the root of many social difficulties, and who all too often pass on their problems through several generations. Programmes and money to address these difficulties and break the cycle are being put in place, but education, too, must play its part in instilling solid values and integrity of character in every young person to help break that cycle.
There are aspects of the curriculum which aim to offer special skills and understanding relevant to these non-academic parts of the curriculum. PSHE deals with some of the aspects, notably health and relationships, and makes an important contribution when well taught. Citizenship education, which is a statutory requirement at secondary stage and available as a GCSE short course examination, deals with the framework of democracy: Parliament, the electoral system and the importance of the rule of law. It also deals with aspects of personal financial management and social responsibility through volunteering.
The citizenship syllabus can, if well taught, play its part. Learning about how our precious system of democracy works and why it should be protected and valued, is an essential element in any young person’s education. Understanding about why there is taxation and how that relates to the democratic process is also essential, as is the role of law and human rights. The skills needed to manage money, which are so sadly lacking in many young adults who become trapped by payday loans, could make a big contribution to their future well-being.
These are challenging areas for any teacher. They are not solely dealing with facts or with identifiable skills. The slow building-up of character happens over years, and the acquisition of solid values takes place over the whole period from a four year-old entering school to a 19 year-old leaving. No single subject or single teacher should be expected to shoulder the responsibility for that alone.
Evidence from Ofsted implies that the teaching of both PSHE and citizenship and the value placed on them, though improving, varies between schools depending on the leadership in the school. It therefore cannot be assumed that any young person that has been taught PSHE and citizenship will have acquired all those values and will develop the character that we need for a good citizen. Much more is needed for the development of internalised individual responsibility to family, friends, community and nation.
No doubt many noble Lords will have their own wish list of what could be added to the national curriculum. It may be because I was once an academic philosopher that I would like to ensure that all young people, not just the lucky ones with good teaching in PSHE and citizenship, have the opportunity to wrestle with some of the leading moral and ethical issues of our age. In so doing they should learn the skills of argument, weighing both sides of an issue, not taking one side instantly and relying on evidence where it is available. I would like to think that we could bring about a generation which understood what is meant by a just war, the right to die and human rights. I would like this generation particularly to understand the importance of free speech and why it should be protected, and to have at least the tools to debate the ethics of capitalism and socialism.
Citizenship education is in all aspects more than a single element in the curriculum. As the noble Lord, Lord Storey, has said, it is everything that a school does to develop the citizen of the future. It is the responsibility of every teacher and, above all, of the head and senior staff to ensure that the whole school is imbued with the values of good citizenship. That means that every pupil is valued. The relationship between teacher and pupil is one of mutual respect, but where the authority of the teacher is recognised and established. It means that bullying, cruelty, lying and cheating are never tolerated, and courage, honesty and loyalty are manifestly rewarded.
Such attitudes should permeate everything about how a school conducts its business; they are not the responsibility of one or two areas of the curriculum. Indeed, my fear about both PSHE and citizenship education is that they may encourage other teachers, and even the head, to feel that the provision of these subjects relieves all other members of staff from any concern with the wider issues of citizenship.
Good citizens contribute to society, recognising their responsibilities not just their rights. This means that every young person should be capable of earning a living, well-educated, literate, numerate and fluent in their own language at least. The core task of a school is to ensure that every pupil achieves those basic skills.
As one who has conducted perhaps over a thousand interviews, I would add that an essential ingredient in presenting for a job is also confidence and a realistic sense of one’s own worth. Again, that is not something that appears in the syllabus of any one subject, but which is developed through the total experience of growing up, in which school plays a significant part. Of course, loving parents are the best guarantors of self-worth, but sadly not all young people are blessed with loving parents, and a good school and sensitive teachers can help to fill that enormous gap.
Schools face a huge task in attempting to meet the expectations of society. However, this responsibility is recognised and accepted by the good teachers and heads I have been privileged to meet over the years. We cannot succeed with every child. Sadly there will always be some whose background of deprivation of love is too strong for a school to make a difference. But with professional skill and humanity, I know that many schools and teachers work daily to improve the skills, values, character and attitudes of their pupils in ways which will ensure that they will be the citizens of a future society of which we and they can be proud.
My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Cormack for instituting this debate, which is of the greatest importance. I also thank the House of Lords staff for a very useful briefing, and Democratic Life, a coalition of about 40 charities that are interested in citizenship education.
I declare a double interest: first, as founder of the Citizenship Foundation, which was established in the 1980s and now works with more than half of state secondary schools in citizenship teaching; secondly, the unyielding passion I have had for this subject since as a young bloke I started as office boy in a country solicitor’s office in 1957. My principal dragged me round the country courts—all of them closed now, of course—and I was instantly aware, as anyone would have been unless they were made of stone, that even then the law was formidably complicated. In juvenile courts in particular, one often sensed that the young offenders were completely mystified. I then got a local headmaster to let me loose on a class of 16 year-olds for a year to try to interest them in the law. Most people said it was impossible but it was not merely possible but actually very easy because the law is an extremely interesting subject when it deals with issues of current public concern.
I agree wholeheartedly with my noble friend Lord Cormack’s idea about a ceremony. I think that would be very telling. But I would like to start with a rather basic fact that we are supposed to give credence to; namely, equality before the law, which is, after all, the great boast of our court system and has been from Magna Carta onwards. One does not need to be cynical to think that to claim equality before the law in the present age is really not possible—as an ambition, yes; as a reality, absolutely not. Equality before the law presupposes that those going before the law have some knowledge and understanding of what they are dealing with when before a court and that they have, where necessary, legal aid to enable them to conduct their cases.
We are legislating now at an average rate of 15,000 pages of new statute law a year, with repeals of 3,000 or 4,000, so there is a net increase in statute law of more than 10,000 pages a year—most of it so complex that it is noticeable how the numbers engaging in debates on Bills are declining year by year. Indeed, at lunch today I met an extremely able and distinguished Peer who said that he was not going to take part in debate on the Energy Bill, in which he is deeply interested, because he could not make head or tail of it and it rumbles on for tens of pages. That is not good enough. It is rather like expecting a Christian to be a Christian without having some knowledge of the New Testament, or a soldier to be put into battle without arms or protective equipment, or indeed a driver to go on the roads without having had tuition. That, frankly, is the crude analogy with the young people we send forth from our schools today into the big, wide world. Our society is intensely complex in every dimension and manifestation. To allow our young people to enter the so-called adult world with no training and no understanding of that world is self-defeating to a degree that really beggars description.
The old maxim, ignorantia legis neminem excusat—no one is excused by their ignorance of the law—is of course a grand maxim. Frankly, however, for us as a Parliament knowingly to deny the young people of this country the knowledge to escape that ignorance seems to me to be inexcusable—indeed, to be a derogation from our parliamentary and democratic duty. To go on as we do, legislating as we do, paying little or no attention to that is something that I suggest to the House—particularly to the people who are not here—we absolutely as a matter of deep moral necessity need to address.
I am aware of how difficult it is if you are Secretary of State to deal with all the competing claims on curriculum time. I am aware of the expense of these things. Nothing but nothing, however, is doing more damage to our democracy than the state of affairs we are debating today. My noble friend Lord Storey gave some of the statistics. One could give so many more.
I am absolutely of the view that we have to fight to achieve an acceptable level of school-leaving knowledge, understanding and competence in order for young people to become active, engaged citizens. I know from long experience with the Citizenship Foundation that if you give them half a chance, they take it—with alacrity and with keenness.
We have a mock trial competition in magistrates’ courts and Crown Courts right across the country. Thousands upon thousands of young people take part in it every year. They are thrilled by it. They are astonished to find that the court system is as it is; that there are lay magistrates giving of their time and substance and judging as they do, where they do, and how they do. We have to give them a chance.
I would like very quickly to run through just a few points. Michael Gove, the Secretary of State, said in February that he was going to reject the advice of his experts’ panels to take citizenship out of the national curriculum. God bless him for that. I am sure that David Blunkett and Bernard Crick, if he were still alive, would have cheered him to the rafters.
There are, however, certain things we need to address—and I hope the Minister will. First, teacher training is in decline. Secondly, the curriculum does not do enough on skills; in the draft curriculum there is no reference to the European Union or to the United Nations. We need more statistics and we need better funding, because, frankly, schools are falling out of citizenship education at a great and dangerous rate. It cannot continue.
My Lords, I spoke in April in a short debate on personal, social and health education—PSHE— in schools, arguing that first aid and emergency life-saving skills should be made mandatory in schools, possibly as an element of the PSHE curriculum. So my case today essentially boils down to, “If not PSHE, why not citizenship?”. The citizenship curriculum would be at least as appropriate a home for emergency first aid training. The Department for Education’s draft programmes of study for citizenship at key stages 3 and 4, included in the Library’s helpful briefing pack, are intended,
“to provide pupils with knowledge, skills and understanding to prepare them to play a full and active part in society”
and include the aim of developing,
“an interest in, and commitment to, volunteering that they will take with them into adulthood”.
“contribution to the improvement of their community”
could there be than developing practical skills to help fellow citizens in emergency situations, even to the extent of saving their lives?
I declare an interest as a trustee of St John Cymru-Wales, the leading first aid, youth and volunteering charity in Wales. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, on obtaining this debate and introducing it with his characteristic eloquence and persuasiveness.
My case for mandatory first aid training in schools is, like Gaul, in three parts: first, there is a real need for it; secondly, it works; and, thirdly, it is eminently doable. Every year in the UK, up to 140,000 people die in situations where first aid might have given them a chance to live. Some 60,000 people suffer cardiac arrests outside hospital, two-thirds at home and the other third in a public setting. Almost half of those which occur in public are witnessed by other people, quite often children. With every minute that passes, the chances of survival decrease by about 10%, so it can be literally a matter of life and death whether there is someone on the scene trained in the necessary skills; for example, to get the person into the recovery position, or to provide CPR, or to control bleeding, at least until professional help can arrive. That is why there is a need for first aid training.
There is also clear evidence that it works. Such training is already compulsory in many countries, including Norway, Denmark, France and 36 US states. The survival rate in Norway from shockable cardiac arrest is 52%; in the UK it varies between 2% and 12% depending on where the heart attack occurs. In Seattle, where 50% of the population is trained in emergency lifesaving, the survival rate is two and a half times ours.
It makes sense to teach these skills in schools. The basic training can take as little as two hours, and several organisations offer well designed teaching packages to deliver it, including the British Heart Foundation—BHF—and the Red Cross, as well as St John itself. St John Cymru-Wales’s Young Lifesaver scheme offers training covering 11 different aspects of first aid, including choking, asthma, bleeding, fractures, burns, poisoning, heart attacks and others. The whole course takes about eight hours, and is offered at both primary and secondary school levels, from age seven upwards. There are numerous examples of young people putting their skills into practice to save lives. The BHF estimates the annual cost of offering such training as no more than about £2,200 per school, or even less after the first year.
The argument for making training mandatory in schools rests principally on the lives that could be saved as a result, but there are other valuable benefits to be gained. Students enjoy and value their training. A review of BHF’s Heartstart programme in Northern Ireland found that 98% of students had enjoyed it, and 68% had shared their learning with family and friends. It provides a pathway towards continued volunteering. Emergency life-saving can provide a first step for young people to go on to volunteer roles, such as becoming community responders later on.
Teachers report improved confidence among students receiving first aid training. A typical quote from a teacher is:
“They have gained in confidence and are certainly a better team, as well as having vital knowledge. This is their favourite aspect of the citizenship course, as it is practically based and obviously progressive. They also talk to their parents about the scenarios”.
There is a real need to teach first aid in schools. It would produce significant results and it is realistically achievable. Although I share the view frequently stated by the Minister that schools should have as much control as possible over their own curriculum, in the case of first aid skills this is not working. Only 13% of students leave school with any life-saving training, even though a BHF survey in 2011 found that 78% of children want it, as do 86% of teachers and 70% of parents. I certainly had no such training at school, but I have now remedied this by completing just this week the training programme organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on First Aid, of which I confess to being an officer and recommend to any of your Lordships who may be interested, in partnership with St John Ambulance.
We should ensure that our younger citizens acquire these skills as a matter of course at school. I urge the Minister to look at how to make this happen and to recognise that the citizenship programme would be a good place—if not necessarily the only place—to include it, but as a mandatory element.
I should like to add a brief post-script. I received this morning, as, evidently, did the noble Lord, Lord Storey, a briefing from the Cabinet Office about the campaign for youth social action which is being launched today by the Prince of Wales and which was based on work done by Dame Julia Cleverdon and Amanda Jordan. This has strong cross-party support and aims to increase volunteering by 10 to 20 year-olds from 29% to 50% by 2020. Trial programmes will be funded in four areas from October. From my own experience of running social action programmes with schools in Southwark some years ago, I believe that this is a splendid initiative deserving of strong support, especially, of course, if community and school first-aid programmes are among those funded.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Cormack on initiating this debate. The fact that it comes at the end of proceedings on a Thursday should not mask the fact that it is of enormous importance to the future well-being of the British polity. We face a serious problem in terms of political knowledge and engagement. At the beginning of the 1950s, those who failed to vote in a general election were a tiny minority. Political parties played an important role, not just in electoral and parliamentary politics but in serving as conduits for civic engagement. We are now heading for a situation where those who take part in general elections may be the exception and not the norm.
The latest Hansard Society report, Audit of Political Engagement, shows that only 41% of those questioned say that in the event of an immediate general election they would be certain to vote. Among young people, only 12% are certain to vote, down from 30% two years ago. As the audit also notes, of significant concern are the low levels of understanding of how our political system works. Political parties have witnessed declines—sometimes precipitant declines—in their membership, and, as we know, raising money to sustain parties is a major challenge.
As has already been stressed, getting people to engage in civic society is crucial to the health of democracy. If we are to get people engaged, we need to ensure that they know the value to them of being engaged. Telling people that it is a civic duty to participate will influence primarily those who already participate. We have to make others aware of how they will benefit from engagement.
As a number of noble Lords have already stressed, citizenship education is essential. That means, first, enhancing it as a core part of the national curriculum, and, secondly, ensuring that in content and delivery it demonstrates the benefits to those being taught. Citizenship was introduced in 2002 as a statutory national curriculum subject for all pupils in key stages 3 and 4, as we have already heard, and must be taught at all maintained schools. I welcomed its introduction and, like others, I welcome the Government’s decision to retain it as a statutory national curriculum subject. However, the commitment to having it has not been matched by the resources to make it a success, and three years of uncertainty about its future have not helped in ensuring that schools devote sufficient resources to it.
Citizenship education is seen too much as a duty and not as something that will enrich students’ understanding and the reputation of the school. There is no incentive for schools to take it seriously. It is not a subject that contributes to a school’s standing in the league tables. Until there are incentives to take it seriously, it will remain a low priority for head teachers. Ofsted’s 2010 inspection report found that about half of schools provide good or better provision for citizenship. Students’ achievement was good or outstanding in citizenship in just over half of the secondary schools visited. Given the lack of incentive to put it on a par with other subjects, that may be seen as quite creditable but it still leaves about half of all our secondary schools falling short in the provision of good citizenship education.
Too often, as my noble friend Lord Storey noted, citizenship teaching is left to those who are not trained in its delivery. There are too few trained citizenship teachers. They are also vulnerable. If school budgets are under pressure, they are likely to be the first ones to be let go. Since 2010, the Department for Education has withdrawn funding for citizenship continuing professional development, and citizenship is the only subject where trainee teachers do not receive a bursary to help pay their fees.
My starting point is that we not only need citizenship education, but must also take it seriously. That entails ensuring that adequate resources are devoted to it and that schools have some incentive to take it seriously. Can the Minister say what the Government are doing to ensure that citizenship is enhanced and that head teachers have a reason to take it seriously?
My second point is that not only must head teachers have some incentive to take citizenship education seriously, but so must the pupils taking the subject. The citizenship programmes of study cover important topics. As my former colleague the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, has mentioned, at key stage 4 it is expected that pupils are taught about the role of Parliament in holding government to account and the different electoral systems used in and beyond the United Kingdom, as well as about other parts of the political system. That is all well and good—and in the light of the noble Lord, Lord Parekh’s comments, I declare an interest as someone who writes textbooks on those subjects—but it entails teaching students what we think is important.
Structures and processes by themselves do not always hold students’ attention, particularly when they have not chosen to study the subject. As the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, said, the programmes need to be constructed in such a way as to engage the interests of the student. That may entail ensuring that the teaching is issue-driven, looking at issues that engage students. There is a case for surveying young people to find out what are salient issues, then explaining how policies in those areas are developed and agreed and, fundamentally, how the students can make their views on the subject known to Parliament and to policymakers. When I speak in schools I raise issues and get students to vote on them to demonstrate that Parliament discusses issues that are of concern to them and on which they have views.
As we have heard, citizenship education is crucial and we must ensure that government remains committed to it. However, if it is to be taught, it needs to be taught well. That entails devoting resources to it, ensuring that schools have incentives to deliver it effectively, and that it is delivered in such a way that it engages the interest of students. I look forward to hearing my noble friend the Minister tell us how the Government intend to deliver on these goals. This is a serious matter and we need to ensure that we give it the attention it deserves.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Cormack is to be congratulated: he has picked a perfect day for this short debate as it coincides with the launch today of the independent Campaign for Youth Social Action, to which other noble Lords have referred. I declare an interest as president of what was formerly known as the Leicestershire Clubs for Young People, which only 10 days ago became Young Leicestershire. This new organisation brings together many groups and voluntary organisations which all work with young people. We believe that joining together will give added strength and support to the various programmes.
The former Leicestershire Clubs for Young People has some 25 clubs that offer a range of activities to around 4,000 young people. We have proactive members who volunteer locally and nationally, and three very special carers’ clubs which give their members, who often have to cope with particular deprivation, a much-needed break from their home responsibilities. Most of the clubs have between 20 and 40 young people, but the recently opened centre in Hinckley will see anywhere between 200 and 400 people. The challenge for the success of Young Leicester will be dependent on identifying and obtaining funding needed to enable individuals to get special training to aid their work with young volunteers.
However, my noble friend’s question that we have been debating today asks about what plans the Government have to develop a citizenship programme in schools. What input, therefore, will schools have within the campaign which is being launched today? I also wonder how much schools will link in with their local community.
My noble friend, many other noble Lords and I take part in the Lord Speaker’s outreach programme, visiting schools to discuss the work of Parliament and in particular the work within this House. Only two weeks ago I had the pleasure of being with Danny Smith, the principal of the Dukeries Academy in Ollerton, which I know my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth visited some years ago. If one needed to be convinced about the advantages of the community working together across all ages, it was to be found there.
I will give a short insight into some of the facilities that it has. It was built in the 1960s as a comprehensive school, but in 1985 it was redesignated as a community college, with a broader reach within the Dukeries complex. This complex, under the leadership of the principal, rapidly became a federation of organisations providing education for all, recreation, youth work, information and library services, with care services for the young and the elderly. The theme is: a place for all the family. It is a quite remarkable place and, in a way, they are lucky to have the facilities to be able to do what I think the citizenship programme is trying to do in its broadest terms.
When I was there, we had the usual presentation of the outreach programme and questions afterwards. I always think that it is those questions which make one realise how important the Lord Speaker’s outreach programme is, because I was asked some very topical questions. On Syria, I was asked whether we should give extra resources to arm those fighting the Government. I was asked whether the voting age was right or whether it should be reduced to 14. I was asked about Parliament itself and how it works. It was very clear that there was little understanding of how Parliament works at all.
However it is important that we recognise, as my noble friends have said, the influence that teaching staff have on their pupils. They inspire, encourage and enthuse those young people, which in turn helps them to help others. I pay great tribute to those teachers who have gone the extra mile to do just that. I suspect that all of us will remember somebody in our lives who made an impression on us. Making a difference and giving service to the community, knowing one’s rights and responsibilities, come from within the family or from our school days. From my point of view, I am still glad to see the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme going from strength to strength and that so many schools still have Armed Forces cadet groups as a focus of school life. Many go on to join our armed services and in this Armed Services Week we give thanks for those young people who have committed their lives to serving this country.
I believe that citizenship should not be thought of as “do-gooding” or, as a lot of young people say, “That is for other people; it could not possibly be for me”. Through school and these programmes we can help and inspire young people to believe in themselves and to take a broader look than perhaps they would do normally. They should not just come to the fact that it is something that they should do, but something that they actually enjoy doing. That is what will make volunteering in the future a greater success. My question for the Minister is this: will he tell us how the citizenship programme will fit in with community activities already going on out there? I am sure that we need a link between the two. Academic learning is one thing, but practical input on the ground is what it should be. Let us hope that this campaign launched today will have a successful future. I again thank my noble friend for giving me the opportunity to speak in this debate.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for initiating this debate. I know from previous experience that he speaks on education with considerable authority and, once again, he has raised some important and challenging issues. I very much agree with him that we could do more to mark the coming of age of young people when they leave school. I remember that I took my exams and left, and that was it. We all left on different days; we did not all leave on the same day. We could certainly do more to make more of a ceremony out of leaving school and going out into the world.
I should say at the outset that I share the relief expressed today that Michael Gove has belatedly been converted to the merits of citizenship education. Not so long ago, it faced being sidelined to the margins of the curriculum but, in another of his now famous U-turns, the latest consultation has reinstated it as a compulsory element of key stages 3 and 4. That has been widely welcomed across the political spectrum. While talking about the political spectrum, I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Storey, that a future Labour Government would, indeed, have a curriculum that was applied to all schools.
Since the subject was made compulsory in 2002, it has become an established part of the curriculum. I fear that we have slightly talked ourselves into a rather pessimistic place. Like other noble Lords around the Chamber I have visited many schools, and I have certainly seen citizenship being taught in a very positive and optimistic way which has even managed to enthuse young people about the House of Lords. We have heard examples of that this afternoon. Young people are curious, interested and want to learn. It is up to us to rise to that challenge and to present the issues to them in a way that will be life changing and life transforming when they go out into the world.
Indeed, a recent University of Essex report which studied the impact on those exposed to citizenship education found that it had a positive impact on their civic engagement, democratic participation and political knowledge compared with those who had not had that education. There is evidence that citizenship education is compulsory and valued in all the high-performing international comparators that are often quoted. Therefore, I am very glad that Michael Gove has belatedly converted to the cause. That puts behind us several years of uncertainty, and will, I hope, allow the subject to flourish in the future.
How can we raise the status and impact of the subject going forward? First, it has to develop a reputation for quality and rigour. Every child should study the subject at key stages 3 and 4 and be able to demonstrate a range of skills and knowledge. However, the subject needs to lose its reputation as a soft option for those who choose to sit it at GCSE and A-level. There is nothing soft about learning about political systems, law, rights and responsibilities. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Norton, argued, the rigour that we are demanding requires the training agency to ensure that teachers have the right knowledge and resources to deliver an effective citizenship programme in schools, and there are concerns that those resources are being cut. Ofqual also has a responsibility to ensure that the qualification is on a par, and is seen to be on a par, with equivalent subjects rather than being considered a soft option as it has been in the past.
Secondly, for this subject in particular, the Government need to demonstrate that they have engaged parents, teachers and young people in the development of the programme of study, as we all have an interest in the outcome. For example, the Government could do more to engage with the Youth Select Committee, set up by the British Youth Council and supported by the House of Commons, which is inquiring into whether the curriculum prepares young people for life after school, particularly with regard to political and cultural awareness, personal finance and life skills. All the evidence shows that young people want to learn how to make sense of the world and how to influence things that go on around them. However, we have to face facts. At the same time, they hold politicians in a fair degree of contempt, so it is in all our interests to find common levels of understanding and create a little more mutual respect. Therefore, perhaps the Minister could explain what steps are being taken to listen to the views of young people before the final programme of study is agreed.
Thirdly, we need to scrutinise the draft citizenship programme. We on these Benches welcome the intention to include financial literacy and skills in key stages 3 and 4. Although understanding individual financial services, choices and risk might not seem an essential feature of citizenship, they are crucial elements of being an active and successful citizen. We also welcome the commitment to teaching young people about the benefits and experience of volunteering. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Storey, the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and others that this should be set in the clear context of the wider social and democratic involvement in schools and communities to make fully rounded and active citizens. There should be new opportunities for young people to participate in the National Citizen Service. Perhaps the Minister could update us on what is being done to support this initiative.
There are also concerns that the draft citizenship programme focuses too much on UK systems of government at the expense of a wider global understanding. I agree with my noble friend Lord Parekh that our multicultural heritage, combined with advanced media communications, means that the next generation of young people will inevitably be citizens of the world. Our young people need to be equipped with the tools to respect other cultures, to value human rights issues and to promote common international understanding. Perhaps the Minister can enlighten us on whether the revised curriculum will embrace these principles.
I wanted to make a few other comments but I can see that my time is running out. My final point is that the future of citizenship is much more than what goes on in schools. I do not think that we should burden the education system with all our society’s ills, but obviously we have an important role to play. It is crucial that we stop the flight of young people from our political institutions and engage with them to design more robust and respected democratic systems for the future. I hope that the new version of the curriculum will play its part in doing that, and I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say in response.
My Lords, I thank those who have taken part in this debate, particularly my noble friend Lord Cormack for raising this important issue. I know he is committed to ensuring that young people leave school as active and responsible citizens. I strongly agree with my noble friend that young people need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to prepare them to play a full and active part in society. This is why the Government intend to retain the statutory status of citizenship in secondary schools as part of the review of the national curriculum. The new draft citizenship programme of study includes a requirement that all pupils should be given opportunities to undertake voluntary work for the first time. I believe that that will support one of our key aims, which is to ensure that our young people are committed to volunteering and that they will take that with them into adulthood. All good schools have an active programme of engaging with voluntary organisations and charities, and we shall certainly be encouraging all schools to do that. The Cabinet Office announced a new campaign today, as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, noted, to get young people involved in social action. This is in addition to our youth social action fund.
We have revised the citizenship programmes of study to ensure that they direct teaching towards the core knowledge of citizenship: namely, teaching about the way our society is governed and its laws, including those that protect human rights, rather than the more issues-based content that dominates the current programme of study. The shorter programmes of study give teachers greater freedom to define what is taught. However, they require teaching about laws, which my noble friend Lord Phillips said is so important, about rights and responsibilities and about the liberties enjoyed by citizens of the United Kingdom. The new programmes of study are not just focused on the UK; they provide opportunities for pupils to learn about other systems and forms of government in other countries as well as our relations with Europe, the Commonwealth and the wider world. However, I take note of the points made by him.
Our proposed changes to the citizenship curriculum include having a stronger emphasis on teaching about our political system, our democracy and the nature of our laws, so that many more of our young people engage with the political process, as my noble friends Lord Norton and Lord Storey and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said. The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, made a point about the importance of teaching political ideology and multicultural literacy and of reference to history and current events and about bringing all this and the teaching of our institutions to life. His speech was one of the best pieces of advocacy that I have heard for a rich cultural curriculum of the kind that this Government are determined to see in all schools for all pupils.
I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford about the importance of RE, which is compulsory as part of the basic curriculum. RE GCSE will count towards the “best eight” measure. I am delighted that the dioceses are engaging so actively in the academies programme.
A number of noble Lords, including my noble friends Lady Perry and Lord Storey, said that citizenship is a whole, across-school ethos, and that all good schools should embrace this approach. This is all part of a good education and not part of a prescriptive list. We trust teachers to deliver this.
I am delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, supports us in making financial education statutory for the first time at secondary level in the citizenship curriculum. Pupils will be taught about the functions and uses of money, the importance of personal budgeting, money management and a range of financial products and services. In addition, the mathematics curriculum has been strengthened to give pupils from the ages of five to 16 the necessary mathematics to prepare young people for making sound financial decisions, for example about mortgages and loan repayments.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, asked for an update on the National Citizen Service. As one of the original supporters of this programme when it was just an idea, I am delighted that it is becoming so successful. Our ambition is for this to become a universal programme—a rite of passage for all 16 and 17 year-olds. In 2011-12, 8,500 young people participated. This increased to 26,000 this year and we announced yesterday that we will be expanding the number of places to 150,000 in 2016.
My noble friend asked what the Government were doing to enhance the delivery of citizenship and ensure that head teachers take the subject seriously. We have made our commitment to citizenship abundantly clear by retaining the statutory status of citizenship in secondary schools as part of the review of the national curriculum. Citizenship is one of only six subjects in the new national curriculum to be compulsory at key stage 4. A GCSE in citizenship currently receives credit in the school accountability system through the school performance tables, and will continue to count as part of our proposed—
I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way. Will he say something about the impact on the status of citizenship education as a subject which is not inspectable because it has been put into the second tier and is no longer compulsorily part of an Ofsted inspection? Does he not think that that has severe consequences for the subject’s status and standing?
My noble friend is perfectly right in what he says. Ofsted has to inspect on social, moral and cultural issues and carries out triennial reviews of all subjects, including citizenship. However, he is right and I will take his points back. Citizenship is part of the best eight.
I thank my noble friend Lady Byford for highlighting the excellent work that the House of Lords outreach programme does with young people. Almost 1,000 visits have been made to schools in every region of the UK, and House of Lords Chamber events have brought young people to Parliament to explore and debate a range of issues.
My noble friend Lady Byford also highlighted the fantastic work of the cadets programme. We know about the transformative effect that cadet units can have on schools by increasing attendance, engagement, participation at 16 to 18, self-confidence and discipline. The cadet expansion programme was a key strand of the Government’s Positive for Youth policy. Early work was based on a pilot of between 10 and 15 third-party funded units, but this number was increased following the announcement on Armed Forces Day last year by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, who challenged departments to deliver 100 new units by 2015, with a longer-term goal of meeting all school requests for a cadet unit by 2020.
The Government are also committed to promoting the voices of young people at both a national and local level. That is why we are extending the funding to the British Youth Council. This funding supports initiatives such as UK Youth and local youth councils, where youth-led forums represent young people’s views.
In addition to a demanding curriculum, good-quality teaching is fundamental, as my noble friend Lord Norton said. There is strong evidence that links teacher quality, above all other school factors, to pupils’ attainment. The Government’s reform of ITT demonstrates our commitment to recruiting the very best graduates and to giving teaching schools more of a role so that schools close to the needs of particular types of pupils can develop the appropriate training. Teachers have access to a wealth of continuing professional development material and support through their subject associations. There is support on financial education, for example, through specialist charities, such as the Personal Finance Education Group, which are well respected, and private sector experts, such as the banks. Organisations such as the Association for Citizenship Teaching and the Citizenship Foundation also offer a range of support to teachers.
The importance of emergency life-saving skills and first aid were highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. The provision of emergency life-saving skills is not compulsory and is a matter for local determination, but I will take back his observations.
I thank noble Lords for engaging in this debate. I believe our commitment to helping young people to develop as citizens is abundantly clear.
I undertake to do that. I was about to say that I know that our reforms do not go as far as my noble friend would like, but I listened carefully to what he said and I will take that back. We believe that our reforms of the national curriculum, together with the wider support I have outlined, will ensure that our young people have the support they need to take their place as active and responsible members of society.
House adjourned at 6.21 pm.