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Lords Chamber

Volume 747: debated on Thursday 25 July 2013

House of Lords

Thursday, 25 July 2013.

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Birmingham.

Overseas Aid: Post-2015 Development Agenda

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to follow up the report of the United Nations High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

My Lords, the Government welcome the high-level panel’s report as an ambitious and practical starting point for negotiations on the post-2015 development framework. Over the next two years we will work internationally to seek to build momentum behind the panel’s recommendations and to ensure that the final framework is equally strong.

I thank the Minister for that Answer. Everyone in this House who has taken part in debates on this matter will welcome the very strong analysis and recommendations made in the report of the high-level panel on the issues of conflict, security and development. In fact, the recommendations are perhaps surprising given the hostility that there may be elsewhere in the United Nations system towards these issues. What action will the Government take to build a broad coalition in the United Nations and elsewhere to secure these recommendations and to make sure that the final report for the post-2015 development framework tackles the crucial issues of peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction?

This report is remarkable. Many people felt that it would be very difficult to secure something as focused, streamlined and effective as this one is, following on as it does from the previous one, which was negotiated almost in isolation. Many different groups and organisations from countries across the globe have been involved, which is a good omen for taking this forward. However, the noble Lord is absolutely right to say that it is going to need a lot of work, and this Government will be putting that work in to ensure that what is finally proposed is as strong as this initial report.

My Lords, the Prime Minister is much to be congratulated on the report of the high-level panel, which he co-chaired, given its emphasis on no one being left behind and the recommendation that targets should be considered achieved only if they are met for all the relevant income and stakeholder groups. Given all of that and the fact that progress towards the current millennium development goals has been limited by the great increase in global inequalities, will the UK Government press for a stand-alone goal on equality in the post-2015 framework?

The noble Lord is right about how this proposal emphasises leaving no one behind and that targets can be considered achieved only when they are met across all social and income groups. That is essential in tackling inequality. It seems to us that challenging inequality runs as a thread through the whole report.

My Lords, I returned this morning from Myanmar which—although it was a fascinating week—is still in a very fragile state. It is one of the states that has failed to achieve any of the MDGs. It is still a very poor country where one in four people lives below $1.25 a day, and it has terrible capacity issues. Given the feeling of hope in that country now, what does DfID plan to do to support the Burmese people in the run-up to the 2015 elections?

DfID is a strong supporter of Myanmar and we recognise that it is a very fragile state. I think that my noble friend went with an all-party group, and we are delighted that such a group has been able to visit. We recently announced £10 million in funding to help with the 2014 Myanmar population and housing census which will help to underpin the information required for the elections. We will continue to help the Government and other organisations in other ways as well.

My Lords, the managing director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, recently said:

“Rising income inequality is a growing concern for policymakers around the world”.

Why, then, has the high-level panel omitted any reference to this issue, and why does it talk only about equality of opportunity? Does the Minister agree that Madame Lagarde’s evidence-based statement that,

“more equal societies are more likely to achieve lasting growth”,

should be considered in any future discussions?

If the noble Baroness looks at the 12 goals, and I am sure that she has, she will see that they include the issues that need to be addressed. For example, goal 8 is to,

“create jobs, sustainable livelihoods and equitable growth”.

I think that that addresses the problems that she highlights.

Like other noble Lords, I applaud the Prime Minister’s initiative and leadership in this area and encourage him to press on. In view of the importance that the report attaches to gender equality and empowerment, can the Minister confirm that the Government will look to next year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women, which starts in March, to build consensus among UN member states on this matter, ahead of any final negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda?

I can assure the right reverend Prelate that we are already doing that. A great deal of work went into ensuring that this year’s CSW could reach agreement. It required a lot of work but we were delighted that that agreement was reached. We are already working on the next one and are delighted that the second of the 12 goals is on gender equality.

My Lords, according to a report on EurActiv.com under the headline “Brussels proposes pooling world aid development funding”, the EU’s Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, issued a statement on 16 July proposing that, post-2015,

“all types of development aid … be considered as ‘a whole’”,

including ODA for low-income countries. He described the statement as,

“another big step towards putting in place the … post-2015 framework”.

How can Mr Piebalgs’ initiative apparently to place world aid under a European Commission social development agenda be compatible with DfID’s vision of using ODA as a means of growing economies so that they can trade out of poverty? Will the Government be seeking clarification?

I have seen a copy of what Commissioner Piebalgs said and he was talking about all financing sources, which includes private finance flows, domestic resources and ODA. We quite agree that all those things can contribute to the relief of poverty. We work very closely with the Commissioner. I have certainly found, after meeting him many times, that he and DfID very much agree about how best to take this forward.

My Lords, given the huge success of the water, sanitation and hygiene programme, would the Minister not prefer to see it higher in the priorities for the post-millennium period, and is she surprised that it is not?

There are 12 goals, as the noble Earl will know, and I am very pleased that achieving universal access to water and sanitation is among them. I do not think that he should regard them as being in order of priority. The ones that are in there are very significant.

Taxation: VAT on Retrofitting Buildings

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have plans to reduce VAT on the retrofitting of existing buildings to encourage energy saving and job creation.

My Lords, a reduced VAT rate of 5% already applies to the installation of various energy-saving materials, including insulation materials, in residential properties. There are many instances where people incur expenditure in a way that helps to reduce energy use, but given the current fiscal pressures, it is not possible to relieve such expenditure from tax.

My Lords, as suppressing the demand for energy and encouraging job creation are two of the Government’s key objectives, is there not a strong case for reducing VAT more generally on the retrofitting of buildings as a simple and quick way of ensuring that both these objectives are achieved at minimal cost to the Treasury? Will the Minister not take a leaf out of the Americans’ book and look at this again, as it has been a successful policy across the Atlantic?

My Lords, the Government recognise that energy efficiency has a major role to play in meeting carbon reduction objectives while reducing energy costs for consumers, and the process of doing that can and does generate jobs. That is why we have introduced the Green Deal, which, as noble Lords will be aware, encourages home energy-efficiency improvements, paid for by savings on energy bills. The energy company obligation will work alongside the Green Deal, focusing on hard-to-treat homes and low-income households.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the noble Lord’s reference to the United States is not very relevant because the United States does not have VAT? Indeed, it would do much better if it did have it. Furthermore, does the Minister agree that the Government should be very cautious in extending multi-rate VAT because all sorts of anomalies and complications can follow?

My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy with the noble Lord because my first job as a new employee was working on VAT. It was very complicated when it was introduced; it has got more complicated since then and should not be allowed to get any more so.

My Lords, is it not irrational to have a VAT regime that incentivises demolition and new build and penalises alteration and refurbishment? Is that not just as perverse in relation to heritage conservation as it is to energy saving? Will the Government negotiate with real determination in Brussels to secure a sensible regime?

As the noble Lord said, the VAT regime is an EU regime. Any attempt to change it will require unanimity as it is a tax measure. Opening up the regime would, in my view, open up a Pandora’s box, and I do not recommend that as a policy approach.

My Lords, Britain has one of the oldest building stocks in Europe. Does the Minister not agree that the value of retrofitting old buildings is incredibly important? I point to the enormous success of the retrofitting of the Palace of Westminster and congratulate the efforts by the staff to make great savings. However, there are particular problems with the Palace of Westminster. It is a grade 1 listed building, and there is quite a cost burden on retrofitting listed buildings. Can the Government consider a different, deferential rate for all listed buildings because of the cost implication of retrofitting listed buildings?

My Lords, I think that we are all aware of the complications of trying to make a building such as this energy efficient, and I pay tribute to the work being done in that respect. Sadly, under EU legislation, the scope for a reduced rate of VAT on non-residential royal palaces is, I am afraid, non-existent. However, I commend, and refer the noble Lord to, the work that the National Trust is doing on green energy projects—for example, installing a biomass boiler system at Chirk Castle, which just shows what can be done. I remind the noble Lord that the Green Deal will apply to homes that are listed buildings.

My Lords, is the noble Lord’s strong support for energy saving why his right honourable friend the Chancellor is so strongly supporting shale gas, especially in Lancashire, where many jobs will be created? Lancashire will be very grateful for the support of the Chancellor.

Shale gas is a significant potential new source of energy. As the noble Lord will be aware, we announced a series of measures in the spending review that will facilitate the development of shale gas. We think that it can play an important part in our future energy mix. Of course, the development of it will generate a number of jobs.

In the discussion the other day with representatives of the KfW Bank in Germany, at which the Minister was present, he will have heard them say that one of the most successful schemes the bank has been involved in is a scheme for energy saving and job creation in Germany. Does he not think that there is a lesson here for this country, at a time when the divide between north and south is getting greater, so that we can help rebalance the economy and provide jobs at a local level, thereby having the twin objectives of ensuring economic prosperity and providing insulation for homes for the future?

I completely agree with the noble Lord. Of course, that is why we set up the Green Investment Bank, which is already proving its worth, not only in putting money into green projects on its own behalf but getting a significant multiple of private sector investment coming in to support that government pump-priming.

My Lords, the Minister has twice referred to the Green Deal as the Government’s policy response to the issue. Can he tell the House how the take-up of the Green Deal is progressing in relation to the hopes that were expressed?

My Lords, the Green Deal is a new project with a 20-year life ahead of it. Up to the end of June, some 44,479 assessments had been made and 3,500 installations had received cashback payments. In addition, 78% of people with a Green Deal advice report said that they had, were getting or would get energy-saving measures installed, which demonstrates a very high level of consumer interest.

Overseas Aid: GDP Target

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they had at the G8 summit on members’ individual progress towards the 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product target for spending on overseas aid.

My Lords, individual progress towards the 0.7% of gross national income target for spending on overseas aid was discussed by the G8 as part of the production of the Loch Erne G8 Accountability Report, which was endorsed by leaders at the G8 summit.

I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer. While we can take immense pride in being the first Government of a major G8 country actually to deliver on the pledge made 23 years ago to provide 0.7% of our gross national income to the poorest, Germany is still at 0.38%, Canada at 0.32%, the US at 0.19% and Japan at 0.17%. Does my noble friend accept that the entire point of us increasing our responsibility and taking our responsibility to the world’s poor seriously was never meant to enable other countries, which are now cutting their aid budgets, to shirk their responsibility to the poorest?

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his tribute to our leadership on this. By meeting our commitments, we are better able to seek to influence others, and that is what we are indeed seeking to do. I note his example and pay tribute to him because, as I understand it, on Saturday he will be starting a 500-mile walk on behalf of Save the Children’s work in Syria.

My Lords, the noble Baroness may be aware that shortly after the main G8 summit there was also a G8 conference on women, based on the Deauville Partnership. Given the question raised earlier by the right reverend Prelate, can the noble Baroness tell us what part of our budget is currently directed towards projects that specifically deal with developmental issues for women, many of which will be very well known to her?

I will write to the noble Baroness with a more precise answer on that. I know that I have issued Written Answers but I cannot, I am afraid, give her the figure off the top of my head.

My Lords, I think we all applaud the dedication and enthusiasm of my noble friend Lord Bates, but does the Minister accept that while these great global targets may bring satisfaction to some, the actual aim is development, not merely volumes of aid, and the real drivers of development are entrepreneurship and ownership raising the prosperity of the peoples and the countries concerned and eradicating poverty? As has been set out very clearly by great experts such as Hernando de Soto, these are the things that will make development work. Will she assure us that her colleagues are fully aware of this view about how aid can lead to development rather than in some cases actually block it?

I assure my noble friend that DfID is very seized of that and is well aware of the importance of entrepreneurship and ownership. We are also, of course, aware that the stories of China and India show that trade and economic development have powered those countries.

My Lords, whatever happens about the commendable 0.7% target, does the noble Baroness agree that to be effective, we must support the strengthening of governance, effective and fair tax systems, and sustainable development programmes in the third world that take into account the challenge of climate change? Does she also agree that if we are to be effective in achieving this, we must not preach at the third world about its responsibilities but have to demonstrate, in tax and in our sustainable development policies in this country, that we are doing what we are asking it to do?

The noble Lord will be aware that in the previous Question we talked about the MDGs. Their environmental goals are clearly extremely important and need to be agreed by developed and developing countries. He is right about the burden on us in terms of taking this forward. He will also know that there was a major emphasis on tax at the G8 and the G20. The United Kingdom is leading with regard to addressing the issues that he has highlighted.

My Lords, I welcome the Minister’s robust response. None the less, it is how the money is spent, rather than the amount of money, that actually tackles poverty effectively. With that in mind, how does her department intend to respond to the continuing challenges posed to it by the further report of the Select Committee on International Development in another place, published this morning, on accountability and transparency?

I saw the press coverage of the International Development Select Committee’s report this morning. I was then astonished to look at the report itself, and wondered how on earth the press came to the conclusions that they did. They were reviewing DfID’s multilateral aid review. They pointed out that it was extraordinarily important for DfID to review how its aid is given, and suggested that there were strengths, but also some areas where DfID might want to investigate further, including—to pick up the noble Baroness’s question earlier—ensuring that multilateral organisations focus on gender. I welcome the Select Committee’s report; it helps keep us on our toes, and it does not match up with this morning’s press reports.

My Lords, I join noble Lords in praising the coalition Government for their global leadership in meeting our responsibilities to those in the developing world. Does the Minister agree that it is helpful to bear in mind the difference that this is making to children’s lives, to think of particular instances—such as the boy who was brought up by his grandmother in a marginal area of Tanzania far from hospitals and schools, who experienced kwashiorkor, and who came to speak to Members of the House about his struggles—and to think that other children will not suffer that undernourishment or the life-damaging results of hunger at such an early age because of the leadership of the coalition Government?

I thank the noble Earl for his tribute. He is absolutely right. Anybody who works in this area and anybody who visits the countries that he has visited will understand why we are doing this. He will also be aware of the focus on nutrition that we had just before the G8 and the emphasis on ensuring that children are not stunted both physically and mentally.

Cigarette Packaging

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action is being taken to ensure that they implement their obligations under Article 5.3 of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control when consulting on cigarette packaging.

My Lords, the Government take very seriously their obligations as a party to the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. This treaty places obligations on parties to protect public health policy from the vested interests of the tobacco industry. Our tobacco control plan has a chapter dedicated to how we are going about protecting tobacco control from vested interests. Our approach is consistent with guidelines that have been agreed to assist parties to implement Article 5.3 of the treaty.

I thank the Minister for that Answer but, for the information of the House, the guidelines for the implementation of Article 5.3 state that parties to the convention,

“should require rules for the disclosure or registration of the tobacco industry entities, affiliated organizations and individuals acting on their behalf, including lobbyists”.

The guidelines specify that that covers meetings, receptions and all conversations which should be a matter of public record. Will the Minister ask his right honourable colleague the Secretary of State for Health to write forthwith to all his colleagues across government, reminding them what HMG’s long-standing commitments to the World Health Organisation’s convention are and how they should be enacted? Can he assure the House that Article 5.3 has been complied with in every particular in the past year while leading up to the disappointing announcement that plain packaging has been delayed?

I can give the noble Baroness that assurance. She will know from her time in government how seriously the Department of Health takes its obligations in this area, not least around transparency but also minimising the extent to which officials meet representatives of the tobacco industry. I am sure that my colleagues in other departments need no reminding of their obligations as well. We do of course interact with the tobacco industry, as the framework agreement allows, but we encourage those representations to be in writing and minimise face-to-face contact.

My Lords, has the Minister seen reports that Downing Street said yesterday that Lynton Crosby advises on strategy, not on policy. What is the difference in relation to tobacco legislation?

I am sure that we could get into an interesting conceptual discussion about the difference between strategy and policy. The key point is that Mr Crosby has been very clear in his public statement. He has said:

“At no time have I had any conversation or discussion with or lobbied the prime minister, or indeed the health secretary or the health minister, on plain packaging or tobacco issues”.

That is very clear.

What assessment do the Government intend to make in the coming year of the appeal of current packaging, given that some of the slimline packaging is particularly attractive and enticing to young women and that some of the chunky packaging is particularly enticing to the macho side of young men?

The noble Baroness gives me the opportunity to make clear that plain packaging of tobacco is very much still in our sights; we have not decided to reject that option. I am sure that the psychology of marketing is one very important area that we will continue to focus on.

My Lords, what better adviser is there for the Department of Health or indeed the Prime Minister than Cancer Research UK, whose only interest is preventing children starting to smoke? When did my noble friend’s department last speak to that organisation about tobacco packaging?

My Lords, I cannot tell my noble friend about the dates on which the department spoke to Cancer Research UK; I can tell her that we have very regular dealings with Cancer Research UK. CRUK made a submission to the consultation on the plain packaging of tobacco. I can feed back to my noble friend with specific details.

My Lords, given that the Government clearly wanted to make the distinction between strategy and policy, would the Minister have another shot at answering the question raised by my noble friend Lord Foulkes? If he is unable to do so, perhaps he could consult with his colleagues who made such a distinction and write to my noble friend to explain why that distinction was made and what it meant.

I answered as I did because it is important for us not to get too bogged down in semantics. Did Mr Crosby speak to the Prime Minister about tobacco issues or did he not? The answer is that he did not.

My Lords, the issue is not whether or not he spoke to the Prime Minister but whether he, or any other corporate interest in which he is involved, sought any contact with government or any agency of government in relation to this matter.

My Lords, I am aware that officials in my department—not Ministers, I emphasise—had face-to-face meetings with certain tobacco companies in the context of the consultation on plain packaging. That was done to clarify certain aspects of their written submissions and is as far as it went. I am not aware of which companies those were, but if I can enlighten the noble Lord I will write to him.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is harmful to public health in the United Kingdom for Mr Crosby to have any dealings whatever with government departments while exercising a malign influence in the background, and that he should be got rid of and sent back to Australia?

The latter matter is not one on which I will have any influence, nor do I wish to. However, on my noble friend’s point, I cannot say more than I have already: Mr Crosby has had no dealings with Ministers or the Department of Health on the issue of tobacco.

NHS: Accident and Emergency Services

Private Notice Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what immediate action they are taking to meet the pressures on accident and emergency services in order to avert a crisis.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask a Question of which I have given private notice. In doing so, I remind the House of my health interests in the register.

My Lords, the Government recognise the severity of this issue and acknowledge that there was a dip in performance. We are taking robust action to address these issues and the 95% standard on four-hour A&E waiting times has now been met for the 12 consecutive weeks ending 14 July. The Government and NHS England are now looking at how we address the long-term issues facing A&E and the wider NHS.

My Lords, the crisis in A&E happened on this Government’s watch as a result of the disastrous structural changes that they embarked on, the drastic cuts in social services and the disastrous launch of the 111 service. The noble Earl has talked about robust action being taken, but he will be aware that yesterday the Health Select Committee made it clear that local urgent care boards are simply not getting to grips with the problem. We are therefore heading for another very difficult winter, with many services at breaking point. Will Ministers take responsibility? Why, when the noble Earl talks about robust action, is the Government’s emergency care review only to be implemented next spring, six months too late?

My Lords, I do not share the noble Lord’s analysis of the problem. A&E departments are currently meeting targets, but the long-term pressures have been building up for many, many years. Over the past decade, emergency admissions have risen by 35% and an extra 1 million patients have attended A&E compared to three years ago. This is not anything recent. The Government’s reforms will, if anything, help to ease the pressure because doctors now have the freedom to provide the health services their patients really need. The action we are taking in the immediate term is to encourage doctors and all the key players in the health system to get together in urgent care boards to make sure that next winter we see a much easier picture.

My Lords, is it not the case that the problems now being faced by many A&E departments are the result of changes to GP contracts introduced by noble Lords opposite many years ago?

My Lords, there are many factors at play here. There is no doubt that the GP contract severed the legal responsibility that individual GPs had to look after their patients out of hours. It would be idle for me to stand here and say that that has had no effect on A&E attendances. Patients are confused now about whom to contact out of hours and many turn up at A&E when perhaps they should not have done so.

My Lords, I declare my interest as professor of surgery at University College London and chair of quality for University College London Partners. What progress has been made in the commissioning of integrated care services across hospitals and the community for frail, elderly patients with multiple co-morbidities, who frequently have to attend A&E for the lack of such services?

Not for the first time, the noble Lord hits on an extremely important aspect of the problem that we are facing. It is the frail elderly who often turn up at A&E with a crisis in their health when that crisis could have been averted. That is why Sir Bruce Keogh has been tasked to look across the piece at the whole system to see how we can ensure that the frail elderly in particular are served better by the health service, not least to prevent the exacerbation of long-term conditions.

The Minister has suggested that the problems of A&E are going to get worse in future. How will the Government’s attempt to tackle those problems be helped by the closure of A&E departments in many parts of the country? In particular, how will they be helped in west London with the impending closure of A&E departments at Hammersmith and Charing Cross hospitals?

As the noble Lord will be aware, the latter issue is currently being scrutinised by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, so it would be wrong of me to comment on that. On the question of reconfigurations generally, we are clear that this is a matter for local decisions by doctors, nurses and all those with a stake in the system. It is not for Ministers to issue edicts from the top. We are clear that any reconfiguration of A&E services has to take into account the capacity of the system to absorb any closures of A&E and the capacity of community services to step in where that is appropriate.

My Lords, there is emerging evidence that younger people are using A&E as their first point of contact with the health service rather than their GP or out-of-hours services. Are there any plans to run local campaigns to remind people that accident and emergency units are just that? They are for accidents and emergencies and not coughs and colds.

My noble friend is exactly right. In the work that we are doing on NHS 111, we are seeking to promote to members of the public the advice to phone before they do anything else. If they phone NHS 111, they will be signposted to the correct area of the health service.

We have been taking action in several areas. We released additional money to ensure that immediate pressures were relieved in the health service in the spring and, as I have said, that was successful. We are encouraging, and have ensured, the setting up of urgent care wards, which amount to the kind of discussions across the system in local areas that are needed to ensure that there are no blockages in that system. More fundamentally, we have tasked Sir Bruce Keogh to undertake the work that I referred to earlier, looking at the root causes of why there have been these pressures on A&E. There is no single answer to that question.

My Lords, I declare my interests, including that my daughter is an A&E consultant in London. Are the Government planning specifically to put in some additional resources to support A&E departments now, given that the consultants need more infrastructure support, including people at a much lower grade—clerical staff, care assistants and alcohol support workers—to cope with the peaks that occur of those who have come in having abused alcohol, who take staff away from the other very sick patients, who are often in resus and whom they are also trying to look after at the same time?

The answer to the noble Baroness’s question is yes. We are looking very carefully at workforce issues and the mix of skills needed in those A&E departments that have been struggling. I refer not simply to A&E consultants but also specialists in their field—perhaps alcohol is a good example—who can deflect the pressure away from staff looking after acutely ill patients.

My Lords, building on the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, is there evidence that current difficulties in the administration of A&E departments are discouraging young doctors from regarding emergency medicine as an attractive specialism? Are the Government doing anything to encourage them to look at emergency medicine more favourably and to ensure that, if they do so, there will be jobs for them in the departments?

That is very much in the focus of Health Education England, which oversees workforce issues in the health service. There has been a shortage of A&E consultants for some time and Health Education England is looking at that area very carefully. A&E is a discipline that has not traditionally proved attractive to trainee doctors for a number of reasons. It is very stressful and the remuneration is perhaps less than in other areas of medicine. That needs to be addressed and is very much an area of scrutiny.

My Lords, following on from that, is the Minister aware that half as many again emergency doctors are needed? What is he going to do about recruiting?

As I have just said to the noble Baroness, there are no instant fixes to this but we want to ensure that recruitment over the medium term is addressed and Health Education England is doing that.

Procedure Committee

Motion to Agree

Moved by

That the 2nd Report from the Select Committee (Backbench Debates; Tabling oral questions; High Speed 2 and hybrid bill procedure) (HL Paper 33) be agreed to.

My Lords, the report covers a number of different areas, which I will cover briefly in turn. The first part deals with the detailed implementation of two proposals by the Leader of the House to allocate more time for Back-Bench business. The first proposal is for a weekly one-hour topical QSD, to be selected by ballot and debated between the two party or balloted debates on Thursdays. The ballot would open at 10 am on Monday morning and be drawn at noon on Tuesday for Thursday of the following week.

As with topical Oral Questions, a topicality test would be applied: we suggest that the subject must have been covered by at least two mainstream media outlets on either the Monday or Tuesday that the ballot was open or over the preceding weekend. The second proposal focuses on balloted debates. We propose three changes: first, that the practice of rolling over Motions from one ballot to the next should be discontinued; secondly, that Members should be able to have either a Motion for balloted debate or a QSD on the same subject on the Order Paper at any one time, but not both; and finally, we propose an element of flexibility in the timing of balloted debates. Where one balloted debate has twice as many speakers as the other, there should be flexibility to shorten the less popular debate to two hours in order to extend the more popular one to three hours.

Moving on from the Leader’s proposals, the report proposes a slight change to the yearly cap on Oral Questions that the House agreed at the end of April. It has been brought to our attention that some Members were unaware that Questions tabled since January have been retrospectively counted as part of the Member’s allocation of Oral Questions for the 2013 calendar year. To avoid penalising Members who were unaware of the retrospective nature of the cap, we propose that the yearly cap on Oral Questions be calculated from 1 May to 30 April. This change will ensure that only Questions tabled after the cap was agreed to will be counted.

Finally, the report recommends to the House two proposals from the Leader relating to the High Speed 2 hybrid Bill, which is expected to be introduced in the House of Commons by the end of the year. The first is to amend the private business Standing Orders to ensure that the House’s procedures are compliant with the EU directive on environmental impact assessment by allowing the public an opportunity to comment on the environmental statement for a hybrid Bill and for those comments to be taken into account by both Houses.

The second proposal is to allow the electronic deposit of documents relating to the High Speed 2 hybrid Bill. Standing Orders currently require hard copies of all Bill documentation to be deposited in every local authority along the line of route. Given that there are around 250 local authorities and the environmental statement alone is expected to run to 50,000 pages, this proposal simply allows, but does not require, these documents to be deposited in electronic form. The Government have undertaken to make all key documents available in hard copy in all deposit locations and to continue to provide all documentation in hard copy if locations so wish. I beg to move.

Can the Chairman of Committees answer a question? On page 4, paragraph 8, the report says:

“The proposal for topical QSDs arose as part of a package intended to create more opportunities for backbench members to initiate debate. We therefore propose that they may be initiated only by backbench members”,

something with which I completely agree. In the case of the Liberal Democrats, as well as Ministers in the Government, they also have Front-Bench spokespersons who get up and speak on behalf of the Liberal Democrats. I presume that they are excluded from initiating Back-Bench debates.

It is intended for Back-Benchers. It should be for Back-Benchers. I am sure that people who operate as Front-Benchers will be aware of that.

With respect, that has not answered the question. We need to be absolutely clear before we approve this that spokespersons for the Liberal Democrats are considered, for this purpose, to be Front-Benchers. With respect, they try to have it both ways. They try to have the privileges of Front-Bench spokesmen, but obviously they might try to be Back-Benchers as well. I therefore hope that it is absolutely clear.

My Lords, there is very little I can add to what I said. It is a matter for the usual channels to work out, if possible, whether there is such a thing as a Liberal Democrat Front-Bencher who is not a Minister.

Motion agreed.

English Premier League Football

Motion to Take Note

Moved by

That this House takes note of the international economic and cultural contributions of English Premier League football to the United Kingdom.

My Lords, it is an immense privilege to kick off this debate on the English Premier League. In securing this debate, I am grateful still to be able to declare a Premiership interest as a supporter of Newcastle United Football Club. I have learnt to cope with the disappointment over the years, but it is the hope that I cannot quite handle.

My purpose in seeking this debate was to highlight the incredible contribution that Premier League football makes to UK plc week in, week out. It is by far the most watched league in the world: 212 countries broadcast the Premier League, compared with the 193 member states of the United Nations and the 204 countries that sent teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games last summer. That is a real penetration rate. Some 1.46 billion people follow the Premier League around the world—70% of the total population of the televised sport market.

That market is growing fastest in a corner of the world where our economic interests are growing fastest: in Asia. Asia now accounts for 31% of the viewership of Premier League football. The Prime Minister, on a recent trade mission, mentioned the first time that he enrolled the substantial figure of the Premier League trophy as a member of his trade delegation. When he turned up to a dinner in Kuala Lumpur, he saw businessmen from all over east Asia, and he later said:

“I thought … all these people coming to have dinner with me, I must be such a big draw”.

He then realised that in fact they all just wanted to be photographed with the Premier League trophy. It is an immense draw and an immense asset for British business and diplomacy.

If we are in a global race—and we are—the Premier League represents a massive home advantage for British business and diplomacy: it is our Stretford End and our Kop. It is not surprising that the Premier League is at the heart of the GREAT campaign to sell British goods, services and culture around the world. When last year Monocle Magazine carried out its global survey of national soft power capital, the UK was ranked at number one. The Premier League was the driving force behind that extraordinary performance. When Populus carried out an international survey asking respondents to rank what made them view Britain more favourably, the Premier League out-polled popular music, the BBC and even—dare I say in the week of a royal birth?—the monarchy. Showing no hard feelings, Her Majesty awarded to the Premier League the Queen’s award for enterprise in international trade.

When the 22 first division clubs met on the morning of 27 May 1992 to resign en masse from the Football League, thus breaking with 104 years of tradition, not even they could have anticipated the global phenomenon that the Premier League has become. In its first season, it earned £46 million. Last year, it earned £1.28 billion and generated a further £3 billion for clubs through television rights. That is more than double the income of the Spanish and Italian leagues combined.

Part of what makes us British is that we sneer slightly at commercial success, believing that culture cannot really be culture if it is also popular. We slightly look down our noses at players with few or no qualifications earning £100,000 per week. However, the salaries simply reflect the success of the business in which they deploy their sublime skills. In that they are no different from those in any other enterprise, such as investment bankers or hedge fund supremos, except for the level of joy which they give to the public as they ply their trade. Furthermore, Premier League clubs also paid in excess of £1 billion in tax to the Exchequer last year.

With wealth comes responsibility, of course, and support for organisations such as the Football Foundation are a vital way of growing the game for the future. It would be good to see how more of that wealth at the top could trickle down to the grass roots and help new talent to grow.

People around the world do not just watch Premiership football, they also come to see it. VisitBritain announced in October 2012 that 900,000 football tourists came to the UK in 2012, contributing £706 million to the national economy. This compares favourably to the 590,000 people who turned up for the Olympics and Paralympics.

It is not just the staggering commercial success and sheer entertainment value through which the Premier League makes its contribution to the reputation of the UK around the world. It is also through its international engagement. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bach, chairman of the British Council All-Party Parliamentary Group, for pointing out to me the British Council and Premier League’s partnership through Premier Skills, which has helped 2,300 coaches and 400,000 young people in 20 countries around the world, including Afghanistan. It is no coincidence that the British Council has paired up with the Premier League—they both recognise that the Premier League’s global audience is earned because it is globally accessible. Clubs are owned by Russians, Chinese, Americans, Indians and Arabs, with managers from 11 nations and players from 65 nations, and they are all watched in 212 nations.

For those of us of an internationalist persuasion nothing warms our soul quite like the sight of sportsmen of many different nations and cultures playing on the same level playing field, under the same rules, demonstrating the same purpose and commitment, working together as a team in pursuit of common goals. We have Argentinean and English, Greek and Turk, Iranian and American, Ukrainian and Russian, Serb and Croat, Japanese and Korean, who all play in the league, for the same teams, demonstrating the unifying nature of sport and confirming—whatever the politicians or clerics might tell us—that we are all human first. It is the ultimate meritocracy as it matters not a jot whether you are rich or poor, educated or uneducated, gay or straight; it does not matter how you look—as Wayne Rooney can tell us—but only how you play and what results you deliver.

The league is also becoming more religiously diverse. We are all familiar with the crucifix-kissing and heavenward-pointing finger of Christian players’ goal celebrations, but more than 40 Muslim players now play in the league, and when Demba Ba struck a thunderous volley for Newcastle against Manchester United, I almost converted on the spot. Seriously, however, that is why it is vital that that the Premier League is ruthless in ensuring that racism and all other forms of prejudice are trumped by respect for all those on the field and off, for that is the Premier League brand. All are welcome, worthy of respect and are subject to the same rules.

The Premier League is a great success story of which we can all be proud. It can be an immensely powerful resource for British business and diplomacy around the world, not just because of the game itself but because of what it says about how we believe the game should be played.

I am very grateful to so many noble Lords for registering to speak in this debate and I look forward to their contributions—and, in the spirit of the game, I will forgo my extra time and pass it on. I beg to move.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord on introducing this Motion. He has chosen an interesting title, which I would not normally associate with a debate on football in its broadest sense. However, to narrow a subject down to a particular league is quite unique and very welcome. Before I go on, I must say that I am sure that noble Lords in this debate who heard at Question Time that the noble Lord, Lord Bates, will be running a marathon for charity—and not for the first time—will want to wish him very well in that endeavour. This debate gives me an opportunity once more to promote an aspect of the work of the Premier League in so far as it makes a massive contribution under the aegis of the Football Foundation, and I declare an interest as president of that body.

As the noble Lord has already said, the incredible global success of the Premier League product has provided a colossal windfall contribution in both cash and expertise to the grassroots game here in England. Although in this Motion we are largely or at least in part referring to the international dimension of the league’s work, its impact on our domestic grassroots game cannot be underestimated. In the past year alone, some £45 million was invested in grassroots and community activities by the Premier League.

In addition, the contribution made by the Premier League has also attracted £418 million of funding from local businesses, housing developers, the project’s own funding foundation, as well as other sources. Furthermore, the Premier League’s payment to grass-roots infrastructure has helped to improve not just the health of the population but also the health of the economy. For example, if a local football club or school needs to build a new playing surface or pavilion, it thus provides jobs to architects, builders, electricians, plumbers, and so on. The boost to the health of the UK’s economy as a result of the Premier League’s investment in the Football Foundation can be exemplified through the research that has been carried out recently by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, which showed the benefits to the UK economy in terms of the jobs, contribution to GDP and growth that result from that investment.

I have in previous debates referred to the major contributions made to the Football Foundation by the Premier League and, of course, the Government and the Football Association, which are partners. Together they have invested some £200 million each into the foundation’s funds since 2000. That has provided 1,664 new grass-roots sports facilities, including 402 new artificial pitches, 2,369 new grass pitches and 759 new changing facilities—I know this can be tedious, but it is very important to recognise the work that has been done—and thus has generated an enormous number of jobs and revenue to the Exchequer. The end of the statistics, I think. As an example, last season £1 billion of revenue to the Government was exclusively generated as a direct result of the Premier League, allowing more than £700 million to be spent in the UK economy. Almost 1 million foreign football fans came to the UK to watch Premier League clubs last season and 1,600 jobs and 843 community club projects were set up as a direct result of the Premier League funding. Together with the Professional Footballers’ Association, the Premier League Foundation also provides grant schemes from the television revenues generated by the league. Clubs can use this money to assist charities financially, such as Tottenham Hotspur’s funding of London’s disability sport-specific charity, Interactive, which is just one of a huge number that owe much to the funding by the Premier League.

It was in June 2000 that I stood on the lawn of No. 10 Downing Street with the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, launching the Football Foundation with representatives of the funding partners. Alongside me that day was Richard Scudamore, the chief executive of the Premier League and one of the original trustees of the foundation. Now, 13 years later, he still remains a trustee of its board. During the time that I was chairman of the board, I cannot remember him ever missing a single board meeting which, given the sheer scale and reach of the Premier League’s operations, shows an amazing level of commitment. While I could list many quantitative examples of the benefits to the UK’s economy, community and culture that are created by the Premier League, I should remind the House that the impact of the Premier League spreads further than just money or statistics. Football, being a sport, is in its very nature something that has a huge impact that cannot be easily quantified. Unfortunately, you cannot quantify inspiration or the sense of community, education, tolerance and respect. It is, however, arguably the most high-profile football league in the world. The coverage of the English Premier League that is seen by young people inspires them to take up sport and, in this case, football. It takes them away from activities that could be unsavoury. The sport gives young people who are surrounded by crime an incredible opportunity to gain priceless life experiences such as learning the importance of teamwork, leadership, skills and, ultimately, discipline and hard work. Any young person can get on to a football field, whatever their background, colour or creed, and they can learn and flourish there.

The other aspect of the nature of the Premier League—

I will conclude by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Bates, once more. I look forward to hearing the contributions of others to this debate. I hope that all noble Lords who take part will learn something, as I will, from the contributions.

My Lords, I have a confession to make: I am not a football fan. It is an odd thing. What does Premier League football—this great, iconic game in this country—mean to me? My home city is Norwich. I still look for the result when it is announced on a Saturday. I still take that bit of time to find it. I might not take much time to watch the team play, but in a strange way the result matters. It is part of my identity. That tells us much about the importance of football in our society. It gets through to people who play another sport—in my case, rugby. It has a dominant position, which explains why the Premier League, when it broke away from all those years of tradition with all the gloom and doom that came with them, has gone on to be a wholly new, global thing.

How has football transformed itself? My memories of it as a young person were of something that you went to in order to shout abuse—often of a racist quality—at people and to get into fights. That was the general impression. The game at professional level has transformed itself after some very unpleasant experiences, and continues to transform itself. It now accepts its social role. Parliament is a slightly reactive body. There has to be a problem, it has to get reported and then we generally do something about it at some point after that. We now have interaction with the system, which has broken down the anti-social aspects of football and allowed this new thing to flourish. Now the Premier League has gone global and encourages huge amounts of expenditure.

What are the downsides of the changes that have happened from the world I grew up in? The idea of the local boy playing for his club and coming good is something that is now almost guaranteed not to happen because of the free and global market in players, and the international market structure. That has been used to explain the lack of competition for our national team. I repeated this argument once and somebody who knew something about the game said, “Don’t talk rubbish. The people who are beating us often have their players in our league as well”.

It is a huge, comparatively new thing. One of its downsides as a sporting event is that the championship is won too often by the same few clubs. Manchester United seems to have a timeshare on the championship with whoever else is coming along in the queue at the time. Greater diversity would be beneficial. However, as we look through the briefing, we discover that investment in other sports—for instance, the Olympics—and their competitors is important. So are the continuation of talent spotting, and support for the teaching of training techniques. The Premier League is showing the way here, and investing in sports science produced by other bodies. This movement is gaining momentum and reflects the world in which we live.

However, when things go wrong—we remember the disappearance of Leeds United and Portsmouth—it can be cataclysmic. A club, which is a great social entity that brings pride to a local community, can disappear. Under this system, I do not think that there is great enthusiasm for saying that you have a franchise rather than a place in a league with the possibility of promotion and relegation. It can all go horribly wrong. It can even cause losses to the Revenue, as it did in the case of Portsmouth and other clubs. If we look north of the border to another great icon of the football scene—Rangers—and the trouble it has got into, we see the need to temper the ability to strive for success with realism. It reinforces the point about management structures and the fact that things come with a preparation cost.

It is a romantic idea even if much of the romance is being stripped out by money. However, if you do not prepare, you will lose this thing that people have a relationship with. The managers of many clubs have been hounded out because they would not invest sufficiently in their club for their fan base. The English Premier League as it stands now does good works and the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, has pointed out one of its activities. It is an icon of sporting activity. However, it has also shown that it needs management, investment and to be observed. The Government cannot totally turn their eyes away from it. To get the best out of it we have to live and interact with it. It cannot be left to itself but must link to its community. Politicians must make sure that it remains linked, too, to our structure. It is simply too big and too influential to be left to one side. We must to talk to and engage with it. Otherwise we will lose many of the benefits that are potentially there.

My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to contribute to this debate and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bates, on initiating it and opening it in such an eloquent manner. I declare an interest. I am an Arsenal season-ticket holder and a lifetime member of the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, and I am therefore a Gooner. I will do my best from now on to avoid references to my team and my favourite football metaphors.

As we reach the moment when transfer deals are won and lost, while the new season is rapidly approaching and the sad lack of achievement by our national squads is all too recent, it is a good time to reflect on the achievements of the English Premier League. There is no doubting the scale of the economic impact, which has already been mentioned by several noble Lords. Scanning through the Premier League submissions to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and Deloitte’s review, we learn that some of the vast amounts of money that have been earned have been reinvested in stadium facilities, playing squads and training standards in wider communities and grass-roots football. It is not only the football business that benefits from the Premier League’s financial achievements. Clubs have a significant impact on employment, GDP, national and local economies, and industries such as broadcasting, marketing, travel, tourism and hospitality, and on taxation revenues, as has been mentioned.

With the projected 25% increase in income from broadcasting, it is calculated that the revenue of Premier League clubs could hit £3 billion. We are looking at an institution in rude financial health, in spite of financial downturn, recession and austerity, whereas in the Spanish and Italian leagues the economic climate has dampened revenues. In fact, though the German Bundesliga is the most profitable league in Europe, the Premier League has the highest revenue of any league in European football. This is testament to its negotiating power, which is in turn due to its popularity and global drawing power.

While revenues continue to grow, the profitability of some individual clubs gives rise to concern and points to wider issues of financial sustainability, responsible ownership and accountability to supporters. Some clubs live beyond their means. The 2011 CentreForum report, Football and the Big Society, drew attention to the fact that several clubs were operating at a loss. Two significant issues were the financial solvency of some of the benefactors keeping clubs going, and these benefactors’ general suitability. Portsmouth FC has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. It ended up in administration with unpaid debts of £108.6 million, including £17 million owed to HMRC.

Beyond the Premier League in wider football issues, the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has raised serious concerns about the overall governance of the sport, especially in the context of increasing commercialisation, a lack of adequate financial regulation and significant financial risk-taking. In its Football Governance Follow-Up report published earlier this year, the committee states:

“We see little evidence that clubs will spend significant amounts of the funding available from the latest broadcasting rights settlement on increasing their sustainability rather than on players’ salaries and transfers”.

The committee also questioned how the new regulations on financial fair play would be enforced. Commenting on football authorities’ responses to proposals for reform, John Whittingdale, chair of the committee, said:

“While some progress has been achieved, much greater reform in football is needed to make the game inclusive, sustainable and driven from the grass roots, where it should be … the financial risk-taking by clubs is a threat to the sustainability of football as a family and community-orientated game, which it should be”.

That last point is important because it goes to the heart of what support and allegiance to a football club is all about: the links and relationship to a club’s fan base and the club’s place in, and contribution to, the local community.

Of course, many football clubs have long-standing community engagement programmes and activities that are broad and inventive. For example, football is used to encourage participation in physical exercise, to contribute to a healthy living agenda, to promote community cohesion through initiatives that bring people together, and for tapping into interest in football to encourage young people to take up modern languages and so on. But, arguably, community engagement goes beyond developing and implementing specific projects. It is an ethos—an embedded practice that should inform the way in which a club relates to its supporters and local communities throughout its business. In Football, Ownership and Social Value, Supporters Direct stated that increased “ticket and kit prices”, along with a,

“sense of being ‘fleeced’ at every opportunity … have priced many out of the ‘people’s game’”.

The impersonal relationship, the cost of supporting a super-club and the influence of TV contracts on the timing of matches have put off many, especially families, from following FA Premier League teams.

Football has done much to tackle racism on the pitch and on the terraces, and homophobia, but still there is a huge amount to do. I hope that my noble friend Lord Ouseley will speak later on how progress is being made on tackling racism and other forms of discrimination. It is noticeable that although the women’s game is growing in popularity—in spite of a recent, temporary setback—and British-born players of African and African-Caribbean descent are gracing pitches throughout the country, when we look at managers and coaches and scan the faces in boardrooms throughout the game we do not see any of this diversity reflected. That problem needs urgent attention.

When we shell out for our tickets, we do not do so because we want to buy into a business plan or profit margins. Anyone who knows the joy and pain of supporting a football team knows that we support it because of the close relationship between the club’s history and heritage, in its values and ethos, and those of our own as fans.

My Lords, I join my fellow Peers in congratulating my noble friend Lord Bates on securing this debate. Amid a summer of sporting success, it is only right that we turn to football, a sport whose Premier League has become truly world class over the past two decades, even though as a nation we still eagerly look forward to a World Cup breakthrough to add to our recent tally. I shall focus on how we balance the interests of increasingly international club shareholders and owners in the Premier League with those of the nation at large and the communities and economies that they are linked with locally, and why it is of benefit to us all to do so.

We cannot ignore other aspects. Investors and new club owners, combined with the boost from commercial television and advertising income in these past decades, have presided over the professionalisation and increased global prominence of clubs that we could only have dreamed of when the sport was invented, making the experience whether on or off the pitch, at home or in the pub, that much richer. At the same time, footballing history reminds us that clubs initially were formed to provide a social function enabling local communities to enjoy leisure and fitness, and to build character. They acted as a linchpin of local society and local economy.

Today, there is huge potential for global football brands to further benefit the UK economically. I declare here an interest as a Manchester United supporter and as a non-executive director of the Manchester-China Forum. When conducting a survey for A Report on Growing East, which I recently co-authored, we identified how in China, Manchester is most closely associated with football, and that opportunities for promoting the city among Chinese investors and companies abound when the clubs and local promotion agencies can work together and co-ordinate their efforts. The very international nature of football today is able to not only bring investment but create relationships of a global nature that enable and fuel growth in our cities to help them develop trade, tourism, retail and infrastructure, thereby creating jobs.

At the same time, that very international nature brought about by foreign ownership and involvement is a huge benefit to the culture of many of our cities and towns, making them more diverse and interesting both on and off the pitch. Racism, which has historically been a scourge in football, has moved on significantly as a result of having players and supporters represented in our Premier League teams from all over the world and joining forces through campaigns such as that run by Kick It Out. Some would say that this has brought disadvantages in that local British players do not get as much opportunity to play in season. I have to disagree, because we cannot protect our British players from global competition since ultimately it will make them more competitive. However, we could do even more at the national level to identify and nurture a truly great set of national teams.

At this point, the debate over the national interest and the ownership of major football clubs in the UK can sometimes reach fever pitch. If we look at other sports where we have seen successes recently, they have come overwhelmingly from taking an increasingly scientific approach to developing individuals and teams, with lots of resources being put into growing a strong pipeline of competitive athletes. The onus is on the country or the national team to develop this, not always on the local club or association.

Similarly, in the UK we need to borrow from international influences and follow Germany’s example by vigorously bringing the youth development of players back into the centre rather than relying solely on our Premier League clubs. We could add a British free-market twist and charge clubs if they want to buy some of those players, developed in a national pool, for their squads. That would help pay back the nation for investing in them. Indeed, the young people themselves could be invited to agree to pay back from some of their future earnings, should they enter the Premier League and earn above a certain threshold. That could assuage concerns about the high salaries that footballers receive. Germany has 1,000 part-time scouts and qualified coaches looking everywhere for the talent it needs for the future. We ought to invest to a similar degree now that St George’s Park is in place and not rely primarily on clubs to do all the work, except to provide the market mechanisms to help make this endeavour sustainable.

I want to look at how this balance between foreign ownership and local needs plays out through an aspect that unfortunately is sometimes overlooked, but which is of the utmost importance: the role of fans. In recent years, there has been much talk and a few examples of exploring how fans could theoretically come together and buy out their clubs, in part or in full, to create structures more akin to that of Barcelona in the UK. I am very much in favour of such arrangements but we need to be realistic and perhaps opt for more partnership arrangements, in which fans could come together via a trust that would take a significant stake with voting rights—as with the John Lewis Partnership. This would still allow new investment to come in, yet give fans more of a voice. Ultimately, it seems to me that the Premier League model should complete a shift away from live spectator fees being the main driver of income for clubs to what is already starting to happen: having advertising and satellite viewing fees, combined with diverse merchandising income from all around the world. Fans who have a stake in their club financially would have a greater incentive to help generate followers and fans both in the UK and globally, creating a virtuous and, hopefully, less debt-fuelled circle.

In this regard, can the Minister say what plans there are in this area and whether any legal incentives could be put forward to make it easier to put such fan-led shareholder arrangements into place? With such ownership we could start to see a more holistic set of activities which many of the best Premier League clubs already engage in, but which can be hard to maintain, given financial and commercial pressures, and thus develop the social and cultural fabric of the local community. I will not go into the countless ways that clubs already get involved in helping local causes. My personal favourite involves clubs agreeing to host mental health and job clubs for men who traditionally find it hard to admit that they have challenges in these areas but will turn up to an activity at a football ground. Given that clubs are not used that much for games on weekdays, there is huge scope for them to be leveraged further for public and social benefit, such as through the successful aforementioned Premier Skills initiative.

Given these and many other examples, it strikes me that we ought to be looking at mechanisms whereby we can harness global football grounds for local benefit on the investment front. Where we do that already, we help to improve citizen well-being and save public money, and club money as well. Could we one day see impact bonds that would create, in partnership with clubs, their fans and stakeholders, ways to help save money locally while creating jobs and fostering well-being in citizens? Promoting cities for trade through clubs, a football investment bank, incentives and support for fans to jointly own their clubs and more partnerships to leverage football brands for social and public benefits are brief examples that demonstrate how, with a little creativity and leadership, foreign ownership of clubs and the local and national benefits from the Premier League’s international nature do not have to amount to a zero-sum game. Get the balance right, and we all win.

My Lords, I, too, am delighted to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bates, on securing this debate today. I should remind the House of my football interests. I am vice-president of the Football Conference and of Level Playing Field and am vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Football Group. I also declare that I am the occasional recipient of hospitality from the Football Association at its matches at Wembley.

The noble Lord, Lord Bates, and other noble Lords are right to draw attention to the immense success, in economic terms, of the English Premier League. I want to draw the House’s attention to a slightly separate aspect and make the point that this success has not been without controversy or consequences for the governance of the game and for the England national team. Two weeks ago, the Guardian published the results of an investigation into the number of English players performing at the highest level. Their findings, which relate to last season, show that only 189 English players featured in the Premier League and that as few as 88 of them appeared in more than half the matches. The top four Premier League clubs used only 29 English players between them. That is in contrast to top European leagues abroad. In Spain’s La Liga, for example, there were 332 Spanish national players, making 6,391 appearances in the season.

The absence of English footballers playing at the highest level is having a serious effect on the ability of the England national team manager to put together a credible side to compete in international competitions; a point which perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Wei, was referring to obliquely when he talked about the need for success at national level. The problem is particularly acute with young players. The England under-21 and under-20 national teams finished without a single win in their respective European Championship and World Cup finals this summer. A report in the Guardian on 12 July quoted Gary Neville, who is the national team assistant as well as a respected pundit on Sky, to suggest that,

“English football has reached a ‘tipping point’ with youth academies at the Premier League’s elite clubs flooded by foreign recruits and short-term demands in the domestic game effectively blocking the progress of local talent into the first team”.

Neville contrasted the situation with Barcelona, a club that he said,

“have seven or eight players who have come through their academy”.

The commercial success of the Premier League has also opened up the problems of governance within the Football Association. As the noble Baroness, Lady Young, mentioned, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in another place has published two reports into domestic football governance. It concluded in both of them that the FA,

“was in need of urgent reform”.

In the second report, the committee said:

“We were concerned that the leagues—and the Premier League in particular—had too great an influence over the decision-making processes of the Football Association”.

The football authorities responded to the report with proposals for reform, which the Select Committee said,

“failed to go far enough in addressing the crux of the governance problem … the structure of the Football Association led to delegation of too much responsibility away from the Main Board and towards committees dominated by the Premier and Football Leagues, and they also failed to provide the greater financial stability that the game needs”.

That was not for want of trying on the part of the recently retired chairman of the FA, David Bernstein, who not only brought stability to a much troubled organisation in the two and a half years he was in the job but struggled heroically, albeit ultimately unsuccessfully, with these issues of reform. It is an open secret that he largely shares the views of the Select Committee, including the conclusion in the summary of the second report, which said:

“We recommend that the DCMS make it clear to the football authorities that further progress on these issues is expected within twelve months. In the absence of significant progress, the Government should introduce legislation as soon as practically possible”.

It is remarkable that a Select Committee with a government majority should come up with such a radical report. I assumed that the Government would respond by thanking it politely and then burying the report.

However, that was not so. Hugh Robertson MP, the Minister for Sport and Tourism, responded by letter on 30 April this year, saying that he agreed with the committee’s recommendation that, in the absence of significant progress with a licensing system for clubs, the introduction of a representative and balanced board and improved spectator engagement at club level,

“by the beginning of next season, we should seek to introduce legislation as soon as practically possible”.

He went on:

“I have already been given drafting authority by the Parliamentary Counsel, and my officials have started working up a draft Bill and supporting documentation, should football fail to deliver. This Bill will reflect the conclusions of your report”.

That is fighting talk. Perhaps the Minister will tell the House how the Government will determine whether football has delivered and whether they will publish the Bill in draft form and submit it to scrutiny by both Houses. How likely is it that the Bill will contain proposals for a regulatory authority, and for the establishment of a levy on those bodies in football which can afford to pay, so that organisations which currently receive funding from the Premier League will continue to do so? Will the Bill tackle the effect of the Premiership’s economic power on the rest of the game?

In my last minute, I will raise one further matter. The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, gave evidence to the Select Committee on Olympic and Paralympic Legacy on 3 July. She contrasted the provision of facilities for disabled supporters at the Olympic and Paralympic Games with the situation in most Premiership football grounds, which she described as,

“pretty shocking if you are a wheelchair user”.

She went on to say:

“There is a large number of clubs who do not allow disabled people to buy season tickets; they can be given tickets in one out of every three games, which means you cannot complain about your sightline, your accessible seating, toilets or whether you have to sit with away fans or home and away fans together”.

In response to questions, the noble Baroness agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, that it should be illegal for football clubs to discriminate on the basis of disability and agreed with his analogy of clubs having to comply by law with safety requirements in providing disabled access. Does the Minister agree with that finding?

My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Bates, for initiating this debate and enabling the very interesting contributions that we have already heard on the Premier League and its contributions to our society and in a global context. From the outset, I declare an interest as the chairman of Kick It Out, which was set up in the second year of the Premier League. I also pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, for the contribution he made in supporting the start-up of Kick It Out through his work at the time with the Football Trust, which has been superseded by the Football Foundation, of which the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, who spoke earlier, is the president.

Kick It Out was set up at a time when racism was rampant not only in football but on the streets of Britain—1993 was the year that Stephen Lawrence was murdered. Football’s reputation was clearly in the gutter at the time, so it was very important during the Premier League’s second year that notable figures such as David Dein, who was at the Premier League at the time, took an interest in the formation of Kick It Out and supported the Premier League in joining the Professional Footballers’ Association and the Football Association in enabling the challenge to racism, and to other forms of unacceptable abuse that were going on in football, to be taken up and supported.

I suppose that the Premier League owes its creation to many visionaries, who are probably all queuing up to claim credit for it. In addition to David Dein, I mention Greg Dyke, the current chair of the Football Association. He had the vision, way back when he was at London Weekend Television, in collaboration with others, to enable the formation of the Premier League, which has led to the successes that we have heard about. The noble Lords, Lord Bates and Lord Wei, and others have mentioned that success very eloquently.

With all its achievements and its high profile, there is an inevitable elitism about the Premier League. However, it is counterbalanced—which is really what I want to talk about—by admirable community programmes, some of which have been mentioned already, which the Premier League sponsors. With a focus on vulnerable young people and deprived communities, its contributions have been crucial for good community relations and social cohesion, but there is much more that could be done and must be done if we are to stimulate the next generation of young players, supporters, administrators and volunteers to be part of a sport that should be seen as a source for good, not just in the context of the riches it generates and the global position it holds but how it influences particularly the next generation.

That is an area in which I am most concerned that football must do more, particularly in boys’, girls’ and disabled football. In this regard, the programmes that support the mentoring, education and upskilling of individuals will be vital to freeing the game from racist, sexist, homophobic and Islamophobic abuse, harassment, bigotry, prejudice and other forms of unacceptable behaviours and attitudes. We have heard of the transformation that has taken place during the past 20 years, but all those features still exist in English Premier League football and, indeed, right across the football terrain.

The Premier League’s programmes generate partnerships of joint funding. We have heard already of Premier Skills English with the British Council. There is also Premier League Reading Stars with the National Literacy Trust. Its Kickz programmes, in partnerships with the police, have attracted universal acclaim, with benefits for thousands of vulnerable young people. Its current pride and joy is the Creating Chances programme, which has attracted some 4 million young people who attended projects during 2011.

In spite of all the deserved acclamation, there are feelings that the relatively poorer sections of our community are unable to afford to go to Premier League football matches. In fact, they pay a disproportionate amount of their income in trying to sustain their interest in the Premier League. Their BSkyB contributions, as they go up, compete with the need to put bread on the table for their families and to deal with their essential costs of rent, transport and fuel against a background of decreased earned income. Such resentment is understandable when it is known that many Premier League clubs pay their players considerable sums of money that can only be dreamt of by the fans. Agents take huge commissions. An increasing number of clubs are foreign owned, and many carry huge debts, as we have heard, with their foreign owners bailing them out. Without that bailout many would be insolvent. There are different realities at play here.

While the Premier League continues to grow as a dominant force, it must never be overlooked that football’s past, present and future development in England relies on the responsibilities and duties of the Football Association, the oldest national football association in the world, currently enjoying its 150th year of existence. The FA is the national governing body for football in England, charged with running grass-roots football for the 7 million individuals who play the game across the country, with 32,000 clubs and 113,000 teams affiliated to local leagues in a variety of ways. The FA also relies on more than 400,000 volunteers, 300,000 qualified coaches and 27,000 trained referees to facilitate and enable participation in and enjoyment of football being played regularly across the country. I will not list the many achievements attributed to it, as time is running short.

Following a summit convened in 2012 by the Prime Minister about racism in football, the FA launched last December the English football inclusion and anti-discrimination action plan with the full support of the football clubs, the leagues, the PFA, the League Managers Association and Professional Game Match Officials Limited. One of the main goals of the plan is to widen football’s talent pool for coaching, refereeing, licensing tutors, adjudicating and decision-making. For football to achieve its diversity and equality goals will require all administrators, decision-makers, managers and power brokers in the game to accept personal and professional responsibility to pursue the right actions to achieve the equality outcomes. The present composition of boardrooms, senior management teams, coaching teams and administrators in the authorities and in the clubs illustrates that there is a long haul ahead to take the next generation of fans and players to a point when it can be seen that all forms of bigotry, discrimination and hatred in the game have been eliminated.

My Lords, I begin by apologising to the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, for trying to jump the queue a few moments ago. My enthusiasm must have got the better of me. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bates, on securing this debate, but perhaps I can ask him rhetorically why he did not get together with my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch to combine this debate with the one taking place later today on the contribution of the arts to the educational and emotional well-being of society. I think the two could have been put together and, as I cannot be here to participate in that debate, that would have served my own interests as well.

It is perhaps appropriate that I talk of serving one’s own interests, because that really was the basis on which the FA Premier League was started in 1992—there are no two ways about it. It was a breakaway from the Football League on the basis of seeking a greater share of television revenues and getting more of that for the top clubs. It is unfortunate that that kind of hubris has also manifested itself in the very fact that the competition is now called “the Premier League”. I am sorry but it is not the Premier League. The Premier League was formed in 1988, and in 1998 in Scotland. When the FA was formed in 1863, it had the right to call itself that because it was the first in the world, and when the Football League was founded in 1888, it was the first in the world to have that title, but “the Premier League” is not a title that this organisation has the right to use, and I wish that it would not use it. None the less, I think that is symptomatic. The organisation was formerly called “the FA Premier League” when it started, but the hubris to which I referred earlier has led to a break with the FA and a difficult relationship between the English Premier League, as it is referred to by all people outside England, and the FA. I think that has to be recognised.

I turn now to the specific subject of this debate, the question of the economic and cultural contribution to society of the English Premier League to the United Kingdom—the international aspect is different, and I will say a bit about that in a moment. The Premier League’s contribution is self-evident. Of course it is there; that is absolutely clear. A classic example is Swansea City, a club that got into the top level for the first time, I believe, in 2011. In that first season, a university study showed, it brought about a £58 million boost to the local economy of Swansea and the surrounding area. That, perhaps, is not surprising when you consider that, given where Swansea is, people who travel there for games probably stay there overnight and spend a lot in the local economy. There are many other examples of that, and it is very much to be welcomed. Swansea City is an interesting example because in 2003 that club had to win its last game of the season to avoid dropping out of the Football League entirely. Of course, it did win, and eight years later it was in the English Premier League, which I am very pleased about.

However, 20% of that club is owned by a supporters’ trust. It is the only English Premier League club that has supporters’ trust ownership of it, and it has a director on the board as well, which is important. To some extent, I declare an interest in two supporters’ trusts—not in the English Premier League—one in Dundee United, ArabTRUST, of which I was a founder member, and, in AFC Wimbledon, the Dons Trust, of which I am also a member. I would like to see more of that kind of ownership, as is the case at Swansea, with other English Premier League clubs. I know that it is difficult because they are much bigger than the Dundee Uniteds and the AFC Wimbledons of this world, but it is possible and I hope that clubs will look at some means of doing that.

The way in which the clubs have developed in the 21 years since the English Premier League was formed is in some ways unfortunate. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Bates, I have not welcomed the international ownership. He said that he is an internationalist. I am certainly an internationalist, but it has not always been for the benefit of clubs in England that some international owners have come in clearly knowing little about the clubs, the fans and the traditions, and sometimes knowing little, it would seem, about football. Blackburn Rovers is a classic example of that. It was a mid-range Premier League club. It had been in Europe. It had won, I think, the league cup under Graeme Souness, and it was doing reasonably well without ever seeking to repeat its feat in the mid-1990s of winning the championship. At the end of last season, having dropped out of the English Premier League last year under, I believe, Indian ownership, it very nearly went into the league below, but it just escaped doing so. That, I think, is down to bad management. The example of Portsmouth to which the noble Baroness, Lady Young, referred, is well known. Now run, incidentally, entirely by a supporters’ trust, it has gone from the English Premier League to the fourth tier at League Two in four or five years. I pay tribute to the Portsmouth MP Penny Mordaunt, who has played a heroic role in saving that club and ensuring that the supporters are now able to run that club and, I hope, build it back up again. With the support base of Portsmouth, I see no reason why it should not rise up again fairly quickly. That is another example of fan involvement, which is very important. The role of an organisation called Supporters Direct is absolutely fundamental. It supports supporters’ trusts at all levels of the professional and semi-professional game. Much of what it does goes unrecorded.

Touching on points made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and my noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester about the international aspects of the English Premier League, I think it is incontestable that it has been damaging for the English national football teams—I use the plural deliberately. The noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, mentioned the women’s team; although not directly related to the Premier League, it had a rather bad experience last week as well. At all levels, the English teams are certainly underperforming.

Since the English Premier League came into being 21 years ago, there have been five World Cups and six European Championships. Germany has been in four finals, Italy four, Spain three and France three—England has not reached even a semi-final. That cannot just be coincidence. Equally, on the performance of clubs since the English Premier League came into being, in the 21 years before it started England was the best and most successful country in Europe. Since the English Premier League came into being, England is the third most successful, behind Italy and Spain, in terms of wins and places in European finals.

Is the Premier League the best league in the world? It is the best league if you look at the worth—the TV deal. It is a little unfortunate that the recently ennobled noble Lord, Lord Livingston of Parkhead, is not here because he played a major role at BT in getting a huge amount of money into the television deal that kicks in this season. In terms of worth, there is no doubt that it is the best in the world. In terms of excitement, that is subjective. My own view is that the Bundesliga in Germany is slightly better, but it is a very exciting league. The average crowds are 35,000 in England versus 42,000 in Germany, so it has some way to go there.

It comes back to the overall product that is available. Unequivocally, the number of foreign visitors who come to this country to go to an English Premier League match and then of course do other things such as shopping and going to the theatre is a real benefit. I am not denying that it is a success. We just have to remember how it was born and the ethos it has, which is not by any means always in the interests of fans or indeed clubs at a lower level within the pyramid.

My Lords, what a treat this is. First, I thank my noble friend for allowing me the chance to express my passion in the afternoon. It is interesting that as we discuss the Premier League in England, one Scot follows another. The noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, is a neighbour of mine. I declare an interest that I am patron of a magnificent club six miles from my home that is known colloquially as Atletico di Forfar. In our local newspapers, the Forfar Dispatch and the Kirriemuir Herald, no doubt next week it will say, “Loons mentioned twice in the House of Lords”. We very much cherish the support of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, who will speak later.

My noble friend has included in his Motion the economic aspect of the Premier League. I have received much briefing and many figures have been bandied about as to the actual visitors who come to England to watch the game. I recall the European Championships in 1996, when on wonderful summer evenings one would see football fans from all over Europe enjoying themselves not just in London but in great cities and towns throughout England, enjoying the very best hospitality and football and everything that is good about football in England—not just the Premier League.

As far as the economic aspect of the Premier League is concerned, it is also the worldwide audience, both with television and the opening up of satellite. Joined to that, anyone who looks at the accounts of the Premier League clubs will find that an enormous percentage of the revenue is from kit and what I call regalia. It is a major item in those clubs’ accounts.

As for the tickets, I am not sure what is paid elsewhere in Europe but I know that the last time I, as a mean Scot, had to pay to go to a match in London, it was £56. The team that my beloved team was playing was not purported to be in the top four so it was “only” £56. That is what I call “London rules”.

Taking the aspect of the players, your Lordships have spoken about the proportion of English players and international players. They are certainly la crème de la crème. I suspect that the Premier League in England has some of the highest quality, if not the highest quality, of players from all round the world in one league in one nation. As far as the managers are concerned, well, there are a good few of them.

My noble friend’s Motion also mentions the international aspect. As a Scot, I do wish England the very best in 2014. As the noble Lord, Lord Watson, and I will know, the TTIN syndrome comes into play here. It is nothing to do with Tintin, the cartoon character, but I always call it the “Third Thursday in November” of the odd years, when it is normal that we hear once again that Scotland has not quite made it to the final of the upcoming international championships.

Would the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, like to comment on the fact that as the Football Association celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, Scotland has been invited to provide opposition at Wembley Stadium next month?

Perhaps the noble Lord might be going. I have not received my invite yet. I probably will be at Station Park, Forfar, instead.

My noble friend’s Motion refers to culture. I worry mildly about that. When I had more time to devote to sporting activities, having finally qualified as a chartered accountant under Scottish rules, I recall in 1967-68 large crowds singing happily, “We shall not be moved”. That was usually once their team was on top and they were putting a thumb to their nose at the television cameras and the great ones from the FA. I will not go into the culture north of the border. The noble Lord, Lord Watson, will know—the supporters of his club are known as the Arabs—that even in Dundee there is a religious aspect to it. Certainly, north of the border you have to be very careful what you do because the Scottish Government, I understand, are going to have cameras on the crowds, not just to hear the melodies you are singing but to lip-read the words you are using. I am not likely to do that at Forfar.

As far as the English Premier league is concerned, I find that wit, jokes and nice jests are very much appreciated. Indeed, my attempts at speaking foreign languages have been blessed by learning three particular phrases, at the grounds in England as well as abroad. One is, “New glasses”, another is, “White stick”, and the third is, “Guide dog”—normally aimed at any one of the three or four match officials. I can assure your Lordships that it goes down particularly well.

I thank my noble friend Lord Bates for introducing this debate because for me and, I suspect, the millions of spectators of the Premier League both here and around the world, football is fun. You can laugh, admire and commiserate but most of all you make lifelong friends. I support a club that is not in the top four. I was struck down in 2006 with a mild stroke. I spoke to one of the directors of this club and he said, “I am so sorry, are you desperately ill?”. Within one hour, you could not have got in through the door of my room because a vast bouquet had appeared. The card said, “From the manager and players of Everton Football Club”. There was a motto underneath, saying, “Get well, YB”—not standing for Young Boys of Bern, but “you something”—“We need you”. An hour later, another bouquet appeared from the youth academy to me, a mere supporter of that club. That is the link that binds us in the Premier League in England and, above all, what a marvellous job it does not just for economics but for relationships in England as well as all over the world.

I thank my noble friend and give every good wish to the Three Lions in 2014. As the noble Lord, Lord Watson, will know, the Lion Rampant still rules.

My Lords, perhaps I could begin with a declaration of interest—or rather, I am afraid, lack of interest: I am not very keen on football. I am a sporting person: I love cricket, I love golf, I love rugby, I have owned legs of jumpers, point-to-pointers, pacers and greyhounds. Athletics is lovely; I am looking forward to attending the para-athletics on Sunday—but I can live without football.

None the less—partly for that reason—I felt that I would like to contribute to the debate. Although I agree with many of the points made by noble Lords about football’s contribution, there is another side to the case, and the House might like the opportunity to hear it. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bates, for securing the debate, and we do have important common ground, because we agree that the Premier League has international economic and cultural significance. I shall not talk about the international aspect, but just on the economic aspect: yes, it is important, but we should not exaggerate. The total revenues of the Premier League amount to precisely one month’s economic growth, even at the present anaemic rate. It is not as if it is a mighty source of economic prosperity.

I had not thought much about the cultural impact—although one cannot help reading about it—until a researcher for the Premier League rang me up the other day to conduct an opinion poll. I was quite comforted by that, because firms and other organisations only conduct opinion polls when they think they are in deep doo-doo and want to do something about it. As the questions flowed, I felt myself more moved by the negative side of the Premier League than by the positive side.

One overriding overwhelming fact about the Premier League lies behind my dissent from the general enthusiasm for it today—the fact that it not only reflects but enormously magnifies one of the disfiguring sins of our present society: excessive greed. I will not go through all the cases that illustrate the greed of the people who buy up clubs on leveraged takeovers in the hope of making money, and then use them as instruments of profit, not of sport.

To give another example, I checked a website before the debate and found that tickets for Arsenal against Spurs were on sale for £285. It would take an adult on the minimum wage 45 hours to earn £285. Football used to be a melting pot, and its rituals were the privilege of every class, from the working people in cloth caps in the stands to the toffs in the boxes. Stanley Matthews got £15 a week, and tickets could be had for shillings and pence. Now, to go to a Premier League football match you need “loadsamoney”—or, of course, a mate or a business contact with a box.

That is reflected—although I do not necessarily blame them for this—by the greed of the players, and perhaps even more so by that of the agents. In economics we have a concept called economic rent, whereby people strip money from an organisation; large economic rents are generally regarded as rather a bad thing. Yet 70% of the revenues of football clubs go out in wages to the players. As a result, the clubs do not make much money, and as soon as they take more revenue, by putting up the cost of entry or by other devices, the agents and the players take the money from them. What sort of example does that set to our society? We are not even surprised when the Sun reports that a Premier League footballer has strayed from his wife, or been caught speeding in his very fast sports car. What example are we giving to young people, when the biggest rewards in society go to individuals characterised only by the gift of sporting skill?

To give another example, I hate it when a club changes its strip each year, putting the parents of young children under intolerable pressure to buy the latest strip for their kids—at the cost, sometimes, of things they really need to keep their homes going. How many Premier League players have gone through the hard work of studying for a degree? How many are out gays?

I do not criticise anyone who loves football; I am sure that it is a great game, even though I fail to appreciate it. But I dare to dream, as quite a lot of people do, and as those who, when Wimbledon Football Club went to Milton Keynes, dreamed of a new Wimbledon rising—AFC Wimbledon—and later realised their dream. I dare to dream of a Premier League stripped of its excesses, and therefore genuinely fit to hold its head high for its contribution to our national culture.

My Lords, let us hope that there is still time to convert the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, at least to the pleasures of watching our beautiful game. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bates, for allowing us to indulge our passions, and wish him luck with his super-marathon.

The English Premier League will be 21 next month. By any measure, it has been an outstanding success. In the 1980s I scheduled ITV at the weekend. Deeply conservative, the then Football League, fearful that live coverage would undermine match attendance, would only agree to the televising of a small number of recorded games. The appeal of football on television at that time might best be described as meagre. Now we have a league which is the envy of the world. It earns far greater revenues than any other—its broadcast income is nearly three times that of Germany’s Bundesliga—and it attracts the world's best players. Week after week it offers the most exciting football. No other league wins such a gigantic global following. About 20% of the world's population regularly watch Premier League football.

Last year I trekked with my wife in Nepal, high up in the Himalayas, walking through villages with only limited and locally sourced solar and hydro power—villages scarcely changed in hundreds of years. Yet as we passed the kids were shouting out, “Wayne Rooney! John Terry! Steven Gerrard!”. Many foreigners do not just, as others have described, follow the Premiership on TV; they fly here in numbers to watch games in our stadia. I hear Icelandic and other languages, as well as Scouse, spoken in the crowd as I exit Anfield.

The Premier League has wonderful stadia, impressive community outreach, and ethnic and religious diversity in its squads and in its support, promoting greater community harmony. The founding principles of the Premier League were well considered, above all the relatively equitable split of broadcast revenues. This is in sharp contrast to La Liga, for instance, where Real Madrid and Barcelona take the lion’s share of revenues and leave most Spanish clubs impoverished by comparison. For the Premier League—this is critical—the consequence is that on its day, any one team can beat any one other team. Last season, for instance: Norwich 1, Manchester United 0. That had Delia beaming. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, might not have seen the game, but no doubt he too noted the result with pleasure. Sunderland 1, Manchester City 0; and then there was Harry Redknapp, who had a miserable season but one great consolation prize: Chelsea 0, QPR 1. The strength and unpredictability of the league is an important reason for its national and global success.

As well as its well considered founding principles, the Premier League also benefited enormously from the effective and early development by Sky in the UK of satellite subscription services and from the high quality of coverage that Sky has provided.

What should concern us about the Premier League? First, it is too early to call it a trend, but we performed poorly in the Champions League last year. While an equitable approach to splitting revenue brings evident benefits, there is a case for favouring the stronger clubs in the split of international revenues if they are to continue to compete with Europe’s best. Secondly, we need to be watchful that the rules of financial fair play are enforced here in the UK and evenly across Europe. We need, for instance, to guard against sponsorship at above-market rates as a form of hidden subsidy.

Thirdly, the FA and the Premier League need to ensure the prudent stewardship of clubs, which are community, not just financial, assets. Clubs should spend only what they earn. They should not pile on unsustainable levels of debt. The fans of 115 year-old Portsmouth FC did not deserve the long drop to the fourth tier of English football, as the noble Lord, Lord Watson, reminded us.

Fourthly, in contrast to our club sides, and as many have observed in this debate, England’s national team has disappointed—1966 is almost half a century away. We field teams containing world-class players but which perform poorly. Who here remembers—maybe we would like to forget—our leaden, lumbering 4-1 defeat at the hands of a young and fresh-faced but untried German team in the 2010 World Cup? In an era where we have seen our athletes and our cyclists shine, the FA and the Premier League need to work together to identify how English football can match those achievements and compete at top international level, as the noble Lord, Lord Wei, observed.

One contributing factor may be that our premier clubs can outbid other leagues for the best global talent, squeezing English players in the process. Perhaps I may add to some of the pungent comments made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner: last season in the Bundesliga, 50% of squad players were German nationals. In the Premier League, the equivalent was far lower, at 37%. Fewer than a third of the players representing Premier League clubs in the Champions League last season were English.

While we should strive to do better still, let us give thanks, on behalf of the one-third of the population for whom the Premier League is a critical part of their everyday lives, for the intensity of experience that it brings us and, on occasions—and hopefully next season for me with Liverpool—for the sheer joy and jubilation.

My Lords, I speak as an occasional supporter of Forfar Athletic and as a season ticket holder of Birmingham City. The noble Lord, Lord Birt, talked about the joys. Supporting Birmingham City mainly teaches you to come to terms with the disappointments of life—except for one game against the Arsenal.

It is a great pleasure to take part in this debate. I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Bates, is right that we should celebrate the magnificence of the Premier League. The excitement is clearly palpable; the statistics quoted by the noble Lord are indeed impressive. I have no doubt that he is right about the contribution that it makes to the image of our country and to its coffers. He is right, too, to celebrate some of the successes. However, there are also some downsides and I thought that some of the points put to the House by my noble friend Lord Lipsey were very pertinent.

I share with a number of other noble Lords real concerns about issues to do with governance in football that go beyond the Premier League to other league clubs as well. I commend the fantastic work in this area of Supporters Direct. Its concern is that so many sports clubs are being put in jeopardy because of vested interests, poor financial management and inadequate standards of governance. This has been backed up by the CMS Select Committee, which has done some magnificent work in this area. It has real concerns about the ownership of clubs and about the fact that the ability of league authorities to investigate ownership issues seems to be very limited and at risk.

The Select Committee found, for instance, that while the Premier League was able to invest more in procedures and specialist assistance to find out the identity of the ultimate owners of some of the clubs, the Football League was not in such a good position, relying only on information provided by the clubs themselves which is then checked against records in the public domain. Remarkably, neither league is prepared to provide to fans the information that it holds and put it in the public domain.

I mention this because it is extremely relevant to the plight of two clubs in the West Midlands. They are not in the Premier League at the moment—so I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me—but they have been and aspire to be again, although when is a matter of some conjecture. I refer noble Lords to Coventry City, who won the FA Cup, remarkably, some years ago. On Saturday, thousands of supporters marched through the city centre protesting at plans for the club to play its home games at Northampton Town, 30 miles away. No wonder the fans are angry at the contemptible way in which they have been treated by the club owners. I refer noble Lords to a debate in the other place on 12 March in which Mr Bob Ainsworth raised this issue and talked about the financial difficulties of Coventry City. He said:

“Five years ago, when it had lost its ground … and most of its assets, the club was sold to the hedge fund Sisu … Sisu specialises in acquiring distressed assets, and under Sisu the club’s ownership is multilayered, opaque and partly offshore in the Cayman Islands”.—[Official Report, Commons, 12/3/13; col. 63WH.]

It is clear that the interest of supporters is right to the last as a priority.

My own club, Birmingham City, is owned by a holding company based in Hong Kong and registered in the Cayman Islands. We have a major shareholder, Carson Yeung, who is at the moment on trial in Hong Kong on charges of £60 million of money laundering. The holding company, Birmingham International Holdings, was censured by the Hong Kong stock exchange for breaching rules in September 2012. There have been major delays in presenting the audited accounts of the club. Very recently, the Birmingham Mail reported that the parent group of Birmingham City has been told to demonstrate its plans to sell the club or it will not be allowed to trade on the Hong Kong stock exchange again. Stock market chiefs demanded to know what plans Birmingham International Holdings Ltd had for the club and how it was going to deal with “management integrity concerns” regarding Mr Yeung, who, as I have said, is now standing trial for money laundering.

While this dreadful ownership problem has been going on, the club has been relegated, the players have been sold and there is real concern about the future. The supporters, who turn up through thick and thin—or thin and thin, as it sometimes is—seem to be considered least. They are the heart of the club yet they are treated with absolute contempt by just about everyone concerned. What are the football authorities doing about this? Can one turn to the authorities to intervene? The answer is no. They do not intervene and they do not disclose information about ownership. They do not seem to respond to the needs of the supporters at all.

What is the Minister going to do about Birmingham City? More generally, the Select Committee recommendations are right in relation to ownership and the involvement of supporters on the boards of clubs in the future. The Minister for Sport has made some excellent responses to this issue but the football authorities are completely unable to govern themselves. That has been staring us in the face for years. I do not want to see statutory regulation in sport but in relation to football they are not going to be able to sort it out for themselves. They cannot see that their interest, first and foremost, should be the supporters or the interest of the national team. I am afraid that the time has come for statutory regulation.

My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Bates, for securing this debate. I am originally from Birmingham, which is renowned for its two leading teams, Aston Villa and Aston Villa Reserves. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, will appreciate that. I declare an interest as a founder member of the Independent Football Commission, which helps to regulate the professional game. I am a patron of Aston Villa and I have enjoyed playing for the parliamentary soccer team and the Aston Villa former players’ team, which plays for various charitable causes. The fact that for a week after playing in those games I found it difficult to walk did not detract from the pleasure of taking part in them.

I want to focus on the issues around diversity. The Select Committee's report, Racism in Football, recognised that, despite recent high profile racist incidents, progress is being made in tackling the issue. It referred to the Premier League working with organisations such as Kick it Out. I have had the privilege of presenting awards on behalf of Kick it Out before Premier League matches at Villa Park. I pay tribute to the work of the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, and his colleagues at Kick it Out, which has been campaigning against racism in soccer for more than 20 years

The Premier League still has some way to go on diversity. There is currently still only one black manager in the Premier League: Chris Hughton at Norwich City. It seems a waste of talent and experience that great black former players such as John Barnes, Cyrille Regis, Viv Anderson, Garth Crooks, Les Ferdinand, Vince Hilaire, Ricky Hill and Luther Blissett did not get the chance to establish themselves as top managers.

With professional football employing more than 10,000 people in the UK alone, the issue of diversity is of growing importance and the Premier League has the resources to lead the way. In big cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham, the population from which many of the Premier League clubs draw their fan base, and their youth team academy players, is increasingly from ethnic minorities. Yet the profile of the coaching, backroom, office and other staff employed by these clubs does not reflect the diversity of the cities they are based in. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, referred to that point.

It is a proven fact that diversity brings to any organisation more creativity, vitality, different approaches and a wider customer base. So the clubs themselves are missing out. The Professional Footballers Association now has a very articulate black chairman in Clarke Carlisle. I hope that he will be able to help keep this issue alive as the Premier League continues to attract such worldwide attention.

There is an ongoing issue of Asians and their relationship with soccer. Thousands of young Asians play and watch the game around the country every weekend, yet there are only seven British Asian players in professional football. The most recent study revealed that there were only 10 Asian players at Premier League academies. That is simply not good enough. There are popular myths that Asians are interested only in cricket and hockey and that cultural differences remain a barrier to them playing in the professional game. However, Asian players such as Michael Chopra and Zesh Rehman have played in the Premier League and dispelled that myth. Perhaps more clubs need to follow the example of Chelsea with its Asian Soccer Star initiative and be more proactive in reaching out to that community.

About a quarter of those attending soccer matches are women and the number of women playing the game is increasing. We have just seen the World Cup in Germany and the European championships are taking place in Sweden as we speak. We now have the semi-professional FA Women’s Super League, but many of its players struggle to get sponsorship. As the Premier League is awash with money, it could help the women’s game to develop. The professional football awards started in 1973, but it was 25 years later, in 1998, and after a High Court action, that a female football agent, Rachel Anderson, won the right to attend the awards. That is surely disgraceful. It was another 15 years later, in April this year, that the PFA awarded its first ever Women’s Player of the Year award to Kim Little. That is too slow progress.

The committee also found evidence of homophobic abuse. It highlighted the concern that,

“too little practical action has been taken to address it”.

This requires a campaign, directed at fans, players and managers, to challenge homophobic attitudes and behaviour. One remembers the tragic suicide of Justin Fashanu, who found life intolerable as a gay footballer.

The Premier League has been a global success and we have heard evidence about the revenues from television contracts. Soccer is about finance and romance. The noble lord, Lord Addington, used the word romance. The Premier League attracts huge finances, partly through the undying love affair fans have with their clubs. It has the resources to champion diversity. In many ways it has won the financial game but it needs to do more to win the race in relation to diversity.

My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Bates for initiating this important debate. The English Premier League and the clubs that comprise it have real cultural and economic significance.

Looking at the gender balance of today's debate, your Lordships’ House might think that football was still very much a male preserve. I inherited my Southampton gene from my mother, who remembers cycling with her brothers to Southampton, by way of the Hythe Ferry, from her home in the New Forest during the war. My brother and I are season ticket holders and, if your Lordships’ House did not have such a strict dress code, I might even prefer to wear my 125th anniversary shirt, to make my support even more visible. I am mindful of the point made by my noble friend Lord Taylor about the women’s game. It is noticeable that most of the clubs in the EPL have been developing their women’s game but it needs to go much further.

I will focus on skills, and the importance of developing the next generation of English players, so that perhaps we might once again hold up the World Cup. The statistics look worrying. In 1992 76% of the starting 11 in the top league were English. By 2009 it had fallen to 37%, and it rose marginally last year to 39%. Last year, Southampton and Norwich—which my noble friend Lord Addington will be pleased to hear—were the only two clubs with more than 60% English players. Fulham had the fewest, at 15%. No wonder we struggle to win games at the highest international level.

There are some shining examples bucking this trend in the Premier League, and Southampton is one of them. Indeed, it has a long history of developing its youth; I remember Mick Channon coming up through the youth team into the main team in the 1960s. Today’s Premier League stars who are graduates of the Saints academy are Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. More recently, I have delighted in watching James Ward-Prowse and Luke Shaw, both of whom have been with the club since they were eight years old. Southampton’s Football Development and Support Centre is unusual in professional football in that it looks after pre-academy, academy and professional squads together at Marchwood. It is particularly important because it provides a seamless pathway that supports young players from the age of eight right up into the first team.

Southampton currently has the enviable position of being the supplier of the highest number of players to the domestic international squads, particularly England, over the past season. We have had an England player selected for every competitive squad, from the under-17 squad to the national team and the Olympics.

For me, what is impressive is the satellite academy at Bath University, also unique in the academy system in football. Bath’s global expertise in sports medicine, psychology and technical performance is balanced by Saints’ long experience in growing its own talent. I believe that it is a groundbreaking model that should be not only protected but duplicated in the wider game.

The English Premier League academy courses are rated by Ofsted as outstanding, and are all deemed to be one institution. We should celebrate this fact. Southampton academy scholars have a 100% pass rate, achieving predicted or even better grades in their formal exam results. Through the Bath academy, they are given the opportunity of three pathways: academic, including degree courses at Bath or elsewhere; vocational, learning to coach; and football, via the Southampton academy, and a chance of playing with other professional or semi-pro clubs. This is vital because, as I am sure your Lordships are aware, very few will make it to the top flight. The Daily Telegraph said in 2009 that fewer than 10% of those,

“who join a Premier-ship academy will … make it into the first team. Most won’t even become professional footballers”.

Southampton’s principles are to develop those young footballers to their full potential but also to ensure that alternative routes are available to them, which they will need at some point in their careers, whether at the age of 18 or 25 or when they retire as players. They will have important and relevant skills that ensure that they will not be on the scrapheap. To pick up on my noble friend Lord Taylor’s point, it will also provide the next generation of black and ethnic minority managers in the English Premier League.

I want to speak briefly of another important economic aspect of English Premier League clubs, and that is, to use the title of the EPL report, Using the Power of Football to Positively Change Lives. It is not just about enabling youngsters to participate in football in their communities, although that is important. There are many projects where those heading for offending or disengagement have a chance to rethink and develop themselves in ways that they did not think possible. I was particularly impressed with the English Premier League’s scheme to take young boys to northern France to visit the battlefield sites, combining that with playing football at the same time, giving young lads who have come from backgrounds where offending might be a real possibility in future to think more broadly about the sacrifice that our grandfathers and great-grandfathers made.

Andrew was one such person from Southampton, who had a real problem with his start in life. When he started with the Kickz programme, which is one part of the Southampton foundation, based in an antisocial behaviour hotspot, his youth inclusion officer and local police constable agreed that he was hard to engage with, did not respect the police and had serious anger management problems. Through the programme, Andrew has learnt to channel his anger. His inclusion officer has said, “A spark came alive in Andrew that made him want to achieve and go further in his life”. Using football as a vehicle, Andrew has turned his life around and is now working towards going to university.

Throughout the English Premier League, there are many committed and excellent clubs and staff training the next generation of outstanding footballers. Just as important are the initiatives to support those who do not make it into other roles and those for whom football can turn around their lives. Each of these strands is vital to our economic well-being, both in our clubs’ local areas and nationally, and I am proud to say that my club, Southampton, leads the way in all three.

My Lords, it is a joy and a pleasure to take part in this debate. Like everyone else, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bates, on securing this debate. It provides me with an opportunity to marry together two of my passions: football and the Co-op.

I take myself back to a date in 1948 when I was standing at the general office counter of Newgate Street Co-op. It was dividend day, and paying out the dividend in Newcastle, as in many other cities and societies, was a very big day. There were queues, and I was there in a line with 10 other colleagues paying out the dividend. All of a sudden I looked up and there in front of me was Jackie Milburn, who of course was, like Wayne Rooney, or whatever name you care to conjure up, a god on Tyneside at that time. He stood there, and my colleagues acted almost as if it was the gunfight at the OK Corral; they waited to see what would happen next. I said, “Mr Milburn, can I help you?”. He said, “Yes”. He pushed his passbook through the counter and said, “How much can I get on this?”. I looked at it and said, “I’m sorry, I can’t pay you anything”. He said, “Why not?”. I said, “Because it’s in your wife’s name and you must have an authorisation note”. “Dear, dear, dear,” he said. I said, “Look, there’s a form. Get her to sign it and come back tomorrow; it’s not your day tomorrow, but I’ll pay you then”. He did, by which time everyone in the general office knew what was going to happen. He pushed his passbook through and said, “Well, I’ve come back. How much can I get?”. I looked at it, and there was £7 and 17 shillings in it. I said, “You must retain three shillings for your membership. I can pay you £7 and 14 shillings”. He said, “That’s a week’s wages”.

In 1948, the rigid rule was that if you played for a first team in the First Division you got £8 a week, and in the off season you got £6 a week. I paid him his money and, as he was going away, I said, “Mr Milburn, you and I know that one of these days Newcastle is going to get to the Cup Final at Wembley”. He said, “Yes, we are, one day”. I said, “I’d like to be able to write to you and ask you for a ticket, if you can get me one”. He said, “You do that, bonny lad”. If someone calls you “bonny lad”, you know that he is a Geordie. I said to myself, “I’ve got a chance”.

In 1951, Newcastle got to the final. Incidentally they won, as they did in 1952 and 1955; they won three times in five years. So off goes my letter to Jackie Milburn, and I said, “Dear Mr Milburn, you might remember me as the lad who paid your wife’s dividend. I enclose a postal order”. The postal order was for three shillings, 15p, for a standing ticket at Wembley. Three days later, an envelope dropped through my letterbox with the Newcastle logo on it. Inside was my postal order, my stamped addressed envelope, a three-shilling ticket and a compliment slip that simply said, “From wor Jackie”—Tyneside for “our Jackie”. He was owned by the town.

That is an illustration of me being known as football daft. I remember being on my dad’s shoulders at the Gallowgate end in 1933, when I was seven. He took me there when Hughie Gallacher, who was one of the main people then, returned while playing for Chelsea, and there was a great crowd.

When I used to go round Edmonton schools, I always had a trick. Some time in the talk I would say to the boys and girls, “Hands up those who support the Spurs”. Half the class would put their hands up. “Hands up those who support the Arsenal,” the other half put their hands up. They always used to say to me, “Mr Graham, who do you support?” and I would say, “Newcastle United”, and they would all boo. They had learnt how to be passionate about football, and they still learn.

It is about time the Government took their courage in their hands and did not listen to people like me who always tell them their priorities are wrong. We are waiting for them to set up a Select Committee, an interparliamentary committee, a Royal Committee or whatever. I know, and noble Lords know, that we are not governed by the British league or the British system—it is a global system now—but it is ridiculous that one man performing well commands £250,000 a week for playing and jibs at accepting that because he thinks he can get a little bit more. There ought to be some rules and regulations governing the size of transfer fees and level of wages. It will not be easy. It always puzzles me that people are willing to starve themselves, if what we hear is correct. I asked Lee, my driver who brought me in this morning and supports Spurs, how much he paid for a ticket the last time he went to Spurs. He said £50. He said if he was to take his two children with him it would be £100. The ordinary fan cannot find £100, but the ordinary fan does and is prepared to pay a lot more. They ought to be stopped from ruining an aspect of the game. I am over my time. I will sit down now.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bates, on securing this debate, which I hope has lived up to his expectations. Certainly we have had fantastic contributions from all round the Chamber. Any debate which attracts my noble friend Lord Graham to speak must be judged a success.

The Premier League is the football world’s leading revenue-generating club competition, with revenues last year of more than €2.9 billion. The nearest rival was the Bundesliga, with nearly €1.9 billion. It is a very successful economic entity. VisitBritain says that more than 900,000 football-watching visitors spent nearly £700 million attending games, so it attracts a wide amount of inward investment as well. It is an economic success and one that can be built on and developed. The Premier League can genuinely argue that it provides huge social, economic and cultural benefits to the UK and, as we have heard, it is a major soft-power element. The noble Lord, Lord Bates, mentioned the link with the British Council, and with football being a global operation this will be increasingly important as we go forward. There is much to celebrate but, as we have heard, there are a number of concerns. They are about long-term financial sustainability, the effectiveness of diversity policies, the way in which the Premier League deals with its supporters, whether sufficient money is reinvested in grass-roots football, how talent is developed and how communities which support clubs are to be supported as they go forward.

As my noble friend Lord Faulkner said, the success of the Premier League comes with some downsides: for young talent, for the other leagues engaged in the game and, of course, for the national team. Then there is the matter of the DCMS Select Committee report on governance and related matters in July 2011 and the Government’s response, which was presented to Parliament as long ago as October 2011. As has been said, it is not for the Government to run football or indeed any other sport. Sports are best governed by modern, transparent, accountable and representative national governing bodies able to act decisively in the long-term interests of the sport. That is not what we have here. As my noble friend Lord Faulkner pointed out, the Government are on record as saying that the DCMS Select Committee’s report,

“lays out in stark detail the way in which the existing structures, governance arrangements and relationships have failed to keep pace with the challenges and expectations surrounding the modern game”.

I hope the Minister will be able to enlighten us as to what is going on in this area.

We have a number of concerns about the way in which the current arrangements are set up. It must be important to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Premier League and, if that is to be the case, debt has to be brought under control. Financial fair play, which was referred to by a number of noble Lords, provides an opportunity for clubs to bring their spending under control. However, as it strictly applies only to clubs involved in European competitions, we will need to see continuing monitoring to ensure that loopholes are not being abused.

It is astonishing that Premier League net debt last year was £2.4 billion; £1.4 billion of this came from interest-free soft loans from owners. The huge level of spending in the top tier also puts pressure on the lower leagues to keep up. The Championship has a net debt of some £0.9 billion. That is worrying as the lower professional leagues have higher wage-to-revenue ratios than the Premier League and do not have the same level of income from broadcasting.

Several noble Lords raised the issue of wages. If wages are to continue to spiral out of control, particularly with increased TV rights money becoming available, the Premier League is surely in danger of perpetuating a culture of greed. The wage-to-revenue ratio in the Premier League was 70% last year. Of the big five leagues—England, Germany, Spain, France and Italy—only Italy has a higher ratio than this; the Bundesliga has the lowest ratio of 51%.

As the noble Lord, Lord Birt, reminded us in a very powerful speech, British football owes much of its success to the fans and the local communities that support the clubs. Therefore, it is only fair that any increase in income for the Premier League ought to result in increases in funding for those who play—about 7 million people—at grass-roots level. Does the Minister agree that the Premier League should, at the very least, give 5% of its income from broadcasting rights to grass-roots sport, as it has committed to do, and ensure that there are mechanisms in place to make sure that is delivered?

Supporters are the basis under which all football and indeed, all sports operate. Clubs must be willing to engage with supporters’ groups, particularly around issues such as ticket prices. In our 2010 manifesto we committed to making it easier for fans’ groups to gain stakes in clubs. As my noble friend Lord Hunt pointed out, Supporters Direct is a really important organisation in this area and its financing needs to be sorted out. As we have heard, there are interesting and important plans for greater involvement of fans in football clubs and I would be grateful if the Minister could say what the Government are planning in this area.

On diversity, the noble Lord, Lord Bates, praised the diversity policies of the Premier League and there have been some notable successes but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lords, Lord Ouseley and Lord Taylor, pointed out, much has been achieved but much more needs to be and could be done in areas such as harassment, bigotry and homophobia and in ensuring diversity in all levels of the game, particularly in coaching, the backroom and boardroom. In that respect, I felt that the points made in relation to the women’s game were very important and I hope that these will also be picked up. My noble friend Lord Faulkner drew attention to the unacceptable position of disabled supporters at many clubs, something which clearly needs attention.

To return to my opening point, I believe that the Select Committee report, as has been said, was a very good one in the range of issues it raised. It is interesting that when the Government responded in October 2011, they believed that there were three immediate priorities:

“the creation of a modern, accountable and representative FA Board”;

agreement to implement a licensing framework to be administered by the FA; and agreements to change the decision-making structures within the FA, particularly,

“in relation to the Council”.

The government report goes on:

“We expect the football authorities to work together to agree proposals, including plans for implementation, by 29 February 2012”.

That deadline has of course passed. What is the timetable now?

Finally, the Government say that they are,

“fully committed to ensuring that the changes put forward by the football authorities make a lasting and substantive difference. If that does not happen the Government will introduce a legal requirement”,

on the FA,

“to implement the appropriate governance clauses by the swiftest possible means … the Government will seek to secure, using all available channels, appropriate legislation as soon as Parliamentary time allows”.

Time has moved on. If that is not the current plan, what is plan B?

My Lords, I join in the thanks to my noble friend Lord Bates for the opportunity to debate the considerable contributions that the Premier League has made to the United Kingdom in its 21 seasons. I pay tribute to him personally for all he did for the Olympic Truce, and for his continuing, active support of charity and sport.

I mean no disrespect to Scotland, nor to the noble Lord, Lord Watson, nor my noble friend Lord Lyell, if my reply is focused on the English Premier League. It is easy, when considering the Premier League, to become ensconced in the passion: the league table, the transfers, the occasional controversy on or off the pitch, and the sense of community that supporters enjoy following the pinnacle of English football. Although for some it was controversial at its inauguration—a breakaway group of clubs striking out against the formative traditions of the sport—the league has come to be woven into not only our own culture, but that of over 900 million Premier League fans worldwide. It has even encouraged the participation in this debate of my noble friend Lord Addington and the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey.

There can be little doubt that the global profile, ambassadorial activities and work supporting overseas investment bring not only corporate benefits for the league and the constituent clubs, but a raft of broader benefits felt by the country at large. Premier League clubs drive significant tourism across the country, with an upward trend of fans coming to watch top-flight football. The league is supporting the “Great” Britain campaign, to which my noble friend Lord Bates made reference, with focal points for soft diplomacy across the world. In the past week alone, officials in Costa Rica, Vietnam and Bulgaria have been reporting back on the leverage that engagement with touring Premier League teams can provide. The Premier League also drives charitable initiatives abroad such as the Premier Skills programme, developing English language and social education through the medium of football.

The Premier League is, of course, just one tier of our domestic football programme. It is the height of league performance, and its profile extends to the far reaches of the globe. However, it is part of the bigger picture of the contribution that football as a sport makes to the UK. For example, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Premier League and the FA jointly fund the Football Foundation, and have spent £780 million over the past 10 years, investing in grassroots facilities. The Football Association invests upward of £43 million each year in supporting the grass-roots game, as the national governing body. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, made reference to this, and we recognise the match-funding that the Football Foundation attracts and the excellent projects it supports.

The Premier League-level investment in grass-roots football therefore provides a welcome addition, for which it should be commended. In the past month it launched a joint project with Sport England to expand two community programmes. Both the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, and my noble friend Lady Brinton made reference to the Kickz programme, which will be expanded to get a further 30,000 young people from disadvantaged areas into sport. Premier League 4 Sport, which has already engaged 60,000 young people, will now offer a broader range of sports while continuing to support the training of volunteers, competition delivery and qualifications in sport.

It is not just the financial support which contributes to the success of football at all levels. Across England, approximately 400,000 people volunteer in the delivery of over 140,000 football clubs and teams, many giving up innumerable hours to support their local community clubs. Many noble Lords have made reference to these activities and their contributions. Supporting the sport of football means, to many, far more than watching their home team, and has developed into a strong culture of volunteering.

That is not to say that the Premier League, and English football more widely, do not have their share of issues, some of which have been acknowledged here today. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner, Lord Lipsey, Lord Hunt and Lord Stevenson, all referred to governance issues. The sums of money reported in the business of football jar in the current economic climate. The will of the ownership is not always consistent with the wishes of the fans. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, made reference to possible revenue of £3 billion. This wealth should surely bring with it a share of responsibilities. The noble Lords, Lord Lipsey and Lord Graham, mentioned the cost of a ticket to see a match. This, of course, seems to contrast with the enormous wealth that the sport generates. The noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, raised concerns that 70% of the revenues go to the wages of players who may not all be the finest role models for the young.

Governance has been a concern to Members of both Houses for some time. As has been mentioned, a Select Committee has twice considered the matter. The Minister for Sport and Tourism has acknowledged their findings, and a response is expected from the football authorities. I am assured that this is a matter taken very seriously across government, and if the football authorities themselves cannot effect change then we have pledged to act. The Government will continue to press football for change but will move to legislate only if football cannot improve, as my honourable friend Hugh Robertson has indicated. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, raised considerable concerns about this. The Government will of course be working with the new chair of the FA, Greg Dyke; he has only been in post for two weeks, so it is perhaps early days to expect results, but I am sure he will be working on this too.

I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, made a cri de coeur for Birmingham City, but the Box seemed to think that it was also on behalf of Coventry City. It was both? Excellent. Actually, that is not excellent, because they are both in need of support. Although the plights of individuals clubs are not matters in which Ministers would wish to intervene, the Government are aware of the impact that ownership issues have had on the fans of Coventry City. The Minister for Sport and Tourism has met with local MPs. He has raised their concerns with the Football League and is in contact with them.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, my noble friend Lord Addington and the noble Lord, Lord Birt, all brought up the plight of Portsmouth. We welcome the role of the fans and the supporters’ trust in developing a community-owned club to continue in its place. We certainly wish them well. My noble friend Lord Wei also commented on the possibility of more fan ownership of clubs. Of course, in the case of Portsmouth it would not have been possible without the support of dedicated fans and, indeed, the valuable assistance that Supporters Direct provides. There are many ways for fans to become engaged in ownership, and Supporters Direct is guiding them in the development of trust and the exploration of options. That might seem like a way forward.

My noble friend Lord Wei also raised foreign ownership. It is a fact that the global appeal of the league will continue to attract foreign ownership and the football community must capitalise on the benefits of this. The Premier League is international in its operation and appeal and it is true that a great deal of global talent is attracted to our competition.

The implementation of the FA’s youth review seeks to break the mould in English football and develop more skilful players at grass-roots level. This is where the Premier League and England players of the future reside. The new skills-based approach will be rolled out in the 2013-14 season. The noble Lords, Lord Birt and Lord Faulkner, referred to the small number of English players in the teams. My noble friend Lord Taylor also mentioned the small number of British Asian players.

From these foundations, football now has a clear strategy to give our brightest youngsters the best possible opportunities to develop. The FA supports an elite pathway through professional clubs and the FA England teams. Representative teams from under-16s to under-21s are all based at St George’s Park, the national football facility. Professional clubs provide the feeder system for these teams and the new elite pathway, which has extensive interaction with schools and will provide players for our future squads. As part of the elite pathway, there is close co-ordination between the professional clubs and the Football Association’s leading charter-standard clubs. This ensures that the entry and exit points of the professional game support continuing player development, allow young players to keep playing and potentially allow for their return into the professional structure, should their future development allow it.

My noble friend Lady Brinton raised the question of football academies. As she says, not every academy player will make the Premier League and it is vital that supplementary training prepares them for this eventuality. The best examples of integrated training do indeed leave youngsters prepared for a future outside of football. As she says, Ofsted has rated as outstanding the Premier League in its best practice report of April 2012, noting that apprentices could,

“achieve their footballing potential while also developing their academic and personal skills”.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, raised the links between sport and modern languages. Of course, she chaired a committee which reported on European sport. We have also been involved in APPG meetings where sport and languages have been associated. We think that that perhaps will be wider than the vocabulary that my noble friend Lord Lyell was claiming to possess in this respect, perhaps reflective of the language that the noble Lord, Lord Birt, recalls hearing at his local game. Inevitably, with its international flavour, sport encourages the learning of languages.

The noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, also referred to the programmes for literacy and numeracy. These have had a powerful effect, particularly in disadvantaged areas. Training also extends to the work of many Premier League clubs to engage disaffected individuals back into education. It is one of the many positive ways in which the power of football can influence hearts and minds and, as my noble friend Lady Brinton says, can transform the lives of many young people.

The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, raised concerns about disabled access to Premier League stadiums. This will be noted in our ongoing engagement with the sport. I think that the example he quoted obviously should be shaming to the game.

On diversity, the joint inclusion and anti-discrimination action plan for English football has set clear targets across the game and is now reporting significant progress in initiating its work against discriminatory behaviours. A better understanding of equality and inclusion in the environment of football is being created, ensuring that it is open to a wide and diverse talent pool. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for the work that they have done against racism. I note their concerns that there is not an ethnic mix at the top of the managerial and professional tree. The statistics do not read well, but we welcome the work that bodies such as Sporting Equals—funded by Sport England—are doing in partnership with clubs such as Liverpool, as well as the work that Kick It Out and Showing Racism the Red Card, mentioned by noble Lords, have been carrying out successfully to encourage greater diversity of coaching staff at all levels. This is a key part of the Football For All strategy. Against this backdrop, the access needs of a diverse fan base must not be forgotten.

As we commemorate the Olympic and Paralympic legacy one year on, some have noted the successful inclusion of British football teams in the London 2012 Olympic Games. It did immeasurable good for the profile of the women’s game, setting a record attendance figure of over 80,000 at the gold medal match. It offered many more thousands of spectators the opportunity to enjoy watching Olympic competition, and incoming Olympic tourists the opportunity to enjoy visiting the hosting cities outside London.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, drew attention to the challenges that women face. My noble friend Lady Brinton pointed to the lack of gender balance in this particular debate. I suppose that it is just as well that my noble friend Lord Gardiner was double-booked on this occasion, as I have been able to raise, at least slightly, the participation rate. We also note that the Women’s Super League is expanding to two leagues in 2014 and that many participating clubs are affiliated with Premier League sides, enjoying the facilities and expertise provided, including a new side from the Manchester City stable. Although it may not yet attract the same funding as the men’s game, the relationship between the two is improving.

We entered Olympic football as Team GB for the first time in 52 years, but the merit of any future Olympic participation in men’s or women’s football must be left to the football associations and the BOA. Team GB Football more regularly appears in the Paralympic roster and squads will no doubt continue to represent us with pride in Rio 2016 and beyond. We must not forget other British football squads, such as those who attended the recent World University Games, or Universiade, which is now one of the world’s largest multi-sport events. Following a successful campaign, in Kazan, Russia, the British men returned with silver and the women with gold, with a squad featuring many players tipped for full international duty. Through their successes I have no doubt that both teams, and the wider squad of athletes and support staff, have done much for the global face of British sport.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, raised the issue of broadcasting rights, as did the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, I believe. There was the suggestion that a proportion of that income should be given back direct to the sport. I will write to the noble Lord on that as I do not have a direct answer for him at this time. However, I rather suspect that this will be something for football governance and it will not be for the Government to interfere.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, also mentioned the lack of diversity in sport at board level. I believe that the Government hope to work with the sport very closely to ensure that board level is more representative of the diversity of people who take part in and are interested in football.

Is the Minister aware that when the Olympic Select Committee took evidence from the Football Association, its representative was asked how many women were on the council of the Football Association and the answer was that in a council of more than 100 people there were three women?

I was not aware of that. I wish that I could say that it surprises me. We should take note that that sort of representation does not reflect the way in which football is supported and should not be tolerated in the 21st century.

We acknowledge the Premier League’s efforts to date in addressing issues of governance and other issues that would better enhance their undoubted success and hope that they continue this work for seasons to come. Noble Lords have raised a number of key issues that they see fit to be addressed. I include in that the trickling down of their wealth, one of the comments with which my noble friend Lord Bates began this debate.

The contributions that the Premier League makes to the UK significantly go beyond its remit of delivering the top tier of domestic competition. Beyond its place domestically, close to the hearts of so many, the world has embraced our league as its own. It is from that privileged position that it can continue to showcase the very best of what the UK has to offer globally. There have been some amazing contributions from around the House in this debate. I renew my thanks to my noble friend Lord Bates and thank all noble Lords who have contributed their wide-ranging expertise to this stimulating and productive debate.

My Lords, I think that the Standing Order and the clock permit for a few minutes of post-match analysis of this debate. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part. I particularly thank my noble friend Lady Garden of Frognal for the very comprehensive way in which she summed up the debate, responding to the points raised.

As I sat and listened to the debate, I felt that if Alan Hansen were here, he would say, “The thing about that debate is that there was quality everywhere you looked on the pitch”. There was immense, rich experience coming through: the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, with the Football Foundation; the noble Lord, Lord Birt, with broadcasting; the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, with the Kick It Out campaign; the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, with the National Football Museum; the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie; and my noble friend Lord Taylor of Warwick, who is still playing. I felt that it was an excellent debate from that point of view, and it brought out into the open passionate football fans from all different corners, from Southampton to Forfar Athletic, the team of my noble friend Lord Lyell, to recognise the national game.

The noble Lord, Lord Watson, gave us a little tutoring on how the Scots are worried about the performance of England at a national level. I believe that we should take that advice with a little caution. Some of us were watching last month when the English national team gave a fantastic performance in the Maracana in Rio against Brazil to draw 2-2. The truth will be found out next month when Scotland comes down to Wembley for the 150th anniversary game.

Several noble Lords referenced community value and community ownership of our clubs and what this evokes within each of us. I was drifting away on the melodic tones of the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, when he talked about “wor Jackie” and the Newgate Street Co-op—I was dragged back to my roots also.

I will make just a couple of brief points. As a fellow-member of the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Committee I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, for raising the evidence given by the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, to that committee. We were all quite shocked to hear her observations about how inaccessible many Premier League football grounds are. I encourage the Government Front Bench to consider dispatching the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, to each of the Premier League football grounds to carry out an audit; if that would not sort them out, I do not know what would.

Some unbelievers crept in for the debate, perhaps ahead of the debate that will follow on atheism; the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, embarked on a heresy, but made a very valuable contribution to the debate, as did my noble friend Lord Addington. I will make a brief point about the number of players, which is that yes, 30% of the players who play in the Premier League are from England and eligible to play for the English national team. However, that does not reflect the true picture. If you take into account the Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh players, we move up to 40%. If we followed the example of rugby and the British Lions and had a team of that nature, we would be on par with what is happening in Germany. Perhaps we ought to look at that. Why do the national teams not succeed? That is another debate, and I do not want to embark on it. It is probably because we over-obsess about past glory in 1966 rather than future glory, and perhaps also because for some of the players the greatest pinnacle of success is winning the Champions League medal rather than a World Cup medal. Again, we shall see.

I will make one factual correction for the record. Noble Lords will not be surprised, from my stature, to learn that I will not be running 500 miles for Save the Children’s work in Syria, starting in London on Saturday and finishing in Enniskillen on 9 September, but will be walking it—and at a measured pace. However, that pace will be sprightly during the first half of the walk because I have to get to Manchester for 17 August, when Newcastle plays Manchester City in the opening game of the season. How I perform thereafter will very much depend on that game. This is a good-news story for Britain.

Atheists and Humanists: Contribution to Society

Motion to Take Note

Moved by

That this House takes note of the contribution of atheists and humanists to United Kingdom society.

My Lords, as other noble Lords are leaving the Chamber while the handover is going on, it is timely for me to remind your Lordships that the next debate, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, is also time-limited. The same number of speakers is listed on this debate as well, so with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, and my noble friend Lord Ahmad, all Back-Bench contributions are limited to seven minutes.

My Lords, today we speak up on behalf of the silent majority, for those of us who do not attend any place of worship, whether church, mosque or synagogue. It is a silent majority, whose full contribution to British society has perhaps been unsung for too long. In contrast, we find that religious voices are ever more present, and sometimes shrill, in the public square. However, because atheism is a philosophical viewpoint, arrived at individually and personally, we are not given to marching in the street chanting, “What do we want? Atheism! When do we want it? Now!”. As a humanist who senses that religion has neither rhyme nor reason, I believe that we should ensure that our needs and concerns are met and satisfied in that public square, as they are in the private armchair. For too long we have been silent, contemplative hermits in terms of our own cause.

Humanism is a non-religious ethical life stance based on reason, humanity, and a naturalistic view of the universe. As the non-religious proportion of the UK population increases, the contribution of humanists to British society also increases. While not all of those who are atheists would necessarily describe themselves as humanist, nevertheless a great many of those who are non-religious are essentially humanist in outlook. The increase in the proportion of the population which is non-religious is demonstrated not only by the 2011 census results, in which the non-religious element rose from 15% in the 2001 census to 25% in 2011, but also in the more recent British Social Attitudes survey published last year, which found that as many as 46% say that they do not belong to any religion.

Humanism is perhaps the default philosophical position for millions of people in the UK today, and millions of humanists in one way or another in their daily lives improve society by strengthening our democratic freedoms, involving themselves assiduously in charity work, increasing our body of scientific knowledge and enhancing the cultural and creative life of the United Kingdom.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity which works on behalf of non-religious people. Founded in 1896, it has more than 28,000 members and supporters and more than 90 local and special interest affiliates. The BHA campaigns for a secular state and on a range of ethical issues, puts forward the humanist viewpoint in public debate and lobbies the Government and parliamentarians. I am very pleased to see the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, in her place today, because she will recall that we managed to have a humanist amendment added to the same-sex marriage Bill.

The BHA also has a network of celebrants who conduct non-religious ceremonies which are attended by more than 250,000 people every year. Some BHA members also give up their time to provide pastoral support to non-religious people in hospitals, prisons and universities alongside the chaplaincy teams of those organisations. In my own borough of Camden that silent service of humanists has not percolated through to the NHS, which still believes that those of the non-faith tradition should be served by chaplains of all kinds of faiths.

The BHA campaigns for secularism, the separation of church and state and an end to all religious privileges. The work of humanists and atheists in campaigning for secularism has helped to make the UK a more tolerant, free and equal society. In a secular society, the state does not favour any particular belief system. Members of all religious faiths, as well as those who do not have a religious faith, stand equal before the law. A society in which everyone has equal rights and minorities do not suffer from discrimination is a tolerant and democratic one.

Humanists spent decades campaigning for the abolition of the blasphemy laws, which was finally achieved in 2008. Blasphemy laws place religiously-motivated restrictions on freedom of speech and should have no place in a democratic society. Humanists have had to campaign for personal freedoms in modern society that we now take for granted such as the legalisation of homosexuality, the ability to access contraception and women’s right to access safe abortion facilities. We wish the Church of England well in its ambition finally to have women represented on the Bishops’ Benches.

We campaign for a fully secular state, for the disestablishment of the Church of England and the removal of the Bishops from the House of Lords. We know that there are stirrings within the Anglican Church from people who take the same view. Perhaps it would be helpful to have a more equal distribution of those who profess religious faiths and those who do not—as with the BHA or the National Secular Society—on your Lordships’ Benches.

The BHA also campaigns to end discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief, and it welcomes, in particular, the recent decision by the Girl Guides to drop the reference to God in their membership oath. The BHA also campaigns on ethical issues, such as the right to an assisted death for the permanently incapacitated and incurably suffering. Humanists try to achieve a more cohesive society by campaigning against social division in the education system and, indeed, the social engineering of church schools. We believe that children and young people should be free of religious indoctrination and have the space to develop their own beliefs. We would welcome the church intervening in the clearly odd matter of parents who apply to church schools when they are clearly doing so simply to have access to those schools and not as a profession of faith.

Humanists and atheists are sometimes accused of being intolerant of religious believers and being unwilling to work with them to build a better society; however, we support the Fair Admissions Campaign, which calls for an end to religious discrimination in admissions to state-funded faith schools, and the Accord Coalition. We work with the Christian think tank, Ekklesia, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, the Hindu Academy and Rabbi Jonathan Romain MBE. The BHA also campaigns against the teaching of creationism and in favour of the teaching of evolution. We call for an improved sex and relationships education. Humanists also call for an end to the requirement for collective worship in schools and for the reform of religious education, so that pupils are given the opportunity to explore different religions and non-religious world views, including, of course, humanism. Some BHA members are already working with the Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education and local authorities.

It is often claimed that the religious are more generous and socially engaged than the non-religious. However, research by the Government, published in 2011, shows that the non-religious are just as likely as religious people to participate in civil society. The Citizenship Survey of April 2010 to March 2011 was published by the Department for Communities and Local Government. It looked at civic engagement and formal volunteering in that period and found that there was no statistically significant difference in participation between those with no religion, at 56%, and Christians, at 58%.

Among the BHA’s most significant supporters from the world of science are its president, the physicist, broadcaster and author, Professor Jim Al-Khalili; the biologist and author of The God Delusion, Professor Richard Dawkins, a vice-president; physicist, Professor Brian Cox; geneticist Steve Jones; the former scientific officer to the Government, Professor Sir David King; and science writers such as Simon Singh and Doctor Adam Rutherford. We are all familiar with Francis Crick and the contributions of Bertrand Russell and the novelist EM Forster.

Humanist ceremonies, including weddings, funerals and naming ceremonies, are becoming more and more popular, and the BHA’s trained and accredited celebrants conduct ceremonies that are attended by more than 250,000 people each year. Humanist ceremonies are tailored to the lives of the people involved and are based on shared human values, but with no religious elements. This aspect of the BHA’s work is very important in a society in which a growing proportion of the population is non-religious.

I shall make some closing comments on a number of areas where I believe we humanists can aid society and improve its general workings. We could contribute, for instance, on “Thought for the Day”, on the “Today” programme, from which we are currently excluded. I think that this is an error; we are able, as others are, to provide thoughts for the day. We are told that all other broadcasting is sufficient to absorb that which we may want to say. There are, however, true problems for atheists and humanists that should be properly addressed, knotty problems that we have to confront. I believe that, in fairness, that should happen. I also point to religious broadcasting that is of a better nature, such as the “Sunday” programme, which my wife and I listen to regularly, especially when chaired by the excellent Edward Stourton, who never allows his Roman Catholicism to stand in the way of his forensic journalistic instincts. I was heartened to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, in a recent “Sunday” appearance, speak up against the persecution of atheists in Indonesia and Pakistan. I was grateful to her for doing so. The noble Baroness has gone further by changing the name of her all-party parliamentary group to reflect beliefs as well as religion.

There are also other ways in which humanists can contribute to the general weal, some of which will help our religious colleagues directly. The chair of the Historic Churches All-Party Group, Frank Dobson, is an avowed atheist. In 2004, I led a debate in your Lordships’ House asking Her Majesty’s Government what contribution they had made to the maintenance of the architectural heritage of England’s churches and their view on combining the function of churches as places of worship with other ways of serving local communities. I give one recent example from Chester, where we in the Labour Party recently selected our prospective parliamentary candidate for the general election in our local arts and craft Church of England, whose bells my wife and I listen to every Sunday and practice Thursday. We may be atheists but we do not see why the church should have all the best buildings. I note that today the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has said that he wants to use the church estate to promote credit unions in churches to oppose payday loans.

I conclude on a sad note and I ask the Minister if he will take this back. The Armed Forces Humanist Association is being prevented from attending the Cenotaph ceremony in November, and I and others have been campaigning for this for a long time. Last week, I received a reply from the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, which tells us that we cannot be represented there. We do not want to lay a wreath or anything like that; we simply want to be there. The noble Lord wrote that there is a very real issue of available space for accommodating any extra participants at the designated place where the ceremony takes place, which could impact on the precision with which the ceremony must successfully operate, despite the fact that the Zoroastrians are represented at that ceremony. Thus spake Zorathustra, but thus quaked the Government when they were asked to represent the whole of British society. I think, hope and believe that this debate illustrates that we, the humanists and atheists, have a very real contribution to make.

My Lords, I intend to go rather farther back than my noble friend’s powerful speech. I congratulate him on giving us this opportunity to go a little wider and deeper than our usual deliberations. My thesis is that our idea of the good society has its roots in many traditions, some of which are humanism and atheism, and that the contribution of humanist thought is significantly underrated and denied its status in our education and our social policy. I declare an unremunerated interest as a vice-president of the British Humanist Association, whose causes my noble friend has so eloquently described.

By “humanism” I do not mean the Christian Platonism of Erasmus and his followers, although it is perfectly reasonable to call them humanists because that is what he called himself. For the purposes of this debate, I mean people whose ethical framework is unattached to religious belief. Strictly, I leave out later thinkers whose ideas chimed with humanism such as Montaigne, who would have courted death if they spoke in those terms. However, rather as early Christians thought Virgil was one of them, I hope that I can count Montaigne as sympathetic to the values of humanism.

Democritus, from fifth century Greece, was clearly an atheist. For our debate, perhaps his most significant contribution was his idea that there were systems which controlled how materials behaved—in effect, physics and chemistry. He also had a clear picture of the difference between subjective and objective perception. Both these extraordinarily modern-seeming theories offered an alternative to the supernatural and shamanic versions of the world available at the time. Bertrand Russell thought Democritus was simply lucky in his conclusions, but Lucretius, Democritus’s much later Roman disciple, gave a series of empirical arguments for the same beliefs. The great beauty of De Rerum Natura is its idea of a world determined by natural laws. It was astonishingly prescient—and, incidentally, was saved for our post-classical world by a Christian scholar. We do not acknowledge these two giants much as we go about our lives but we still stand on their shoulders, in Isaac Newton’s graphic phrase.

I should also like to claim the sceptics of the Enlightenment such as Voltaire, but more exactly he and some of his contemporaries were deists, so perhaps I may call them fellow travellers. There were certainly avowed atheists among them, such as Diderot and the German Matthias Knutzen, who proposed conscience and reason as the only guides to behaviour. We could also claim Spinoza, with his idea of the human mind. To jump a couple of centuries, we teach George Eliot and Thomas Hardy as civilised and penetrating writers, but do we acknowledge equally their atheist values? I think we could with advantage put John Stuart Mill’s pellucid Three Essays on Religion, which is actually about morality, on the sixth-form reading list.

Why does it matter to give humanism its due? After all, world views come and go. Who today respects the truths of Zoroaster—apart from the folk my noble friend referred to? Before some eminent Parsee Member of your Lordships’ House gets up to say, “Ahura Mazda lives”, perhaps I may hastily say that we should respect humanism, at least, because of the enduring nature of its tenets and, above all, their capacity to unite people of different faiths and none in common values.

What would this greater contribution produce? It would strengthen the part played in ethics by conduct. It might give some credit to a tradition that goes back even earlier than the Abrahamic religions—much earlier even than classical Greece—to the religious tolerance of Ashoka, the great Indian king of the sixth century BCE, or to the idea of human rights in the Code of Hammurabi three centuries earlier. It might draw a continuum from those milestones to the atheist inventors of the United Nations and its founding charter of human rights. I wish that this Government respected what human rights are really about, as their founders down the centuries have. Acknowledgment of humanist traditions of thought would help to put that in proper perspective. More emphasis on conduct rather than faith or revealed axioms would be beneficial in the education of our diverse society. It would make a better way to educate our children together to form one society, whatever their affiliation to a particular religion or belief.

I personally would not like to see too much downgrading of the status of religion in a secular society. The values of the great religions of the world are inestimable and it would be foolish to deny the fundamental role of Christianity in our culture, or of the one I am closest to: Judaism. The influence of Islam, especially from the Andalusian period, is underrated. The great religious patrons financed some of the greatest art the world has seen.

What I hope for is an understanding of the importance of ethics and morality that allows non-religious systems equal respect. I am heartened in this by occasional references by right reverend Prelates to those of faith and of none. I ask for an equal place in our counsels and advisory bodies, and, most of all, in the education of our children. It should be the primacy of an ethical framework in our public policy, not the primacy of religion, that matters.

Of course people are entitled to draw a religious conclusion from the awe-inspiring features, and the challenges of evil, in our world. Those of us who grew up in the 20th century will have noticed the need for redemption. If some people over centuries, even millennia, have not found it right to fit that into a religious framework but have nevertheless developed the values that we honour, we should make sure that we know all of the shoulders we are standing on.

My Lords, I applaud the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for giving us the opportunity to consider this increasingly important subject. I make clear at the outset that I am not against religion, so long as religious believers adhere to the basic ethical principles of empathy and compassion. In my view, any Church of England member today would adhere to those principles. My other request is that people of religion should be open to the scientific method when they come to understand how the universe works, even if this requires them to adjust their belief in the supernatural. Where a religion departs from these principles—if, for example, adherence to a religious belief requires female genital mutilation—I part company with it, and I am sure that every noble Lord would agree with that view. That is the issue. Many religions have gone wildly off course over the ages.

To put my cards on the table, I would probably describe myself as a humanist Quaker. Yes, there are Quakers who do not believe in a supernatural God. I wonder how many people who call themselves Christian would also reject the idea of a supernatural God and would interpret the resurrection simply as symbolic of the human capacity for renewal—nothing more. I remember asking a very dear verger who worked with me on mental health many years ago, “Do you really believe the words of the Creed?”. He said, “I don’t really think I believe any of it, but I find it helpful to be in a spiritual place and to ponder on things other than the material, and other than the worries of today”. Was he really a Christian? If he was, perhaps for many Christians the term “Christianity” is synonymous with humanism.

One reason to promote humanism is the need to distinguish religious sects that subscribe to the basic ethical principles of humanity and those that do not. We cannot just assume that because somebody is religious, they have to be good, and if they are not religious they have to be bad. Another reason is the rapidly growing proportion of the population who are not religious at all. The noble Lord, Lord Harrison, referred to the figures. It is staggering that about half the population today do not have a religion. Religion is dying fast. Only one-third of 18 to 24 year-olds belong to a religion, compared with 72% of those over 65. Humanist values are thus absolutely vital to our society if we are not to decline into the amoral, brutish existence of which people speak.

The Dalai Lama has shown the way in his book, Beyond Religion. He argues that compassion is the most central instinct which enables human beings to survive and thrive. Compassion leads us to treat others as we would wish them to treat us—a central tenet of Christianity—that is, with concern, affection and warm-heartedness. The Dalai Lama—a lifelong Buddhist, of course—advocates,

“an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion”.

I find that very interesting and powerful. He argues for a secular ethics and sees no contradiction between that and his religious beliefs. Secular ethics, or humanism, is beyond religion, as the Dalai Lama suggests, not beneath or above it.

We now know from evolutionary biology and neuroscience that these values are innate in our biological nature. Humans survive and thrive only if they espouse these values. We need to promote these values within ourselves and in others. Many will say that they pursue ethical and humanist principles because of their religion. That seems fine to me; perhaps I part company with some of my colleagues in the Chamber today. Others work towards achieving compassion through mindfulness or meditation. That for me is good. I am not myself very good at it, but I believe that others are and greatly benefit from it. The important point is that we all agree on the humanist values by which the world should strive to live. It would be helpful if everyone also accepted the scientific method as the means to understand the universe, but I understand that not everybody takes that view. Humanists have campaigned for many of the great reforms of the past century, as the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, has already said.

I want to spend a minute to focus on another great humanist and, in my view, religious challenge over the next year—the Assisted Dying Bill. The principle of autonomy—the right of every human being to have control over decisions affecting their health and, indeed, their life and death—is perhaps the most fundamental ethical principle of all. I was chair of a clinical ethics committee for a health trust for some years and we had to consider some very complex issues for clinicians. The only way to be sure that our guidance would be in the patient’s best interests and satisfy the ultimate humanist principle of compassion was to put the autonomy of the patient at the centre of our debates.

The same applies to how we die. If patients who are terminally ill can make their own decisions about how and when to die, society cannot go wrong. Of course we need safeguards to ensure that callous and greedy relatives cannot in some way lead a patient to say something that they do not want to say, but those safeguards are in the Bill and will be in place if it passes. Last November, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain established Inter-Faith Leaders for Dignity in Dying, an inter-faith group of clergy who favour the aims of Dignity in Dying, including the Falconer Bill. This proposed legislation is not contrary to religion, and I hope that those on the Bishops’ Benches may be able to support us. A YouGov survey commissioned by Inter-Faith Leaders for Dignity in Dying found that 62% of people who identified themselves as belonging to a religion support the legalisation of assisted dying for terminally ill people with mental capacity. Only 18% were opposed. Most of us would lead more contented lives safe in the knowledge that we would not have to suffer beyond our endurance at the end of our lives.

My Lords, while I am still privileged to occupy the Bench of the Lords spiritual on behalf of the nation, I am delighted to say that the debate today is most welcome and I am honoured to follow the previous three speakers. They have given us the opportunity to hear the great deal of good that can and should be recognised, wherever we find it, whether in philosophy—the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, reminded us of the great traditions of humanist philosophy—or in science. I note the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, about the very serious business of assisted dying; I am sure that we will work hard on that together to get it right.

There is also the wonderful good that comes from humanists or atheists ringing bells. So often in society we appear to be motivated simply by our own interests, with the consequence that acknowledging good in others is interpreted simply as disloyalty to one’s tribe. Within the church, we are not immune to this problem. None the less, the Christian tradition points to the wider generosity; when Jesus was asked for an example of neighbourliness, he told a story about the Samaritan and not a good religious Jew, such as himself. I hope that, among many other themes, this debate will challenge intolerant tribalism in all walks of life wherever we find it.

While my Christian faith came alive in Idi Amin’s Uganda when I was 18, many of my closest friends are more comfortable with atheism or humanism. We have in common a desire to explore profound questions about life, meaning, the universe and everything else. We may have different views or come to different conclusions. We may even become stronger in our own conclusions. I should add on the subject of the resurrection that my views on its veracity have not changed much since I was 18. We appreciate one another as seekers of truth and adventure together.

The contribution that people of various beliefs, religious or not, make to society is measured not simply by clearly held propositions—I do not doubt that we will hear more of those this afternoon—but by the actions that those beliefs inspire them to take. There are committed humanists, atheists, Christians, and those of other religions and faiths and of no faith, in every political party and independent person represented in this House and in the other place. As we have already begun to hear, members of the church work regularly, constructively and happily alongside humanists and atheists in pursuit of the common good. I am delighted that the noble Lord who has given us the opportunity to have this debate is making good use of his local parish church.

A difference is perhaps that religious people and religions usually offer a collective practice, in worship and social action, whereas one notices from time to time, in spite of the association, that humanists and atheists contribute more as individuals. This should not stop us working together, when we can be allies one day and even if we are opponents another, achieving together what we can and learning from each other when we are opposed. The boundaries between belief systems are a good deal more fluid than most people assume. For example, there is a long and honourable tradition of Christian humanism, traceable back to the Middle Ages. The noble Baroness spoke of thinkers such as Erasmus. This tradition focuses on Jesus’s message about the basic moral significance of human beings. We tend mainly in modernity to see the opening up between theistic religion and humanism. I do not suggest for a moment that most humanists are closet Christians, but there are Christians who espouse humanist values in addition to the source of their own faith. In Nrimol Hriday in Calcutta you could see the work of Mother Teresa in caring for the dying, which was loving presence for its own sake for those needy people.

I wonder why the British Humanist Association, which has been mentioned with such strength, often adopts for instance such a strongly secularist approach, which would exclude religion from the public square. Everybody comes from somewhere and every position that we hold rests on beliefs of one sort or another. The massive contribution offered to society by atheists and humanists, no less than religious people, happens because good actions flow out of worthwhile beliefs and systems. Seeking to confine people’s beliefs to the private realm and expecting good actions to flow in public seems to me to get cause and effect rather mixed up.

As an example of the potential alliances in the public square, there is the service of registered humanist practitioners in offering humanist funerals, which the noble Lord has mentioned. The Church of England has been able to work behind the scenes with the British Humanist Association to find an approach to humanist weddings that would work for us both. There have been similar alignments between us on the important issue that has already been touched on in connection with freedom of speech. These give evidence that theistic religions and non-theistic belief organisations can inhabit the public square together for the benefit of all. There could be more examples if there were wide agreement that a society marked by plurality of religions and beliefs is a much more promising model than secularism’s attenuated understanding of the public realm.

I celebrate today the contribution of humanists and atheists to the common good. I revel in our common humanity, our shared commitment to society and the gift of friendship. Together we can go further and demonstrate not just ordinary respect but a much deeper appreciation, not mere tolerance but full participation in the needs of society and be grateful for living in such a society where people of all religions, or none, do not just nurture their beliefs in private but integrate them into a full, joyful, public intention in our endeavours to make the world a better place for all.

My Lords, I, too, greatly welcome this debate. I have to admit that I was a founder member of the Cambridge Humanists in the 1950s when I had great hopes for humanism, but which I think have been only partly fulfilled. Humanism has done very well on the negative side in rebutting unreasonable beliefs and unreasonable laws but much less well on the positive side in providing a thriving and flourishing secular morality, which is what many of us had hoped it would do. I believe that that failure has had quite serious effects on our society because more and more people have abandoned a morality based on religion. It has not been replaced with anything as powerful or with the same emotional force as that provided through the churches, so the way has been left open for the increasing growth of a “me first” philosophy of life.

How can we reverse that? Two things are needed. First, there has to be a much clearer, more powerful expression of what humanists positively believe in—not what they do not believe in. Secondly, there have to be institutions which embody those beliefs. As the right reverend Prelate said, the churches provide the social support for religious belief. It is not easy to lead a good life on your own without social support. You are much more likely to do so if part of your identity is that you are a member of an institution committed to ethical living. We desperately need more such institutions of a secular kind that can support the majority of our citizens who are not practising members of a religion.

It is unclear to me exactly how these new institutions will develop and what they will look like. I am involved in an attempt to create one such institution, Action for Happiness, and I shall tell the House a little about it. We now have 30,000 members. The first thing a member has to do is pledge to live so as to create as much happiness and as little misery in the world as they can. The movement provides them with materials that can help in that endeavour. Increasingly, it aims to create real face-to-face communities that are more like the churches in their physical expression, or perhaps the early Christian cells, in order to help people to live in this way.

Action for Happiness’s ethical stance is very simple. It is really important that humanism develops a very simple ethical creed which can generate people’s energy, loyalty and commitment. It says, first, that everyone matters equally and, secondly, what matters about them is their quality of life as they experience it—in other words, their happiness. If you put the two together, you arrive at an obligation on each of us to try to produce as much happiness and as little misery as we can in the world. This is the most obvious foundation for a humanist secular morality which could carry our society forward.

Of course, it has much in common with the golden rule that we should do unto others as we would like them to do unto us. When it comes to what we should not do, both principles are very much in line. We certainly should not do what we would not like others to do to us. However, there is a difference in relation to what we should do; that is, how we should conduct our lives in a positive way to make the world a better place, as was just said. There are some problems about the golden rule and whether we should do to others what we want them to do to us. We may want them to give us a job but that does not mean we should give them jobs: it might not be practical. We need a more practical expression of how you can live positively. I cannot think of a better or more inspiring expression than that we should live to increase the happiness of those around us and reduce their misery.

Secular morality is not anti-religious, it is areligious. Of course, the areligious increasingly are the majority of adults in our country. When I have spoken to educators who have insisted that the view I put forward is contrary to two millennia of Christian education, I find myself saying something like, “If you want to teach morality on the basis that it is conformity to the will of God and you know that three-quarters of the people you are teaching will lose their faith in God by the time they are 20, how are you expecting them to lead moral lives? What support do they have for leading moral lives in their adult life?”.

As humanists, we need a firm view of what we believe and we absolutely need institutions. We need to see that our views are taught in schools and featured in “Thought for the Day”. However, much the most important remaining task is to build institutions which inspire and uplift people, and enhance their commitment to ethical living. I urge all humanists to turn their minds to building institutions for the promotion of secular morality. Obviously, they should be modelled to an extent on the experience of the churches and people should meet regularly. Through that they would uplift their spirits and strengthen their resolve to live well.

My Lords, I, too, am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for an opportunity to speak in this debate and I put my name down to speak in an entirely positive manner. I believe that we should recognise and rejoice in what is good, wherever it comes from. I warmly welcome the contribution that humanists have made to our society. In its modern sense, I take it that the word humanism refers to a set of values focused on the well-being and flourishing of human beings without recourse to any kind of metaphysical foundation or goal. Humanists may be atheist or agnostic but their value system stands on its own. This is best described as secular humanism, which I take is what we are focused on in this debate. It can be distinguished from Christian humanism, which is grounded in a religious world view, although it shares many of the values of secular humanism.

The distinctive contribution of secular humanism to our society since the 19th century can, in general terms, be summed up in one sentence: it has opposed religious dogmatism when that dogmatism was seen to be blocking progressive social changes that we now all take for granted. Humanists can be found supporting all the great causes of the past 200 years from the anti-slavery movement to votes for women, as often as not working alongside Christians. So I warmly welcome that contribution. However, I have two questions to ask, which I do so as genuine questions, not in a polemical spirit. First, where do the values of secular humanism come from? Secondly, what is going to sustain them in the future?

The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor’s massive book, A Secular Age, addresses the first question. He argues against all “subtraction stories”, as he calls them, according to which modernity sees itself as having sloughed off or liberated itself from certain limiting beliefs. Instead, he argues that what we mean by a secular age, in which for the first time a self-sufficient humanism has become a widely available option, is the product of a long historical development which he traces back to the medieval age when new religious orders were founded specifically to live and work in cities. He continues the story through the Reformation, with its emphasis on the value of the lay vocation and lay work, and the development of secular life through to our own times. In short, what we value today in a secular humanist view of the world is an achievement brought about by a long process of predominantly Christian history. Secular humanist values did not simply come from nowhere.

The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, mentioned George Eliot and Thomas Hardy, two novelists I hugely admire. George Eliot probably had a greater range of depth and sympathy than any other writer in the English language, yet until well into adult life, both were deeply devout and serious Christians. They lost their Christian faith but they kept their Christian values, or they kept values which they no longer regarded as specifically Christian. However, those values had been formed by some process. I make this point not to take any particular credit for the Christian church, whose record is of course mixed, but in order to sharpen up my next question: if these values are the product of a long, substantially Christian history, what will sustain them into the future? The Nobel prize-winning poet, Seamus Heaney, has said that, “Some kind of metaphysics has disappeared from the common life. I think we are running on an unconscious that is informed by religious values, but I think my youngster’s youngsters won’t have that”. If that is true, what can create, inspire, sustain and strengthen a durable moral consensus into the future? It is a genuine question to which for so many there is no clear or obvious answer, so it was very good in particular to hear the noble Lord, Lord Layard, address it directly with a degree of urgency and seriousness.

This leads on to my final point. Michael Sandel, the Harvard professor and Reith lecturer, has argued that for 30 years or more, our society has been dominated by a combination of social and market liberalism. In short, the value of free choice has been allowed to override and ignore all other values. In a series of brilliant examples, he shows that this is unsustainable and that our deepest instincts want a much thicker, richer set of values, for our public and our private lives. Our society is lacking a substantial and widely shared moral vision. I believe that secular humanists and Christian humanists could be allies in the task of moving our society away from the rampant individualism that now dominates our life. Of course there will be disagreements when it comes to spelling out in detail what that wider set of values consists of and what their policy implications should be—there will probably be some disagreement over the assisted dying Bill—but such is the need of society for something better than we have now, those disagreements are worth facing and working through.

So I warmly welcome the contribution that secular humanism has made to our society, but in no polemical spirit I will ask this: what is going to sustain, nurture and strengthen its values in the years ahead? Finally, I note the need for a much wider, deeper and richer ethical framework for our society than the current relentless emphasis on free choice provides. I suggest that this is a challenge that secular humanists and Christian humanists might do well to try to meet together.

My Lords, first, I thank my noble friend Lord Harrison for introducing this debate and for the very temperate way in which he did so. I am an atheist despite once receiving a birthday card from a sister-in-law which said, “I used to be an atheist until I realised I was God”. I do not even believe that. I am an atheist and a humanist, but I am now going to be slightly more divisive than has so far been the case. I am an anti-clerical atheist. I do not believe that history proves that the churches and religion have been good for the world. All right, it may be that I studied history and that I go back a long way. It used to be the case that churches hanged people in this country because they did not go to church. Even if you look at the record of the Church of England and that Bishops’ Bench over 200 years on, for instance, the abolition of capital punishment when atheists such as Bradlaugh were introducing that proposal, they consistently voted against it. They wanted to keep capital punishment right up until the end. I accept that the churches are now against it, but it took them a long time to come round to that.

We have just had riots on the streets of Belfast about—what?—religion. I come from the city of Glasgow, which is divided between two different Christian churches. If you look at the great movement for democracy throughout the Islamic world, what is stopping it from developing properly? It is religion and divisions within the Islamic faith. Of course there have been good Christians and of course there have been good people from all religions who have tried to help the poorest in our societies in any way they can. After all, I am a member of the Labour Party, which in part was formed by people who came from the Christian tradition and who wanted to help. Kier Hardie himself was an active Christian—a temperate one, I accept, because he never drank. Equally, however, they were always the minority rather than the majority.

Today we live in a much better society, not just in this country but throughout Europe and the western world, than we did in the past. We live in a society that looks after the poor and the elderly, and which helps those who are widowed early. I shall tell noble Lords a story. My own father was the director of a research institute at Oxford University and was at the professorial level. He died on 6 May 1951, one day after my 15th birthday. My mother received from the university his salary for the first five or six days of May, and that was all. There was no widow’s pension, but now all that has changed. It is interesting to note, although I am not making a direct correlation, but as our society has improved, so has religion declined. The number of people who believe has gone down and down as our society gets better and better.

It is an interesting fact that if you look at the countries which all the research shows have the lowest number of people who believe in religion, you will find that they have the lowest crime rates, the lowest levels of infant mortality, the best education systems and the best social security systems. They are, of course, Sweden, Denmark, Canada to some extent, Estonia and countries of that nature. In the United States, the states with the lowest crime rates and the best systems of education and so on are in fact those which have the lowest number of people who believe in religion. I am not making a direct correlation between the two, but it is difficult not to. The fact is that that is what is happening. I am sorry, but I do not believe that somehow we are living in a worse society now than we did; we do not, we live in a much better world than we had in the past. Society has improved as religion has declined.

I turn to one final point. We have not yet had the figures for the extent of religious belief in Scotland—where I come from—but it is likely to be in the region of a majority of people, or just under that, of non-believers. If you apply the same increase as in England, it will be a majority. If that is the case, surely we have to have major changes in public policy. We have to look at our broadcasting and our public broadcasting in particular—the BBC—and at which people we allow, for example, on “Thought for the Day”. Personally, I would abolish “Thought for the Day” altogether. I would not have humanists coming on and putting their case; we should just not have it at all. Why do we have a “Thought for the Day” on our public radio?

We have to change our education system. I know that it is no longer true but, when I was in education, there used to be one compulsory subject on the curriculum: religion. Surely, if the majority no longer believe, we have to look at the way in which the whole of our public policy is drawn up and change the way in which we look at society. I hope that that will be coming very soon.

My Lords, I will make one point and one point only. Modern Britain has had the enormous benefit of not being torn apart by doctrinal or political conflict between the churches and unbelievers. That has been an enormous contribution to our social peace and very different from, for example, the situation in France, which is relevant as it is my wife’s country. She is a Huguenot—a Protestant—and the Huguenot community have suffered from the savagery of intolerant belief. There has been a long confrontation between church and state in modern France, including bitter assaults on the church by freemasons, republicans and socialists. The church itself has identified with nationalists, militarists and, during the Dreyfus case, anti-Semites. It is still evident today, in the disgraceful attacks on Muslim women in France in the name of secularism. This kind of intolerance is perhaps most notable in Catholic countries but is also visible in Protestant ones—witness the role of the religious right in the United States.

Why have we been luckier? In my opinion, it is for two historical reasons. The churches have discovered how to retreat, while atheists and humanists have discovered how to protest properly. The church, as we know, had a virtual monopoly of civil and social power in the early 19th century in Britain. It was persuaded—or politically forced—to give way on issue after issue, such as admission to universities and religious rites. It retreated in its views on science, coming to accept evolution, and on social issues such as property rights and industrial relations. Most powerfully, as we discovered in this House recently, it has profitably retreated in its views on moral attitudes, most notably on the debate on gay marriage. The noble Baroness, Lady Stowell of Beeston, was able to appeal to the better angels of our nature as we considered that issue.

I have the honour of following the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, and one of the most remarkable retreats was in Wales, where the church accepted its own disestablishment and being seized out of the part of the province of Canterbury. The view of the Church in Wales—yr Eglwys yng Nghymru—as a Church of England in Wales is now completely out of date.

Equally, atheists and humanists have become much more effective in their approach. Beginning, perhaps, from a literary or philosophical emphasis—Diderot and the encyclopaedists have been mentioned—they added scientific triumphalism in the 19th century. Humanists assumed power in public life, for example John Morley, who famously described Gladstone with a large G and God with a small one. Atheists were forced to defend themselves—Bradlaugh did, for example, in order to take his seat in the House of Commons—and non-religious conscientious objectors were persecuted in both world wars. However, the more aggressive and divisive forms of protest were broadly rejected. Dogmatic anti-religious creeds such as positivism or Auguste Comte’s religion of humanity were not accepted and made little headway in this country. The emphasis, if one can so describe it, was on humanism—the value of the individual, the power of an individual’s moral quest for truth and the values of human brotherhood resulting from that—rather than on doctrinaire atheism.

I am very struck by the famous atheist George Jacob Holyoake, who chose in 1851 to describe himself as a secularist not as an atheist. He took part in a famous debate with Bradlaugh on the proposition: “The principles of Secularism do not include Atheism”. His heroes were humanist men of letters such as Erasmus and Montaigne, who have been mentioned today and who both of course declared themselves to be Christians. So it has been that humanists, as we have heard, have been able to act effectively with religious idealists in progressive crusades, from the anti-slavery to the anti-apartheid movements.

The outstanding product of that is the outfit to which 10 of the 17 speakers this afternoon belong—the Labour Party. It was hugely important, with all respect to my noble friend who just spoke, that the Labour Party did not lapse into the anti-clericalism of the French or German socialist parties. The views of the Labour Party were pluralist. They ranged from the undoubted atheism of the Webbs, many of the Fabians and HG Wells, side-by-side with members of the Independent Labour Party in South Wales and in the West Riding, which brought in a Christian ethos. Nothing was more stimulating for the labour movement in south Wales than the religious revival of 1904. I make that point because I made it in my first book and nobody paid any attention, so perhaps 50-odd years on people will pay attention.

The Labour Party has had a series of Christian leaders, down to Gordon Brown. The one declared atheist I recall was Michael Foot, whose rhetoric and values were shaped by Cornish chapels. His values formed a bridge, I think, within the labour movement. In the social Christianity of our age, Tawney has been, I believe, our dominant philosophical inspiration. The Labour Party benefited from this. The whole range of creeds has worked for social justice. Now I hope they will work for the doctrine of human rights, which massively appeals both to humanists and to Christians. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is truly universal in that sense. I conclude by saying that modern Britain has found this confluence of faith an enriching experience. It has made it a healthier, more humane and more tolerant society.

My Lords, in this debate, which the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, has initiated, I feel that it is a great privilege to be able to speak about one’s views. We do not always get that opportunity. This debate is about the contribution that atheists and humanists have made to the United Kingdom and society—indeed, to the world, not just to the United Kingdom. We have never killed anybody in the name of atheism or humanism. We have never harmed anybody in the name of atheism or humanism. I think that is a good start.

If you look at religion and its history and consider how the world would have been without religion, what things would not have happened, and how would that have shaped us today? The noble Lord, Lord Maxton, has hinted and spoken about that, but I would like emphasise it. For a start, we would not have had 9/11, we would not have had 7/7, and we would not have a young soldier being beheaded on the streets of London. Those are just present-day events. We would not have the Crusades. We might not have had the great build-up of problems between Christians and Muslims. So many things have come about through religion that would not have happened. We would not have had the conflict in Northern Ireland, which has already been mentioned. We would not have had the Spanish Inquisition. We would not have had witch hunts. There are so many things about religion historically that are amazingly awful.

What has surprised me today is how few people are here to defend religion. People have not defended religion today; even the Bishops have been very gentle, kind and appreciative of people like me. What has also surprised me is that this debate has been much more about humanism than about atheism. We have not had any real atheists speaking about their views. I am not a humanist. I was elected vice-chairman of the Humanist All-Party Group a few years ago, and I told the members then that I was not a humanist. They said, “Don’t worry, we are a broad church”. Make what you will of it. I am very happy to be with humanists, but I am not one. I resist belonging to any organised group, and that is probably what stops me joining the humanists.

I do not denigrate religion for its own sake, but I find that some of the things for which religion has been responsible are just too awful to think about. Another thing that has not been mentioned today, which I think is extremely important, is the treatment of women. How has religion treated women through the centuries, and how is it still treating women? How many religious people are standing up to fight against that? What is happening to women? We have honour killings, women being beaten and mutilation, which has been mentioned already. There is no end of things. You may say, “It is the Muslims”, but Catholics, particularly, are also greatly at fault. Every Catholic church in Africa says that it is a sin to have family planning or abortion. Children can be born and can die without food, but family planning or abortion must not be allowed. Where are the poor women to go? The men do not care. If a man in Africa has 10 children, he is seen as virile. He does not care whether his children live or die. I asked the new most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury to ask the Anglican churches in Africa to talk about family planning. He said, “I can’t tell them anything. They will think us a colonial power”, but he is the head of the Anglican Church and he should take responsibility to make sure that Anglican churches in Africa at least speak about family planning and look at issues about women’s suffering. For that alone I think religion is to be condemned, because no religion so far has supported women through the ages. If they had, women would not be in the position they are today. I make that point very strongly because it upsets me greatly to see what is happening to women in the world.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham talked about Mother Teresa. Really, Mother Teresa was stocking up for her sainthood. She campaigned constantly against family planning. She took the dying off the streets; what about helping the living? Did she help the living? No, she collected the dying. You have to help the living. You have to change people’s views if you really want sainthood. I do not think sainthood is for people who think about what they are going to get in the next world.

Time is running on, so I will take just a few moments to tell you about the atheists I have most admired: Bertrand Russell; James Watson—I sat next to him at dinner once; Warren Buffett—I have not met him, but I would like to; Jeremy Bentham; and John Stuart Mill, who was Bertrand Russell’s godfather. These people contributed to our thinking, to science and to making a better world. As far as creationism is concerned, the US is still struggling over whether creationism should be taught in schools; now there is also intelligent design, which says that something nudged the universe into creating humans or something like that.

Finally, I became an atheist when I learnt about the Holocaust and read that 3 million Jews had been treated like vermin, and God had not lifted his little finger. I thought, “No, I do not need a personal God”. If he could not save 3 million people, he is not going to do anything for me.

My Lords, I am delighted that my noble friend Lord Harrison has secured this debate, which is proving to be very challenging, and I thank him for his vigorous introduction.

I shall not dwell on the growth of humanism or its many contributions to democracy and civil society—blasphemy laws, humanist weddings and other secular celebrations, educational equality and so on—nor shall I list prominent humanists and their wise or witty sayings. There are too many of them. I shall look briefly at how humanist thought has contributed to making the world a better place—all in seven minutes.

First, I will reflect on why I became a humanist. I think it was, subconsciously, when I was at school, although I was not aware then, or indeed for many years, of the term “humanism”. I studied religious education at A-level and was thrilled by the language of the Bible—Old and New Testaments—and moved by stories of self-sacrifice, pride, humility, friendship, human strength and frailty. I studied other religions as well and began to question why so many of their histories included wars, revenge, killings, verbal attacks, prejudice and bigotry, all in the name of religious faith. Others have raised this already. Of course, I have since met many people of religious faith, including in your Lordships’ House, who consistently condemn violence and preach tolerance and equality and the need to work together as human beings for a just and fair society.

During my later days at school, I began to think that I had formulated, however imperfectly, a personal code—a secular morality, if you like—which came not from a single god or gods but from curiosity about the human condition, how we function in a problematic world without being constantly shaken by hostile events and how we need the support of other human beings in our struggle to express ourselves and behave with grace and honour. It is a core of respect or appreciation for self and others. It is a belief in humanity—the knowledge that when things go wrong, someone of good will can offer support.

I also studied English and had the joy of coming across EM Forster. Passage to India was one of the set books—were we not lucky? It is not only a novel about the struggle for tolerance; it is thoughtful, provocative, humorous and full of characters struggling to find their place in the world—except perhaps the wise and profound Mrs Moore. I read EM Forster avidly and over and over. It did not register with me at the time that he was a prominent humanist and vice-president of the Union of Ethical Societies. I was simply captivated by the beautiful prose and the themes; for example, class differences in Howards End, which is prefaced by the phrase “Only connect”. A Room with a View is also about connections and Maurice explores class reconciliation in a gay relationship.

According to Forster:

“The four characteristics of humanism are curiosity, a free mind, belief in good taste, and belief in the human race”.

I can do no better than that. Apart from Forster’s novels, I also came across his book of essays, Two Cheers for Democracy, which is humorous, challenging and profoundly human. The essay “What I Believe” contains the essence of what, to me, humanism is about. Forster begins with personal relationships, saying,

“One must be fond of people and trust them if one is not to make mess of life, and it is therefore essential that they do not let one down. They often do. The moral of which is that I must, myself, be as reliable as possible … reliability is not a matter of contract … It is a matter for the heart ... What is good in people—and consequently in the world—is their insistence on creation, their belief in friendship and loyalty for their own sakes”.

Perhaps his greatest statement on humanism is:

“I do not believe in Belief. But this is an Age of Faith, and there are so many militant creeds that, in self defence, one has to form a creed of one’s own … Tolerance, good temper and sympathy—they are what matter really, and if the human race is not to collapse they must come to the front before long".

Having a creed based on such qualities is, for me at least, important. I do not think that it is in self defence, however, that people become humanists, but because of a more positive force, or forces: the force of seeking to connect with others as human beings, of caring for the welfare of others and of celebrating the human condition without the medium of a god.

I now turn to a thinker and writer I have discovered in recent years—Richard Holloway, the former Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, until he stood down in 2000. In the last chapter of his book Leaving Alexandria— Alexandria is his home town, north of Glasgow—he describes walking among the Pentlands and musing on the loss of religion. He says:

“Was religion a lie? Not necessarily, but it was a mistake. Lies are just lies, but mistakes can be corrected and lessons learned from them. The mistake was to think that religion was more than human. I was less sure whether God was also just a human invention, but I was quite sure religion was. It was the work of the human imagination, a work of art—an opera—and could be appreciated as such”.

I am one of those who think that one does not need to have a religion to behave ethically and morally. Holloway challenges religion as an authority, saying:

“Authority does not prove, it pronounces; rules rather than reasons; issues fatwas. It refuses to negotiate.”

Authority—in my own words—can also create dependence, which seems to be a negative force.

I believe that throughout the ages, questions about religion have been more convincing than the answers. The Sufi master and poet Hafiz, quoted by Holloway, said:

“The great religions are the ships

Poets the life boats

Every sane person I know has jumped

Overboard”.

There are clearly risks in jumping overboard. It is best to be a good swimmer, to have a reliable lifeboat or to be within hailing distance of the shore. I believe, with many humanist thinkers and doers, that the risk is mitigated by having helping hands supported by a common belief that we can solve problems and help each other. Humanism faces challenges with the confidence that it is in each other that solutions are found and that in reaching for solutions we collaborate and grow stronger. That is why I am a humanist.

I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for having a second go, as it were, at this debate, on what I regard as an increasingly important subject. I shall not say anything that has not been at least suggested already by the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, and my noble friend Lady Meacher.

This is an increasingly important subject because religious belief is, as we have heard, declining so rapidly, and, at the same time, there is an increasing perception that, especially among the young, the idea of morally good or bad behaviour—indeed, the concept of morality itself—is rapidly withering away. It is tempting, therefore, to conclude that these two phenomena are causally connected. I believe that this is a dangerous as well as a false conclusion.

Before explaining why I think that conclusion is dangerous, I should say a bit about where I come from. I am not a member of the British Humanist Association. I consider myself to be a Christian by culture and by tradition. I frequently attend services of the Church of England, and one of my greatest passions is church music, as sustained in the great English cathedrals and colleges, as well as the great oratorios and passions. I do not want the Church of England to be disestablished, and I regard my loyalty to the sovereign as loyalty to the head of the church as well as to the head of the state. Having said that, I suppose I should confess that I am an atheist. I do not believe in the literal truth of the narratives of the Judaeo-Christian religion, nor do I believe that it is sensible or realistic to urge people to “return to faith”, as we are sometimes urged. Nor do I believe that you can be urged, or comply with the urging, to believe something that you simply do not believe.

Much as I admire many of my non-atheistical friends and often envy them, I believe that they sometimes pose a danger if they insist that lack of proper religious belief, by which I mean literal religious belief, is the cause of lack of moral sense. To put it another way, it is dangerous to society to suggest that without religion, or in the aftermath of religion as some people have suggested, there can be no firm moral values and no shared or common ideals that can be universally worth pursuing. Such despair of the possibility of a morality which is other than mere whim is dangerous because we may be forced into a false dichotomy: either a morality based on dogmatic transcendentalism, which can authoritatively dictate on what is right and what is wrong, or no morality at all.

I am not a great lover of the concept of human rights, and certainly not as a foundation for morality because I do not think that they can be that, but at least the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has given us a way of understanding that there are some evils that no human being should be subjected to by another. If we hear of a country which has “an appalling human rights record”, we know what such evils are. We also know that morality demands that we do not perpetrate such evils and that we seek as far as we can to alleviate them when they are suffered.

I hold that the many atheists who live and work in this country can contribute to the moral improvement of society—I insist on that phrase: the moral improvement of society—not necessarily by preaching or forming groups but by all the time being good teachers, whether professionally or as parents and mentors teach. I believe that moral education is the most important and most urgently necessary condition for the improvement of society. I am afraid that I do not altogether share the optimism of the noble Lord, Lord Maxton. Things are in many cases very depressing at the moment, especially among the young, but we do not do good by suggesting that they return to faith. They cannot believe things that they do not believe, but they can understand that there is a morality which can be shared and ideals which can be aspired to by everybody. Therefore, I sincerely hope that the contribution to this moral improvement that we must all hope for is celebrated and acknowledged by atheists and those who believe in God.

In his very welcome and detailed introduction to this debate, my noble friend Lord Harrison gave many explanations of what humanists have achieved over the years and I will not add to those details. However, I want to support and expand on the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, about religions which claim to be religions of peace ending up fighting among themselves and killing large numbers of people. That problem has to be addressed, but I also want to consider why it happens. One of the reasons is that religion is similar to political ideology. If you lay down a set of assumptions, statements and beliefs that have to be accepted in order to become a member, you inevitably invite conflict and division. I am not a member of any humanist society, but I speak as an atheist and a natural humanist. The basic, underlying assumption of humanism, which is its strength and the reason for its great contribution, is that human problems are best solved by reason. If humanism made the mistake of trying to list the many things that would make you a humanist, it would risk doing exactly what happens with religion and some political ideologies. It would create structures where division and conflict become almost inevitable.

In debates like this it is useful to bear in mind that there is a difference between God and religion. You can believe in God without being a member of a religion. God is an idea: religion is a government structure and a social control structure. Neither of those is bad. I would absolutely agree with the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, about where religion comes from. To human beings struggling to understand a world with terrifying natural forces like thunder, lightning, earthquakes, volcanoes, the idea of God or gods was a very useful way of achieving social control. You needed social control because, in order to survive, you needed to co-operate. Co-operation needs social control, so you build on it. If you then make the mistake of making all these assumptions things that you have to accept, nobody should be surprised if divisions rapidly occur.

One advantage of humanists is that not only do they not fight and kill each other in large numbers, they do not have problems about the roles of women and men, sexual identity, disability or any other similar thing. Trying to solve human problems by reason is the strength of humanism. I would disagree with my noble friend Lord Morgan that we have not had religious conflict. It may not be as bad as other countries but for a short time during the Civil War women had to cover their hair fully and were stopped in the streets by soldiers if they did not do so. The great advance brought by the Civil War to this country and the rest of the world was that it threw out the idea that the King was the representative of God on Earth. You no longer had the idea that you could not challenge your leader. In Iran at the moment, the Ayatollahs play that exact role. It will fail for similar reasons: ultimately, there will be a dispute about the correct interpretation. We get around that by having elections to throw out the person who thinks they have the right interpretation. If you are using a religious or God-based structure, you cannot do that. You have to rely on other things. It is amazing how we have, over the years, adjusted ourselves to this argument. I am a great fan of the sophisticated, politically astute sovereign, Queen Elizabeth I, who, struggling to prevent more and worse religious wars, came up with the wonderful phrase:

“I have no desire to make windows into men’s souls”.

She was trying to allow people to believe within a political structure which she had to manage but within which she opened up the possibility of tolerance. Such things are terribly important.

The problem for those who have an idea of God is not so much a scientific one. You can always move the boundaries back: the Earth was the centre of the universe at one time until that was disproved; the Earth was considered to be only a few thousand years old until that was disproved; and when we go back beyond the Big Bang, the boundaries will be moved again if you are looking for a scientific argument. The problem for people who believe in God is actually a moral one. The moral issue is that you have to accept that God created life in a form that has to survive off other forms of life. The malaria mosquito that stings the child is not doing it in order that the child can have a better life in future or can somehow rise above it; it is doing it because it has to survive and reproduce.

That was Darwin’s big contribution to us all; he showed that it was actually evolution. A question that has always fascinated me, and this is why I would have loved to have had an interview with Charles Darwin, is: why, when he realised the importance of evolution, did he suddenly go from being a religious person to being a non-religious person, or certainly a person who did not pursue religion, and go quiet about the whole issue? It was probably because he recognised that the survival of the fittest meant that life had been created—if that is what you believe—in a form in which it had to live off other forms of life.

That is the fundamental problem for anyone who believes in God, with or without a religion: it means that you no longer have a way of avoiding the problem that maybe yours is a cruel or, at best, a careless God, or something of that nature. A far better explanation is that in fact there is no God. The great strength of humanism and atheism, to my mind, is that they recognise that we do not need to worry about things like that so long as we recognise that human problems can be solved by reason. Built into that approach is the possibility of tolerance. I put this also to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries: tolerance is what takes you forward.

I do not share the rather dismal view of young people today; in many ways they are far better than my generation of the 1940s and 1950s. Obviously there are problems in some areas, but there are many good examples, too.

My Lords, we should all be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for raising this subject and specifically for mentioning atheists in the Motion before us. I declare my position: I have long been an atheist, and for some many years have been a slightly fringe member of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group.

Some of us might remember when the late Lord Dormand tried to keep that group alive, but the problem that he had for quite some time, which obviously no longer obtains, was the difficulty of filling the required Conservative quota for all-party groups. For many years that defeated him and we were unable to be a properly registered group, but nevertheless we could hold meetings. The All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group is now in full health, as we have heard, and is well supported by the British Humanist Association, recently fresh from the achievement of inserting humanist marriage services into the same-sex marriage Act, with the invaluable help and persuasive skill of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, on which I congratulate her.

Fewer colleagues may also remember the late Baroness, Barbara Wootton, who was in the first group of female Peers in 1958. I remember the phrase, in recalling her being criticised, wrongly, for putting forward beliefs that she was told were able to be based only on the capital created by religion—or, rather, that she was accused of spending the capital passed down to us by religion. In those days, spending capital was rather more of a sin than it is today. I am not sure what has since happened to her formidable reputation, but she was fighting the battles of her time in the ways of that time. I mention such examples from the recent past as a reminder that, over time, we have successfully come a long way—for which I am not trying to take any credit.

The theme of most of what I want to say may be that it is no bad thing that we have moved away from previous certainties to what I would call constructive uncertainties—the rather amorphous humanist movement, on which it is sometimes difficult to get a firm handle, is testament to that. In his very good tour d’horizon the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, used a very nice phrase when he talked about those of humanist outlook. I would also like to touch on the role of the church and faith, sometimes with the help of the work of Richard Dawkins.

A good example of such uncertainty is that provided to most of us by the extensive lobbying we recently received—from all sides—on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. The different moral and cultural interpretations of marriage were evident even before this Bill arrived and, as one who supported it, the institution of marriage is now even more fragmented, which may be no bad thing. In fighting for this new right of marriage, what was not quite so apparent were the downsides for all sexes of its overall success or failure rate, the divorce rate and the modern extent of cohabitation—maybe all approaching 50% now or in the next few years, as in many other countries.

We can all hope, imagine and wish for happy families, but the reality may be very different. We are probably all aware of the assertion that families—sometimes meaning marriage and family life—are the best context for the most successful upbringing of children. Without having time now to go into the detailed argument, I think that is a misguided and a logically misconceived reading of causation.

One area where Richard Dawkins has been particularly prominent is that of rationality and faith. I find it extraordinary when he is sometimes accused of proselytising as much as those with whom he disagrees—that is his methodology is no different from those whom he opposes and he is using the same methods as those he is accusing. We have had some sort of ambulatory religious orthodoxy for many hundreds of years but putting forward and sustaining beliefs is in a completely different category from questioning and challenging others’ beliefs. Faith and belief is for many a necessary and understandable support to their lives, however stable or uncertain. One issue is how such beliefs might usefully be questioned or challenged. In a debate such as this, where we have a Minister replying, there is a limit to the role of government. It might be that their task is to provide a level playing field, but at the same time accepting a particular starting point or set of premises. Criticism of faith schools, for example, is a justified area of debate, where the Government can be encouraged to play a useful part.

The question in the census, with whatever shortcomings, on religion has provided evidence of an official decline in religion, which according to Richard Dawkins’ analysis still overstates the role of Christianity. The number of people who identified themselves as Christian in England and Wales dropped from 72% in 2001 to 59% in 2011; and the number of people who ticked “No religion” increased between those dates from 15% to 25%. The churches used the 2001 figure to claim support for their influence on public policy, but under Richard Dawkins’ analysis using opinion polls, three-quarters of those claiming to be Christian did not think that religion should have any special influence on public policy.

I realise that opinion polls have an indirect connection with what happens in the real world. An example relevant to this debate and debates in this House is the commonly accepted figure that more than 80% of the population support some form of assisted dying; but that is currently not reflected in the political will shown in this building, nor in the unusually unanimous opposition by the Bishops of this House. On that point, I am not saying that the church should just follow opinion polls; but one of the genuinely redeeming features of the presence of the Bishops in this House is their ready ability to split their votes on both sides of some controversial arguments. I was pleased, too, that in replying to the mention by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, of the assisted dying debate, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham said he would work hard to get that right in the upcoming debates on assisted dying.

In conclusion, I hope that the atheist and the humanist movements will continue to challenge constructively some of the foundations of the orthodoxies we have inherited.

My Lords, I, too, am grateful to my noble friend for introducing this debate and for the manner in which he did so. I am myself a secularist and a humanist. I was not always so: my mother was a Roman Catholic and I was baptised in that religion. I gradually grew away from it in my teens, became a supporter of humanism and have remained so.

I respect others who continue to adhere to their religions; that is a matter for them. My objections occur only when religious hierarchies attempt to impose their beliefs on those who do not share them. We saw some evidence of that during our discussions on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. We nevertheless went on to adopt it by a large majority. Humanists supported the Bill, but then most of us have been very concerned about the opposition to and frequent persecution of gay, lesbian and trans-sex people. We are delighted that the passage of the Bill indicates that we have moved on from the days of discrimination, and that era is over—at least, we hope so.

It is characteristic of humanism to believe in equality and good will between people, and therefore to be active in campaigns for human rights. It is gratifying to reflect on the improvements in women’s rights that have been made in this country during the past century. Many of the major religions—although by no means all—have opposed the campaigns that achieved these advances. Certain religions are still extraordinarily bad about women's rights. In this country, we have an equality law. I would oppose any attempts to introduce Sharia law or practice, which is sometimes suggested. Our law is paramount. It is intended to protect women. I do not agree that culture or religion should prevent us from attempting to intervene.

One particular case about which a number of us feel strongly is that of FGM—female genital mutilation. It is against our law but there have been no prosecutions so far, although it is known that it damages thousands of women. Culture and religion should not get in the way of seeing that basic human rights prevail. That is what I hope will happen with FGM.

Unfortunately, despite the commitment of secular, atheistic and humanistic people to human rights, we are often attacked. Attention is sometimes drawn to despotic leaders who have claimed to be atheistic. Many of these depots, of course, were adherents of their particular religions, but their religions are not blamed for their misdeeds. Stalin is often cited as an example of a tyrant who was an atheist. Of course, he was originally trained as a priest and converted only late in his teens when his training had been completed. Many believe, as do I, that his earlier training conditioned his approach to politics, so you had a political line that could not be crossed because otherwise there would be damnation or worse. That was how Stalin conducted his politics.

When I was very young and I loved poetry, the writer I loved was Shelley, a wonderful poet and of course a writer who supported atheism, much to his own disadvantage. My noble friend Lord Morgan has already referred to a number of historically significant people who were also atheist and set examples to us all. However, there of course continue to be attacks upon secularists and atheists from time to time. Typical of these are some of the criticisms of Richard Dawkins, someone whom I personally admire. He has written successful books attacking religious beliefs, but not people. He has also written movingly about the Bible, the King James version, acknowledging its cultural significance and also praising the beauty of its language. Nevertheless, he is often attacked as some kind of atheistic extremist, which I think is very unfair.

As I have indicated, secularists and atheists continue to play a major role in social affairs, in opposition to discrimination and in favour of human rights. There have been some successes. We should continue with this good work.

My Lords, I too congratulate my noble friend on securing this debate and pay tribute to his staunch commitment to humanism. I declare my interest as chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group. I should say that we need more Conservative members.

Belief is a very personal matter, heavily influenced by life experiences. I started off as a traditional working-class boy going to Sunday school and singing in the church choir, if you can believe it, although the main attraction of the latter was the payments for performing at weddings. Where did it all go wrong? Largely through education and, particularly, the reading and teaching of history: a hefty dose of Darwin, Crusades, Inquisitions and burning witches gets the questioning juices going. By the age of 15 I had total disbelief in any gods, apart from Denis Compton, or any creed based on the supernatural, an afterlife or organised religion. It looks to me as though an increasing number of young people in the United Kingdom are getting to this position as they move, quite swiftly in many cases, to reject religious belief. I should add that I have far more confidence in young people and their values than some have suggested today, particularly their capacity for mutual support of each other, which seems to me to be a strong, socially cohesive value.

The 2011 census shows the number of people identifying themselves as non-religious at 25%, up from 15% in 2001. Perhaps more significantly, people with no religion had a much younger profile, with four in 10 of those with no religion being under 25. The British Social Attitudes survey has shown an even sharper move away from religion, with 41% of people surveyed in the census year saying that they had no religion. The BSAS subsequently looked in more depth at religiosity. This revealed that in 2012 half the population did not regard themselves as belonging to a religion, with this rising to nearly two-thirds of 18 to 24 year-olds. Only 14% of people attend a religious service weekly.

Why should we take these data seriously? As the BSAS said:

“Getting an accurate picture of the importance of religion in people’s lives matters; not least because it influences the role of religion in policy making and public life, and helps guide the allocation of funding and resources”.

What is taking place in our society is generational replacement. Older, more religious generations are dying out and being replaced by generations without any religious beliefs. I hope that I can stick around long enough to see further progress.

The data suggest that Governments and parliamentarians should be more cautious about listening to religious interests when changes in public policy are under consideration. We all know what these policy issues are because they are debated often enough in this House—abortion, assisted dying, embryo research, faith schools, employment law, and discrimination. A whole raft of these issues regularly features. On the optimistic side, I think that we crossed a Rubicon in this House when many noble Lords drew on the views of younger generations in framing their views and casting their votes on gay marriage. Governments now need to pay less attention to the views of organised religions in the framing of public policy and treat them like any other pressure group. Their views should be listened to but given no more weight than any other set of interests.

The media, especially the public broadcasters, also need to think about these changes taking place in the beliefs of their viewers, listeners and readers. How does the BBC reconcile a head of religious affairs with a quest for younger audiences? Perhaps more controversially, what about the constitutional implications for the monarchy? How can a sovereign be crowned as a defender of the faith if not only a minority of the citizens do not hold that faith, but the majority have no faith at all? On current trends that could well be the situation before the latest royal arrival comes to the throne.

I am not a fundamentalist secularist but I have concerns about the growing tendency to shape public policy in response to religious interests when the evidence shows that our society is moving away from religious belief. Groucho Marx posed the question, “Would you want to join a club that let me in?”. I am very happy to be a member of a club that includes, among others, JK Galbraith, Aldous Huxley, Margaret Sanger, Robert Oppenheimer, Bertrand Russell, Jonas Salk, James Watson, Gore Vidal, Mark Twain, Philip Pullman and Sigmund Freud. I could go on, but I thought that I would give noble Lords a list of personal heroes. It is a cause for celebration that more people in the UK seem to be moving toward that club’s membership. The data suggest that the tide of UK history is moving against religiosity and politicians, the media and the monarchy need to reflect on that.

My Lords, I apologise for speaking in the gap, but I realised only late last night that I had the opportunity to take part in this debate. I will add a few words about science, the discipline which, more than any other, depends on reason and regard for evidence. For me, the scientific approach lies at the heart of humanism as well as atheism.

We all accept that science has made us healthier and wealthier. What has been seldom acknowledged or realised is that since the Enlightenment, which it helped to bring about, science has played an essential part in making us more civilised. Science is the enemy of autocracy because it replaces claims to truth based on authority with those based on evidence and because it depends on the criticism of established ideas. Scientific knowledge is the enemy of dogma and ideologies and makes us more tolerant because it is tentative and provisional and does not deal in certainties. It is the most effective way of learning about the physical world and therefore erodes superstition, ignorance and prejudice, which have been causes of the denial of human rights throughout history. Science is also the enemy of narrow nationalism and tribalism and, like the arts, is one of the activities in this world that is not motivated by greed.

What can compare, for example, with the recent achievement of the Large Hadron Collider, a venture of collaboration by 10,000 scientists and engineers from 113 countries, free from bureaucratic and political interference? Those people put aside all national, political, religious and cultural differences in pursuit of truth and for the one purpose of exploring and understanding the natural world.

Without the contribution of science, which is, in my view, the rock on which atheism and humanism are built, we would be less inclined to be critical, tolerant and understanding and more prone to prejudice, bigotry and tribalism. We would be a less civilised society.

My Lords, I, too, am grateful to my noble friend Lord Harrison for providing me with an opportunity to listen to a truly fascinating and wide-ranging debate. I regret that I did not have time to research and read about the religious and philosophical issues that have been raised this afternoon, but my appetite has certainly been whetted and my summer reading pile will certainly be added to as a consequence.

At the moment my head is spinning, but I know that I am proud to be a member of the pluralist Labour Party. I have not had time to clarify my own thoughts but I envy those noble Lords who are so sure of their own beliefs or non-belief. I respect those of all religions and none but I do not respect intolerance in any shape or form, and I utterly condemn oppression and certain practices which are carried out in the name of religion.

I was brought up in the Church of England and it shaped much of my life and my values. However, I now find that I share the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Rees, who said in an interview after he had been awarded the Templeton Prize that although he has no belief he goes to church, which for him is,

“a common traditional ritual which one participates in as part of one’s culture”.

It truly is part of my culture. I love the words and the hymns and I go to church from time to time. There is a certain chapel with the most beautiful stained-glass windows in Gloucester Cathedral where I find solace, but I have no belief in a god or in an afterlife. Does that make me an atheist or a humanist? I do not know, but I certainly espouse the ideals of humanism, so perhaps I am a humanist who likes going to church and who delights in the Church of England’s compassion, companionship and culture. I feel comfortable, however, not having any sort of classification; perhaps I am like the verger mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher. Like her, I certainly support the Assisted Dying Bill.

As this debate has confirmed, the distinction between humanism and atheism is blurred, but the universal values of humanism are clear—respecting and promoting freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law; celebrating human achievement, progress and potential; being co-operative, and working for the common good. Those are values that are of course shared by the great religions.

The noble Baroness said that the distinction between humanism and atheism is blurred. I think that humanism is a group activity, while atheism is totally personal—it is different.

I accept that, but many atheists are also humanists. I do, however, hear what the noble Baroness says.

We have heard this afternoon of many extraordinary British citizens who have made huge contributions to UK society—writers, scientists, philosophers—and today we celebrate the fact that they were atheists or humanists and have made very fine contributions. Most people, however, when learning the economics of Keynes, reading a novel by Ken Follett or Kingsley Amis, listening to a glorious piece of music by Vaughan Williams, or admiring the ceramics of Grayson Perry or a gown by Alexander McQueen, would not know that they were atheists. I was stunned, for example, when I looked at a list of great writers who were or are atheists and humanists, but that is my own ignorance.

There are millions of people today, as throughout history, who are non-religious and who believe that there is no afterlife and that the universe is a natural phenomenon. They conduct their good lives according to a moral code, without the aid of gods or scriptures, but on the basis of reason and humanity. However, they have no idea that they are humanists. If there were greater acknowledgement of the vast contribution of humanists to our country, I wonder whether more people would consider themselves to be humanists and would, for example, opt for a humanist funeral for themselves or their loved ones. More than 600 couples in England and Wales already choose to celebrate their marriage with a humanist ceremony, so I am delighted that, thanks to the amendment tabled by noble Lords and passed in this House, couples of the same and opposite sex will, in the not-too-distant future, be able to choose a humanist marriage. I am proud that noble Lords, as has been mentioned, were able to achieve this in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act. This Act opens up marriage to more couples who love and commit to each other, so it is fitting that it will also open the way for humanists to marry in a ceremony that reflects their own deeply held beliefs. I agree with noble Lords that the shift in opinion in our own House is the result of the influence of younger people who are free of the burden of discrimination.

For me, it is not people’s beliefs or lack of belief that is important, it is their values, the ethos that governs their life and actions, and the beauty or excellence of their creation. Christians, Sikhs, Jews, Muslims, and Zoroastrians delight in the music of Sir Michael Tippett, or are gripped by the novels of Iain Banks. Atheists and humanists love the poetry of William Blake and the architectural glories of our cathedrals. My late husband Stuart was an atheist. He had strong values and a clear moral code, with which he imbued our children, but he often read the King James version of the Bible; he loved the beauty of the language, while tending towards the Marxist view that religion is the opium of the masses. I do not accuse the church or any other religion of capitalising on poverty or ignorance, but it is a fact that, all over the world, many poor people and those who have little or no access to education cling to religion in the hope of a better afterlife.

One of the questions raised many times today is about the place and influence of religion in our society: does the fact that there is a shift away from religious belief, especially among the young, mean that our society is suffering in some way? There are many reasons why society is changing, often for the better, and why lives are becoming more difficult, but I do not think that lack of religion is one of them. Of course, I recognise the invaluable role that churches and religions play in bringing people together and providing support, especially for the vulnerable. However, that coming together must not result in intolerant tribalism.

While I do not doubt the ability of young people to support each other, which has been mentioned, I agree with the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, that perhaps humanists and Christians should work together in the search for a moral vision for the future, to counter the rampant individualism that has taken root.

It is rightly said, and was said during a debate on an Oral Question last week, that religious schools are often found in the most challenging areas and that they provide an excellent education. This is true, but many non-religious schools are also found in difficult areas and provide an excellent education. While I salute the work of, for example, Church of England schools—there are many in my own forest community —any school with strong leadership can provide a safe microcosm of a good society in which pupils can learn and grow. In that short debate, noble Lords made important points about the crucial need for integrated education in order to ensure community cohesion.

History is littered with conflict between those of different faiths and between those of faith and those of none, but the existence of the 24-hour global media means that tensions elsewhere in the world have a powerful influence on our own communities, which as a consequence feel fragile. I worry that the proliferation of religious schools, including free schools, could mean that tolerance, understanding and community cohesion could be diminished. As the right reverend Prelate said, we must work together with respect, and we must respect each other.

Clearly, the shared values that underpin a school, together with the nurturing of tolerance and understanding, are of the utmost importance, as is the curriculum. I was interested to see that the new national curriculum published earlier this month includes in the primary curriculum for the first time a module on evolution. While this represents significant progress from the current national curriculum, which is to be warmly welcomed, the British Humanist Association points out that it is also a serious step back from the draft programme of study, which included a module on evolution in year four. I certainly support the Teach Evolution, Not Creationism! campaign.

In the past few years we have had debates in this House on freedom of speech and freedom of religion in relation to the Equality Act and, most recently, the same-sex marriage Bill. These freedoms are the cornerstone of our democracy. I was delighted to learn that in June the European Union council of foreign affairs Ministers adopted new guidelines to help the EU promote freedom of religion and belief in countries outside the EU. They protect the non-religious as well as the religious. They also protect the right to change or abandon one’s belief, and the right to freedom of expression, including the right to criticise or mock religion or belief. They commit to protecting individuals and individuals’ rights to hold beliefs, but not to protecting the beliefs themselves. Does the Minister agree that this implies that the European Union will recommend the decriminalisation of blasphemy offences in non-EU countries? I certainly hope so.

Many great atheists and humanists have been mentioned this afternoon, but I will end with a quote from Thomas Paine, a British citizen who made an invaluable and incalculable contribution to the world. In Rights of Man, he wrote that,

“my country is the world, and my religion is to do good”.

Amen to that.

My Lords, first, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, on securing this most informative and interesting debate. As has been seen in the contributions of all noble Lords, it has been one of great reflection, certainly for me. Standing at the Dispatch Box, I feel that I am in something of a minority—not for the first time, I might add—as someone of faith. Various noble Lords mentioned where they were coming from. My qualification is that I am Muslim by faith and Christian by primary education. My two closest friends are atheists and I am a Member of a House that reflects our country, which is made up of people of all faiths and of none, of humanists and of atheists. Equally, I am a citizen of a country that allows people to profess, propagate and practise their faith freely, whatever beliefs they have—something of which we should all be tremendously proud. The noble Lord, Lord Soley, talked about Queen Elizabeth I. She set that structure for allowing us the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy today, and long may they remain with us.

This Government have rightly placed considerable emphasis on working effectively with religious groups and celebrating faith, and the contribution that people of faith make to local and national society. That perhaps means that we have had less opportunity to make clear our view that religious belief is not a prerequisite for public service. There are people who choose to follow a non-religious, atheist or humanist belief path who clearly have as much commitment to the public good as people of faith, and who are serving society in many different quarters and ways. The Government fully recognise and welcome their contribution to the life of our country.

This country is a stronger place because of the diversity of our beliefs and people, and the values that British people hold. Unlike other countries, we have in Britain no register of acceptable religions and beliefs. This is to be welcomed. We do not judge people on what they believe, but we respect them for what they stand for and contribute to our society and country.

Noble Lords have furnished many examples of public service by atheists and humanists, historically and in the present day. I have a couple of my own. The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies has a non-profit week, an annual event, during which it harnesses the enthusiasm and commitment of students to raise money for charities such as Children in Need, Amnesty International and Médecins Sans Frontières. Day in, day out, as the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, mentioned, there is the silent service of humanist chaplains providing pastoral support to non-religious people in hospitals, prisons and universities alongside our religious chaplains. This work is essential to ensure that non-religious people and those of no faith, and humanists and atheists, can get the support that they need in times of difficulty.

There are personal examples. In the spirit of the coalition, I look towards the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, who has declared that he has no religious faith, but who has the strongest respect for all faiths. I could see this when I attended an event with my right honourable friend and the honourable Member for Tooting, the right honourable Sadiq Khan. We came together at this event as political parties and communities in the aftermath of the tragic murder of drummer Rigby in Woolwich, to demonstrate the solidarity of people across all faiths, cultures, communities and religions, and those of no faith, and to show that we stand together solidly in the face of extremism, and to fight it and all acts of inhumanity.

Diversity of religion and belief is well reflected in your Lordships’ House. We have heard some stirring contributions from atheist and humanist Peers. I make that distinction clear. I need only to look at the Bishops’ Benches again to recall the wise counsel of right reverend Prelates on many occasions. That has been demonstrated by the contribution today of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham. In recent years, Catholic and Free Church, Church of England, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish, Buddhist and Zoroastrian Peers, and humanist Peers and those of no faith, have constantly enriched the contributions of this House. Long may that continue.

This House is a microcosm of the society that this Government want to see: a place where individual freedoms are protected and that is open to all on merit, accepting of difference and where people of different backgrounds come together to achieve shared goals. The noble Lord, Lord Harrison, has served with great distinction as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Affairs Committee. If I may presume to guess his motives for doing so, it is partly because of his belief, which I am sure that the great majority of your Lordships share, that a strong code of ethics should underlie economic and financial dealings, privately and at the level of the state.

This code of ethics owes as much to ancient philosophy, with Aristotle arguing that those with wealth have a moral duty to maintain virtue in their business dealings, as it does to Judaeo-Christian thought. Adam Smith, another person who never invoked God in his work, laid the foundations for modern business ethics. Humanist thinking, as we have heard from various contributions—the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, mentioned George Eliot and Isaac Newton—has contributed greatly to the development of our culture over the centuries and continues to do so today. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, raised this issue as well. Given all these examples and precedents, noble Lords may wonder why the Government have frequently referred in public statements to the contributions of faith communities to public life but perhaps have not paid equal tribute to the work of humanists and atheists more generally.

Simply put, it is because those without religious beliefs are serving the community through a huge range of charities and initiatives but, for the most part, do not primarily identify themselves as atheists. Put another way, an individual with a humanistic or non-religious belief may choose to work in an international aid agency, for example, or for a homeless shelter but I doubt that many would argue that they are doing so because they are motivated by their atheism. They are doing so because they feel it is right and, in their view, plain and simple humanity to do so. That point was well made by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey.

In faith communities, people are working hard in countless churches and other places of worship, and in charities and community groups, to serve their neighbours and improve their local communities. They, too, are driven by humanity but in part are also inspired to do so by their religious faith. Yet as atheists or as a follower of religion, humanity belies our common values. It unites us. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, talked of a meeting of colleagues with humanist values and Christian humanists acting collectively. Perhaps I should extend that to all humanists: humanism lies, I would argue, in all faiths. I support that attribute. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, talked about moral education and the improvement of society, which is not the work of any one religion or community. As several noble Lords have said, it is a collective responsibility. This means that there is a distinctive, long-enduring and powerful well-spring of positive social action in all our communities.

This is not the place to talk in detail about the different forms of social action that faith communities are involved in, although it would not make sense for us as a Government to fail to take account of the fact that the churches, for example, have an extensive national framework of buildings, experience and volunteers that puts them at the very heart of service delivery to the homeless and others in need. We recognised that when we invested £5 million in the Church Urban Fund’s Near Neighbours programme, which uses the infrastructure of the Church of England to build productive working relationships between people of different faiths and none at a local level in five key localities in England, thus maximising the impact of faith-based social action and creating more integrated communities. I should note that beneficiaries of Near Neighbours projects are from all faith backgrounds and none.

As regards other Christian denominations, Catholic social teaching plays out in a wide range of projects linked and resourced by the Caritas Social Action Network. Through the work of the Muslim Charities Forum, my own Muslim faith, Islam, increasingly focuses on addressing social needs within Britain as well as abroad. The Hindu community has Sewa Day to focus on volunteering projects; the Jewish community has Mitzvah Day; and there are other projects.

There are those who perhaps feel that there is a hidden motive with religious people to get involved in social action—perhaps winning converts with the promise of a free bowl of soup. Unfortunately, this attitude lingers in some local authorities, where at times there is still reluctance to commission services from faith groups. The recent Faith in the Community report by the All-Party Group of Christians in Parliament shows that this view is very much a minority one, thankfully. These days, councils are generally keen to work with faith groups. However, even where local authorities have recognised what faith groups have to offer and have commissioned services from them, they are sometimes expected to be silent about their faith. Let it be clear that although local authorities are legally at liberty to impose such a condition, we do not regard it as reasonable.

In the Government’s view, it clearly is right that, if asked, churches and other faith groups should be able to be open about their religious motivation. The vast majority of faith groups delivering services seek to impose religious beliefs on no one. Indeed, it is reported that many actively avoid discussion of religion, as they know this can be a barrier to offering practical help to those in need. It goes without saying that where a charity or a community group is non-religious or indeed atheist by nature, it should stand exactly the same chance as a religious group of winning a commission from a local authority to run a service. If it has the skills and the experience, and can offer value for money, it should get the job. The noble Lord, Lord Layard, talked about happiness and the importance of different groups getting the right people involved. I am marked by one of my people who I have looked to for motivation. That is Mahatma Gandhi, who in his time said that:

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”.

As well as being inspired by religious beliefs to serve the community, faith groups and religious leaders have distinctive perspectives—let us say wisdom—that are of value to public discourse and policy development. That is why my noble friend Lady Warsi sits at the Cabinet table as the first ever Senior Minister for Faith and Communities, to ensure that these perspectives are being heard and that the contributions of faith groups are recognised. But, crucially, atheists and humanists bring important insights, alongside those of religious faiths, to issues around personal freedom and responsibility. My noble friend is also at the Cabinet table to defend the interests of people with humanist or secularist views who feel that their perspectives are failing to receive a fair hearing. The Government continue to meet the British Humanist Association, and I would be willing to facilitate a meeting with my noble friend if that would be helpful. Part of the role of officials in the faith team in her department is to put faith groups in touch with different parts of Whitehall as necessary, and of course this offer extends to secularist and humanist groups. For instance, officials have facilitated discussions over equalities issues, which several noble Lords have mentioned and in which I know humanists continue to take a strong interest.

In Britain, 25% of the population at the last census described themselves as having no religious belief, and that is their absolute right. Indeed, it was a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, in opening the debate. They are equally able to express their views freely but as the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, has just pointed out, that is not always the case abroad, where people with atheist views face very real persecution if they are open about them. The noble Lord, Lord Harrison, also made this point. Noble Lords will be aware that my noble friend’s Commonwealth role includes defending the right to freedom of religion or belief internationally, and that includes the right not to have a religion. I note what the noble Baroness said about the blasphemy laws that we see operating outside the European Union. Unfortunately, while one thinks that the defending of faith may be a good principle, the way they are applied is deplorable, and certainly the Government stand ready to challenge them wherever we see abuses occur. I join with the noble Baroness in those sentiments.

The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, raised the issue of freedom of religion. I can inform her that in December last year we held an international conference in London on freedom of religion or belief which specifically considered the rights of those with non-religious beliefs. Humanism, of course, is a belief system. My noble friend was commended by the chief executive of the British Humanist Association for emphasising that freedom of religion and belief also means freedom from religion. We also regularly speak out against violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief wherever and whenever these occur. We do so in the context of freedom for all, including the right not to have a religion. A violation of the freedom to believe or not to believe is an attack on us all.

Perhaps I may now pick up on a few points that were made in the debate, and I apologise to noble Lords if, due to the time restriction, I am not able to mention them all. The noble Lord, Lord Harrison, talked about an equal distribution of faith and non-faith representatives on the Bishops’ Benches. I, for one, would say that we have repeatedly seen the value of the contributions from the Bishops’ Benches. I also note that the representatives of the minority faiths have expressed their approval of the continued presence of Bishops in your Lordships’ House. For now, we can certainly see that we have across the House representatives of different faiths, albeit in a personal capacity.

The noble Lord, Lord Harrison, also raised the issue of the Cenotaph. I understand that at present there are no plans to review participation at the Cenotaph ceremony, but I am willing to take the matter up once again with departmental Ministers. He mentioned the Zoroastrians, but let me assure noble Lords that their participation last year was in recognition of their 150th anniversary, and was just a one-off.

The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, raised the issue of the syllabus and religious education in schools, as did the noble Lord, Lord Layard, and the noble Baroness, Lady Royall. There is certainly no reason why a humanist presence should not be included in the standing advisory councils on religious education, which help set local religious education syllabuses. That is important to note.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham talked about encouraging religious people and atheists to co-operate. As I have already said, I quite agree with those important sentiments. Dealing with the society we live in today means encompassing people of all beliefs and, indeed, those with no belief.

The noble Lord, Lord Morgan, gave us insight into various developments in a very interesting contribution. He mentioned his book and his writings of 50 years ago and I hope that what has been captured by Hansard will revive the prospects for further sales of the book.

I turn for a few moments to an important point about religion that was taken up by the noble Baronesses, Lady Flather and Lady Massey, and the noble Lord, Lord Maxton. I would take issue with the suggestion that religion is the cause of many of our problems. If you look at religions and their pure scriptures, any religion that seeks to promote terror or extremism is, frankly, no religion whatever. It is not so much the religion as that, unfortunately, in every faith you will find people who take a perverse interpretation and seek to apply it in their own way. We will continue to challenge any kind of extremism wherever we see it. I disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, on Mother Theresa—I believe that she was a selfless person who devoted herself to the cause of humanity and the cause of the living.

We have only a few minutes left. Other noble Lords raised various issues and I will of course write to them on the points that I have not been able to get to. The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, and other noble Lords talked about the oppression of women. The Government take this issue very seriously. Our record on tackling FGM is quite clear and the Home Office has launched a one-year pilot scheme, aimed at ending violence against women and girls in the UK. This is a real blight on the world and something that we need to see ending as soon as possible.

This has truly been a fascinating debate. It has been an eye-opener for me and, in preparing for the debate, I looked into humanism. I will reflect on a very personal point, if I may. As I said, Britain is an incredible country in which we respect people of all faiths and all beliefs. I end with a quote not from a famous person, but from my best friend—an atheist—on the day of my wedding, in his capacity as a best man. He said: “Tariq and I have known each other for nearly 20 years. During that time, there were occasions he sought to convert me to his faith of Islam. I, for my part, have, at times, sought to convert him to mine of beer and rugby. Neither succeeded, but we remain the closest of friends, based on the mutual respect of each other”. That has certainly been reflected in the debate today.

My Lords, I hope I will conclude this debate in the spirit in which it has been conducted. I thank all who have contributed to such an interesting debate. My noble friend Lord Grocott could not be with us today, although I asked him, as he participated last time. He told me that he thought we ought to have this debate every year. We have had inspiration from the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, as to some of the changes we might make to the title of the debate. All I can say to the noble and right reverend Lord at the moment is that we atheists and humanists may seek answers but, more importantly, we seek questions.

I end by mentioning a family member, my wife’s aunt, Florence, who served with great distinction in South Africa, working for Bishop Desmond Tutu. She should have been a senior person in the church, but was not. My wife describes herself as an Anglican atheist, and whenever we go into the churches we so admire, we light a candle for Florence. I last did so when I went into Lichfield Cathedral last year. I did it not because I am a Christian but because she was a Christian, and a very good one too. In that spirit, I hope that we can continue the debate and the dialogue on future occasions, with my noble friend Lord Grocott in attendance, and with the same spirit as today.

Motion agreed.

National Health Service (Licence Exemptions, etc.) Regulations 2013

Motion to Approve

Moved by

That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 4 July be approved.

Relevant document: 8th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.

My Lords, the regulations that we are now considering, which were laid before this House on 4 July, exempt some types of providers of NHS services from the requirement to hold a licence from Monitor. Providers who will not be required to hold a licence are as follows: NHS trusts; providers which are not required to register with the Care Quality Commission; small providers of NHS-funded healthcare services whose annual turnover from the provision of NHS services is less than £10 million; providers of primary medical and dental services; and providers of NHS continuing healthcare and NHS-funded nursing care.

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 gave Monitor a new role in regulating providers of NHS services, and the licence is a key tool for Monitor in carrying out its new functions. The Act strengthens sector regulation by building and improving on Monitor’s previous role as the regulator of foundation trusts and makes sector regulation more comprehensive by extending Monitor’s role to all providers of NHS services. While the 2012 Act allows licensing to apply to all providers of NHS services, these regulations provide for exemptions to this requirement for certain types of provider where the licence would not give additional protection for patients or would impose an unfair burden on providers.

Regulation 2 defines a licence holder as the legal entity responsible for delivering NHS services to patients, the body receiving NHS funding and providing care directly to patients. This approach mirrors that for CQC registration. Regulation 2 also ensures that, where a provider has subcontracted elements of a service, the subcontractor is considered a separate entity and thus in need of a licence.

Regulation 3 confirms that no exemptions apply to foundation trusts. This is consistent with the position under the 2012 Act that all foundation trusts must hold a licence.

Regulation 4 provides that NHS trusts will not be required to hold a licence. This is because directions from the Secretary of State require the NHS Trust Development Authority to set and enforce requirements on NHS trusts similar to those set by Monitor's licence. The NHS Trust Development Authority must seek and consider advice from Monitor in setting these conditions to ensure that the requirements for NHS trusts will provide similar protection for patients’ interests compared with those set by Monitor through the licence.

Under Monitor’s licensing regime, a commissioner may request that a service be subject to additional regulation to ensure patients’ continued access to that service. Any provider of such commissioner-requested services will not be eligible for an exemption under the regulations even if the provider otherwise qualifies for an exemption. Where commissioners have designated a service as a commissioner-requested service, Monitor must be able to intervene in order to secure continuity of that service. I should highlight to the House that this particular override would not apply to NHS trusts because the NHS Trust Development Authority will be able to undertake similar interventions on an NHS trust which becomes unsustainable. Regulation 9 provides for this.

Regulation 5 provides for an exemption from the requirement to hold a licence for providers of primary medical or primary dental services under contractual arrangements made under Parts 4 and 5 of the National Health Service Act 2006 with NHS England. NHS England will ensure that such providers comply with requirements that will ensure equivalent protections for patients.

Regulation 6 ensures that providers of nursing care, which is defined in the regulations as,

“NHS Continuing Healthcare or NHS funded nursing care”,

will not be required to hold a licence. An increasing number of providers of adult social care attract NHS funding for nursing care as part of a social care package. This avoids pre-empting the proposals in the Care Bill for market oversight of providers of adult social care. This exemption is time-limited to 31 March 2015, and the department will review it and determine whether it should continue to apply beyond that point.

Providers that are not required to register with the Care Quality Commission will not be required to hold a licence. Providers are prioritised for registration by the CQC on the basis of potential risk to patients. The department will keep this position under review; in particular, we will consider potential changes to the scope of CQC registration.

Regulation 8 exempts providers with less than £10 million annual turnover from the provision of NHS services. It is the Government’s policy to avoid regulatory burden on small and micro enterprises. Regulation 8 also defines applicable turnover for the purposes of the £10 million threshold as turnover from the provision from NHS services. Consistent with the exemptions provided for by Regulations 5 and 6, turnover from the provision of primary medical and primary dental services provided under Parts 4 and 5 of the NHS Act 2006 and from nursing care is not considered applicable turnover.

Regulation 9 provides that, where NHS England or a clinical commissioning group considers that a service is a commissioner-requested service, the provider ceases to qualify for an exemption under Regulations 5, 6, 7 or 8. Regulation 9 also sets a condition on exemptions conferred by Regulations 5, 6, 7, or 8 and provides for the Secretary of State to withdraw exemptions from a provider that does not comply with the conditions.

These regulations allow Monitor to carry out its regulatory duties through the licence in a targeted and proportionate way, while ensuring that patients’ interests are always the overriding factor. I commend the regulations to the House. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am sure that the whole House is indebted to the noble Earl for his lengthy explanation of the order before us. I just want to ask him three or four questions.

I noticed in the Explanatory Memorandum that there is an intention to review how licences are working and that it is to take place during the next Parliament. I must say that I thought it was rather presumptuous of officials to assume that this will be done. Of course, it is for me to point out that Governments cannot bind their successors to action to be taken, so I look forward to a Bill that will perhaps do away with some of the requirements that will be necessary.

The noble Earl will not be surprised if I ask him a question about the NHS Trust Development Authority. Reference was made in his remarks and in the Explanatory Memorandum to the relationship of the NHS TDA to the other regulatory bodies. Can he update the House on how long he now thinks that the NHS TDA is likely to be in existence? Of course, this relates back to the question we debated in the Bill, which is: what is his expectation in relation to non-foundation trusts and the pipeline, if you like, towards foundation trust application? Can he also give an indication of which services are likely to be designated as commissioner-requested services?

Paragraph 7.15 of the Explanatory Memorandum says that Regulation 7,

“exempts any provider that is not required to register with the CQC from the requirement to hold a licence from Monitor … This exemption would cover, for example, providers of ophthalmic services”.

Can the Minister tell us the rationale for why ophthalmic services are excluded? Is it to do with the fact that they are regulated in a different way?

The Explanatory Memorandum, at paragraph 7.16, says that NHS England is,

“well placed to enforce standards in relation to primary medical and dental services”.

As there has been a considerable amount of debate in the last few months about the quality of primary medical services and out-of-hours performance, can the Minister say anything about how NHS England will go about its business in ensuring standards in primary medical services? There are questions about whether it has the capacity to do that, and any reassurance on this subject would be welcome.

Finally, on exemptions, as I understand it, CCGs, when commissioning services from GP practices, are not exempted by Regulation 5. However, if the practice is large and goes over the £10 million threshold under Regulation 8, it may be covered, whereas if its turnover is below £10 million it is exempt under Regulation 8. The Minister will know that when we debated the Bill that became the Health and Social Care Act 2012 we had a great deal of debate about conflicts of interest. I have never been satisfied that that problem has been resolved satisfactorily. If, under these arrangements, CCGs are commissioning services from GP practices—remember that those practices are members of the CCG, so there is always a potential conflict of interest—I would have been more reassured if there had not been an exemption for practices with a turnover of less than £10 million. I would have thought that most traditional GP practices would fall below that threshold.

I understand the rationale for not wanting to catch small businesses under the regime, but does the Minister accept that when CCGs are commissioning services essentially from themselves—in the sense that GP practices make up the CCG—greater safeguards should be built into the regulations?

Other than that, these regulations are unexceptionable. I should, of course, remind the House of my interests in health, as president-elect of GS1, chair of a foundation trust and a consultant and trainer with Cumberlege Connections.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for his questions, some of which I shall write to him about. He first asked me about the review of licensing exemptions that the department plans to carry out in 2016-17. He is, of course, right to say that no Government can commit their successor, of whatever colour, and it will be open to a successor Government, if they are of his party, to revise that aspiration. However, we think it right that after such an interval, the department should look to see whether the exemptions are continuing to prove appropriate, and if they are not it should propose amendments. I do not think that is a very controversial aim.

On the working life of the NHS Trust Development Authority, it will not have escaped the noble Lord’s notice that the original lifespan that we marked out for the TDA will now be exceeded. We have quite consciously, and rightly, determined that the process for approving foundation trusts should be extended, bearing in mind the outcome of the Francis review and the need for trusts, some of which by their very nature will prove more difficult to bring to foundation status, to focus on those aspects of the Francis report which need to be addressed if they are to be worthy of foundation trust status. Therefore, the length of life of the NHS TDA will undoubtedly extend into 2015. I cannot be more specific than that at this stage. It is a special health authority established by order. We will review that order in the normal course of things in three years’ time to assess whether there is a need for the authority. That is mentioned in the Explanatory Memorandum to the establishment order.

The noble Lord asked me why ophthalmic services are exempt. It is because they are not subject to registration by the CQC. We will of course keep those exemptions under review, as I have said. If evidence emerges to suggest that we should extend the licensing or make further exemptions, we will do so. When I spoke to the ophthalmic sector, it said that it did not see the need for a licence from Monitor, and we have taken account of its views.

The noble Lord asked me for some examples of commissioner-requested services. It is difficult for me to do that because they will be services which commissioners deem are in need of additional regulation to protect patients’ interests. Monitor has published guidance for commissioners to help them determine the considerations around commissioner-requested services. It will very much depend on the needs of the local population and what services are considered to be indispensable in a particular area.

The noble Lord asked me why GPs and dentists are exempt. As he knows, providers of primary medical services and primary dental services under contract to NHS England will be exempt from the requirement to hold a licence. As NHS England holds the contract with providers of those services, it is clearly well placed to place requirements on those providers that are similar to some of those in the licence. An agreement between Monitor and NHS England will underpin the arrangements. Monitor and NHS England are currently working on that. GPs and dentists sometimes provide other types of services under contracts with commissioners other than NHS England, such as minor surgery clinics or diagnostic testing services. They will be subject to licensing in respect of these services but at the same time be eligible for the de minimis threshold exemption. In addition, all providers of designated commissioner-requested services will require a licence, even if they would otherwise qualify for an exemption. It is therefore conceivable that a service provided by a GP practice might be considered a commissioner-requested service, but that is a speculative assumption on my part.

The noble Lord referred to conflicts of interest when such services are commissioned from GP practices by clinical commissioning groups. As I am sure he knows, there are clear rules around conflicts of interest. While GP practices are, by definition, members of a clinical commissioning group, the commissioning process must be done as much at arm’s length from an individual GP practice as possible. If someone in the clinical commissioning group has a direct personal or professional interest in the decision being taken, he or she must follow the rules surrounding that conflict.

The noble Lord asked me how NHS England is going to maintain standards in primary medical services. I have largely covered that point. NHS England will monitor the quality of care being delivered under the contract via the local area teams. Clinical commissioning groups are themselves engaged on peer-review exercises of their member practices which will, in turn, inform NHS England’s assessments.

I think I have answered all the noble Lord’s questions, but if I have not I will follow up in writing.

Motion agreed.

Health and Social Care Act 2012 (Consequential Amendments) (No. 2) Order 2013

Motion to Approve

Moved by

My Lords, we had many debates in this House on the Health and Social Care Act 2012 during its passage as a Bill last Session. In this Session we have also debated some significant items of secondary legislation that put in place key elements of the new system, including the regulations that we have just debated.

This draft order, however, is very different from those instruments. It is short, and it raises no new issues of substance. Since it seeks to amend primary legislation, it is right and proper that it is subject to affirmative resolution but it is made under a narrow power to make provision in consequence of the Act. I cannot claim that the amendments it makes are of significant interest. They are minor adjustments, generally needed as a direct consequence of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, which I shall now refer to as the 2012 Act. They help to keep the statute book up-to-date and coherent, but they involve no new policies. Consistently with this, neither the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments nor the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has seen a need to draw special attention to the draft order.

Before I explain what the draft order does, it may be helpful to start with a very brief reminder of the relevant provisions of the 2012 Act. That Act made a number of changes to the architecture of the National Health Service in England. Before the 2012 Act came into force on 1 April this year, the functions of commissioning and providing health services were conferred by legislation on the Secretary of State and were delegated by him to bodies such as primary care trusts. The Act, however, now gives the function of commissioning health services direct to the NHS Commissioning Board—also known as NHS England—and to clinical commissioning groups; while primary care trusts have been abolished. The Secretary of State continues to be under a duty to promote a comprehensive health service. He has ministerial accountability to Parliament for the health service. He is under new duties to keep under review the effective exercise of functions by the national-level bodies, such as the NHS Commissioning Board, and to report annually on the performance of the health service. That is the framework established by the 2012 Act.

I turn now to the individual amendments made by the draft order. The first amendment is to the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986. The 1986 Act creates a requirement to assess the needs of people who are discharged from hospital after at least six months’ inpatient treatment for mental disorder. Section 7 of the Act sets out the services to which such an assessment must relate. Schedule 5 to the 2012 Act amended Section 7 of the 1986 Act to reflect, for example, the abolition of primary care trusts and the fact that it is clinical commissioning groups which now have to carry out the assessments in England.

However, that schedule did not update the reference to the services to which the assessment should relate. These are currently described as services that the Secretary of State is under a duty to provide under the NHS Act 2006. The order removes that reference, and updates it to take account of the changes in responsibility for commissioning and providing health services in England that were made by the 2012 Act. In making that change, we are able also to refer correctly to the bodies that provide services for the purposes of the Scottish and Welsh health services, and to the Acts under which they do so.

The second amendment made by the draft order is to the Community Care (Delayed Discharges etc.) Act 2003. That Act puts in place arrangements to ensure the safe and timely discharge of patients from hospital. Under the 2003 Act, the responsible NHS body is required in certain cases to issue an assessment or discharge notice, and the relevant local authority is required to assess the patient and put in place a support package by the named day. Schedule 5 to the 2012 Act made some amendments to the 2003 Act, but not those required to ensure that the arrangements continue to apply to NHS patients in independent hospitals. The draft order therefore makes the necessary amendments by adding NHS England and clinical commissioning groups to the definition of “NHS body” in Section 1 of the Act. This puts those bodies under a duty to issue the relevant notices in relation to patients discharged from independent hospitals commissioned by them.

Lastly, the draft order amends Section 256 of the National Health Service Act 2006. That section deals with the powers of certain NHS bodies to make payments towards expenditure on community services. Schedule 4 to the 2012 Act replaced the references to primary care trusts in the main body of Section 256 with references to the NHS Commissioning Board and to clinical commissioning groups, but unfortunately it did not amend the reference to primary care trusts in the cross-heading to the section. The draft order corrects that oversight.

In conclusion, I hope that I have demonstrated that the draft order contains changes that are consequential on the Act. It makes some minor but necessary changes to keep the statute book coherent and up to date. I commend the draft order to the House. I beg to move.

Motion agreed.

Arrangement of Business

Announcement

Sitting suspended.

Arts: Contribution to Education, Health and Emotional Well-being

Question for Short Debate

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the contribution of the arts to the nation’s education, health and emotional well-being.

My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to introduce this debate. As I have been told that I have only one bite of the cherry, I thank noble Lords in advance for what I know will be a very fascinating and learned debate.

Two weeks ago, we had an excellent debate initiated by the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, on the contribution of the arts to the economy. The case was made then by a number of noble Lords that the contribution of the creative industries to jobs, growth and tourism is considerable, but often understated. Yet we have a reputation globally as world leaders and innovators in the arts and it will be undoubtedly one of the drivers for future economic growth and prosperity. This point was echoed in a recent Arts Council report that showed that there was a four-fold return on every pound invested in the arts.

I am very pleased that this is the case but even if it was not, I believe that the investment would be worthwhile. That is why I was prompted to table this Question. I want to make a different case—the arts for their own sake, for what they provide to our civilisation and the benefits they impart to our well-being as a nation. This should be a sufficient reason to celebrate, to defend and to invest in our arts culture. It is why I share the concern expressed by many arts leaders that Maria Miller’s recent speech focused so heavily on the economic benefits that could accrue from our arts activities. For example, she said that arts organisations should,

“demonstrate the healthy dividends that our investment continues to pay”.

In other words, they have to keep making a profit. This demonstrates some flawed thinking. If we invest only in arts that are guaranteed to make a profit, we damage the very innovation and creativity that has generated our reputation for excellence in the first place. However, one of our challenges is that, while it is relatively easy to measure the economic contribution of the arts, it is a much bigger challenge to provide evidence of the wider benefits to society. I was struck when preparing for this speech by how many research projects have recently been launched to measure difference aspects of the impacts of the arts on our lives. This is obviously to be welcomed, but it will take time.

I also have considerable sympathy with the advice of my noble friend Lord Howarth to the recent Culture, Health and Wellbeing International Conference. He suggested that they should not wait for the holy grail of a definitive, conclusive report on the benefits of the arts, but should pool the existing research findings which already demonstrate a positive impact on health and well-being. It is also helpful that the National Alliance for Arts Health and Wellbeing has been established, supported by the Arts Council, to draw together the case for the positive impact of the arts on health and well-being. It has been working with the Office for National Statistics, which was famously and quite rightly asked by the Prime Minister to measure the factors which affect well-being.

Incidentally, it is a bit worrying that the funding cuts may result in that well-being research being scaled down. Nevertheless, since the Windsor conferences in 1998 and 1999, we have increasing evidence of the positive impact of the arts on health outcomes. For example, the Art Council reports that singing has been found to affect the hormones that facilitate emotional balance. The use of music in cardiovascular units led to reduced anxiety and to improved blood pressure and heart rate. Patients who experience visual arts and live music on trauma and orthopaedic wards stayed in hospital, on average, a day less. A recent large-scale study in Norway showed that visits to the theatre, concerts, art galleries and museums result in better health and well-being, and that the more often people engaged in cultural activities, the greater the health benefits.

In the UK, the Taking Part survey has reported that taking part in the arts and cultural activities once a week has a positive effect on an individual’s well-being. UK museums and art galleries are increasingly involved in art and cultural activities, providing a welcoming non-clinical setting to support initiatives for those with mental health, dementia and learning difficulties, with measurable benefits. I recently visited a groundbreaking project at the Geffrye Museum, providing a safe and stimulating environment for adults with learning difficulties. The Dulwich Picture Gallery’s initiative entitled “Good Times” provides a range of communal activities for an increasingly isolated and vulnerable ageing population. I have been impressed by the outcomes of the Men’s Room charity in Manchester which provides creative expression for young men previously involved in crime or homelessness. All this evidence confirms what we intrinsically know to be true: that creativity, whether active or receptive, lifts the spirits and increases a sense of well-being.

The same can be said for the contribution of the arts to education. The Henley report on cultural education showed that young people involved in the arts at school also performed better in other subjects. The impact of the cultural activity spilled over into other aspects of learning and behaviour. Henley made the point that the highest-achieving schools—including, of course, the private schools—tend also to offer a high standard of cultural education. He also quoted the outcome of a United States longitudinal study of education which showed that:

“Students with high involvement in the arts, including minority and low income students, performed better in school and stayed on longer than students with low involvement”.

These themes were echoed by the national curriculum review expert panel, chaired by Tim Oates, which identified that art and music lessons not only had intrinsic worth, but also brought,

“benefits to pupil engagement, cognitive development and achievement, including in mathematics and reading”.

So a good arts education enhances other educational outcomes. It also produces young people with the life skills and creative innovation increasingly in demand from employers.

This is why there continues to be frustration at the failure of the Department of Education to embrace and champion these principles. The original EBacc proposals completely sidelined arts education. Even in its new format, teachers report that less time is being allocated to teaching creative subjects. The new national curriculum, while a considerable improvement on earlier drafts, does not, for example, have any meaningful inclusion of dance, drama or film. While we welcome many of the steps outlined in the belated government response to the Henley report, it feels like it is too little, too late. Obviously we welcome initiatives such as the new National Youth Dance Company, the music hubs and Artsmark, but there is a sense that creative learning is moving out of mainstream education and into extra-curricular activities, when the opposite should be happening.

t would also be good to see the Government do more to address the inequalities in access to the arts, both for young people and for adults. Initiatives such as the Paul Hamlyn programmes to widen the demographic profile of those regularly accessing the arts are hugely important, but more needs to be done by Government to make the arts relevant to the widest possible audience.

I hope that I have been able to demonstrate this afternoon that there are widespread benefits to both individuals and society from being immersed in the arts. However, it would be a great shame if we had to put a price on all those benefits. Art funding should not just be about economic returns, but also the less tangible advantages: that it raises our quality of life, improves our sense of well-being and contributes to our future success as a nation. Ultimately, none of these issues matters as much as a belief in art and creativity for its own sake. However we choose to express it, art is what makes our nation civilised, it shapes our identity and it informs our heritage. If we are always looking over our shoulder at balance sheets to justify expenditure, we risk losing the essence of what makes the UK such a special place to live.

I hope that the Minister, in responding, is able to reassure the House that the widest contribution of the arts, and the contribution that they make to society, will be reflected when future funding of the arts is considered.

My Lords, I am delighted to speak in this debate and I congratulate my noble friend Lady Jones on bringing it forward. It sits very happily in parallel with the debate brought forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, some weeks ago. She made the economic, nuts-and-bolts argument for the arts, and today we deal with the real core, civilising values of the arts in our lives.

What is the price of joy? What is the price of celebration? How do you cost the human rewards of the Last Night of the Proms? That is the climax of more than 100 concerts, over eight weeks, playing every night in the Royal Albert Hall to audiences of more than 6,000 people. It is the world’s largest, most democratic musical festival. It is, in many ways, beyond price. It involves enormous performances of world class. As you will be aware, the last night inspires sentiments of warmth, loyalty, patriotism and fellow feeling. People come pouring out of the Royal Albert Hall, alive with joy. How can you cost that?

At the other end of the year, there is the Messiah, sung in 1,000 churches and enjoyed by amateur groups who come together to give their own performances. It is true that singing is an exercise for the lungs and for breathing, but it is an exercise also in the recognition of the awesomeness of music. Choirs across the country share pleasure in that—a pleasure beyond price. Music also plays a big part in the lives of the handicapped. I have personal knowledge of this. Small children who cannot speak can sing. I bear witness to the fact that they can sing loud and often and that they enjoy it very much.

I will be more serious for a moment because I want to speak of the more profound rewards of the arts. The arts teach us what it is to be human, to know ourselves and to know others. In the 1790s Wordsworth stopped at Tintern Abbey and tried to recall how he had been moved when he had been there five years earlier. “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” reminds us that,

“with an eye made quiet by the power

Of harmony …

We see into the life of things”.

That is what the arts do. We see into the life of things. Consider human activities which we all take for granted such as the relationships between the sexes and the joys and crises of marriage. Think of Shakespeare’s Beatrice and Benedick, “the married man”, Strindberg’s “The Dance of Death”, Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” or Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”. Who can say that seeing these works does not help us see into the life of things? That is what we seek when we teach children through the curriculum about the lives that they will live in the communities that they will be a part of.

It is not just personal, either. Empathy matters in the lives we live, one with another. Empathy is the understanding of the other. It is the attribute psychopaths lack—the capacity to understand others. Callousness, cruelty and murder follow. That is why, when the arts go into prison, they make a real difference. Acting companies take the plays of Shakespeare to prisoners and then stay to discuss with their audience, the inmates, what are human motives and what are the feelings of other people. That helps the prisoners grow to see their own lives. It helps them to see into the life of things.

Finally, as it is summer, I must mention literary festivals. There are now more than 250 of them in this country, events to which authors come to talk about their books to audiences that grow year on year. These festivals have spin-offs abroad. There are now festivals in north Africa and Mexico that are run from this country, and next year I will go to Burma in the footsteps of George Orwell. These festivals are arenas of ideas. I chaired a debate in which two Egyptian feminists came to discuss the role of women in Islam. There was an audience of more than 1,200 people. These places are indeed the cradle of ideas, debate and exchange. At a time when human discourse and the popularity of political meetings are perhaps on the wane, these places are locations where the debating of ideas and politics is gaining strength. They are places of ideas, opinions and cultural exchange.

That is my case to the Government: celebration, insight, empathy and intellectual exchange. The arts lead us to see into the life of things. They deserve a higher place in the school curriculum than at present. As we know, dance scarcely figures and music is neglected. We want our children to see into the life of things.

My Lords, I am inspired to begin by saying:

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”.

I am sure that we are all extremely grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, not only for what she has said this afternoon so succinctly and so powerfully, but for what she has done over so many decades to further the cause of the arts.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, for two things: first for initiating this debate and the manner in which she did it, and secondly for her—and the Minister’s—kindness to me. This debate has started a little later than many of us hoped and as there is only one train to Lincoln at 7.06, I will have to leave here at around 6.10 so that I can get to Kings Cross in time. I hope that other colleagues in all parts of the House will be as kind to me as the Minister and the noble Baroness, and acquit me of any discourtesy.

Whenever I go into that glorious Lincoln Cathedral, which is now within 50 yards of my home, for a great service and I sit there and look at the marvellous shards of Purbeck marble rising to the roof, see the dappled, stained glass as the sunlight comes through the window and listen to the choir, I realise that this is the full beauty of “craftsman’s art and music’s measure”. What I want is for more people to be able to share it. Of course, some are conscious every year of the all-encompassing quality of the arts when they see the television broadcasts of the King’s College choir on a Christmas eve, and now similarly at Easter, with the Rubens masterpiece, the “Adoration of the Magi”, at the high altar, the marvellous fan vaults of Henry VI and, of course, the glorious music of the choir.

The noble Baroness is right to say that the arts are of overwhelming importance, educationally and to the health and well-being of the nation. She referred to the Dulwich Picture Gallery experiment, where not only the old, but also the sometimes quite recalcitrant young are brought to a greater understanding. They are—to quote Wordsworth, as did the noble Baroness—“seeing into the life of things” in a very different and new way. I saw this many years ago when I was involved in the beginning, in this country, of the Music Therapy Charity. One saw what effect music had on severely handicapped children who otherwise would have had no outlet. It began with a glorious service in Westminster Abbey when Yehudi Menuhin played Bach partitas on the chancel steps. The two remarkable Americans, Nordoff and Robbins, who started this charity, were there. It has now grown considerably and is known around the world.

If you go into prisons—I had two in my constituency, one a young offenders institution and the other an adult prison—you see that people who have often been written off by society, quite wrongly, can be moved by art. They can be moved by lovely pictures, by poetry, by drama and by music. If you go into hospitals, you see the therapeutic effect of art on severely sick people, when they look at wonderful images and listen to glorious music.

The arts are, in every possible sense, priceless. To equate them with commercial calculations is doing us all a disservice. You cannot quantify it; if you want to start quantifying it—I am sorry I could not take part in the debate of my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft—you can provide a very good justification. After all, the thousands of tourists who are flocking here this year—there seem to be more than ever—are not coming for the glory of the weather, although they are enjoying it at the moment, and they are not coming for the excellence of our cuisine, although that has improved very dramatically in the past 30 or 40 years. What they are coming for, as their forefathers did before them, is to see our fine buildings, to go to our wonderful galleries, and to listen to the music at the Proms and other concerts. The arts bring in to this country enormous sums of money—a fact that no Government of any political persuasion have ever fully recognised.

I wrote a book about this in 1976, in which I tried to argue that our heritage was in danger and that it was in everybody’s interest to safeguard it not only because of its innate glory but because of what it brought in to the country. This remains true. People come and are moved by this great building in which we are privileged to work. Of course, they have a passing interest in the constitution, but what really turns them on is the majesty of this Chamber and the glory of Barry and Pugin’s architecture. Therefore, the noble Baroness was quite right to say that we should evaluate what the arts do for our education, our health and our well-being.

I will close on education. As a former schoolmaster—although that was more than 40 years ago—I believe that we sell our children short if we do not open their eyes and minds to the wonderful heritage of European civilisation, and of the civilisations beyond. Our young people should be made more aware of the glories of Italy, the majesty of France and the wonderful beauties in our own country. Every young person, as part of his or her education, should go to the National Gallery and spend an hour in the company of someone who understands and appreciates the paintings. Every young person, before he or she leaves school, should spend an hour or two in one of our great cathedrals and should be able to listen to wonderful music. That is easier because the musicians can travel.

The noble Baroness did us all a signal service. The day began in a rather strange way, as days in this House often do. We had a debate on the cultural impact of Premier League football—not just football, but Premier League football. What we are considering this afternoon is premier league art, which is far more all-encompassing, far more moving, far more valuable and far more lasting, so we are very grateful to the noble Baroness for introducing the debate.

My Lords, by 1944 some 6 million people had died in Auschwitz in appalling conditions. Sometimes the question is asked—it might have been asked earlier this afternoon in another debate—“Where was God in Auschwitz?”. Perhaps the answer might be, “Where was man?”. However, there could be another answer. Perhaps it came from a place that fed Auschwitz: Theresienstadt.

During its life, Theresienstadt housed between 120,000 and 150,000 individuals, all but about 22,000 of whom died in Auschwitz. For them, God was in their music. In that remarkable place, people were starving. They had no proper water supply and sanitation. They lacked almost every accompaniment of humanity, but they celebrated their humanity by singing Verdi’s “Requiem”. It was conducted by Rafael Schächter, one of the Jewish composers in Theresienstadt. Towards the end of the life of the camp, the composer Viktor Ullmann composed an opera called “Der Kaiser von Atlantis”, a satire on Hitler. It is a short opera that lasts for less than an hour. In it, pretty well every human emotion is described, including love, hope, longing and sadness. Interestingly, the one thing that is missing is anger, even though the chief singer is der Kaiser: Hitler. What we cannot forget is that Ullmann never saw the production, because when the Nazis saw it in rehearsal, they banned it, and of course Ullmann and his librettist ended up in Auschwitz, where they perished.

I shall talk about music only and declare an interest as chairman of the council of the Royal College of Music. I suggest that music is central to this debate. In some respects it is one of the most basic of the arts, because it is the closest to being unrepresentational in a way. One of the great things about music is that it expresses all humanity. It expresses longing, sadness, anger and humour, it looks at joy, as my noble friend has already mentioned, it looks at sadness and at love and, in the case of Theresienstadt, it looked at hope as well. It is a basic civilising influence on our population.

When you look at music in scientific terms, you see that it affects different parts of the brain. For example, memory is enhanced by listening to music. Recent studies using magnetic resonance imaging scanning show that different parts of the brain, including the hippocampus, expand when we listen to or play music, whether we are musicians or non-musicians. When it comes to dexterity, the motor cortex at the top of the brain is also enhanced. The auditory cortex is enhanced as well; most importantly, Broca’s area, which is on the left side for a right-handed person and central to language, is also very closely linked to music. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why so many musicians have been amazing linguists.

These things are developed by people who use and play music, particularly schoolchildren. I want to speak mostly of schoolchildren in this instance. Although we think that musicians are born and not made, it turns out that this is not the case. Recent evidence in a beautiful German study clearly shows that pretty well anybody who is given enough time and practice can compete with the best opera singers, and that their brain can expand in the areas that are needed. That has been demonstrated in scanning.

On a lighter note, a pop video made by One Direction was launched on the web this week. On the first day of launch, it received 14 million hits, which was extraordinary. One Direction are delightful young men. They are responsible. I think that they are altruistic, although I do not know that for certain, my impression is that they are. At many levels, they are an interesting role model for young people and you can see that they are massively followed by them. It is a pity that we do not have that same following for classical and other music which have so much depth in terms of our learning experience and give us wealth, not financial wealth, of course, but wealth in how we perceive the world and react to it and the wealth that is in our humanity and relationships.

For schoolchildren, music and learning music do not foster just memory and probably better intellectual capacity, although, in spite of the rumours, not intelligence, but they certainly foster collaboration and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, has said, empathy, which is obviously important. These things are really important to children, and the lack of musical education in schools is great concern in our society at the moment.

The Minister may not have figures to hand at the moment, but perhaps they can be dug out. Under the previous Government there was the singing initiative, which I not think is anything like adequate enough. In music, it would be better if far more schoolchildren had access to instruments because that increases that collaboration in a new way. They help understanding of the structure of music and increase dexterity. It would be of interest to know what the Government are doing about the number of schools, particularly primary schools, which have access to musical instruments.

Finally, as someone who supports the Royal College of Music and other areas in musical education, will the Minister tell us how the Government view the outreach programmes that conservatoires are doing to spread music among young people? The Sparks programme run by the Royal College of Music takes primary school children, and there is no question that children who come from very different backgrounds achieve amazing success. They collaborate and play music so well that it is difficult to believe they have not been learning music for a great deal longer than they have. Many conservatoires have a junior department which is closer to more, if you like, adult children. It would be helpful if the Minister in her summing up could affirm support for those sorts of activities, which I believe are really important to the health of the nation.

My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend for bringing this important area before the House. I feel somewhat diffident speaking with those of such calibre. Previous speakers have shown that a good story well told can have a very big impact, which probably should be a rule for my future speeches. As a former medical practitioner, I will speak today on the effect that the arts, in the broadest sense, can have on health. Here, I am using the long WHO definition of health, which considers it to be not only the “absence of disease” but also,

“complete physical, mental and social well-being”—

a condition we aspire to but seldom achieve individually and probably never as a whole society.

This definition is useful because it recognises that health is not only physical but includes emotional and social components, factors which have tended until recently to be neglected in healthcare. Sir David Weatherall, when the regius professor of medicine at Oxford University more than a decade ago, explained how scientific medicine, which dominated the last century, changed the emphasis in healthcare from the whole patient and whole organs to diseases of molecules and cells. This caused many to feel that medicine had become reductionist and dehumanising. Although himself a molecular scientist, Professor Weatherall said that,

“we will now start putting the bits … together again … The old skills of clinical practice, the ability to interact with people, will be as vital … as they have been in the past”.

Since then the need for this is becoming more widely accepted but dehumanised healthcare is still the experience of some patients. The events in Mid Staffs, although not the rule, unfortunately are not unique. But, despite increasing pressures, most patients in the National Health Service receive expert, considerate and friendly care.

Where do the arts fit into this health story? The three components of health—physical, mental and social—are not separate entities. We all know the much quoted phrase created by the Roman poet Lucullus 2,000 years ago:

“Mens sana in corpore sano”.

The relationship between mental and physical health has now been demonstrated in a number of studies. Cheerful or normal people live longer and recover from illness more quickly than depressed people, who place a very heavy load on the National Health Service. The immune response of non-depressed people is better. My noble friend Lady Jones cited a number of other instances where mental health and social care can have a big impact on people’s physical health.

The relationship between social deprivation, even relative deprivation in prosperous societies, and physical and mental health and longevity is well known and is being increasingly better understood through the world-wide studies of the social determinants of health being led by Professor Michael Marmot of University College London. That is as relevant to the UK today, when our health problems are largely due to long-term, non-communicable diseases, as it was 100 years ago, before the era of antibiotics. Living conditions, nutrition and lifestyles are among the most important of these determinants. Here it should be emphasised that lifestyles are not simply a matter of individual choice, they are a product of economic and social pressures. It is only the exceptional individual from a deprived background who can battle their way to overcoming these commercial and social pressures and live an optimally healthy life.

I hope that this brief description of the factors underlying health will show why the arts are so relevant. As my noble friend said, is not the purpose of art to lift the spirits, open one’s eyes, educate and inspire? The emotional impact of music, so well described by my noble friend Lord Winston and the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and works of art and sculpture as well as the written word, is often enormous. I would add high-quality media presentations on the radio and television, and let us not forget film as well. I could recite a long list of all the arts which are important. To say that the arts entertain us and cheer us up is only part of the picture. By helping to lift depression, the arts can improve our mental health and this can, in the ways I have suggested, lead to better physical health.

I have not mentioned one important aspect of our culture: the built environment. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, talked about the majesty of Lincoln Cathedral, and of course there are other inspiring buildings all over the country. Good and imaginative design of neighbourhoods and individual buildings, apart from pleasing the eye, can have important effects on physical health. We have too many boring, or at the worst ugly, housing developments, while thoughtless redevelopment has plucked the heart out of many towns and cities. The result has been a loss of cohesive community support which can have effects on social well-being. The building of arts and cultural centres in many towns and cities has been a positive move that partly compensates for the destruction of city centres, and the evidence is that they have a sizable positive impact on the morale of their communities. However, they cannot replace the need for much more well-designed housing which, as all noble Lords know, would also act as a kick-start for the economy and have a beneficial effect on mental and social well-being. Well-designed housing, apart from being more carbon efficient, can improve mental, physical and social health through aesthetically pleasing design, good spacing, convenience and social facilities. It should also be ergonomically pleasing and more sustainable through well thought-out heating and ventilation. There are examples of excellent projects of this kind in many places throughout the country.

I do not have any specific questions for the noble Baroness, but I hope that she can reassure us that funding for the Arts Council at least will not be cut and hopefully be increased in the next spending round. I hope also that she can say that local authority support for community and other arts projects will be protected in the next round of cuts, which we are told will shortly arrive.

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, for introducing this debate. As an artist, my instincts to some extent are to reverse the terms of the debate; in other words, to ask what, for example, education can do for the arts and creativity. That might strike one at first as the standard way of looking at things, but for me, generally speaking, artists make and publicise their work as best they can and it is for others to draw conclusions about the wider social effects that work may have.

I am emboldened in further pursuing my instincts on this on three counts. First, I understand that although the DCMS is responding to this debate rather than the Department of Health, that department will be listening in with the other cap that the Minister wears. Secondly, there is the wider ever-present arts narrative that needs to be addressed. It is very difficult to persuade successive Governments of the case for art for its own sake—a term which the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, used in her speech. That obstacle characterises the overarching narrative driving most of the debate on the arts at Westminster, whereby the effects of the arts on education, well-being and health are still the justification for them, while being a corrective to our previous debate on the economic effects and to Maria Miller’s insistence on the arts’ economic value. Thirdly, there is the rather remarkable speech made by the Scottish Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, on 5 June at Edinburgh University, in which she said:

“It is our job … to create the conditions which enable artists to flourish … I don’t need or want the culture or heritage sector to make a new economic or social case to justify public support for their work. I know what these sectors can deliver because I see it in action. I visit hardworking artists and practitioners who are exploring new ways of working; and who are creating dynamic and exciting new ways of enjoying and sharing their work and the work of our ancestors”.

Artists and the arts sector would have to wait forever to hear a message like that from a Government at Westminster. There will be cynics, of course, who say that the SNP has an agenda in trying to court artists. That may be, but that does not have to invalidate its cultural policy. The key thing here is the facilitation of artists, which I believe is a good in itself, whatever the specific effects may be, because the artist’s work is the contribution to society. The Government’s primary job in relation to the arts is—or should be—to do just that and must of course include encouraging the potential for creativity from all classes of society. It also means facilitating not just contemporary artists but those artists of the past—“the ancestors”, as Fiona Hyslop calls them, a term which properly draws them closer to us—whose influence may thereby still be felt through our collections, exhibitions, buildings and public sculpture. From this, everything else should proceed. Indeed, in the short term, good art may not give a feeling of well-being at all but may be disturbing and highly critical of society, as much of our best post-war drama was. It is a healthy society which allows artists to have their say, encourages that criticism and, all importantly, offers spaces within which that can happen.

The newest space of course is the internet, but there is also what might be termed an attitudinal or mental space and, furthermore, physical or geographical space. That space is now becoming hugely underestimated and increasingly neglected locally. I am thinking about theatres, art venues, studios and rehearsal rooms as well as the streets themselves. In part, this is because of the attraction of the internet, but also because of the cuts, particularly at the local level, and the largely unthought-through council sell-offs of buildings and land alongside the now much looser planning guidelines. Overall, this is an ongoing neglect that is detrimental not just to artists but to the well-being of local communities. Publicly owned spaces have the potential to be public spaces, as well as providing significantly cheaper rents. Privatised spaces that are open to the public, such as shopping malls, will always be primarily commercial spaces where the public are only present by invitation.

Can more help be given to artists and artist groups in relation to commercial spaces and greater incentives provided for the cultural and artistic use of vacant shops, for example? The Minister should also be aware that the removal of planning permission for landlords to turn studios and workshops into flats is hugely threatening to the arts and the creative industries. That is not to say that public spaces are not also becoming increasingly problematic for artists. Perhaps the Minister can confirm that the DCMS is giving particular attention to the Bill recently introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, to remove restrictions on leafleting, which is having such a bad effect on the local arts scene in some areas.

One English architectural ancestor springs to mind: Sir Horace Jones, who gave us Tower Bridge and Leadenhall Market, and whose Smithfield Market, a landmark that many of us have enjoyed and wandered through, may well be gutted if the City of London Corporation planning committee has its way. I hope that the DCMS is taking a critical view of a proposal that many see as vandalism, and will give active consideration to alternative ideas for the site.

I will mention one other building: St Lawrence’s Hospital in Bodmin, built by the Cornish architect Silvanus Trevail. It is a notable building in the Edwardian baroque style, which used to be owned by the NHS and whose preservation has the support of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, the Cornish Buildings Group and the Ancient Monuments Society, which says that,

“a really interesting building by one of the county’s great architectural sons, and one surrounded by local goodwill, faces needless oblivion”.

It seems that Cornwall Council, too, supports its preservation but, at the same time, has given permission for development without an environmental assessment, public consultation or planning permission. This case again illustrates the fact that once one effectively tears up the planning guidelines and there is no concerted decision-making—which is not the same as autocratic decision-making—there is likely to be chaos and rampant development, and the arts will be the loser in all this.

However, it does not have to be a one-way street. It is good news that Taunton Deane Borough Council has purchased the lease on the Brewhouse Theatre, which means that it will reopen, although whether it can put on the kind of challenging performances it used to depends on who the council gets to run it.

In this same context of the protection of our culture, I mention also the Riesco Collection of Chinese ceramics in the Museum of Croydon, from which the council intends to sell off 24 important items. As the Minister will be aware, both the Arts Council and the Museums Association have been hugely critical of this proposal, and I hope that the DCMS is taking an interest in this as well. The collection would have been donated to the public in perpetuity and therefore should remain so. There is a history here. In 2010, Croydon Council threatened to axe all arts services and sell off 13 local libraries. Fortunately there has been enough of a public outcry for this not to happen, although the popular David Lean Cinema, which was also part of the Clocktower complex, has already been closed.

The irony is that a great many of us are often not aware of remarkable collections or treasures until they are under threat, although that does not mean that others have not already greatly enjoyed them. I would like to make a suggestion to the Government, and I hope they will forgive me if this is something that they have already considered. As a follow-up to their successful GREAT campaign, perhaps they would consider a series of posters highlighting our local collections and treasures to an international audience, with perhaps a number of locations featured on each poster. One example that springs to mind is the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, which won this year's Museum of the Year award. Britain has a huge wealth of treasures and collections, often in out-of-the-way places, that are not part of our national collections and are not as well known. Providing such posters would do at least two things: it would re-emphasise the importance of a local or regional Britain, and it would help, I believe, to protect those treasures.

My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Jones for initiating this debate. Perhaps I may also say how much I am enjoying debating with people who have great experience and knowledge of the subject. My noble friend Lady Bakewell began her speech by talking about the Proms and the “Messiah”. I start mine by talking about the Durham miners—perhaps at the other end of the spectrum. I will not be talking about the great-great-grandson of a Durham miner, the bonny lad who was born this week to be King; to do that, I would need to talk about the Middleton family. I will be talking about another mining family, the Elliot family. There cannot be many people in this country or in this Chamber who have not heard of Billy Elliot. He was the subject of a film in 2001 and of a West End show in 2005 which is, almost 10 years later, playing to packed houses all over the world. It is, of course, the story of a miner’s son from the north-east of England who became a ballet dancer.

Why has this journey of discovery from coal-mining to ballet captured so many hearts around the world? There are many reasons, one of which lies at the heart of today’s debate: the transforming power of art—in this case, dance—and its ability to bring joy and happiness, which have the power to actually change lives. “Billy Elliott” is based on an individual but the story cannot progress without the power of the community—the village, the teacher, the family, the neighbours, the public space, the public scholarship and the solidarity of a deprived community all go together to make it a heart-rending story that shows the power and joy of people engaging in art.

Billy’s is an individual transformation and achievement, often against adversity, but, linked with the power of the support of a wider community, it taps into one of the most powerful veins of successful public art: whether theatre, film or dance, it is where communities and people fight against adversity using the power of art to achieve things. “Billy Elliot” was part of a voyage of artistic discovery and renaissance in the north-east of England, from the “Angel of the North”, to the Sage music and arts centre on the banks of the Tyne, to Sir Anish Kapoor’s “Temenos” on Teesside, to hundreds of small organisations that provide intellectual, emotional and physical spaces, including galleries, libraries and theatres, where people can go time and again to experience what I consider to be the invigorating and healing power of art, which is very powerful indeed.

Of course, there are many Billy Elliots in our world, thankfully. I will tell your Lordships about one young man, who grew up in central Middlesbrough—not the most well-heeled or prosperous part of our country—in the 1990s. He went to Teesside University, which I know because I have the joy of being chancellor of that university. He became a performing arts teacher because as a teenager—as a young man not really knowing where to go—he became involved in a youth theatre, a project supported by Middlesbrough Council.

Eight years later, this same man graduated from the Royal Academy of Music here in London—quite a big step, almost as big as Billy’s. Then he started work as a teacher. He began to work professionally as an actor, both on stage and in television. He continued to teach music and drama to college students throughout south-east London. These teenagers, who are from a deprived part of south-east London, many from estates and difficult places, now go to the Globe to watch plays. They go to the National Theatre b