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Lords Chamber

Volume 749: debated on Thursday 28 November 2013

House of Lords

Thursday, 28 November 2013.

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Wakefield.



Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the outcome of the talks held earlier this month regarding the proposed Geneva II peace conference on the conflict in Syria.

My Lords, as noble Lords will know, the UN special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, hosted a series of meetings in Geneva on 5 November for permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Syria’s neighbours and the Arab League. The focus of the discussion was on preparations for the Geneva II talks. The meetings were positive and, as noble Lords will also know, the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, subsequently announced earlier this week, on 25 November, that the Geneva II talks will be convened on 22 January 2014.

I thank my noble friend for that Answer and I wish him and the Government well in these complex and hideously difficult negotiations. I hope that the horror and misery of what has gone on for too long now will be ended at the start of that process on 22 January. Can my noble friend reassure the House that the Government will work flat-out with their partners now to secure, first, an armistice that will stick and, secondly, a lasting peace agreement to stop the killing of children, above all?

My Lords, perhaps I may deal first with my noble friend’s final point. Of course we share those sentiments; the children have suffered greatly. One million children have been displaced in this conflict. We are hoping that the transitional governing body established by the 2012 Geneva communiqué, which is to be agreed by mutual consent, would have full executive powers, including over security, military and intelligence structures. In terms of the actual format for the conference, another meeting is scheduled on 20 December and will be UN mediated. After that, the actual meeting, which takes place in January, will include the UN as the key mediator and single delegations from both the existing Syrian regime and the Syrian opposition.

My Lords, the Secretary-General’s announcement this week is good news, and the involvement of all relevant parties, including the Syrian national coalition, is obviously essential. However, 22 January is still eight weeks away and action on the humanitarian front is, as the Government agree, needed now. Will the Government renew their public support for our colleague and noble friend Lady Amos’s plea this week to all sides to agree to an immediate pause in hostilities in Muadhamiya and other suburbs of Damascus, so that agencies can have immediate and unhindered access to these areas, which have been under siege for many months now and where snipers are reported to be deliberately targeting pregnant women?

My Lords, of course the Government support the quest of the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, to ask all sides in the conflict, the existing regime and the opposition, to open all corridors, as they have previously agreed to do. We and all members of the P5—including the Russians, with the existing regime—keep imploring all sides that UN humanitarian relief must be taken in. As the noble Lord and the House will be aware, the UK is leading the way in humanitarian relief. Indeed, we have committed almost half a billion pounds to relieve the plight of refugees in the Syrian conflict.

My Lords, further to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bach, would the Government consider approaching those who will be attending the Geneva conference with the specific request that there should be a demand for a peace truce between now and the conference taking place, in an appropriate period over Christmas? Further, can the Minister say anything about the neighbouring countries of the Middle East? For example, will the Saudi Arabians be represented at this conference, and will Iran?

On the first part of my noble friend’s question, as I have said, at every point in time the British Government, the UN and everyone working on the ground and through political dialogue have been encouraging the opening up of humanitarian corridors and that peace and ceasefire prevail. We will continue to do that in the intervening period. On her point about who will be attending this conference, as I said, a meeting is scheduled on 20 December at which the agreement on the format of the meeting and who will be attending will be made. On her final point about Iran, of course we welcomed the decision made earlier this week. However, before any step forward, Iran must commit itself to the Geneva communiqué—which, as my noble friend knows, calls for a negotiated political settlement between the Assad regime and the opposition.

My Lords, is it the view of Her Majesty’s Government that President Assad will still be in office at the end of the process? We have heard about the negotiations in respect of participation, but is it also the Government’s view that on the immediate agenda of the meeting the position of the return of refugees will be included?

As the noble Lord will appreciate, it would be inappropriate for me to commit. I have already indicated that there is a meeting on 20 December at which the agenda for the 22 January talks will be determined. As for whether Bashar Assad will still be in office at the end of this process, I merely remind noble Lords that the Geneva communiqué calls for agreement to be reached by mutual consent. Our view is that, from their perspective on mutual consent, the opposition do not perceive that Bashar Assad will be part of that process at the end of it.

My Lords, much as I am encouraged by the recent UN announcement that the Geneva talks are to take place on 22 January, I would welcome the Minister’s reassurance that this was born not out of an understandable desperation and frustration, but that there is a real and clear diplomatic plan for progress. Am I right in assuming that the Free Syrian Army, which is one of the largest rebel groups taking part in the war in the moment, will be represented at those talks?

Our view is that it is important that the date for Geneva II was set, and I am the sure that the whole House welcomes that it has been determined. Her Majesty’s Government’s view is that the national coalition and the current Syrian national coalition, led by President Ahmad Assi Jarba, will be central to the delegation representing the opposition at the talks.

My Lords, sometimes in diplomacy we have to do things that we find unpalatable. While we wish the Geneva II talks well, they face formidable obstacles; they may not even take place. If they do, they will certainly not give us everything that we want. There has to be a plan B. Can my noble friend assure us that, as much as we find the Assad regime repulsive and reprehensible, there may be elements of it to which we need to continue to talk? The slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children is a shame on our world and we should leave no door permanently locked in our attempt to bring it to an end.

My Lords, on my noble friend’s final point, I am sure that the whole House shares that sentiment. There are 6.5 million internally displaced people. The UN estimates that by the end of this year there will be 3 million refugees. We should also look at the neighbouring countries. I visited the Zaatari camp in Jordan, which is now the fourth-largest city in Jordan. There is a desperate humanitarian crisis. We should all welcome the Geneva talks, as we all do. On my noble friend’s first point, Geneva II is the start of a process, not a single event. As he will appreciate, an agreement will take considerable time and effort. That is why it is important to have both the Syrian opposition and a delegation from the existing regime present. That, indeed, is going to happen.

Female Genital Mutilation


Asked by

My Lords, there are many barriers to prosecuting cases of female genital mutilation. Evidence suggests that the young age of the victims, and pressure from family and the wider community, lead to many cases going unreported. However, I am greatly encouraged by the commitment of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to overcome these barriers, and by the Director of Public Prosecution’s assessment that it is only a matter of time before a perpetrator is brought to justice.

My Lords, it is welcome news that there is very likely to be a prosecution, but we have to put this in the context that this practice has been illegal for more than a decade, an estimated 60,000 women in this country have suffered this barbaric practice and 30,000 young children may be at risk of it. I fear that we may be dealing with a cultural tradition. I know that this is a very difficult and sensitive subject, but there is no supporting medical or religious evidence for this practice. Therefore, we have to assume that we have perhaps been afraid of offending at the temple of cultural diversity. If at this very moment, for that reason, a woman is descending on some young girl with a razor blade to slice off her external genitalia, we have to ask ourselves: is this a price worth paying for cultural diversity?

Although this is a highly sensitive issue, I do not see that as the source of conflict. This is essentially a hearts and minds issue. The noble Lord identified that correctly. However, there is no lack of determination as far as the Government are concerned. My colleague in the Home Office, Norman Baker, is having a meeting on 5 December with the Crown Prosecution Service. The Health Minister, Jane Ellison, is having a meeting on Monday to see how her department can deal with this. I have to tell the noble Lord that he has grossly underestimated the legislative background to this. FGM has been illegal since 1985.

My Lords, this case has come to my attention from Kuria East, where a law against FGM has been passed only recently, and yet eight people are awaiting trial. A girl of 13 called Esther was mutilated by a circumciser at the request of her parents. She haemorrhaged so badly that her parents took her to hospital. They were arrested, charged and prosecuted. They were both sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. The circumciser now awaits trial. What view does the Minister take of this laudable prosecution in the light of our longer history of laws against FGM when nothing seems to happen here?

I will dispute the noble Baroness’s last statement. I think that she knows that, across not just this Government but Governments over time, there has been a determined effort to tackle this issue. Much of it is about prevention and informing people of the situation. Prosecution would help; I quite agree with the noble Baroness that it would be one way of impressing on people the illegality of this. However, we need to ensure that when prosecutions occur, they are properly justified and dealt with on the evidence, and are successful. I am pleased that the noble Baroness got in on the Question, because nobody has done more to raise public awareness of this issue.

My Lords, is there some way we could educate the public into understanding that this operation carries not only a risk of mortality but horrendous complications. For instance, I had to operate on a little girl aged one who had had five of these operations, which had left her in a very sorry state indeed. However, the condition was corrected.

The medical profession has done much to address this issue. In London alone there are 11 clinics dealing with this situation. However, the problem is extensive in some parts of the world, where high proportions of the population are subject to this regime.

Is the Minister aware that women who have had FGM and whose daughters are likely to be at risk of subjection to this abhorrent practice are not currently tracked through the NHS or social care systems, so that no preventative measures can be implemented, and that girls at school who show signs of having had FGM are not referred to social services or the police for follow-up action? I therefore ask the Minister what Her Majesty’s Government are doing to ensure that robust information-sharing protocols are developed between health, social care and education agencies and the police so that appropriate actions can be taken to support victims and bring perpetrators to account.

My Lords, I mentioned the Health Minister, Jane Ellison, who on Monday is meeting healthcare professionals and stakeholders to take forward this work on data sharing and to make sure that we are properly informed on this subject.

My Lords, I am sure that my noble friend the Minister is aware that there are people who want to perpetrate this terrible abuse against young girls who consider some regions of the United Kingdom to be a soft touch. Reports show that girls are being taken in particular to Scotland and parts of the Midlands, where such people think that there is less enforcement. Will the Minister reassure us that there will be consistency in dealing with this child abuse? This has nothing to do with religion; it is child abuse and should be recognised as such.

The Government are active on this issue at the moment. As I mentioned earlier, Norman Baker has a meeting on Thursday of next week in which he will be discussing exactly this issue. I suggest, as so many noble Lords want to ask questions, that we should try to get a debate on this matter.

Energy: Gas Storage


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the adequacy of the United Kingdom’s gas storage and its effect on consumer and business energy prices.

My Lords, four new storage facilities are either in operation or will soon become operational, which will increase the capacity of our gas storage by over 20%. In addition, they will nearly double the rate at which storage can deliver gas into the gas system, and there are further projects in the pipeline beyond those. DECC has considered whether incentivising storage would bring wider price benefits and we have concluded that the evidence for benefit is not sufficient to justify that, as potentially it would put great costs on to the consumer.

My Lords, we have seen quite an extraordinary amount of flip-flopping from the Government about when it is appropriate to intervene in markets and when it is not. However, there is still no desire to stand up to the energy companies. It is true that in the UK our gas storage is at very low levels—less than a quarter of that in France and Germany. Will the Minister comment on whether she believes that to help address the cost of living crisis, the Government should now ensure investment in gas storage so that we can avoid the seasonal price spikes that come with increased demand every winter?

My Lords, I think that I have already stated to the noble Baroness that we have gas storage either in the pipeline or coming on line. We also have a robust and dependable gas interconnection through pipelines from Norway and the rest of Europe. Therefore the noble Baroness, who raised this point about the cost of living to consumers, should have thought about it during the 13 years her party was in government.

My Lords, does my noble friend accept that the real case for more gas storage is to protect this country from spikes in the world gas price?

Indeed, my noble friend raises a very important question. That is why, through the Energy Bill, we have tried to ensure that we support home-grown energy. We need a mix of energy and we need it to come from various sources. That is the only way we will be able to tackle what we see as increasingly global prices.

My Lords, just so that we can be clear on the Government’s position, is it that when a market is not working, it is proper to intercede?

My Lords, the point of intervention is where we try to ensure that low-carbon generation gets the support to be able to supply energy at a cost that will be affordable to consumers. That is about ensuring energy security and cleaner energy, but also affordability.

My Lords, I welcome the four new gas storage facilities that my noble friend spoke of in her original Answer. However, can she tell me when the first one was started?

My Lords, my noble friend asks a question about the date that I cannot answer exactly. However, I will write to my noble friend on that and put a copy in the Library.

My Lords, I am grateful to hear from the noble Baroness that the Government say that an increase in storage is on line. Will she be good enough to tell the House what the ultimate percentage is that they hope to achieve by creating storage, what the timetable is, and, if she does not have the figures available now, will she put them in the Library so that we can all see them?

Of course. As I said in my original Answer, we will see an increase of more than 20% in the capacity of gas storage. However, as the noble Lord asked for further figures, as my noble friend did, I will make sure that they are placed in the Library.

My Lords, in the initial reply of my noble friend the Minister to the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, she suggested that any further intervention in gas storage would raise prices disproportionately for consumers. Will she let us know the basis for that?

My Lords, we have carried out an analysis of the UK gas market to see the potential for intervention against potential shocks, and have found that there is a wide range of figures. However, they are still hugely substantial as regards the net benefit to consumers and the population as a whole.

My Lords, have the Government considered whether existing old gasometers could provide extra storage?

My Lords, as always, the Government constantly review what they are doing to ensure that energy is secure and that the lights stay on. Of course, these reviews take place regularly. However, we are working with Ofgem and National Grid, and are in constant conversation over those matters.

My Lords, I congratulate the Government on increasing the amount of gas storage by 20%. I recall that when the party opposite was in government, I called for increased gas storage month in, month out, but it did nothing at all about it. However, 20% is not enough. Will the Minister place in the Library of the House the curious calculation that DECC has come up with, which says that any further increase in gas storage would be economically damaging, because it is highly implausible?

My Lords, my noble friend has asked me to place information in the Library, as have other noble Lords, and I will be very happy to do so. However, I reassure noble Lords that beyond what we are doing, further projects in the pipeline will be coming on line, so there is plenty going on. However, unfortunately, I am not able to provide dates at this moment in time.

Scotland: Independence


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the Scottish Government’s White Paper on Scottish Independence.

My Lords, the United Kingdom Government have been examining the content of this 670-page document since its publication on Tuesday. The reality is that if people in Scotland vote for independence Scotland’s future will need to be negotiated with the remaining United Kingdom, the European Union and others, with no certainty about the outcome. Although our detailed analysis continues, there is no evidence that the White Paper provides any clarity on addressing such key issues as currency, costings and pensions.

My Lords, I appreciate that my noble and learned friend may not have had time to assimilate the ramifications of the White Paper, but, as an ardent Conservative and unionist, I strongly believe that we are better together and worry about the effect that independence might have on this Westminster Parliament. The other place would lose 59 Members, but what would be the effect on this House? Would Scottish Peers, as foreign nationals, be able to retain their seats, and would, indeed, my noble and learned friend be here to answer Questions?

My noble friend asks a very interesting question. Question 564 on page 558 of the document states:

“Arrangements for the House of Lords will be for the rest of the UK to decide but the House of Lords will no longer be involved in legislating for Scotland”.

My noble friend will understand that we have said, as a Government, that we do not intend to have any contingency planning. I share her belief that we are better together, but it is interesting to reflect that many of us are here as Peers of the United Kingdom. I think that we have to fulfil certain tax responsibilities to remain here. However, I do not think that we anticipate having a House of Lairds in Scotland.

My Lords, I have no intention of becoming a foreign national but I have tried to find an answer to the question of what would happen, in the event of separation, to the more than 30,000 Civil Service jobs in reserve departments which are there as a consequence of the dispersal of Civil Service jobs in the 1970s. What is the policy of Her Majesty’s Government on siting Home Civil Service jobs in a foreign country?

My Lords, other than those staff who are involved in the diplomatic corps I cannot think of any precedent for that. The noble Baroness makes a very important point. I repeat that we are not contingency planning, nor are we, indeed, complacent. However, the parts of the White Paper on current Civil Service jobs located in Scotland that I have seen come to some very glib conclusions on what would happen and do not seem to take account of what those civil servants themselves would wish to do.

My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree that the White Paper contains 670 pages of assertion and fudge on some very big issues indeed rather than frankness and fact? Does he also agree that the people of Scotland deserve a fair and honest debate, not one where vital facts are massaged and manipulated? Ignoring for today, at least, the big issues of the currency and NATO membership, and drilling down on to this issue of EU membership, will my noble and learned friend consider the topical and very recent comments of the Spanish Prime Minister on Scotland’s EU membership? He has made it very clear that the EU does not intend to dance to the tune of the president of Scotland—that was his description of Alex Salmond, not mine. Does my noble and learned friend agree that these are very serious comments which deserve the most serious consideration by the people of Scotland on the issue of fact rather than speculation?

My Lords, clearly, membership of the European Union, in the event of independence, is a very important issue. The novel proposal made by the Scottish Government is one which we will look at but we do not think that it accords with how any other member state has interpreted Article 48 of the TFEU. In any event, even under the Scottish Government’s analysis, it would require other member states to sign up. We certainly note the comments of the Spanish Prime Minister with considerable interest.

My Lords, in accepting that this is a substantial document, as indeed has been recognised by the editorial of the Times, will the Minister assure the House that the Government will bring forward an equally substantial document indicating the prospects for Scotland if there is a no answer in the referendum? In particular, will he spell out the Government’s intentions for the future of the Barnett formula in those circumstances?

My Lords, I think each of the United Kingdom parties has its own arrangements for looking forward to what would happen in the event of a no vote, but first we have to campaign and win a no vote. The United Kingdom Government have already published, and will continue to publish, some substantial documents analysing Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom, the benefits we derive from being in the United Kingdom and the problems and difficulties that would arise if we became independent.

My Lords, in the event that Scotland votes to secede from the United Kingdom next September, will the general election still take place in Scotland in May of the following year? If so, at what point will those Scottish MPs elected to the House of Commons be asked to leave? If it is before the general election, would it not result in the disintegration of the coalition and an overall majority for the Conservative Party?

My Lords, there is no end to the ingenuity of my noble friend. Those who have been elected to this Parliament in the other place have received their Writ of Summons. I do not think they have any clause in it that tells them to go. In what we both agree would be the unhappy event of Scotland deciding to leave the United Kingdom, there is no legislation that would stop the general election in 2015 applying throughout the United Kingdom. Those who advocate independence will have to negotiate with the rest of the United Kingdom, and there can be no guarantee of what the United Kingdom Government would be post May 2015.

Business of the House

Timing of Debates

Moved by

That the debate on the motion in the name of Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury set down for today shall be limited to three hours and that in the name of Lord Paddick to two hours.

Motion agreed.

Tobacco: Packaging


My Lords, I shall now repeat in the form of a Statement an Answer given earlier today by my honourable friend the Minister for Public Health on the subject of standardised tobacco packaging. The Answer is as follows.

“In accordance with the notice I gave to the House yesterday afternoon, I have this morning made a Written Statement to this House announcing that Sir Cyril Chantler will carry out an independent review of the evidence for the impact of standardised tobacco packaging on health. Tobacco use, especially among children, remains one of our most significant public health challenges. Each year in England more than 300,000 children under the age of 16 try smoking for the first time. Most adults who smoke started before 18 years of age. As a result, we must do all we can to stop young people taking up smoking in the first place if we are to reduce smoking rates.

We have listened to the strong views expressed on all sides of this House, including when we debated standardised packaging in the Back-Bench business debate earlier this month. Many Members have told me that the evidence base for standardised packaging continues to grow and have urged the Government to take action. As a result, I believe that the time is right to seek an independent view on whether the introduction of standardised packaging is likely to have an effect on public health. In particular, I want to know about the likely impact on young people.

I have asked Sir Cyril to undertake a focused review, reporting in March next year. It will be entirely independent, with an independent secretariat. He is free to draw evidence from whatever source he considers necessary and appropriate. It will be up to Sir Cyril to determine how he undertakes the review, and he will set this out in more detail in due course. As this House will know, Sir Cyril has confirmed that he has no links with the tobacco industry. The review is not a public consultation. The Government ran a full public consultation in 2012, and these responses will be available for the review. To maximise transparency, the department will also publish the substantive responses received as soon as possible. The Government will also take advantage of the opportunity offered by the Children and Families Bill and will table a government amendment to provide a regulation-making power. If the Government decide to proceed, this will allow the introduction of standardised tobacco packaging without delay.

This Government have been consistent in their desire to have an evidence-based approach to public health. We will introduce standardised tobacco packaging if, following the review and consideration of the wider issues raised, we are satisfied that there are sufficient grounds to proceed”.

My Lords, that concludes the Answer.

My Lords, I refer noble Lords to my health interests in the register. I am very grateful to the noble Earl for coming to the House and I am pleased that the Government have changed their position. We have seen plenty of U-turns in the past three years and this is a major one, undoubtedly caused by the Government’s fear of defeat in your Lordships’ House.

However, why another review? Why must we wait until 2015 before implementation? I have enormous respect for Sir Cyril, but the Government have already had a review. The evidence in that review was clear for all to see. Does the noble Earl agree that it found that standardised packaging would make cigarettes less attractive to young people? Did it not find that such packaging made health warnings more effective? And did it not refute the utter falsehood that some brands are safer than others?

Does the noble Earl accept that all royal colleges and health experts are united behind the case for standardised packaging? Is it not the case that if the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill goes through in its current form, it would prevent charities such as Cancer Research UK ever raising issues like this in an election year?

Finally, the noble Earl will be aware of an amendment laid by my noble friends Lady Smith, Lord Rosser and Lord Beecham to ban proxy purchasing of tobacco products on behalf of children which will be debated in your Lordships’ House on Monday. Will the Government accept that amendment?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his welcome for this announcement. I do not accept that this is a U-turn. We said in July that we would keep the policy under active review, which is exactly what we have done. I cannot answer for any cynical attitudes on the Benches opposite, but that is the truth. More crucially, since then, the academics, led by the University of Stirling, who carried out the systematic review of the evidence on standardised packaging that was published alongside the 2012 consultation have updated their work. Their original report covered 37 peer-reviewed studies and the update considers an additional 17. We believe that that evidence merits full scrutiny.

The noble Lord suggested that the evidence is already clear so we should just go ahead and legislate. The views that emerged from the consultation were highly polarised. We have always been clear about the need for as robust an evidence base as is possible. We have reached the decision to commission this rapid review from Sir Cyril Chantler so that we have as robust an evidence base as possible.

On proxy purchasing, I think we can all agree that people buying tobacco on behalf of children and young people is wrong, and I want to acknowledge the role played by retailers in ensuring that legitimate tobacco products are sold in accordance with the law. However, a new offence of proxy purchasing would not necessarily tackle the wider problems of supply. We will obviously consider carefully the arguments put forward, but, at the moment, we are not convinced that creating a new offence is the right way forward.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a fellow of several medical royal colleges, the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which have all previously backed, and continue to back, the argument that legislation should be brought forward to make cigarette packaging plain. I have spoken on many occasions in relevant debates under both this Government and the previous one and have tabled amendments to bring in legislation for the plain packaging of cigarettes. I have done so on the basis that the evidence is conclusive, as shown by both the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK, that glamorised packaging is used by the industry to recruit young, new smokers. Now we have to wait until the evidence is produced by Sir Cyril Chantler. Disappointed though I am that we cannot legislate now, I can afford to wait a few months because I know that Sir Cyril Chantler, who is a friend, is a man of principle and will look at the evidence as it is. However, once that evidence is presented, what is the timeline for the Government to introduce legislation for plain packaging?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, who has indeed been a consistent champion for plain packaging over the years. I also appreciate his endorsement of the choice of Sir Cyril Chantler to lead this review. Noble Lords will know that Sir Cyril has a very distinguished record as an academic and paediatrician. As regards the timeline, I cannot be definite at this stage. All I can say is that, should the Government decide to lay regulations in the light of Sir Cyril’s recommendations, we believe that, taking into account a period of consultation and the statutory provisions surrounding European law, we would be able to introduce the regulations within a reasonable time.

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that in Australia plain packaging has been very effective? They say that that is, above all, because it is no longer “cool” for young people to smoke. The noble Earl mentioned age as being effective, and that is very relevant.

It most certainly is relevant, which is why we are taking the legislative opportunity in the Children and Families Bill to drive home that very point. My noble friend is right.

My Lords, I congratulate those in your Lordships’ House on their persistence in keeping this issue before the Government, including my noble friend Lady Tyler of Enfield. I also congratulate the Government on their determination to base policy on evidence. However, if the Government, in the fullness of time, use their regulatory power to introduce standardised packaging, will they keep a watching brief on the tobacco companies? In the past, whatever procedures we have brought in, they have been extremely clever in finding ways round them to lure young people into starting smoking. Therefore, will the Government watch the situation very carefully and try to make sure that the tobacco companies do not get round standardised packaging, thus continuing to attract young people to a habit that will kill them?

My noble friend makes a very important point. She is, of course, right that the tobacco companies protect their commercial position with great vigour. We will indeed keep an exceedingly close eye on the actions of the tobacco industry and, should we decide to introduce regulations, we will do all we can to ensure that they are watertight.

My noble friend should be congratulated on his leadership in taking forward this proposal on plain packaging. He will be aware that I have introduced a Bill on banning smoking in cars where children are present. I recognise the difficulties that that presents for the Government, but after this three-month period of consultation, if the recommendations of Sir Cyril Chantler, who, I agree, is a very highly respected clinician, are accepted by the Government and legislation is introduced, I hope that that will give an impetus to the Government to think again about the importance of banning smoking in cars where children are present.

I pay tribute to my noble friend for his championing of this cause. I am sure that the main reason people smoke in cars is that they do not understand how harmful second-hand smoke can be for children. Of course we would like to see smoking in cars carrying children eradicated entirely but, at present, we are not convinced that legislation presents the most effective or proportionate approach. Rather than create new offences, we prefer to promote and encourage positive behaviour change, and there is emerging evidence that we are succeeding on that score.

My Lords, is there any evidence that has not been published and examined in great detail that we have to wait for?

My Lords, it is clear from the debates in the other place and from our debates in Committee on the Children and Families Bill, that there is emerging evidence that needs to be considered. That evidence has emerged since the consultation. I am not in a position to make a judgment on that. I think Sir Cyril Chantler is the best person to do it.

My Lords, I declare my interest as a member of the board of UCL Partners, currently chaired by Sir Cyril Chantler, and I congratulate Her Majesty’s Government on the excellent choice of Sir Cyril to lead this important review. Can the noble Earl confirm that Sir Cyril will be completely free to define both the methodology that he will apply for the review and the question that he will address?

My Lords, this will be an independent review with advice from the Secretary of State contained in a report. An independent secretariat will be appointed by the chair, who will set out the method of how he will conduct the review in more detail in due course. The secretariat will be wholly accountable to the chair and it will be for the chair to guide and task the secretariat in its work as he sees fit.

Economy: Broadcast Media

Motion to Take Note

Moved by

My Lords, I am privileged and pleased to introduce the Liberal Democrat debate on the importance of broadcast media. I thank all noble Lords who are taking part, particularly those who are making their maiden speeches today. Unfortunately, I can no longer declare an interest as I no longer work in television, which is a great sadness to me because I had many happy and, I hope, creative years there.

British broadcast media have been around in one form or another since the creation of the British Broadcasting Company in 1922. Since then there have been many forks in the road, all of which were initially met with portents of gloom and predictions of doom. That will not be the nature of my speech today. It is proving to be a remarkably agile and resilient industry. First, there was the BBC. Next came the creation of Independent Television in 1955, and that first introduction of competition had a profound impact on broadcasting. Not only did the British public lose Grace Archer—the fact that “The Archers” still exists shows the resilience of the genre—but the BBC lost its captive audience and large numbers of viewers deserted it. It had to learn to connect and it did. It did not change its values, but it did change.

Meanwhile the Independent Broadcasting Authority decided that independent TV companies—in those days raking in the money—should spend a proportion on public service broadcasting, so that was enhanced. BBC2 was increased and Channel 4, with its mission to speak for minorities and minority tastes, in parallel with the independent production sector, was created—such a successful part of our creative industries and now worth £2.5 billion a year. At that point, we entered a wonderful world of plurality and diversity. Of course, the window of competition that the BBC now has means that 25% of its programmes have to be commissioned from independent production companies. This purely terrestrial world was further enhanced by the advent of subscription channels such as Sky, and then came the internet and the transition from one age to another: analogue to digital.

As I said earlier, many of those innovations seemed to suggest the end of what had come before. I sat on a House of Lords committee looking at the review of the BBC charter when we were told by endless experts that terrestrial channels were doomed, the viewing of live telly was over and that the future was all catch-up and on demand. Last Saturday—I have to admit I was one of them—an average of 10.2 million people watched “Doctor Who” on the BBC, and 7.7 million tuned into “The X Factor” on ITV. New media—the social networks—have led to a return to live viewing and people watch and interact with each other at the same time. There is a premium on watching not when you choose but when everyone else is. As the RTS Cambridge Convention concluded earlier this year, we are seeing, as we always have, a process of evolution rather than revolution, or indeed outright transformation.

Our broadcast media make their contribution to the economy both directly and indirectly. They invest in home-grown content—£3.3 billion-worth last year—and while non-PSBs have increased their output by a great deal, the PSBs are responsible for 85% of this investment. The BBC generates for the UK economy the equivalent of £2 of economic value for every £1 of licence fee it receives. In other words, it doubles its money.

The effect of initial BBC spending is multiplied as it ripples through the economy, from region to region and sector to sector. For example, the BBC’s move to MediaCity in Salford and its commitment to developing the media industry in the north of England has been of massive benefit to the economy of that area and to the further regeneration of that part of Greater Manchester. Indeed, what is happening at Salford Quays through ITV, BBC and various start-up digital companies, is helping Manchester to become the biggest digital hub in Europe outside London.

In 2012, Pact, the body which represents the independent production companies, estimates that the sector grew by 16.5% compared with 2011. How many other sectors can claim that? I am sure the Minister will agree that the introduction of tax breaks by the coalition Government for high-end TV and animation has enhanced the potential for economic growth in these sectors. Indeed, Aardman, the creators of Wallace and Gromit, says that it believes that the tax credit for UK animation will be transformational—that it will create thousands of UK jobs and that there will be a long-term financial gain for the UK.

UK programmes and TV formats are increasingly in demand abroad, with television export sales growing to £1.2 billion in 2012, and there are huge prospects for more growth. I was speaking to the chief executive of Pact yesterday. He had just come back from China, where he signed an agreement with Chinese television. However, the thing he was most excited about was being, as he put it, treated like royalty because one of his delegation was the producer of “Sherlock”. More surprisingly, apparently “Downton” is a big hit in China, but there we go.

Our television industries have another effect: they are also valuable as a means of bringing Britain to the world—so-called soft power. Our exported television programmes help deepen knowledge and understanding of the UK, as well as championing British creativity and culture. As the Secretary of State, Maria Miller, said:

“TV reaches the parts that our ambassadors don’t”.

I could not help repeating that joke. According to the Institute for Governance-Monocle soft power index, the UK currently holds the top spot, due in large part to the global reach of British media. I was in Mexico a couple of weeks ago, leading a creative industries delegation. The Mexicans were much more interested in the fact that I worked in British television than my being a Member of this House.

As well as showcasing British culture and creativity, the broadcast media also function as a catalyst for the creative industries as a whole and, as such, is a major contributor to our creative economy. It is an increasingly important sector and is forecast to grow by 31% by 2020. However, for this to happen, it needs the right support. One of the most important things is that we continue to create the creators. In this area, we face not a jobs problem but a skills problem. In a recent report, Creative Skillset identified significant skill shortages across all forms of production and concluded that the competitive future of the UK’s creative industries will be secured only by the industries themselves supporting skills and talent development.

Broadcasters are doing their bit and there are good new schemes—the Sky Academy, for instance—but in hard times, historically, training budgets are too often the first to be cut. The BBC’s investment in the BBC Academy, the branch of its operations through which all training funds are distributed, is a case in point. It is to be cut by 35%. These are not only efficiency savings but a deep cut. It will affect the freelancers that the academy trains as well as BBC staff. Those of us who know the business, know that freelancers are the life-blood of the broadcasting industry. It is also a bad signal to other television companies. I fear the response will be: “The BBC is cutting; so can we”. Therefore, does the Minister not agree with Creative Skillset that investment and training should be an obligation, particularly for PSBs?

Another area in which the industry disappoints is diversity. I am not just referring to Harriet Harman’s very well made point about the lack of older women on television. The broadcast media simply does not reflect diverse, 21st-century Britain on or off the screens. As Julian Fellowes—the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, I should say—recently said:

“We have got to turn that corner. In 10 years nobody will know what we are talking about. That is what I hope”.

So do I.

There is, however, one area in which great strides forward have been taken, and that is the area of disability. For this we have Channel 4 to thank. It has admirably fulfilled its remit, not least through its spectacular coverage of the Paralympics. Some 11 million people watched the opening ceremony, which was almost a record for them.

Now I come to what cannot have escaped anyone’s notice: the BBC is under attack. It is under attack by the Home Secretary and the chairman of the Conservative Party; even a Dimbleby suggests that the BBC is too big. I prefer the view of another veteran David, Sir David Attenborough, a man who, in my opinion, exemplifies what our broadcasting system—at the heart of which sits the BBC—has allowed to flourish. He recently said:

“The BBC is, in my view, one of the most important strands in the cultural life of this country … and it is going through a bad patch. I just hope that it will emerge from the bad patch ... There are plenty of people with interests which conflict with those of the BBC and will be glad to see the BBC diminished … But what could happen is that it is diminished, or it is so starved of money that it has to abandon many of its public service responsibilities. If it did that, it would no longer be the BBC and that would be a catastrophe for the country”.

These are strong words, but ones with which I agree.

However, what cannot be disputed is that the BBC has been going through a bad patch. There were revelations about unacceptable severance pay-offs to senior executives and £100 million wasted on digital media initiatives. I was an employee of the BBC for 10 years; I know how hard the people who make the programmes work, and for relatively modest salaries. I know how angry they are at the waste of licence fee money, which should be enhancing their budgets, not lining the pockets of those who, in my day at Television Centre, inhabited the sixth floor.

As the Secretary of State has said, however, the problem is about governance, not about the integral worth of the BBC. Under the leadership of director-general Tony Hall—the noble Lord, Lord Hall of Birkenhead—I believe this is being addressed. It is correct that it is he who should be addressing it. The biggest threat to the BBC is interference by government; it belongs to the licence fee payer—the public, not politicians.

The old joke—which noble Lords may not know—that the BBC would be an efficient, well oiled machine if it were not for the pesky programme-makers was always a joke. Events of the past year have proved just what a bad joke it was. The value of the media industry rests on the talents, ideas and achievements of creative individuals. The officer class—as the noble Lord, Lord Hall, recently referred to it—has indeed got out of step and this is not just about remuneration. There are too many layers of management between creator and screen.

To conclude, the broadcast media are a jewel in our crown and arguably the best broadcasting system in the world. Many distinguished contributors to this success story are taking part in today’s debate, and I thank them. A report about to be published by Inflection Point Media on the impact of PSBs on commercial media investment concludes what we can see on our screens. It states:

“The UK broadcast market works. The public and private sectors are competing for audiences but not for funding sources. The result has not led to lower standards and a race to the bottom, but a race to the top—better programmes, creative innovation and growth of the overall economic pie. But it is British creators who underpin the industry”.

Danny Cohen, director of television at the BBC, said:

“Up until now, seniority and status have been related to management and I want to break that link and give greater status to creative people”.

David Abraham, chief executive of Channel 4, has said that the “suits vs creatives” division is effectively “redundant” in television. The noble Lord, Lord Hall, director-general of the BBC, has said:

“I want to build a ladder of opportunity for the talented. I want to open up the BBC to more people—to people from every part of the country—to people from a greater variety of backgrounds”.

They all seem to get it, and now they must act on their words. When the noble Lord, Lord Hall, says he wants to build a ladder of opportunity for the talented, it strikes me that the most important point is that the word “ladder” is singular. We must also, of course, successfully banish the snakes. I beg to move.

My Lords, first, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, for securing this important debate on the media and the economy. Her own contribution in this area was considerable and at the coalface. I declare an interest in that I work for the BBC and Sky Arts, although as an independent and not an employee, and in the recent past I was employed by ITV. I intend to concentrate on those three organisations. Some of what I say will overlap with what the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, said and what others will say. A feature of these debates is that we tend to share the same statistics.

Overall, I suggest that any fair observer would agree that the UK’s broadcasting media are in very good shape. Their contribution to the economy, across the waterfront, is strong and widely enriching, and there is no sign of a retreat. Perhaps it would not be too bold to suggest that their combination of skills, talent, traditions, grasp of modern technological developments, and success both national and global, sets something of an example to the rest. Broadcasters—part of the creative economy—are big hitters now.

In 2012, the UK television industry generated, directly, £12.3 billion in revenue, with a further £1.2 billion from radio. The sector employs 132,000 people, often with highly specialised skills which are in demand all over the world. More tens of thousands work in dependent industries. Broadcasting alone accounts for more than 6% of the gross added value of the UK economy, and the figure is still growing—and that is without the arts, publishing and advertising.

ITV invests about £1 billion a year in programming, most of it on original UK content. It is understandably at pains to point out that its programmes are provided free to viewers. It is expanding impressively at the moment and, in the global market, is now one of the five biggest indie producers in the United States. ITV has concerns about a legislative framework that it sees as overregulated and overburdening. However, its main story is strong and progressive. Despite the difficult competitive market in the USA and in the UK, where the two big beasts—the BBC and Sky—exercise such a powerful presence, ITV has shrugged off the critics who recently wrote its obituary and is steaming ahead in commercial terms, while still holding to some of its public service values and producing fine television; lately, for instance, outstanding drama.

The BBC is a different case, and so it should be. It is our national template and is in the grain of the country. Despite its current turbulence, it shows good signs under the noble Lord, Lord Hall, of rediscovering its values and its equilibrium, which promises well for its long-term future. I certainly hope so and intend to support it in seeking a secure future. It is not easy to fit the BBC into the framework suggested by the title of this Motion. Profit and public service are not always happy bedfellows, and the BBC is not there to act like a City bank or a FTSE 100 company. The BBC is there to serve the country, which, at its best, it still does superbly well.

It also offers figures that can inform this debate. In 2011-12, the BBC invested more than £1.1 billion of its £2.5 billion content spend in the UK creative sector, including almost £0.5 billion with independent production companies. Almost half of that investment was outside London. I was very glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, referred to the Salford experiment, which is already an enormous success.

The BBC is the largest commissioner of new music and new writing in the UK. The corporation plausibly claims that its global services substantially increase the positive feeling that people around the world enjoy of this country. To underline that, BBC Worldwide grew faster than India, with a 5.4% revenue growth in 2011-12. While not strictly comparable with commercial companies, its economic impact is still substantial.

So we come to Sky. Oxford Economics estimates that in 2012-13, Sky contributed a total of £5.9 billion to UK GDP, and that 76% of this revenue was retained in the UK. Sky is one of the country’s largest employers, with more than 24,000 employees. Its activities support 120,000 jobs across the UK. There are 3,700 people in creative and production roles and 3,800 in technology.

From my own experience, I will mention the initiatives that Sky Arts is energetically pursuing on its two channels. It is remarkably ambitious to set up channels devoted solely to the arts, and in a country such as ours the prospects look good. This public service incentive continues in the building of skills studios in four UK cities for young people in our schools; in scholarship schemes to provide mentoring and substantial financial support for young talent in the arts as well as sport; and on television itself. The Sky Academy for sport and the arts, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, is now powering into literally thousands of schools, which benefit greatly from this direct contact with practitioners in the field, especially as it is happening in areas that are increasingly underresourced by government.

In short, broadcasting is one of the most serious, successful and ebullient businesses that we have. But behind all this, to make it happen, we have to nurture our start-up talent. At the moment we do: in many sports, as proved in the Olympics; in the sciences, where in the list of original contributions to world scientific papers we come second only to America and are comfortably ahead of China, which is third; and in the arts, where London vies with any other capital for the crown of the cultural cauldron of the world; and in the rest of the country, until very recently, a thousand flowers bloomed.

In all these examples and more, we prove that we can act with intelligence and distinction. All of them are based on available early disciplines, opportunities and guidance. I would also suggest that the quality of many of the television and radio programmes that we make feeds on our consistently high standards in films, musicals, literature and all the other arts. There is at present a flourishing virtuous circle. It is tempting to think that this is because we have some God-given gift of creativity in the British genes. Not so, I am afraid. What we have had, and still just have, are exceptionally good traditional learning colleges, designated schools and teachers, and several ways of training young people to a high level so that, once well nurtured, their own nature and talent can and do enable them to compete with the best in the world and to prosper, as so many of them are doing.

However, this bedrock, this essential preparatory phase, is threatened by the recent diminution in funding for the arts and the cutting of broadcasting. This funding, initially ushered in by a Labour Government after the Second World War, given great depth by the introduction of the Open University by Jennie Lee in the 1960s and extended lavishly by Administrations both Tory and Labour—especially the previous Labour Government—is now in jeopardy. Grants are being slashed, especially locally, where they are seen as a soft cut. They are often the hardest cut of all. The great drive of music-making in schools has stalled. The pursuit of literature for its own sake among young people, from which so many of our writers benefited, is also at risk in the new curriculum.

We are currently chopping away at the roots and, if we are not careful, there will soon be less and less fruit on the trees. Various broadcasting initiatives, as I have indicated, are seeking to address this, but it is a change in the cast of thought of the Government that is most needed. Only by enabling imagination to be ready for take-off can the creative economy, in which the broadcasting economy plays such a major part, maintain the strong surge that has made it so successful over the past few decades. This has to be done quickly and with vigour. Without the teaching of fundamental techniques, this vibrant part of our economic, cultural and personal life will begin to deteriorate. We must not let that happen—we must not see another great British industry be allowed, for lack of fundamental attention, to sink into decline.

My Lords, it is an incredible privilege for me to stand here today, not least to follow the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, who is without question a broadcasting colossus. It is incredible for someone of my background to arrive in your Lordships’ House but the warmth of the welcome and the advice and wisdom I have had since even before my introduction have been quite extraordinary. As well as the warmth of the welcome from Black Rod and his staff, from the Clerk of the Parliaments—a broadcasting “Mastermind” in his own right and a mine of tremendous information—and all staff, police and everybody around the House, there has been such advice and support, and more than just a little adoration of the Labrador.

I feel moved to speak on this area having been involved in broadcasting for many years through my involvement with the British swimming team, which started when I was still a young man. Having said that, my guide dog is furious that I did not make my maiden speech last week in the debate on cats and dogs.

I must also thank most sincerely my supporters, my noble friends Lord Baker and Lord Deighton, the former always an education, and the latter my boss at LOCOG who so supremely steered us to such a success at last summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games. I also thank noble friends for their wisdom. A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to a noble friend and said, “It seems like we are in for a number of votes this evening”. He said, “No, don’t worry: I poked my head into the Chamber and do not think there will be any votes tonight”. I was left thinking, “How long will it take me to gain that wisdom and expertise, to just be able to poke my head in and know that there would be no votes?”. Minutes later, the ringing of the Division Bell gave me my answer.

As I said, when I was a young man I joined the Great Britain Paralympic swimming team and started my connection with UK broadcasters as an interviewee, interviewer and, later, as a presenter and sometime pundit. That started slowly. In Seoul in 1988, when I was 16, there was very little coverage by the broadcasters of the Paralympic Games. Four years later, in Barcelona, there was not much more: just a couple of highlights programmes long after we had come back to these shores. I remember a radio interview in Barcelona after my final race. I got out of the pool; the radio interviewer was in the studio in London so I put the headphones on and could hear him talking. He said, “We are going to Barcelona now to join Chris Holmes. So Chris, tell me what it is like competing in a wheelchair”. I had no time to think at all. I said, “Well, as I can’t see very much, pretty dangerous”.

Fortunately, in the intervening 20 years the expertise and broadcast coverage of the Paralympics has increased exponentially, culminating in last summer’s coverage by Channel 4, to which the noble Baroness has already alluded. That was quite sensational: 150 hours of coverage at Games time, pretty much all day, every day, and much of it live. What a difference that made. As a 16 year-old in Seoul, I could not have possibly imagined that all the UK broadcasters would vie to cover the Paralympic Games in London. It was a superb tender process to be involved with, alongside my noble friends Lord Coe and Lord Deighton. All of them would have done a great job. The reason Channel 4 got across the line was its commitment to promoting Paralympic values, Paralympic sport and the Paralympians, right from the moment it signed the contract. It was sensational, with the largest marketing campaign it had ever engaged in, larger than for More4 or the launch of Film4, and mainstreaming Paralympic coverage through all its flagship programmes, not least Jon Snow’s fantastic championing of the Games on “Channel 4 News”.

Then there was the 90-second film we made with Channel 4, “Meet the Superhumans”. It was absolutely sensational. It aired on 17 July last year simultaneously at 9 pm on 76 UK TV channels. I have to confess that I had no idea that there were 76 UK TV channels; apparently there are, and more; but what a moment for the broadcaster to blast into people’s consciousness. It did such a great job at Games time not just by coverage, but by enabling more people fully to experience the Games through innovations such as audio description, and by half of the on-screen talent being disabled people—ground-breaking stuff.

I knew that we had to sell all the tickets and get large broadcast deals right around the world if we were to put the Games on a new level. Although it would be lovely to have a ticket to sport, people largely consume it through the broadcasters. There were 15,000 lucky ticket-holders on Centre Court for Murray’s final at the All England Club earlier this year; there were 17 million of us on the edge of our sofas roaring him home to victory. The same goes for the Olympic and Paralympic Games: the number consuming sport by the broadcasters was 40 million on Channel 4, 51 million for the Olympic Games on the Beeb. That is the key. Sport has such potential. When it is put through the lens of sports broadcasts, that potential is multiplied by the millions. Take the World Cup in 1966, Wimbledon 2013 and the Olympic Games 2012. What magical moments our sporting memories brought to us by the broadcasters, with the power to inspire, excite, delight and sometimes, just sometimes, with the power—Jesse Owens in 1936, the Paralympic Games 2012—to change us as individuals, as communities, as a country, for the better.

Sport broadcast matters. It matters socially; it matters economically; and sometimes, yes, it matters politically. It has been an unparalleled privilege for me to make my first broadcast to your Lordships’ House. I hope and trust that no noble Lords have had cause to switch channels or turn off. Thank you.

My Lords, it is a great privilege and honour to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, on his maiden speech. When I heard that he was coming here, I was not surprised, not only because of his great prowess as a Paralympian and international sportsman but because of his work as a commissioner for the Disability Rights Commission, where I first met him. I recognised then that he was somebody capable of taking issues and driving something forward.

As for his sporting triumphs, if he wore all his medals, he would sink in a pool, he has been so successful. It is quite remarkable. However, I will set a new precedent: I will tell him off slightly while paying tribute to him. Where was he when the Lords were against the Commons swimming last night? My noble friend Lord Paddick won, but he might not have had the noble Lord been there. The noble Lord made a wonderful maiden speech and will make a great contribution in future. He has a grounding in many of the fields that we need in this Chamber. We can look forward to many great contributions from him. I am glad to say that he is my noble friend—certainly at the moment—and I look forward to many of his other speeches. We have a good’un there.

When I turn to the subject of the importance of the broadcasting media to our economy, I have one problem. What part of life in our society is not affected by the broadcast media? None. It is difficult to remove the broadcast media from other parts of our economy. The way we market, the way we access, the way we inform and the way we discuss comes through the media. It is now almost impossible in our society to remove yourself from the broadcast media. Increasingly, they take over virtually all the roles that the newspapers used to have. Indeed, the newspapers are also rapidly becoming part of the broadcast media. How do we define or separate those media in themselves? I come to the conclusion that we cannot.

When we talk about the media, what do we expect to get from them? What contribution do we expect them to make? Once again, those questions run into each other because the entertainment world, which they represent, and the information world are so integrated in everything else. How do we maintain that? As other noble Lords have pointed out—the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, made a great point of this— we must look to the investment in the fundamentals, such as people and technology. The Government clearly have a role here, if only in providing the right training and skills base to be able to invest. If you do not have that skills base and training at all levels, how will we get the technician level—the graduates and trainees—in place to be used? We have another debate on apprenticeships later and we could actually discuss this then. The BBC has been mentioned, and probably will be mentioned again a lot in this debate. How do we have the infrastructure in which there is, for example, that great driving engine to ensure that we have a standard up to which our media have to come?

I cannot see any way in which we could describe the BBC other than as the setter of standards for the broadcast media in this country. It is the control— the thing which we are balanced by. We find ourselves saying, “Yes, this is something to which you must aspire at least to match in terms of quality”. If the BBC is to take on that work, how are we going to encourage the other public service broadcasters, and those pay-per-view broadcasters, to continue to match the investment there and not to live at the sides of it?

The BBC may be under threat. It seems quite fashionable to have a go at it. I would say that it is quite a compliment to the BBC that it has found itself being criticised by Governments of all colours for as long as I have been old enough to remember. Indeed, it is probably the function of the BBC to annoy all Governments. After a period of time, I am sure that it will start to have a go at my own party with even greater vigour. It is primarily a body dealing with news and current affairs. The Government generate, or at least are a key part of, the news and current affairs. If you have 18 years in power, or 13 years in power, you will get criticism from this body. This unique thing that we have created with public money, effectively as a public activity, is going to criticise the Government. We should accept and embrace this. It is a form of self-chastisement that we should be encouraging because it is undoubtedly something that sets us up as a nation and defines us. It allows our economy and our whole society to operate in the way it does, and is a key part of what we do.

When I was preparing things to say for this debate, I thought, “Maybe I will be able to comment on what other people have said and should do some preparation for myself”. I did not realise, coming in at number four, that the three speakers in front of me would strip away so much of what I had prepared to say. I was going to mention sport but the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, has managed to arrive in grand style and take away much of what I was going to say about the Paralympics and Channel 4. However, I say this about the broadcast media and sport: when we talk about sport and the economy, it is a huge part of the entertainment economy. It also has a huge effect on the rest of our economy, potentially, in terms of health. There is, for instance, the role of sport in encouraging and embracing participation in sport, both by example—that is, via those who achieve and are the great gods of sport, by getting the medals and the praise in public—and by making it accessible.

At the moment the media have a challenge to try to take all the bits of our sporting culture more seriously. The current battleground seems to be drawn around women’s football, in which the BBC must both take credit for doing stuff and a little blame for being slow. Football is a universal game. As a devotee of rugby union, my having to say that association football is the “universal game” smarts slightly, but it is the truth. If the universal game does not reach that other half of our population we shall always have a bit of a problem in encouraging people to be healthy and active.

Unless we can report women’s football in a manner that gives equal kudos and status and encourages people to get out there, we will not get the investment in the sport that will allow elite performance. This investment would allow athletes to come forward and be at their absolute best in public. We must make sure that comments that they are not taking it seriously enough, that they are not doing this or that, that they are not good enough yet, or that this investment cannot be made, are not taken on board. These athletes are at the top of their game. The media and particularly the public service broadcast media must get in there and encourage others too to make sure that there is no excuse for not allowing that investment. If we make sure that this goes forward, we will start to address that factor in our society and encourage all parts of the media to take this seriously.

The public service broadcasters have the greatest duty. When my noble friend replies, I hope that he will have something to say on this. Women’s football is just the first main example. Other sports will hit other bits of our society. Unless we encourage universal coverage of all aspects of sport, we are not going to get the full benefits from a healthy society. This is one part of the jigsaw and I hope that we will embrace bringing this forward.

My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, for securing this debate, and I join my noble friend Lord Bragg in saying that she has already covered some of the things that I wish to go over. I am sure that most of your Lordships are aware that I host a programme for the BBC. I do not understand why, but I had best declare an interest before continuing, as part of my speech will focus on the concerns that I have about the BBC.

In order to talk about the future of broadcasting, I wish to visit what has occurred in the past 30 years. In May 1987 I took a phone call from Rupert Murdoch. That phone call resulted in one of the biggest shake-ups in the history of British TV broadcasting. In February 1988, between my then company and News Corporation, the Sky satellite television service was launched. Prior to that, my company was invited to join a satellite consortium known as BSB. I decided against it because I felt that its technical solution of the “squarial” was doomed. After millions were injected into BSB by shareholders, it had to concede defeat. Reluctantly, it amalgamated with Sky, winning one concession only: the new company going forward would be named BSkyB.

From then on, decisions by Murdoch continued to upset the industry applecart by not conforming to established business models. Matters appeared quite alien to the then cosy status of the three main broadcasters. Not the least of these matters was the purchase of the Premier League rights in 1992. Again, it is on the historical record that I played a significant role in BSkyB getting those rights. Since those days we have witnessed the transition of terrestrial broadcasting to digital. We have also seen the failure of ONdigital, an initiative of ITV. We have seen the introduction of digital video reorders that allow consumers effectively to make up their own TV channels and view programmes when they want to.

I apologise if my speech is starting to sound like a potted history of my past involvement, but knowing the background will help noble Lords understand why in 2010 the then director-general of the BBC contacted me to draw down on my experience to salvage the renamed Project Canvas—YouView—a system to deliver live TV via the internet. This company is made up of seven shareholders: the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, BT, TalkTalk and Arqiva. To make a long story short, this important and futuristic venture was a rudderless ship, technically and commercially. After banging a few heads together and managing the expectations of high-profile shareholders, YouView was finally launched in May 2012. Had commercial rationale and realistic technical thought not been applied to YouView, it would have joined the scrap heap of BSB, ONdigital and other failed initiatives.

The BBC, of course, has the technical capability to keep up with technology, but I fear it is unable to compete with the ruthlessness of the commercial market and its competitors, particularly those in the general pay-TV market. It seems hamstrung by external critics constantly referring to the £3.65 billion of licence fee payers’ funds being spent correctly so that consumers get fair value for money. Some of the management and the BBC Trust are fixated on cost cutting to try to appease the critics. In adopting this posture, they will fall behind by taking their eye off the ball and forgetting what their remit is: to provide high-quality, innovative content and entertainment for the British public. The BBC needs to be there at the forefront, competing for content instead of being complacent in accepting that its hands are financially tied.

BT, a newcomer to the TV market, recently demonstrated what consumers need by outbidding ITV and BSkyB for Champions League football. The BBC did not even bother. It just stood there like an envious kid in a sweet-shop, watching the big boys buy the sweets. We are all currently paying approximately £12 per month for our TV licence: 40 pence a day. It will be news to the Deputy Prime Minister that I do pay for my TV licence. By comparison, one can pay up to £55 per month for a BSkyB or Virgin subscription, £25 a month for a mobile-phone subscription, or £20 a month for an internet service. We should look at what we get: 10 brilliant channels of TV, quality news coverage all over the country, a brilliant iPlayer service that delivers three billion downloads per year, a magnificent array of radio stations, and what I consider is the best-in-class informative website. This is exceptional value for money. Incidentally, for every £1 of licence fee income the BBC receives, it generates £2 for the wider economy.

Interestingly, Mr Murdoch once complained during his wooing of the coalition Government that the BBC website was, if you can believe it, “too good” and that it was unfairly affecting his business by using public funds. In other words, the BBC was doing a much better job than his organisation. This resulted in the right honourable Jeremy Hunt, who was then the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, foolishly making noises that the BBC should consider making its website less informative and not spend too much licence fee payers’ money on it. This is one example of the oppression coming from outside influences that has created an organisation whose managers are constantly looking over their shoulders and defending themselves against in some cases ridiculous criticism. For example, the Daily Mail complained that the licence fee payers paid towards a bottle of champagne or a cake to celebrate Sir Bruce Forsyth’s 80th birthday.

Having worked with the BBC for 10 years in my capacity as host of one of its shows, I have seen another side of it, apart from the aforementioned technical side. It is without doubt the best broadcaster in the world. It is very well respected in reaching out to more than 406 million households in its global footprint. It annually generates approximately £700 million of overseas revenue and has created great indirect economic return by enhancing the UK’s reputation overseas, which can stimulate trade and inward investment. We should all be very proud of it, but—I say this very respectfully—it is heavily overstaffed and there are too many jobsworths. The noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, has already mentioned those who used to reside on the sixth floor. I think they are now in the new glass palace in Portman Place. The organisation is not run in a manner in which a commercial organisation should be run.

The BBC Trust is a complete and utter waste of time and should be disbanded, and there is a need for a more commercial approach with an experienced board of directors who are ready to stand up and be counted—and, of course, some independent non-executive directors. Senior management should get bonuses if they perform, and should be fired if they do not. More importantly, government must not be allowed to interfere or to try to influence management. Layers of jobsworths need removing, and the money saved must be thrown into R&D, programming and the ability to bid in a competitive market for other entertainment content and talent. It should not be used to reduce the annual licence fee because, as I have already stated, that is great value for money. All viewing devices in homes are now digital. It is now possible for the BBC to encrypt pay-per-view programmes so that consumers can choose to buy, for example, football or the latest movies. Consider the basic cost of £12. Lots of consumers would be prepared to pay for extra stuff, as demonstrated by the commercial broadcasters.

Noble Lords will hear how passionate—or, perhaps, frustrated—I am about this great institution of ours. I have stated all the positive things that the BBC has achieved. Can you imagine if it ever got commercial? It has a lot to offer the culture of this country, as well as our economy. It must strive to ensure that it remains the main game-changer for the next big thing in television. My dream mission in life would be to commercialise the BBC. One thing I would promise is that there would not be an army of personnel whose sole purpose in life was to appease the BBC Trust, the Daily Mail or government.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a producer/director who works at the BBC in its history and science departments. I thank my former colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, for having procured this debate, and add my congratulations on the splendid maiden speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Holmes. I look forward to hearing much more from him.

I have just come back from America, where I have been filming a science special for BBC2 on a comet which, if we are lucky, is going to light up our skies next week. In the early hours one morning, I found myself sitting in an observatory in the hills of Arizona with one of the world’s leading comet watchers. As we sat waiting for the first glimpse of the comet Ison, we got talking. The comet watcher said, “It’s great to have you Brits here filming this great moment for me. Thanks to BBC America, I’m able to watch my news from you guys. I prefer its international agenda but, above all, I like to hear a balance of views on a subject. Everything here is so polarised”. That is a rather self-serving story, but it makes the point I want to make.

Noble Lords have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, and the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, about the huge export success of British broadcasting, which is making great inroads into the American market and the emerging Asian markets. Much of that success has been based on the extraordinary creativity of our television industries, but I suggest to your Lordships that this success is also based on the trust in our products that we have built up across the world. That trust is worth its weight in gold—literally. It applies not just to the BBC but to all the main broadcast media in this country, including ITN and Sky, and at its heart is the mandate to be impartial. It means that our programmes can be broadcast across the world, carrying with them a balance of views. This balance resonates into documentaries, history and science programming.

The impartiality of our broadcast media is something that I, as a broadcast journalist, have always taken for granted—I feel it is in my working DNA—but this impartiality mandate is under threat both from technology and from those who say that in the interests of the free market, it is important to end the mandate and allow editorial freedom for our broadcast media. America used to have the fairness doctrine regulating it broadcasters. It required the holders of broadcast licences to present controversial issues of public importance in a manner that was honest, equitable and balanced. That doctrine was abandoned in 1987, apparently overwhelmed by the proliferation of cable television. The chairman of the Federal Communication Commission, Julius Genachowski, said, “The fairness doctrine holds the potential to chill free speech and the free flow of ideas and was properly abandoned over two decades ago”.

Since then, as anybody who goes to America will know, news information on the broadcast media has become increasingly polarised. Shock jocks from both sides of the political spectrum blast out extreme political bile on the radio airwaves, and Fox News gives a right-wing slant to its journalism, while left-wing talk shows, such as “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”, make endless fun of the right-wing agenda and its advocates. The internet allows a plethora of free opinion and voices that are fuelled by this polarised editorial news agenda.

What is the result? America is a land of conspiracy and distrust in any kind of broadcast information. You just have to look at the horrendous and widely believed conspiracy theories about what happened to flight UA93 on September 11, 2001, which claim that the United States Air Force shot down the plane, even though it has been proved repeatedly that the brave passengers overpowered the hijackers to prevent the plane being crashed into the White House. In my view, the polarisation of the media has exacerbated political divisions in that country, so it was no wonder that my comet-watching friend in Arizona paid the higher tariff on his cable package to ensure that he could watch BBC America and British programmes.

Trust must be a crucial cornerstone of our broadcast economy. It fuels our international reputation for excellence. The internet and cable television have allowed an extraordinary range of voices to be heard on numerous platforms. This technology has allowed China Central Television, Russian television and even Iran’s Press TV to be heard across our country. Critics of the impartiality mandate of our broadcast media say that in a new media landscape that allows these numerous other voices to be heard, our mainstream broadcast media should be unyoked from the impartiality constraints imposed on them.

I was at a very interesting seminar last week, attended by a number of noble Lords, discussing plurality in the media. Stephen Hornsby, who is one of this country’s leading experts on media mergers, raised the difficulty of assessing and imposing impartiality in the international broadcast climate of cable TV and access to TV on the internet. Our broadcast media are under attack from politicians, as has been mentioned, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and from free market advocates who claim that they are not impartial and should be open to free market forces. Of course, all journalism has a subjective element—after all, it is witnessed and written by human beings, all of whom have opinions—but the power of an impartiality mandate ensures that other views are heard and that broadcasters have to bear their views in mind when reporting. In a multichannel world, where opinion is easy and facts are hard to come by, never has this emphasis on impartiality and balance in our mainstream media been more important.

The Minister’s department has a consultation paper out at the moment to canvass views on plurality in the media, and one of the questions being investigated is whether the impartiality mandate on our broadcast media should be maintained. Many voices will call for it to be scrapped, but I urge the Minister to realise that in the new world of broadcast media, it has never been more important to maintain impartiality in mainstream broadcasting. It must be a gold standard against which others can be judged. Failing to do so will mean that the economic power of Britain’s broadcast media across the world will be greatly weakened.

My Lords, I would like to thank my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury for introducing this debate. I would also like to thank so many noble Lords for their welcome. The warmth of the welcome is matched only by the warmth of the heating in this place. The advice and support from the staff has been magnificent, but no surprise for regular visitors over the years. Their politeness has always extended beyond the Members of this House, and for that I thank them.

I am honoured to be here, among so many I have admired for so long. In my years of advising others in the other place, and more recently at No. 10, it was never lost on me that the dirty laundry of legislation was often sent to this place only to be returned washed, starched and neatly pressed. It is a testament to a place where many take their public office and their legislative duties seriously. I share and echo that sentiment.

I would like to thank my two supporters. For me, they will always be friends first and noble Baronesses second. Their advice is invaluable. My noble friend Lady Parminter’s wisdom and steely determination belies her youthful looks; under her watchful eye the green agenda will always be strongly defended. Of course, my noble friend Lady Thomas of Winchester’s patient explanation of affirmative resolution procedures has been something to behold over the years and is an experience not to be missed by any noble Lord.

I would also like to thank my party, the Liberal Democrats. However often I tried to escape, I returned with one more project or task to complete, most recently as the Deputy Prime Minister’s director of communications, or in the 1990s as my noble friend Lord Ashdown’s. My party has given me a great career with fascinating work, inspirational people to work with, and achievements in government which make me proud.

I am sure, like me, most will have received a great deal of advice about when and how to do a maiden speech, most of it contradicting the previous piece of advice. Normally, Thursday seems like an excellent day—not too many people—but the names that are down to speak today are, to a new Peer, like the A-list of broadcasting, and suddenly a debate on a Thursday feels like something in the full glare of the media spotlight. But our UK broadcast media deserve that spotlight. They are unique in quality, partly because of the careful balance we have between our public service broadcasting and commercial—and also because of the expectation in law of impartiality, put so well recently by Alastair Stewart, referring to just one day’s controversial coverage being produced,

“as impartially and objectively as we could, with as much balance as we could muster. That, because we have to, in law; but, also, it was because that is how we, who work at ITV News, want to do it … It is our cause and our calling”.

As director of communications for Shelter I always understood the special role that broadcast media can play in holding those who are in power to account on behalf of those most left out of power, like homeless people. More recently, the “Question Time” I was on last week, with only three people on the panel, was described in the Daily Mail as the worst “Question Time” ever. Whether that makes me uniquely qualified is probably something best left. The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, who was stuck on a train and answering questions on Twitter, was sorely missed on that panel.

This debate necessarily starts with the record we have in public service broadcasting, of which the cornerstone is the BBC. BBC Worldwide is the largest TV programme distributor outside the major US studios, and its impact on the reputation of the United Kingdom overseas is one which increases our ability to trade worldwide and way beyond broadcasting. My noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter’s timing for this debate is perfect, following the amazing weekend marking the 50th anniversary of “Doctor Who”. Simulcast in 94 countries, setting a Guinness world record, with record-breaking figures in America, it was event TV drama at its best, delivered around the globe. That thrill of seeing all the Doctors saving Gallifrey is something my eight year-old son will remember until the 100th anniversary.

However, 50 years ago, even if all the noble Lords in this place had popped into the TARDIS—because, remember, it is much bigger on the inside—and travelled back in time and explained the revolution that was coming in broadcast, digital and online content, not even the first Time Lord would have believed it. Even the changes since this sector was last regulated 10 years ago have been revolutionary and the need to update that regulation, but with flexibility, must be coming soon. Thanks in part to that revolution, we now have a creative industry sector in the UK economy providing over 130,000 jobs and over £13 billion pounds in revenue from television and radio combined, delivering both jobs and growth.

In particular, broadcast media has had an effect on the growth of SMEs in the creative sector around the UK. In 2012, Channel 4 alone spent over £150 million on production companies outside London. Levels of innovation and investment are growing. With a publisher/broadcaster such as Channel 4 there to create and innovate, the UK’s independent production sector has grown from strength to strength. Where else in the world would there be a channel which has a statutory remit to experiment and innovate so that it comes up with a programme of people watching TV programmes, makes up a name like “Gogglebox” and then sells it to the Chinese?

Commercial radio, television and new media all add to the mix and create the maelstrom of diversity of ownership and strength of competition that guarantees a vibrant part of the UK economy. Unleashing broadband, especially in rural areas, investing in DAB, giving local radio access to the right kind of digital infrastructure and balancing up the competing needs of different broadcasters from different platforms are all urgent challenges in this area. Fifty years from now, when many more celebrate the 100th anniversary of “Doctor Who” with a new Time Lady, rather than Lord, in the TARDIS, I hope that we will be able to celebrate the continued unique balance of UK broadcasting.

My Lords, it is my very real privilege to follow the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, as well as the amusing and assured earlier contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond. The noble Baroness brings to this House wide experience of the charity and corporate sectors, but she is best known as a long-standing, dedicated and loyal servant of her party. All parties have their ups and downs and their trials and tribulations, but the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, has emerged unscathed and widely respected within her party and beyond, not least for her famous and skilful handling of her one-time party leader, the formidable noble Lord, Lord Ashdown. I recall that she was the head of communications for her party in 1997 when my task was to ensure that the general election coverage was properly fair and impartial to all parties; I can only hope that she brings no grudges to the House. The noble Baroness’s maiden speech today showed that she will bring to our deliberations real wisdom, knowledge and wit.

We thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, not for the first time, for her tireless championing of public service broadcasting and for her sage comments earlier today on the BBC. I also note the frank but loyal critique of the noble Lord, Lord Sugar, baring everything but his own tattoo, of the BBC. Today, however, I shall speak to the Motion more generally.

The contribution to the UK economy of our creative industries in general and of our broadcasters in particular is simply incalculable. Every nation must surely start with an equal measure of natural talent and many countries around the world excite, engage and entice us with their cultural endeavour. However, few, and perhaps none, reach our heights in so many different creative fields. Heston is a global kitemark for cutting-edge cuisine. Monty Python will shortly fill the O2 Stadium for five nights, launching their new venture this week with the characteristically cheeky slogan, “One dead, five to go”. Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Francis Bacon are collected the world over. James Bond and Harry Potter are global brands. ITV’s Mr Bean is instantly recognised in China. Our popular music has been among the world’s most inventive for 50 years and our classical music scene is unsurpassed. Our comic, eccentric and very British superhero, Doctor Who, who rightly has been much mentioned today, reached 50 last Saturday with a near-simultaneous broadcast in 94 different countries, as the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, mentioned. Nothing like that has ever happened before.

Our advertising industry has long led the field for imagination. No other country matches British theatre for consistent quality. Try the incredibly bold and ambitious “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” or Roald Dahl’s “Matilda”—a delicious treat that I strongly recommend for your Lordships’ grandchildren. Our designers and our architects, our arts craftsmen and craftswomen, attain extraordinary heights. Tech City thrives in east London. In west London last week I spent a wonderful half day as the guest of BBC Future Media. If there is any other large concentration of creative technologists working on such spellbinding, groundbreaking ventures on such a scale, anywhere else in the world, I would like to know about it.

We succeed creatively in the UK because we have developed over a century the right mix of funding, regulation and institutions—for example, our art colleges, the Arts Council, or our national theatre, opera and dance companies, and, of course, the triumph of the BBC, much mentioned today, whose proud director-general I once was. Every area of creativity in the UK feeds off every other. Each draws strength and inspiration from the vitality of every other part. Broadcasting is a vital, binding ingredient of that intoxicating mix. The sheer exuberance of the UK’s all-round creative endeavour is evident the world over and brings both direct and indirect economic benefits.

When I worked as Tony Blair’s strategy adviser at No. 10, I led inter alia a strategic study on London and the south-east, the very engine house of the UK economy. Our work identified, unsurprisingly, that London is a magnet for some of the world’s best talents, including in the powerful financial and business services sectors. Equally unsurprisingly, we uncovered a key factor that draws top talent to London: that city’s sheer cultural vitality. In critical ways our creativity is our national spark, which infuses and enriches the whole of our lives. We must do everything that we can to maintain it.

My Lords, it is a daunting task to follow the noble Lord, Lord Birt, in this debate. However, I crave the indulgence of your Lordships’ House to make my maiden speech. In doing so, I will perhaps draw the House’s attention north from London and the south-east towards the north of England and Scotland.

I am conscious that many maiden speeches have been made in recent weeks, including in this debate. I, too, add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, and to my noble friend Lady Grender; I associate myself with the kind words of the noble Lord, Lord Birt, in paying rich tribute to her maiden speech. I have been a poor pupil of media training by my noble friend Lady Grender; participation in this House was perhaps not a topic on our agenda. However, there is a perverse pleasure in seeing her now having to tackle the tough questions on behalf of her party.

The noble Baroness, Lady Humphreys, whose contribution I am greatly looking forward to, gave me a very kind gift of Welsh whisky this week. I am avoiding mentioning the topic of independence, which was raised in Questions earlier, but it is fair to say that, with my taste of a good Scottish lowland malt and with her kind gift of Welsh whisky, we are truly Wales and Scotland better together and less sociable apart.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to take part in this important debate and to speak for the positive impact that broadcasting has on the economy, culture, community and creativity of the borderland. The dedicated BBC office in Selkirk and the ITV franchise of Border Television may not have a national capacity, which has drawn the attention of many noble Lords in this debate today, but they have a fiercely loyal audience. Indeed, when considering share of audience for the early evening news bulletin, research in 2012 showed that Border News had a 38% share, higher than any other franchise across these islands. That is more than three times that of ITV in London, with its 12% share.

As a viewer of Border Television all my life, I know why. It is because the borderland area and its people, businesses, culture, history and communities are not easily represented by the large cities north or south of the border. Ofcom and ITV carried out research in advance of the renewal of the Channel 3 licence. In response to some, including the Scottish Government, who preferred an all-Scottish franchise, it concluded that news and coverage should,

“cover events with Border Scotland viewers at the heart of our thinking and would be rooted in the experiences and lives of people living in the border region. The programming would not view Scottish matters through a ‘Central Belt’ prism but rather from the perspective of people living in southern Scotland”.

I am glad that they made that decision. With further digital technological changes coming in January, we will look forward to a further enhancement of service.

Those of us who have had the very good fortune to have been born on the border, those wise enough to have made the borderland their home, or those, like my noble friend Lady Grender, canny enough to have married into it know that the border area is unique. I am sure that many noble Lords know it well and that they, as I, will appreciate north Northumberland and the Borders, with the crown of the Cheviot and Eildon Hills crossing the two kingdoms, adorned with jewels of towns. The silvery thread of the Tweed ties these two nations together, with many proud and distinct communities on its route. I was born at its mouth and had the honour to represent its source.

It has not always been easy to describe the intricacies of the names and places of our area. I was part of a delegation to Boston as the proud MSP for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale. The Speaker of the Massachusetts State Assembly introduced me to that august body. He looked at my name and constituency, looked at me, looked at his colleagues and introduced me as “Jimmy Purve from Twiddle, Ettick and Louder”.

A former Member of your Lordships’ House and a fellow parliamentarian from the Borders had no such difficulty. Lord Tweedsmuir, known widely simply as John Buchan, gave perhaps the best description of the border folk. I am grateful to a good friend who gifted me his memoirs in advance of my taking my seat in your Lordships’ House. John Buchan described the men and women of the border as having the qualities that,

“I most admired in human nature—realism coloured by poetry, a stalwart independence sweetened by courtesy, a shrewd kindly wisdom”.

Border ballads in our turbulent history offer true witness to those qualities.

I reflect, given the topic of this debate, that when broadcasting is at its best, it also shows those characteristics. I join with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, in that regard and pay tribute to him as a former chairman of Border TV in its heyday and, indeed, to the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, who is present, as a former director. In fact, I am fortunate that my supporters in this place know the area well and have a deep affinity with it. I respect and admire the personal and professional mobility of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, and the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood. It is a particular honour for me to call them “my noble friend” and “my noble and learned friend” respectively. My mum and dad and those from the Borders who attended my introduction know, as do I, that we have much to contribute in this House. I will do no bad job if I follow their lead. Like me, they know that the vibrant broadcasting window in the border area has daily reporting of our news, trade, sport and culture through online and digital platforms. We report what we do in the borderland and reflect on why we do it.

I am conscious that I am the next-to-youngest Member of your Lordships’ House. Another good friend of mine suggested that I may not garner your Lordships’ favour if I presage my speeches in this place with the words, “In all my 39 years”. Indeed, on the day of my introduction, a waiter in one of our restaurants, in checking my pass and making sure that I was, indeed, a Peer, said, “But you are just a baby Lord”. It is a badge of honour that I will wear with pride. I express my sincerest appreciation to all the staff, especially the professional, firm but kindly doorkeepers and security staff. They have made this baby most welcome.

John Buchan was not only rightly proud of the borderland but was also proud of our craft as politicians. I have no better way of concluding than with his words:

“Public life is regarded as the crown of a career, and to young men”—

to that I add women—

“it is the worthiest ambition. Politics is still the greatest and the most honourable adventure”.

My Lords, I am delighted to follow my noble friend Lord Purvis of Tweed and his admirable maiden speech. He listed the qualities that John Buchan admired, and we saw exhibited in his speech exactly those same qualities. In my noble friend Lord Purvis we have a formidable political talent in our midst. He started out his career in the office of my noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood and went on to become the youngest Member of the Scottish Parliament. It is a tribute to this House that he no longer has such a claim to fame, which shows how things are changing. He worked tirelessly for the campaign to keep Scotland beautiful, clean and green and is now a campaigner for devo-max, although that should perhaps be a subject for another day. Given the speech that we have just heard, and the other maiden speeches we have heard, with one more to come, we can look forward to some very talented new Members of this House keeping us entertained and broadcasting well to the nation.

According to the late, great David Frost, television was an invention that allowed you to be entertained in your living room by people you would not have in your home. I would like to think that those who have tuned into this debate might view it slightly differently as they have heard such a variety of views already from people from very different walks of life who have a lot of interesting things to say. Therefore, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury on instituting such an interesting debate. I also congratulate the two maiden speakers from whom we heard before my noble friend Lord Purvis, as I mentioned.

I wish to concentrate my remarks on soft power, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, particularly the soft power exercised by the BBC World Service. The World Service reaches 192 million people weekly and broadcasts in 28 languages. It is the most phenomenal asset for any country to have, wins friends not just for the BBC but for Britain and is truly an example of soft power at its best. When Aung San Suu Kyi was here last year, she referred to the difference that the BBC World Service had made to her life in captivity. Her unfortunate obsession with Dave Lee Travis—as some might say—did perhaps engender more attention than it should have done, but it was the World Service which kept her going.

We should make the most of what the World Service has to offer. I am particularly keen that we should listen to a point of view put by Claire Bolderson, who spent 26 years working for the World Service and the BBC. She has come up with what I think is a brilliant idea. She wants to know why we do not take all those language services and put them on digital radio in this country. Why can we not reach out to those people who are not first-language English speakers and let them hear the news in their own languages? Not only would we endear them to the BBC but perhaps we might make them feel part of the UK. Perhaps we could infiltrate those communities rather more than we are doing now through the good offices of the BBC World Service. The content is there—it would not need to be altered very much. I would love to see some moves made in that direction. One BBC insider said, “The Swahili service will have to take its chances against ‘Strictly Come Dancing’”. I have to say that I do not think that the World Service should have to take its chances against “Strictly Come Dancing”. I would not perhaps put my views in entirely the same language as the noble Lord, Lord Sugar, but I think that public service broadcasting might do better by doing less.

We have so many different broadcast channels now. I am not convinced that the BBC needs to be deeply involved in reality TV any longer as plenty of others are more than capable of doing that. However, that is not at all to undermine the success of our programmers. We are very lucky to have some of the best programme makers in the country making their work here and enticing others to do so and, of course, that generates huge sales abroad. I gather that “Titanic”—the series made by my noble friend Lord Fellowes, who gave us the wonderful “Downton Abbey”—was sold to 86 countries before it had been broadcast anywhere. That tells you a lot about what reputation can do for you, and in particular the reputation of the programming that goes on here. Our TV exports now reach sales of £1.25 billion a year—a phenomenal contribution to the economy.

However, beyond that, broadcasting is now bringing us a very local economy, too. It is marvellous that another 56—I think—local TV channels are coming along. These will reinvigorate local democracy and will take over where local papers, in many cases, have failed to do what they used to do—that is, keep people up to date with what is going on in their locality. In London we are very lucky to be served by a daily paper that is a genuine newspaper, but in many parts of the country that is no longer the case, not even on a weekly basis. It is a danger to local democracy if local politics is not being covered properly. We should look to these new local television stations to fill that gap and I have every confidence that they will.

Broadcasting now covers such a vast range of media. YouTube did not exist a decade ago and yet today 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute. It is hard to envisage what that really means. It is a part of the broadcasting media that no one could have imagined 10 years ago. As we have already heard, BT Sport has scooped the pool when it comes to football rights, yet a couple of years ago BT Sport meant nothing to anybody. I do not know whether the price that it paid for the relevant rights is the right one, but it will certainly shake up the world of sports viewing. However, I do know that in what used to be the International Media Centre down at the Olympic park, BT Sport now has the most phenomenal set of state-of-the-art studios with the best technology. It is in there working at least two years ahead of the schedule that the owners of the park thought would be possible. Broadcasting is a fast-evolving world.

There is one aspect of broadcasting which, however, has not yet featured in this debate. Taking a deep breath, I shall mention advertising. There are some who view the advertising as an opportunity to nip to the kitchen and put on the kettle. However not everybody shares that view. The attention that has been paid to the Christmas advertising from Marks & Spencer and John Lewis is an indication of the fact that advertising is an art form. In Britain, we have some of the best creative work in advertising anywhere in the world. Anybody who has watched American television for any length of time will know that the standard of advertising there leaves a lot to be desired.

The Advertising Association published research which shows that every pound spent on advertising benefits GDP by £6. Who am I to query statistics published by the Advertising Association,although it may have a certain axe to grind? Nevertheless, advertising is a very creative part of our economy, and when we look at broadcasting as a whole, we should not forget the contribution that advertising makes.

My Lords, I am delighted to join this debate and thank the noble Baroness for introducing it. She and I have spoken in broadcasting debates before and I did therefore wonder where we were going with this one and why. It did not take long for me to appreciate how important and timely such a debate is, because the broadcasting landscape is changing so fast and so significantly in a world obsessed, indeed saturated, with images and sounds. You cannot get away from the plethora of broadcasting. There is almost no arena of human activity that is not now available to be seen, recorded, distributed and repeated on a multitude of platforms, now including Netflix, which is transmitting on the internet. We shall be facing far more of that in the future. It is also interesting that the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, referred to my conducting “Question Time” on a train. Having been marooned in the Midlands by a fire on the track, I was unable to be present in the BBC studio and so, along with another colleague who was absent from the programme, we began tweeting our own “Question Time”. Broadcasting is everywhere.

I shall confine my observations to reports from particular corners of a broadcasting life—my own life—and allow other people to make broader deductions and generalisations. I am involved in programmes made by the independent sector, specifically Sky and Classic FM, and I am involved in television and radio programmes made by the BBC. At close range I can smell the difference, I can sense the mood and I can sense the panic, so I offer a few personal observations. Last night the Commercial Broadcasters Association, CoBA, published its report Building a Global TV Hub. This was an enormously buoyant, upbeat picture of commercial broadcasters’ achievements and gave some indication of the future of a more mixed global economy. The non-PSB sector now accounts for 18% of all investment in UK television commissions. It has doubled its UK employment offer over the past decade. It has increased commissioning of independent producers by nearly 50% in the past year, and this sector is now worth £5 billion in turnover per year. It now invests £623 million pounds a year in UK television content, up nearly 30% over the past three years. I draw noble Lords’ attention to the direction of travel. This is an enormously thrusting and confident sector, striking success after success, at least in its public records, in what it is aiming to achieve and has already achieved so swiftly in such a short time.

My own experience is at Sky, where I find a company committed to its burgeoning channel, Sky Arts. I cite the statistics mentioned by my noble friend Lord Bragg, because again it is the direction of travel that is so impressive. Sky makes a growing contribution to the country’s GDP, a total of £5.9 billion in 2012-13. It has 24,000 employees, 3,700 of whom are working in creative and production roles. That is the bedrock of the creative talent of which so many people have spoken. These enormously buoyant and confident statistics were, I think, compiled before the recent sport contract fell to BT, but there, in BT, is another eager and ambitious newcomer to the broadcasting scene. Sky invests £2.5 billion each year in programming news, sport, entertainment and movies. It is moving towards a target of spending £600 million annually on UK commissioning and production by the end of 2014, an increase of more than 50% since 2011. Again, we should notice the direction of travel.

This year Sky announced a new commitment to British drama, with 20 new plays to be aired before the end of 2014. Currently, I am taking part in a Sky Arts initiative to bring art into people’s lives by holding a series of competitions for the portrait artist of the year. That has travelled to cities around the country, inviting the public, who came in great numbers, to the recordings of the programmes.

However, audiences for Sky remain comparatively small—tiny by any BBC standard. Its most popular channel, Sky Sports, has or had an audience share of just 2%. Compare that to the audience share of the BBC’s most popular channel, BBC1, which is around 20%. My noble friend Lord Sugar drew attention to the fact that we get the BBC for 40p a day. Subscribers to Sky know how much they are paying for far less on offer.

In my experience of these two sectors, the BBC is different. It is a mighty giant of broadcasting, in this country and beyond. Many people have paid tribute to it; I should like to add my word. The sheer length of its existence, the depth of its tradition and the towering level of its achievements make it central to the country’s culture. Its skill base is a lodestar for the entire industry. It sets the benchmark for originality. It is a great beast, but a wounded beast. The BBC is living in a state of fear and anticipation of what the future will hold for it.

The BBC licence fee is £145.50, up by just £10 since 2007, and frozen until 2017. Its income in 2011 was just short of £5 billion: £3.5 billion from that licence fee and almost £1.5 billion from BBC Worldwide, an institution that, to many of us, seemed to take a long time to get going, but which is now, as a wholly owned commercial subsidiary, doing incredible things around the world. However the BBC is suffering the eighth consecutive year of cuts. By the end of the current BBC charter, a further 20% will have been taken from its budget. My experience is that Radio 3, which I know well, is suffering badly.

In the public’s eye, the BBC has been seriously damaged by three things: the wasted digital money, the Savile scandal and those excessive retirement payments. However, those are moving into the past. Not only has the BBC extended its own reach virtually to breaking point with the Salford experiment, BBC Three, BBC Four and many enterprises where the creative people who want to see the organisation expand are reaching out, but it is carrying the burden of many responsibilities that are government-imposed, making demands on its corporate capacity.

In 2010, it took on an extra £340 million of spending commitments, including the move to digital, the funding of the World Service, BBC Monitoring and the Welsh channel S4C. In creative circles within the BBC, budgets are being squeezed and squeezed. Researchers now find their time doled out in half days, working on one programme and then another. Producers draw from their own pockets to provide minimal hospitality, which, as we know, once used to be very generous in the BBC, although that is no longer so. First-class travel is over; chauffeur-driven cars hardly exist. That is fine, but the BBC faces huge decisions about its funding crisis and it needs friends. It has enemies, and those enemies are voluble. James Murdoch, in his MacTaggart lecture, called for the BBC to be dismantled. According to research carried out on behalf of BECTU and the NUJ, it is estimated that the cuts will reduce the BBC’s GVA—gross value added—by around £1.1 billion by 2016. The cuts are damaging.

The BBC is unrivalled as a world brand, it is woven into the identity of the country, and it is part of the flourishing culture that we see all around us and which others have mentioned. The BBC will need friends in the years ahead.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for initiating this debate and for allowing me the opportunity to make my first contribution to proceedings in your Lordships’ House, presenting me with the occasion to express, most sincerely, my thanks for the warmth of the welcome I have received from noble Lords on all sides of the House. I thank, in particular, my supporters, my noble friends Lord Roberts of Llandudno and Lady Randerson, for their friendship and guidance, and my mentor, my noble friend Lady Barker, for her unstinting patience. I also thank all members of staff, whose professionalism and attention to detail ensured that the day of my introduction was enjoyable and problem-free.

As someone who has always had the most appalling sense of direction, one of the greatest challenges that this place has posed for me is finding my way around its corridors. It will be no surprise, therefore, that my grateful thanks go to my noble friends, the doorkeepers, the police, the attendants and the security guards, who have all pointed me in the right direction with patience and humour on too many occasions.

It would be remiss of me to make my first speech in your Lordships’ House without reference to the area that I come from and the contribution that our small community in the rural part of Conwy county in north Wales has already made to these Benches. Many of your Lordships may recall Lord Thomas of Gwydir, who graced these Benches until his death in 2008. As a Member in the other place he became the first Conservative Secretary of State for Wales, and later made a significant contribution to the proceedings in your Lordships’ House.

Like Lord Thomas of Gwydir, my noble friend Lord Roberts of Llandudno is immensely proud of the roots that his family has in my home town of Llanrwst. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, of Nant Conwy, who sits on your Lordships’ Cross Benches, was also born and brought up in that part of the Conwy Valley. Our small community is rightly proud of the sons it has sent to this Chamber, and I am privileged to tread, however lightly, in their footsteps.

As is customary in one’s maiden speech, my input into your Lordships’ debate on the contribution of the broadcast industries to the UK economy will be succinct, and I will restrict my comments to aspects of the broadcasting industries in Wales.

Noble Lords will have seen the report by Deloitte on the impact that spending by the BBC has on the economy. As is the case in other parts of the UK, this investment has a similar result in relation to gross added value in Wales. For every £157 spent by the BBC in Wales, there is a gross added value of £276.

During the past few years, the BBC has embarked on a strategy of moving out of London and investing in creating centres of excellence in other parts of the country. My noble friend has already referred to the investment made in Salford, but perhaps the investment by the BBC in Wales will be a little less well known. Programmes such as “Doctor Who”, “Merlin” and “Sherlock” and many others have been produced in Cardiff over a number of years but they are now produced in the BBC’s new drama facility in the recently built drama village at Roath Lock in the Porth Teigr, or Tiger Bay, area of Cardiff Bay. The drama studios there are the length of three football pitches, and more than 600 actors, camera operators and technicians are employed there—all, of course, contributing to the local economy.

In an innovative move, we have recently seen joint commissioning between BBC Wales, BBC Four and S4C of a new drama series, “Y Gwyll/Hinterland”, which has been filmed in both English and Welsh. It has just finished its first run on S4C in Welsh and will be seen on BBC Wales and BBC Four in English next year. The series has already been sold to Denmark.

I hope that noble Lords will allow me one more reference to rural Conwy as I seek to explain its relevance to this debate. Over 62% of the inhabitants of rural Conwy speak both English and Welsh. As well as the two languages giving us “two windows on the world”, they give us a number of choices: we choose which language we use for conversation, education and religion, and we choose which language we use to receive radio and television broadcasts.

Our main sources of Welsh language broadcasts are Radio Cymru and the Welsh television channel, S4C. About 100 members of staff are employed by the BBC in Bangor and Wrexham in north Wales and, through its role as a commissioner of programmes, S4C spends its £76 million of direct funding from the BBC through BBC Cymru and, most importantly, through independent producers. S4C, will, I believe, continue to be funded from the BBC licence fee, and I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm that.

I am sure that noble Lords will agree that S4C plays a vital role in broadcasting to Welsh-speaking communities. Along with all other aspects of broadcasting throughout the UK it contributes to cultural and creative activities, and provides educational, training and employment opportunities both in local communities and in a national context.

The BBC has undoubtedly been through a difficult period and it is right and proper that the questions it has faced have had to be answered. But I hope that that will not detract excessively from the positive impact that its work has on all of us in the UK, whichever language or languages we speak.

My Lords, it is a great privilege to be the first Member of this House to be able to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Humphreys, on her excellent maiden speech. She brings a characteristic lilt to her remarks, which simply enhances the basic sense and commitment of everything she says. She said that she suffered from an appalling sense of direction, but her career is the contradiction of that. She has been entirely consistent in her commitment to public service, both in the Welsh Assembly and in the Liberal Democrat party. We are delighted to see the noble Baroness in this House and her contribution will be invaluable.

We have heard other very good maiden speeches, which is important, but I shall mention one speaker in this debate who is far from being a maiden speaker—the noble Lord, Lord Bragg. He is a consummate broadcaster. I was listening to him dealing with a slightly difficult topic on Radio 4 this morning: the evolution of the microscope. He had a number of scientists in the studio with him and one of them insisted on conducting an experiment during the programme. It consisted largely of handing round a metal bar which people tried to twist in different directions. I could see the noble Lord dealing with the inherent challenge of this event—this was radio, not television. He fastened upon the most perfect phrase when he said to the scientist involved, “Hold it up to the microphone”, which was a wonderful combination of radio and television.

Like a number of Members of this House, I have had some difficulty in deciding what interests I should declare. Suffice to say that in one form or another I have been involved in broadcasting virtually from university to the present time—first, as a broadcaster myself. Given the subject of this debate, I recall my first programme on BBC television, which was the “Money Programme”. I was on it from its second edition and was taken aside and told that there was a problem with “money”—not the money that I would receive but the programme’s name: the fear of the governors that it was somehow unseemly to spend too much time discussing money. Other titles were suggested by the governors—one was the “Industry Programme” and the other was the “Export Programme”. Fortunately, neither was adopted and we settled for the “Money Programme”. Broadcasting certainly makes a huge amount of money for Britain.

My other involvements illustrate some of the diversity of this debate. I worked in the European Commission for five years, in charge of media, particularly broadcast media. I currently chair a digital television production company called CTN and Havas Media in the UK, where online advertising is now by far our fastest-growing sector. That demonstrates a central feature of our subject, and maybe a problem with it. Broadcasting is no longer a phrase which in itself adequately describes the diversity and creativity of the communications revolution. The most dramatic growth, for example, in the BBC’s global news audiences this year was in the number of young people around the world using mobile phones to receive programmes, and 1 billion page views of the BBC’s international website were achieved in one month. Looking at the overall picture, British consumers spend one in every 12 working hours online, and advertising on mobile phones exceeds £1 billion. That is just a part of the terrain.

I had a classic illustration of that last week. Archbishop Tutu of South Africa was in our CTN studios. It was not a broadcast in the formal sense of the word, but it was instantly transmitted to a conference audience of 10,000 in the United States and to several other conferences. It also immediately went on YouTube, where it has access to a potential audience of millions of people. How would we describe this? Of course, it is broadcasting, narrowcasting, webcasting and social media. We are at the start of a major revolution—only at the very start. I can see no real limitations on the way in which it will go. As we are having this debate, just down the road in Millbank, an interesting announcement was made by the Government about setting up a creative media sector task force, looking particularly at the role of SMEs in the creative industries. The figures given at that conference for the value of the creative industries as a whole are profound. Will the Minister comment on what the task force might achieve in the areas that we have been debating today?

I will make two final points, one about opportunity and the other about responsibility. First, on opportunity, I have spent a number of years involved with the cause of the English language abroad, particularly as chairman of the English-Speaking Union. To an astonishing extent our first language has become the world’s second language, which gives us a huge advantage. The BBC broadcasts in 27 languages, but by far its most powerful instrument is the English language itself, and the accessibility of the world to it. It is a great opportunity.

My second point is about responsibility. The BBC, as we all know, does not only sell programmes or indeed, services around the world; it stands for certain values, which have been referred to in the debate. They include impartiality, accuracy, credibility and freedom from government control. These are fundamental characteristics. When I joined the BBC in the early 1960s, in a very dilapidated office in what was Lime Grove Studios, I knew that I could pick up my telephone and ring virtually anyone I wanted around the world and get an interview with them simply because I represented the BBC. The power of the brand was immense. Today, that brand has been jeopardised, and the tragedy is that it is effectively an own goal. The jeopardy has come from scandal and, as other noble Lords have commented, from quite grotesque executive settlements and payouts.

A line has been drawn under that, and we all wish the noble Lord, Lord Hall, the very best in his new leadership of the corporation and in the challenges he faces. He and we must always remember that even in this multichannel, interactive, digital world, virtue remains the key licence for broadcasting.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter for initiating this debate today and I congratulate those who made their maiden speeches. They have all demonstrated a wealth of knowledge and a deep understanding of broadcasting across the United Kingdom. I declare that I am chair of Audio Visual Arts North East, which holds an international biennial audio-visual arts festival across the region.

We have heard today that the big picture is very impressive. Whatever measure we use, be it contribution to GVA, revenue raising, jobs created, export of programming or the success of BBC Worldwide, they all say the same thing—that a good job is being done, that quality is high and that our broadcast media justify the enormous degree of confidence that the general public has in them. It is all very evident.

I am not one of those who challenges the BBC licence fee, and for two reasons: the BBC gives excellent value for money, as we have heard, and almost everyone in the UK uses the BBC at some time or other during the year—some 96%. I cannot think of a better system which would preserve the BBC’s independence and guarantee the quality and reach of its programming.

A few weeks ago I took part in the 50th anniversary celebrations of the opening of the National Theatre on the South Bank. It was wonderful to be able to join in—even more so as I did it from my armchair in my sitting room, courtesy of the BBC. It was an occasion of national importance which used the power of television to bring it to a wider audience. Perhaps it was the camera angles, maybe it was the number of cameras, but viewers could feel that they were present, rather than just looking in on someone else’s event.

Over the summer I attended other cultural events. I attended the Proms a number of times this year—three in the Albert Hall and all the others in my sitting room—courtesy of the BBC, be it BBC4, BBC2, BBC1 or Radio 3. A couple of weeks ago I went to the cinema to see “Philomena”, a quite excellent film, and the credits on the film informed me that BBC Films had had an involvement in its financing. I went in August twice to the Edinburgh Festival and saw and heard many things—but I saw and heard more on BBC radio and television than I could in Edinburgh. My point is that the broadcast media can fill schedules with content from such a festival; the festival gains from the air time; and the broader public, who are unable to attend, can be part of it. That is what the BBC does so very well.

Returning to the National Theatre, while I was watching the 50th anniversary celebration I began to wonder why it was that I could be linked to it but not be linked from my home television to all the National Theatre’s stage productions. I understand that there are good commercial reasons why that should not be the case and that delay might be necessary. I attend the theatre a great deal but I have been to the National Theatre in London only a few times. I have attended many more National Theatre productions at the Theatre Royal Newcastle because that is where I live. That means, of course, that I miss most National Theatre productions.

I accept that I am limited by geography from attending, just as most people across the UK are. Obviously I am limited by time and cost as well, which is why I have been much encouraged by the success of National Theatre Live cinema broadcasts. These performances, not only by the National Theatre, are still limited in number and occasion. For example, although I would have liked to have seen the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of “Richard II” recently at the cinema, I have not been able to, but at least the RSC has other productions planned for 2014. The advantage of this system is that cinema seats are filled, audiences are created and audiences share the experience of the production even if they are not where the stage is. There is a process under way now which can only grow in scale and so make national productions of high quality more accessible to people the length and breadth of the UK.

That is right for publicly-funded national producing theatres but what about other publicly-funded producing theatres? There have been some examples of broadcasting in cinemas, which is encouraging, but living in Newcastle upon Tyne I often look at the programming in other parts of the country and wish I could see them. The impracticalities of doing so are obvious, but what is to stop the Arts Council working with the BBC to commission many performances from producing theatres outside London and Stratford for broadcast, either live in cinemas or on television, at a later date once live performances are over?

There is a next logical step in all of this. If the Arts Council and the BBC were to do this, it would help investment regionally; it would reduce a little the serious imbalance that exists in Arts Council funding between London and the rest of the country; and it would also bring quality productions to a much wider audience.

I am glad that by 2016 the BBC will have increased its network services programming spending outside of London to 50%. That is certainly progress and I pay tribute to Peter Salmon and his colleagues in BBC North for the work they are doing to broaden the reach of BBC commissioning and programming.

I recognise the work of other broadcasters. It is good that Channel 4 commissions all its content from the independent sector and now has a growth fund to develop that further. I hope a priority can be given in that to parts of the UK which are outside London. It is good, too, that ITV has 35% of its programming from outside the M25, and the higher it can get that through investment outside London the better it will be for the economic growth and vitality of the areas it invests in.

For that is what broadcasting is. It is a key part of our economy—130,000 jobs, £12 billion in revenue and 3% of our GVA. The trouble is that the GVA created by broadcasting is markedly different by UK nation or region. Let us take as an example BBC expenditure in 2011-12. According to the latest figures provided by the House of Lords Library, London has expenditure of £3 billion out of a total UK spending of £4.3 billion. We should note that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have £425 million, and all of England outside London only £656 million. English regions are, in truth, the poor relations in comparison to London. For example, the whole of the north—including Yorkshire, the north-east and the north-west—has expenditure of only £203 million. If we add to this the fact that Arts Council England spends most of its money in London, whichever way one looks at the figures, the truth is that there is an enormous imbalance in spending between London and the rest of England, be it Arts Council direct funding, the lottery, DCMS or private sponsorship. London’s gravitational pull is understandable as a national provider but it needs positive interventions to enable others areas, which may be more dependent on local government funding, to succeed as well.

The imbalance is recognised by the Arts Council, which has committed itself to spending more in the regions and has asked to be judged on outcomes in two years’ time. I welcome that commitment but I hope, too, that it might be possible for the BBC and the Arts Council to have a standard policy of commissioning more programmes from outside London, either to stream live or to broadcast productions and performances at a later date, as I have suggested.

I hope the Minister will take these suggestions on board and look at ways in which greater balance across the UK can be achieved in broadcasting investment in order that our cultural richness can be widely shared.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, for initiating the debate and for her constant and passionate support for the arts.

I do not know whether or not it was organised but it was interesting that the opening and closing speeches reflected two of the main ingredients of our debate. We started with a good description of the history and impact of the arts more generally, the creative economy and broadcasting from the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter; and the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, described the other end of the spectrum and how these plans and ideas that we have for organising and constructing our creative industries impact when you are living outside London or are adrift from the main centres. Themes emerged throughout the debate which reflected both points and it is interesting to pick up on them.

Whatever the political spectrum involved in this debate, probably more joins us together on the issues being discussed than separates us. We should be pleased about that. As always, it is useful to reflect on the fact that there are few areas of public life within which you could have a discussion of this nature, which involves not only those who have practical experience—journalists, performers, executives and producers—but consumers as well. We will learn from the words that have been said today.

I also thank the noble Lords who have made their maiden speeches today. The whole House will recognise that there were four very good speeches; it signals well for the future of our interest in the arts and creative industries that we can attract that sort of maiden speech to our debates.

The noble Lord, Lord Holmes, made a witty and well constructed maiden speech in a real double act. I do not know he manages to get his dog to be so patient—not just when he speaks, but when everybody else is speaking. My dog would have been out the door several times if he had had to listen to the debate we had today, but his was still there and very peaceable about it. I thought it was very interesting the way he was able to pick up his experiences within both broadcasting and sport to show us how broadcasting has the power to change lives for the better.

The noble Baroness, Lady Grender, gave us a few insights on how the party on that side of the Chamber organises itself, particularly in terms of rehearsing and practising its appearances in the press, which is always very useful to know. It was good that she drew us to one of the sub-themes we have had today, namely the need to stress the impartiality and balance that currently exists in our broadcast media, particularly in our news output; and added to some of the thoughts about value, which also came up from the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond. There is an important sense—that we sometimes ignore at our peril—about the implied ability of our broadcast sector and our arts to reflect our values to a wider world.

The noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, focused on an important issue, the needs of our sub-national regions. I was lucky to live in the Borders for a brief period and I recognise what he says about the particularity of that area, and how easy it is to speed over it up to the central belt and to leave it for the greater pastures of England. It is important to reflect that our creativity and culture starts in small places, and if we do not understand and recognise that, or engage with it, then we will all be losers.

That theme also came up from the noble Baroness, Lady Humphreys, who is interested in Conwy county, and the very large number of people who seemed to have emerged from there; there must be something in the water there that we do not know about. She also brought us back to language and how important it is that, when the media speak to the nation, they have to speak in all the aspects of the language that we use—not just the dialect but also the individual changes. There are issues there that we must reflect on.

We have had a very good history lesson on how broadcasting in this country has evolved. I thought it was very helpful to have that context. The interesting thing for me about the early days of television was how—possibly more by accident than by design—we ended up in the first phases with a series of channels that were all financed in different ways so that the competition that existed was a competition for quality, not for sources of funding. That, of course, has changed slightly, but it is still redolent in some areas, particularly—as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft—that of advertising. It is so important that ITV and, to some extent, other channels are free not because they are provided for by any state funding but because advertising pays for them. We ignore that at our peril.

Our conclusion on that historical link is that broadcasting broadly is in good shape. The noble Lord, Lord Bragg, made an important point about this. I recall that there were voices of gloom and doom every time anything happened, saying that any new initiative was going to be a disaster, but we are still here and still consuming huge amounts of television. The extraordinary thing is the strength of the terrestrial channels, which underpins much of what we enjoy today.

It is a difficult area for policymakers because it is both art and culture. Obviously, the ability to create fantastic art forms within a broadcast medium is valuable in itself, but it only comes about because of the extraordinarily large economic apparatus that has to be there to surround it. Again, that is something to remember when one thinks about the creativity and investment required. Our ex-colleague—soon to be our colleague again, I hope—the current director-general of the BBC, the noble Lord, Lord Hall, put his finger on it when he said that we were ignoring, when looking at broadcasting, the very wide impact it has, not just because of the broadcast material of the programmes, but because of the buildings in Salford and in other places, the training, the innovation and the ability of those who have control of the commissioning buttons to introduce new work and new writing that results in activity that would not otherwise take place.

It has been said, and I think it is right, that if the BBC sneezes, it is the arts world that catches flu. It is important to recognise that contribution, which is often underrecognised and not reflected in what we say. Without the BBC and other broadcasters all investing and creating activity—local activity and jobs—we would not have what we have and enjoy in this country.

The soft power was mentioned—and it is important—as were the points of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, about the need to recognise that, in some senses, although we are not the major player, what happens in broadcasting in Britain, and by implication in the wider context of our arts, is a standard that would be the one that people would most reflect and most enjoy. Those of us who travel abroad and talk to others obviously understand that that happens.

With all that context, what are the remaining questions that we need to ask about these things? First—noble Lords have touched on this and I think it is very important to recognise—broadcasting, although a net contributor to our economy, also draws from the seed beds in our arts and culture. That largely depends on Arts Council and other spending, such as that from the BFI and other arts bodies. Will the Minister, when he comes to respond, reflect on whether he feels it is in the best interests of the sectors that have been raised today to have experienced yet another round of cuts in our arts world? I mention in particular the BFI, with an additional cut this year, its heritage changing significantly away from its previous model to one which is more about being privately supported; and, as has been mentioned, the incredible cuts in local authority support of the arts. There is a report in one of today’s papers that there may not be any cultural spending in a few years. Perhaps the Minister could comment on that.

We have also been reminded—and it is important—that broadcasting to a single television in a household that is watched in a group is not now the way we consume what is produced. The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, mentioned that there was a great deal of interface across and between the various art forms now being reproduced and picked up. Indeed, one of the roles of television is to reflect that which is happening, not necessarily within broadcasting’s direct ambit, to a wider population. Where are we with the broadband rollout and where are we going to be for the people who need to pick up these things? What about the rural broadband scheme? Perhaps we could have a comment from the Minister on that.

The wider context to which I referred earlier also has implications for training, for the work of Skillset, which has been mentioned, and the need to think again about the contributions made across the whole of the broadcasting industry and more widely. Is it time to revisit the question of whether this should be an obligation? Broadcasting, and the creative world more generally, also impacts on the diversity that we see and seek to have in our society, and I would be grateful for a comment on whether he thinks that enough has been done in that area.

We have heard about the exports, but are they in the Minister’s view still appropriately configured in relation to UKTI, which often fails to include a cultural member on some of the trade visits? Are we now in a better position in regard to UKEF, which has had difficulties in finding the right contracts to support in moving image and creative industries wishing to have export finance in order to get their work sent abroad? There are huge returns for that if we can get this right; it is really important that they get support from government at the right time.

Finally, a number of noble Lords were worried that the BBC—although it is not the only player in this game, and much is done elsewhere, including at ITV and Sky—was under attack. Although we had a lot of support about this, notably from the noble Lords, Lord Sugar and Lord Birt, we worry that in the next few years the BBC will have to undergo its regular examination by those who support it, in terms of government, but also by those who fund it through the licence fee. Will the Minister perhaps give us a sense of where that debate has got to within government and what sort of consultations and other issues we will be likely to have on this?

The BBC is really important; it is not the only player in this area, but it is the one that sets standards and many people regard it as being the gold standard against which others compete. We want the BBC to be successful, but we need to know that the processes will be open and fair and transparent, and that the problems that the BBC has had—which were referred to by my noble friend Lady Bakewell in respect of absorbing the cost of the digital switchover, the cost of the World Service, the cost of BBC Monitoring and the cost of S4C—are not going to mean a reduction in the sort of quality that we have been hearing about today.

My Lords, I start by congratulating my noble friend on securing this debate. As I expected, it has been wide-ranging and thought-provoking and it has displayed a wealth of experience. It also provided noble Lords with the opportunity to hear four outstanding maiden speeches. My noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond rightly drew attention to sport—a key element of the broadcast media and important to so many. My noble friend Lady Humphreys spoke up for S4C, media broadcast and her rural community. S4C of course has funding not only from the Exchequer but through the BBC. As long as the funding timespan is agreed, the Exchequer funding for S4C is confirmed at the current level into 2015-16 and there is, in addition, BBC licence fee money up to 2017. I am sure that that will all be part of the continuing discussions, but what a good job that channel does.

My noble friend Lord Purvis of Tweed gave us an insight into the broadcast media in Scotland. His reflections on that glorious part of our nation, the Borders, were extremely important. My noble friend Lady Grender spoke of the reputation of broadcast media, about which many of your Lordships also spoke. I was struck by the words of my noble friend Lord Watson of Richmond. The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, spoke about the importance of impartiality. I felt personal sympathy with my noble friend Lady Grender in her view of the A-list of broadcasting. I felt myself, as I looked at your Lordships and heard the speeches that noble Lords were delivering, that I had no direct experience. It has been a very interesting and important debate.

Broadcast media touch us all, directly and powerfully, through coverage of hugely popular and exceptional occasions such as the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. My noble friend Lord Holmes mentioned the Games and his journey from Seoul to London. I believe that we are in debt to him for the part that he played in enhancing the important and nation-changing element that the Paralympics in London represented for the nation. The media also touch us through the more routine enjoyment of listening to the news on the radio each morning.

Through these turbulent economic times, the UK has continued to benefit from what I have called a vibrant broadcast sector, which my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter referred to as “resilient”, the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, as “strong” and the noble Lord, Lord Birt, as having “exuberance”. The sector leads the way in the quality of its content and contributes to the country’s economic well-being.

As a number of your Lordships said, the UK television industry generated £12.3 billion in revenue last year. The UK broadcasting industry comprises a mixture of public service broadcasters—BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and S4C—and commercial multichannel broadcasters such as Sky and Discovery. Because of parliamentary duties last night, I was unable to go to the global TV hub presentation but I am sure that it was particularly interesting and I would very much like to hear how it went from noble Lords who attended.

All this provides an environment where consumers are well served with a broad choice of content, including sports coverage, which made up 11 of the 15 most watched programmes in 2012. My noble friend Lord Addington rightly referred to that in terms of the impact that it should have, and I hope will have, on the health of our nation. That content also includes arts and culture programmes such as the BBC’s “Imagine” strand, digital radio stations such as Absolute Classic Rock and shows such as “Grand Designs”. There is abundant choice for the UK audience—I entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, in that regard.

Multichannel broadcasters have doubled direct employment in the UK over the past decade and increased their turnover to £5 billion last year. The PSBs invested £2.6 billion last year in UK content. Non-PSBs have increased their investment, too, with Ofcom estimating it at £1.2 billion per year. The Government want to ensure that such investment in UK content is sustained and supported.

My noble friend Lady Wheatcroft spoke about international exports. The development and international sale of programming is remarkable. The UK is second only to the United States of America in TV content sales, which reached £1.7 billion last year. New markets in China, India and Indonesia present extraordinary opportunities; exports to China rose 90% last year. Sales to the United States of America were up 11% to £475 million, representing 39% of total sales. Digital rights are growing rapidly, as are co-productions. This sector is one of the fastest-growing sources of international business.

Formats such as “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” have been sold to more than 100 countries worldwide. “Strictly Come Dancing” is licensed to 48 countries, with a worldwide audience of more than a quarter of a billion people. Dramas such as “Sherlock”, “Parade’s End” and “Downton Abbey” have bolstered Britain’s reputation and are attracting more international investment. Your Lordships have already mentioned “Doctor Who”. Its 50th anniversary special has just had a record-breaking global simultaneous broadcast—I am informed by officials that it is called a simulcast—that reached 94 countries across all the continents. The noble Lord, Lord Birt, referred to Monty Python.

My noble friend Lord Shipley referred to the trio of theatre, cinema and television coming together and making all these great productions more accessible across the land, which is an increasing part of the cultural experience. The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, used the term “the direction of travel”. The direction in which we are going is extraordinary, and the consumer, the viewer and the listener have a considerably enhanced experience.

The independent production sector, which a number of your Lordships mentioned, is also a major export success story. Independent producers are increasingly winning commissions direct from international broadcasters, as well as selling a greater number of finished programmes and formats to international buyers. Channel 4 commissions all its content from the independent production sector, supporting a wide range of SMEs across the United Kingdom. These commissions are a key part of the UK’s international sale of programmes and formats. My noble friend Lady Grender particularly referred to that.

We should not forget radio, which is also a major export. For example, talkSPORT broadcasts Premier League matches in eight languages—English, Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, Malay, Indonesian, French and Vietnamese—from its base in London to 25 different markets in Europe and the rest of the world. I hope very much that my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft will approve of that. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, I should say that UKTI-led events and the GREAT campaign are very important in beating the drum for the sector. I have looked before at the various tours that have taken place and there are many examples of where the creative industries, quite rightly, are in the frame as part of those tours.

The economic contribution made by the sector is clear, but we should not forget that it plays an equally vital educational, social and cultural role. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, quite rightly stressed this. The noble Lord also mentioned the settlement in this sector. I think that it is fair to say, having looked at it again, that in many respects the endurance of cuts, which in an ideal climate many would regret, was a good settlement in the end for the sector compared with many other sectors, although I understand the issues that a number of your Lordships have mentioned.

I particularly want to mention the BBC World Service, which my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft spoke so powerfully about. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, that it is an important aspect of our collective identity. The BBC World Service has the largest audience of any international broadcaster, with a weekly reach of 192 million people; add BBC World global news and the figure becomes 256 million people.

The sector supports a host of highly skilled jobs in distribution, marketing and technical and support services. Overall, according to the Creative UK report, the sector supports more than 7,000 firms and 132,000 jobs. The talent of tomorrow must also be nurtured, as many of your Lordships said. I was interested that Channel 4’s 4Talent, for example, offers work experience placements, apprenticeships, workshops and master classes to people looking to gain entry into the creative industries, alongside funding and support for external skills bodies such as Creative Skillset and the National Film and Television School.

The noble Lord, Lord Bragg, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, referred to Sky. Sky delivered more than 104,000 training days and 160,000 hours of e-learning across its business. Mention was also made of the Sky Academy, which has the ambition of creating new opportunities for up to 1 million young people by 2020. The BBC will be taking on an apprentice in every BBC local radio station across England and in stations across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by September 2014. ITV invested £50 million in enhancing facilities in Leeds and at MediaCityUK in Salford, which my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter referred to as the hub of Salford, which is important across the media area. Indeed, ITV’s investment in skills and development training to help the next generation of talent across the UK should be acknowledged. The noble Lord, Lord Bragg, mentioned ITV in particular. It is remarkable that ITV is now in the top five biggest independent producers in the United States of America and one of the top three European programme distributors.

Radio is a valued source of entertainment, education and information for millions of people across the country. Every week, 90% of the adult UK population listens to the radio. It is a significant employer, with an estimated total workforce of 17,500 people, and total radio industry revenue last year was £1.2 billion. Some 65% of adults tune in to commercial radio at least once a week. BBC Radio 2 is the most popular radio station in the UK. BBC national and local radio, commercial radio and community radio are all part of the vibrant mix. Since 2010 there has been a further shift to digital listening, which now represents over 35% of all listening. Conscious of consumers, the Government are looking at how to support the long-term transition to digital radio. A more detailed announcement will be made at the end of the year.

I now turn to how the Government are playing and need to play a part in supporting the growth of UK broadcasting. As part of the Government’s wide-ranging review of the communications sector, our discussions with industry, regulators and consumer groups indicated that the present framework is broadly operating well, is generally working for the consumer and supports economic growth and innovation. However, where legislative changes are deemed necessary, the Government will act. An example is the prominence of public service broadcasters. We need to update electronic programme guide regulation, to keep pace with recent developments in TV technology, to provide flexibility to adapt to future technological changes and to preserve public service broadcasters’ prominence. We all value high-quality content, which the noble Lord, Lord Sugar, concentrated on, and we expect public service broadcasters in particular to adhere to this. The public must be able to continue to find and enjoy this in the future, so we expect to consult on these issues in the near future.

My noble friend Lord Watson of Richmond mentioned the wider creative industries. Indeed, the media broadcast sector cannot and does not function in isolation. I acknowledge the work of the wider creative industries. Collectively, the creative industries are worth more than £36 billion a year to the UK. The creative industries supporting the broadcast media include: craftsmen and craftswomen, fashion designers creating props and costumes, production crews, make-up artists, composers and musicians, and many more. My noble friend Lady Wheatcroft and others quite rightly mentioned the skill of advertising.

Again, the Government have an important role to fulfil. The Government helped to set up the Creative Industries Council in 2011. Led by industry, the council now works to ensure that barriers to growth can be removed. A sub-group of that council will look at access to finance skills, export markets, data collection and infrastructure. If I have more detailed information, I will certainly write to my noble friend Lord Watson of Richmond about these matters.

The Government have set up a range of creative content-targeted tax reliefs, such as tax breaks for British films. There are clearly strong links between the film world, which benefits from these tax incentives, and broadcasting. For example, Channel 4 is a major investor in UK film. Indeed, films supported by Channel 4 have won 14 Oscars in the past seven years. My noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter mentioned tax reliefs for animation and high-end TV. These came into force in April this year, to support innovation and the growth of the content for which the UK is renowned. These initiatives are already bringing more productions to our shores; for example, “Outlander” is being made in Cumbernauld and “Game of Thrones” has had a significant impact on the local economy and skills base in Northern Ireland.

Furthermore, as was announced earlier this week, local television has now started broadcasting in the UK, with Grimsby channel Estuary TV leading the way. Another 18 channels will be launched in the spring, with a further wave of channels to come. This was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Birt, my noble friend Lord Shipley and others. It is an important feature and part of the direction of travel that the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, referred to. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, that, as a countryman, I am passionately keen to ensure that broadband results are going to grow swiftly in this tail end of the process of establishing what I hope will be successful coverage for the overwhelming majority of if not the whole nation very soon.

The importance of the broadcast media in the UK and the contribution that they make has been outlined most eloquently by your Lordships today. The Government’s role must be to ensure that the environment is suitable for the sector to continue to flourish. There are undoubtedly challenges and opportunities in this increasingly converged world. The title of today’s debate specifically highlights the economic contribution of broadcast media. That is not in doubt. What is impossible to assess adequately or precisely is what this sector contributes to the social and cultural well-being of our nation. As noble Lords mentioned—particularly the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara—it is a prime example of how soft power operates across the globe in the British interest. The reputation of our nation abroad is in no small measure enhanced by the UK’s high standards for content—set by producers and regulators, and by the expectations of those who listen and watch. That reputation is secured by and because of the talented, hard-working people in the industry. We can be proud of the quality that they bring to the screen and to radio.

In this debate, the broadcast media have rightly been championed and their prospects encouraged and there has been openness about some of the problems that need to be addressed. All these matters could not have been better articulated by your Lordships, from all parts of the House.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who took part in the debate. I also thank the many noble Lords who have contributed so greatly to making the broadcast media great, in all their different ways. That enriched the debate today. I particularly congratulate all the maiden speakers. I am pleased that so many of them chose this debate and look forward to them being champions of this area, not least my noble friend Lord Holmes. Finally, as “Doctor Who” has dominated the debate and I see my noble friend Lord Grade in his seat, I cannot resist wondering whether, had he known that Sylvester McCoy would regenerate into John Hurt, he would still have cancelled the programme.

Motion agreed.

Young People: Apprenticeships

Question for Short Debate

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to increase the take-up of apprenticeships among young people.

My Lords, it is an enormous pleasure for me to lead this topical Question for Short Debate this afternoon. I reassure all noble Lords present that I am conscious of the need for brevity given that this is intended to be a short debate, and will accordingly try to keep my remarks brief. However, I am also conscious that the question of how we can improve the employment prospects for young people is not only topical but worthy of serious debate.

This month’s employment figures were very encouraging, revealing that employment is up 177,000 this quarter while unemployment is down 48,000 in the same period. All in all, there are now more than 1 million more people in work since the general election. Significantly, this month’s figures also revealed a considerable rise in the number of young people in work—up more than 50,000 in the past three months. Noble Lords from all Benches in this House would agree that this is very welcome news.

Apprenticeships have played a pivotal role in helping young people into—in many cases back into—work. Since the Government came to power in 2010, a record 1.5 million apprenticeships have been created. To put that into context, that figure is twice the number created by the previous Labour Government during their final three years in office. A record number have started apprenticeships—half a million in the past year alone, with apprenticeship starts in IT and digital frameworks proving especially popular. Of course, I would be remiss if I failed to pay tribute to the continuing popularity of Armed Forces apprenticeships, with around 10,000 completed every year.

Apprenticeships are an invaluable means by which young people can fulfil their individual potential. We must remember the simple truth that no single means of learning will ever suit everyone. Like the National Citizen Service, apprenticeships provide an opportunity for young people to learn new skills, grow in confidence and develop a sense of self-worth and purpose. Those undertaking apprenticeships gain an experience of work that is truly invaluable. They have the opportunity to work alongside experienced staff, gain vocational skills, earn a recognised qualification and, above all, earn a wage. The Government are to be commended for the strides they have taken in making apprenticeships an attractive and viable option both for young people and the businesses that take them on.

As noble Lords are well aware, small and medium-sized business enterprises are the lifeblood of our economy. To make hiring apprentices a more attractive proposition for such companies, the Government must build further on the steps already taken—such as the recently extended apprenticeship grant for employers—to simplify the recruitment process and remove unnecessary bureaucracy. I hope the Minister can shed some light on what the Government are doing in that regard.

It is imperative that we make young people aware of their options at what is a definitive crossroads in their lives. We must accept that for many young people, university is neither an attractive nor viable option. Yet I fear that a large number of teachers seem able only to advocate a university career for their pupils and have little information or enthusiasm for vocational training. That is not the way to find our new-style engineers, technicians, craftsmen and craftswomen, and the entrepreneurs of our future. With that in mind, I wonder whether the Minister can update the House on how the new careers service appears to be performing.

I encourage the Government to do more to restore the esteem in which apprenticeships were once held. We need more role models—more poster boys and poster girls—to bang the drum for apprenticeships. My father was apprenticed. When he finished his original seven years as an apprentice he was sent to be what was then called a journeyman. You had to leave the place where you worked and lived. You had to go off, ply your trade and see whether you could be as good as you thought you were. Ultimately, he returned, recognised as a cabinet maker and thereafter became a master craftsman. His relationship with his mentor was undoubtedly one of the most formative of his life and the platform for so many of the great things he achieved over the rest of his life. As a result, he told me that with a skill you can go anywhere. With those words still ringing in my ears, he packed me off to become an industrial accountant. It is up to noble Lords to decide whether the skill he made me take up earned me the honour of being in this noble House today.

I look forward to listening to the contributions from other Members of your Lordships’ House in this short debate. However, before hearing from the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, for whom I have a great deal of admiration having served on the Front Bench opposite him for more than two years, I confess to being saddened by Ed Miliband’s recent foray into the issue of apprenticeships. His pledge that a future Labour Government would require companies both large and small to hire an apprentice for every foreign worker they employ has been widely condemned by a range of business leaders, from the CBI to the IoD, from the chambers of commerce to the small business alliances. That compulsion would discourage more employment. Surely that cannot be what is wanted.

In conclusion, we should never underestimate the challenge faced by many young people wishing to enter the world of work in these difficult times. We should not be complacent following the welcome news that youth unemployment is falling and that the economy is showing signs of life. There is more work to be done, because if we are to harness our potential as a nation we must harness the potential of each and every one of our precious young people. After all, they are our future. Apprenticeships are not just an opportunity to do something for a few years. They are a chance to stand by someone you can admire, and work with someone who can teach you and give you the steering that may not have been possible in your home life. You have someone to travel through life with. I am delighted that this aspect of employment is growing in popularity.

My Lords, when giving evidence to a committee in another place on 30 October, a CBI spokesman stated that it had identified 48 schemes that could help an employer to take on or train a young unemployed person. I am indebted to Professor Sloman for pointing that out and for pointing out that those schemes are funded through three government departments. The DWP funds employment programmes, BIS funds 18-plus skills training and the DfE funds education and training for 16 to 19 year-olds.

To add to the confusion, the Government’s response to the Richard review, published on 28 October, encouraged employers to describe almost any training scheme or initiative as an apprenticeship. The precision, the high standards demanded by employers and the National Apprenticeship Service had been officially abandoned, so that the Government can claim that 500,000 started training, as the noble Baroness told us, but in 2012, only 106,510 places were offered by the service. No wonder employers are confused and becoming disillusioned. This whole thing is becoming a numbers game, with so-called apprenticeships being shamelessly oversold by the Government and intermediaries.

I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for introducing the debate. She and I have debated many times from both the Front and Back Benches. We both come from a business background. We have something else in common. We have both worked hard to try to make the economy successful. Success through the creation of a highly skilled workforce has been important to us. Proper apprenticeships form an important part of that. Proper apprenticeships, which combine a business need with a social need, with a strong emphasis on assisting the business by developing skills in particular to that business. That enables the business to develop, to progress and to innovate. They are not a quick fix to get unemployed young people off the register. Apprentices are required to learn a substantial amount and acquire skills way beyond on-the-job training.

There are plenty of good examples. Many firms accept interested people, young and not so young, on placements and choose candidates for apprenticeships with a structured programme of acquiring skills to a high level of competency and practical training supported by academic study and time spent understanding new technologies. Cogent is the sector skills council for science-based industries. Previously, many companies in that sector look for graduates, but Cogent has set up mechanisms for companies to employ young people who seek career progression through a more practical in-company route, about which the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, spoke. With Cogent, companies can grow their own talent and apprentices gain the skills and knowledge that are important to the employer. That makes Cogent part of the success of our science-based industries.

In the previous debate, the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and others mentioned the BBC. The BBC London apprenticeships are part of the corporation’s legacy from the Olympic Games. The scheme gives 10 trainees a year entry-level jobs in production. The business case here is that it underpins the incentive of making entry level into BBC employment much more accessible.

We are continually told that employers want school leavers to have social and communication skills, team-working skills, literacy and numeracy, and initiative. I am sure that that is absolutely true, but those skills are best developed through school and workplace experience. That is not apprenticeship, and we should not mix the two. One is to achieve a skilled and innovative workforce; the other is to reduce the number of workless young people—of course there are far too many of them.

Will the Government reconsider their response to the Richard review? Will they rationalise the 48 schemes from three departments, because their current position condemns many to be stuck in low-paid jobs and Britain to a lower-skilled workforce?

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Wilcox on leading this timely debate and on a constructive speech. The growth of apprenticeships has been a key success of the coalition Government, but there is a lot more to do. As economic recovery gets under way, there are two needs. One is to get business investment up. The second is to redouble investment in vocational training and skills enhancement, especially expanding quality apprenticeships. Together, they have the overall objective of improving employee productivity so that we can compete better internationally.

Our economy has been adjusting to even greater global competition from which there is no escape. Young people entering the labour market and those in vulnerable occupations are most at risk. The current youth unemployment rate is unacceptable. We have also to tackle the social divide between university education and vocational, technical and employment training, which is a barrier to social mobility. Some 50% of our young people can now go to university, but if we do not address the other 50%, we will simply recreate a social divide at 18 rather than 11.

In July, it was encouraging and uplifting for me to share a day with other Liberal Democrat parliamentarians meeting apprentices to see what is being achieved in their workplaces. I visited Stannah lifts in Andover, a family engineering company with a turnover of £145 million and 1,500 staff. At the time, it had significantly more apprentices than the whole of the Department for Business. I hope that my noble friend will update us on the improvement that I know that the department is now making. Stannah, like many family businesses, believes in investing in its staff and its future. Its factory and company are an example to the 80% of workplaces which, sadly, have no apprentices, on what they need to do. If a company invests in its people, it wins their commitment, confidence, flexibility and, above all, their knowledge to compete better.

I spent most of my career in the newspaper industry at a time when, frankly, apprenticeships had a bad name for being too fixed on traditional skills, restricting flexible working and protecting out-of-date skills. Now the perception of apprenticeships is changing. They are not perfect but they are more flexible and more outward-looking by being associated with training outside the workplace, and they place more emphasis on qualification by competence rather than time served.

However, we have to do more if we want to double the number of apprentices that we have had in the past three years. We have to alter the focus, so that getting people on to apprenticeships has as much kudos and prestige as getting on to a university course. We must accept that most progress has in fact been made with the 25-plus age group, whereas the greatest focus for training and apprenticeships should now be on pupils who leave school at 17 or 18. We must question whether schools’ careers services are, frankly, sufficiently geared up to provide the needed links with local employers. Is Ofsted giving as much credit to schools for getting their pupils into apprenticeships and training as it does to university applications?

All companies need pressure and encouragement to make them question whether they are doing enough in this national priority get young people into work and trained. We should build on the initiatives of many local papers, such as the ones I used to run, to publicise how local organisations are getting young people into work and thereby encouraging more to do that. Every government department must question whether it has been doing enough— just as the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, challenged the Department for Business in the summer. It would be a good start to have a regular roll of honour and dishonour to see who is doing best and worst in the public sector.

At the end of the 18th century, the Duke of York, as head of the Army, had the task of modernising the British Army, which he did by opening up appointments and transforming military training. His work contributed massively to our military domination in the 19th century in Europe and the rest of the world. The task that we face to compete in world markets now is on a similar scale. If we do not want our economy marching up the hill and back again, as it has done for too long, a new, sustained impetus with cross-party support on apprenticeships, combined with sustained business investment, are now the two key economic priorities for the next 10 years.

My Lords, I welcome this debate on apprenticeships, which are so vital to our future competitiveness and prosperity, and I congratulate the noble Baroness on leading it. I declare my interests as a member of the Apprenticeships, the Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning and the Skills and Employment All-Party Groups, and until recently as a director of a small company that helps to prepare disadvantaged young Londoners for employment, including via apprenticeships. I shall focus on two issues: increasing the number of young people wishing to undertake apprenticeships and expanding the opportunities available to them from employers, particularly SMEs.

The first issue relates to the lack of awareness of young people in schools of the apprenticeship opportunities available to them. I have met quite a number of apprentices and can hardly recall any who had heard about their apprenticeship, or been encouraged to take it up, through their schools. Indeed, I have heard of survey results indicating that one in five current apprentices were actively discouraged by their schools. Sadly, there seems to be an ingrained view that going on to further or higher education is better than going into a practical, job-related training programme, even where that programme offers recognised, high-quality qualifications. Yet for a substantial number of young students, higher education may not offer the most appropriate pathway to a successful career. Many of the apprentices I have met preferred to get into the workplace sooner, and to start earning ahead of their contemporaries, while gaining job-related skills and qualifications and, in some cases, going on to do university degrees at a later stage.

How can we tackle this problem? Of course we should put pressure on schools and careers services to promote apprenticeships as an option where appropriate. This should be included in Ofsted inspections. Schools should be required not only to report destination data for all their students but to achieve a sensible balance between students going on to university and into jobs or apprenticeships, and inspected against those criteria. There should also be much greater effort to make parents aware of the range and value of apprenticeship opportunities. Other noble Lords may have received a CIPD briefing, showing that only 9% of parents ranked an apprenticeship as the qualification that they would most like their child to attain.

When I met a group of engineering sector apprentices from the Industry Apprentice Council, set up by EAL, I was particularly struck by their willingness, indeed eagerness, to act as ambassadors themselves, based on the view that they are best placed to promote apprenticeships to others of their generation. Many have been articulate, enthusiastic, persuasive and impressive; surely we could harness those talents to encourage others to follow their lead. Perhaps the Government should look at ways of extending this concept of industry apprentice councils into other sectors.

My second issue relates to encouraging and enabling employers, particularly smaller firms, to offer more apprenticeships. I shall base this on a social enterprise called Building Lives set up by Steve Rawlings, the founder and chief executive of Lakehouse—a construction and contracting company based in Romford which now has an annual turnover of more than £300 million and some 1,300 staff. Building Lives offers 18-month NVQ level 2 multi-trade construction-sector apprenticeships, covering a range of skill areas including bricklaying, carpentry, plumbing, painting and decorating, plastering and tiling. It currently runs six Building Lives academies across London, each training about 50 apprentices a year aged 16 to 64, although one of them offers vocational training for much younger students, aged 14 to 16, in Southwark. The apprentices mostly come from deprived areas local to the academies. Many are NEETs or suffer other forms of disadvantage, including being young offenders.

Almost all those who complete their apprenticeships at Building Lives go on to be offered jobs with local contractors. Many of these are small firms, so Building Lives is set up as an apprenticeships training agency, or ATA, in order to manage on their behalf the bureaucracy involved in employing these young people. Already, after just a couple of years of operation, these six centres are producing some 250 qualified apprentices a year, who mostly go on into full-time jobs.

Building Lives would like to expand: Steve talks about reaching 20 academies within the next few years, producing about 1,000 qualified apprentices a year to go into the construction jobs market, with its expected growing skills needs. The academies are financially self-sustaining, for example through training fees, but they involve start-up costs—for example, to fit out suitable premises and to acquire necessary tools and equipment. Funding these initial costs in the current climate is proving extremely difficult yet it seems to me that this is a model for enhancing take-up of apprenticeships—not necessarily restricted to construction—that is proven and replicable, and could generate both new apprenticeship openings and the young people to fill them in significant numbers. What help can the Minister offer to enable initiatives of this kind to attract the start-up funds that they need?

My Lords, I am afraid that when I talk about apprenticeships, I bring with me rather a big moan. One of the major problems that we have had with the apprenticeship system is that the choice of wording, and the way in which the matter has been approached, has ended up, almost by definition, by excluding anybody who has even moderate dyslexia. We are currently dealing with this problem in the Children and Families Bill and may come to a satisfactory conclusion on it at Report. I will not rehearse those arguments now, because nobody has annoyed me enough to go through it all over again, but what it points out to me is that there is a problem with the idea that we have got in front of us now.

In fact, there are effectively two problems. The first is the perception that apprenticeships are wonderful and should be left alone and nobody can criticise them because they are to do with business. The other is the perception that education happens somewhere else and is nothing to do with training. We reached a point where I asked the then Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, whether we were going to prevent dyslexics from getting their apprenticeships because of the English test. He said, “No, we’ll sort that out”. Somewhere in the slip between cup and lip, however, and with the change of government, we developed a system where they were being stopped. Would that have happened in an educational establishment? No, it would not. Educational establishments know that you bring people on board and, with a long-term advantage, you can deal with it. If we go after training, we could have a system where people say, “Training and business? Business wants people who have literacy skills. If you don’t have good literacy skills, we cannot deal with you”. They do not know that in the modern world there are dozens of ways of assisting people to gain literacy skills through technology.

It was particularly worrying that although the same department provided both the disabled students allowance and the literacy package for universities—which is particularly for dyslexics but also for others with disabilities—the two parts were not talking to each other: the silos had closed. And just to make the absurdity slightly greater, guess what? Afterwards they could get help through Access to Work, which helps dyslexics access the written word. We got ourselves into a situation where a scheme was too precious to look outside itself. If that can happen once it can happen twice. We have to try to cross over that and ensure that the different parts talk to each other.

My noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, talked about building up this important aspect which should be valued by the education system, this cross between training and education. The two worlds currently regard themselves as separate. I agree with my noble friend that schools should be better at directing people towards this area. In this case, however, the people from the academic world have had a better understanding of the support required for this group—which is 10% of the population—than people in the training world have had. Let us also face facts. If you put a dyslexic through university, what sorts of entrance-level jobs will be available for a university graduate? They will go into a white-collar office job. With the best will in the world, and with all the technological support in the world, they would probably be happier in a more practical environment. By not thinking laterally, and by defending your own little world, you are deliberately excluding people who would have been happier in that place. Unless the people undertaking these schemes start to talk to each other, they will continue to make these mistakes.

I do not have enough time in the remaining seconds to go further into this. However, we need to make sure that everyone who provides training supports people with disabilities throughout the process, not only up to the test but during practical demonstrations as well. Unless that happens, we shall continue to have these problems, even if we successfully deal with the problem of the functional skills test.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, on securing this debate on this very important theme. The Richards review and the statement by the Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise make clear that there are three areas that we need to look at and hold together.

The first is the big context about the importance of using education and training, of which apprenticeship is part, to make good citizens and a proper workforce for the 21st century. That is the theme of vocation: developing people to have a sustainable working life. The second area is the need for employers to be able to train and recruit the kind of people they need for their particular industry. The third area is the fact that there are a large number of young people who lack the opportunity to engage with the world of work. Those three themes frame this debate.

I will start with a comment on the bigger picture. I work in Derby, which is a great centre for industry, technology and innovation. One of the flagships is Rolls-Royce. The Rolls-Royce apprenticeship academy takes between 150 and 200 people a year. It is a setter of high standards. As part of their training, these apprentices are sent into the community to work in schools, with the homeless and in other places of need. They are developed in their vocation to be human beings and to handle themselves in the world, alongside the particular skills of engineering. It is very important to remember that in this debate. As the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, said, that was perhaps part of the energy that created her father—that wider hinterland of vocation to move beyond technical skills.

The second area is the needs of employers. With its long industrial heritage, the city of Derby has an exciting partnership between local businesses, Derby College and the University of Derby, to establish a university technical college that will open in September 2014. This is an engineering school for people between 14 and 18 years old, and a partnership between business and education. It may have the kind of potential to look at some of the learning issues that have been raised today, because of the ingredients of the partnership. Employers know what they are looking for, and are using professional educational and training institutions to help deliver them in a joined-up way.

The third strand is the fact that so many young people are denied access to the world of work. Because of their vocational element, and their ability to equip young people to be citizens and develop their skills in other ways, apprenticeships are a key area for them to have the opportunity to access. In my part of the world we have the JCB Academy; noble Lords probably know about JCB diggers. I work with people who are involved in that academy. They are helping young people to bridge the problem of being out of the world of work and getting into it.

The story of somebody I know illustrates this. This is a young person from a dysfunctional home who was a bad attendee when the opportunity to train through the JCB Academy was offered. Instead of telling this person that they were not meeting our standards and were off the course, the academy first worked with the mother; this was a single-parent family. Then it provided a return-to-school plan for the young person. It provided a mentor. When for other reasons the family was relocated out of the catchment area, JCB took the initiative and found temporary accommodation so that the young person could finish their training. This person is now an almost fully qualified apprentice engineer. That reaching out beyond immediate needs to get someone into the workforce and build a bridge, is crucial for so many young people who lack the opportunity.

I end by asking the Minister three questions. As the Government try to ensure good standards, could they include standards about the formation of citizens and a vocational element in apprenticeships? Besides including small businesses in the apprenticeship model, could the Government see how we could develop partnerships such as the one in the university technical college in Derby, between education and training specialists and elements of industry, that might help small businesses especially? How can we encourage the development of apprenticeships to build bridges to young people who need real encouragement and support to step into the world of work with its disciplines?

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, for initiating this debate. I strongly support the Government’s reforms to the apprenticeship system. The employer-designed standards and assessment to be introduced are very welcome, and in particular the English and maths requirements and the minimum of 12 months for an apprenticeship. These provide a stronger structure that more employers and more potential apprentices will want to join. It is the job of everyone—not just the Government—to make a success of apprenticeships.

I shall raise three strategic problems in relation to skills. The first is the ageing workforce. Over the next three years, 200,000 people will be retiring from manufacturing and engineering. They will have to be replaced. Secondly, we have a skills gap. All over the UK, in manufacturing, engineering and the process industries, there are shortages at level 3 and above. I have lost count of the number of times I have been told or have read of the difficulty that so many employers have in recruiting. When we consider how much we spend on skills, it is quite astonishing that this problem is so widespread and so deep in so many sectors.

The third strategic problem is the lack of qualifications. Half of those who leave school without five good GCSEs have no job. Youth unemployment stands at 965,000: 21% of the under-24s. I have come to the conclusion that such a high level of youth unemployment is in part related to weaknesses in the provision of technical education, and to too few youth apprenticeships.

We still have a shortage of quality apprenticeships, and we need to raise the status of technical education to overcome that. We need opportunities throughout the country, including in rural areas where schools, further education and manufacturing businesses, in particular, need to be coherently linked through an apprenticeship system. For apprenticeships to grow, people have to offer apprenticeships, other people must take them up and places and sectors must want to promote them. We have to build on good practice. I draw attention to the city of Nottingham, which launched its apprenticeship hub in November 2012 and has in the past 12 months seen a one-third increase in the number of apprenticeships.

Secondly, there is good practice when newspapers show leadership in supporting the growth of apprenticeships. I draw particular attention to the Journal in Newcastle upon Tyne, and congratulate it on its leadership in driving up the number of apprenticeships in the north-east of England through its Proud to Back Apprentices campaign, which I am delighted to support. It is everybody’s responsibility, and lots more companies are needed to engage.

Opportunities for girls and women are another aspect of this. I commend Hilary French, the president of the Girls’ Schools Association, who in a speech last week to its annual conference on Tyneside said that higher-level apprenticeships were one way in which young women could take up a career using science, maths or technology. There is a serious shortage of women taking up careers who have studied these subjects. She said:

“I believe, and hope, that the link between schools and employers will strengthen over the coming years and that there will be an increasing focus on developing employment skills. I’d like to challenge independent schools heads to embrace these alternative avenues. Parents too. There is huge potential in employer training courses and the new types of apprenticeships which are emerging. We must not be sniffy about them”.

I concur absolutely with that.

Finally, I am very glad to see that the National Apprenticeship Service has had its role extended to include supporting employer investment in traineeships, which will be particularly helpful in addressing the imbalance in the age of a company’s workforce. I hope that the Government’s changes and the creation of the new trailblazers, which will combine employers and professional bodies in new industries such as aerospace, automotive, digital, electrotechnical, energy and life sciences, in particular, will drive ahead to create many more apprenticeship opportunities for our young people.

I shall speak briefly in the gap. I support my noble friend Lady Wilcox and must declare an interest as patron of the Heritage Crafts Association and chairman of William Morris Craft Fellowship. I would have put myself down to speak in this debate, but I was attending a service in Westminster Abbey to commemorate 60 years of the National Churches Trust giving money to help restore and maintain our great historic churches in this country. I did not want to commit to speak and then not be here.

As I have the opportunity, I will say to the Minister, in particular, that it is desperately important that we remember the crucial significance of craft apprenticeships. I say that in the light of the very perceptive comments of my noble friend Lord Addington. Many young people who have dyslexia can become superb craftsmen and craftswomen. The Heritage Crafts Association and the William Morris Craft Fellowship have tried to spread the gospel of true craftsmanship. It is very important that employers, many of whom in the Heritage Crafts Association are one-man or one-woman businesses, have help to take on apprentices.

I make a plea to the Minister to allow me to bring to meet him a representative from both those associations, so that we can discuss how best the Government can help encourage, through the education system and elsewhere, young men and women to embrace a career in the crafts. Not one of the churches whose rescue we were rejoicing in this morning could have been rescued had it not been for the skill of craftsmen and craftswomen. We need to ensure that there is a steady and continuing supply. It is a wonderful vocation. It is enormously fulfilling—but, sadly, it is too often denigrated. May this brief debate help ensure a resurrection of real interest in and encouragement of heritage crafts.

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox. Normally, when we have exchanged views on this she has been at the Dispatch Box on one side or the other. She has given us a great opportunity to discuss, albeit briefly, the vital issue of young people and apprenticeships.

I cannot match the academic achievements of many of the noble Lords in the Chamber, but I am part of a select group of noble Lords who are former apprentices; that is my claim to fame. A number of people have talked about the status of apprenticeships. Not only among young people but among teachers and parents it is not viewed in the same way as academic progression. I was reminded forcefully of this on the Lords outreach programme at a local high school. I scanned through all the documentation and found not a single reference to apprenticeships. I asked the group of 30 pupils I was talking to and, no, apprenticeships were not registering with them at all. We have got a lot more to do in that area.

It is not a question of either/or for apprenticeships and academic training. Often the path of an apprenticeship leads you through to getting a degree. As I have often had the opportunity to remind young people, it has the added bonus that you can earn while you learn, with a guaranteed job at the end of it. It has much to recommend it. I say to the Minister that he needs to ensure that all schools should have links to the business community and the world of work.

We often hear talk about soft skills. I do not know why we call them soft skills; they are essential skills, which have already been referred to. It is not just about literacy, numeracy and teamwork. IT skills are also an essential part of any young person’s CV today.

We need to do a lot better with career guidance. There has been a reference today to university technical colleges, which are a good and welcome development. We need young apprentices to return to the schools that they previously attended. Role models are absolutely essential. I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. Also, we somehow need to get through to young girls that there are careers apart from hairdressing or nursing—not that I wish to denigrate either of those because they are in themselves valuable jobs—and to open up their horizons to the worlds of science, engineering and craft skills as well. There are a lot of opportunities there. I certainly concur with the points of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, on dyslexia and disabilities. We need to work harder in ensuring that apprenticeships are open to people with those challenges.

The real problem is actually that the demand, as a number of noble Lords have said, vastly exceeds the supply. I do not wish to knock the Government’s attempt, but they should stop just saying, “We have done 500,000”, when you know that when you examine those figures they will not stand up to scrutiny. The challenge for us, as the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, said, is that we have still got only 4% to 8% of companies employing apprentices. It is still only a third of companies in the FTSE 100. You can knock Ed Miliband and his view about compulsion when hiring but it might be a salutary reminder to say that, if only employers would attach as much importance to people within this country when they were looking for skills on hiring, it would not do them any harm. The Government should treat this as a top priority. Nearly 1 million 16 to 24 year-olds are unemployed. Some of them are in education, but they are still looking for a job.

My noble friend Lord Haskel told about problems with the actual apprenticeships. In the 16 to 19 year group according to the recent report by the Work Foundation, which I commend to the Minister, only 6% of 16 to 18 year-olds were in an apprenticeship. Of those who started apprenticeships in 2011, 71% were existing employees. A recent BIS survey found that 20% received neither on nor off-the-job training, which is a worrying statistic.

What needs to be done? The Government must lead by example. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, that in my brief ministerial career I managed to ensure that once a month every department came around and told me what it had achieved or failed to achieve. Why on earth are we not saying to companies which get public procurement contracts that they must declare their number of apprenticeships? We did it. We got about 300-plus on the Olympics, and Crossrail is heading towards 400.

Briefly, because I am conscious of the time, you also need to expand the use of group training associations. A recent report on them said that GTAs should be central to the Government’s plan for economic growth. I would like to hear from the Minister what they are doing about that. Similarly, the Apprentice Training Association mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, represents another good opportunity. I looked in vain on the local enterprise partnerships’ websites for any reference to apprenticeships. Again, they ought to be at the top of their lists, working with local authorities.

The Government have done some useful work, but not enough in my opinion. We should see the real danger: that this generation of young, unemployed people could become a lost generation. We owe them a much better deal than that, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to set out what the Government are doing to encourage young people to take an apprenticeship. I am most grateful to my noble friend Lady Wilcox for tabling this debate and to noble Lords who have raised some important points. This also gives me particular pleasure because in recent times my noble friend Lady Wilcox served as a BIS Minister in my role.

Apprenticeships are at the heart of the Government’s drive to give people of all ages the skills that employers need to compete in the expanding, competitive global market. As several noble Lords have pointed out, strong returns arise from apprenticeships. As my noble friend Lady Wilcox has said, that is why we have seen a record 1.5 million people start an apprenticeship since 2010.

The fundamental underlying principle of an apprenticeship is that it is a paid job that incorporates on and off-the-job training that leads to nationally recognised qualifications. After investing heavily in an apprentice, it makes business sense for employers to keep employing individuals once their apprenticeship ends. We need to do more to spread the word that apprenticeships are good for the economy, good for business and good for individuals. The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, raised the issue of the Richard review and claimed that the implementation plan had given permission to label any training an apprenticeship. With his other comments, I take issue with him and with the points that the noble Lord, Lord Young, made about the numbers. This is not just a numbers game. Our aim in reforming apprenticeships is to make the programme the new international benchmark for excellence. This is about quality, not number-counting, and we are determined to raise all apprenticeships to the standards of the best so that the programme is rigorous, responsive and meets the changing needs of our economy in the decades to come.

I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Baker of Dorking for his groundbreaking, unstinting and exciting work on university technical colleges, and in particular his work on addressing the shortages in STEM. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby raised an interesting point and gave an interesting example about the Rolls-Royce training programme, which we know is one of the very best in the country. He also raised a point about the university technical colleges and the need—

My Lords, I do not like to interrupt, but if we are to pay tribute, as we should, to the noble Lord, Lord Baker, we should also be sure to pay tribute to Lord Dearing. It was a joint initiative of both noble Lords, and he made such a great contribution that I felt it was appropriate to remind the House of it.

The noble Lord, Lord Young, is absolutely right, and I certainly pay tribute to Lord Dearing for the work he did in this area. My overall point is that we need to combine practical training and vocational training, as the right reverend Prelate pointed out, and we very much focus on that, mixed, of course, with the provision of academic study. I should also make the point that there is a shortage of science and engineering skills in this country. Again, the right reverend Prelate alluded to this, and it is very much on our radar that we should look at this in respect of apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships must be high quality, rigorous and focused on what employers need. The reforms we are making will put employers in the driving seat of developing apprenticeships that are more rigorous, more responsive and deliver the right skills. Additional rigour will come from a demand for higher standards that will stretch apprentices by setting higher expectations for achievement in English and maths, requiring more assessment at the end of an apprenticeship, and recognising an apprentice’s achievement through a grading system that ensures excellence that is clearly seen and widely understood. These changes build on those already introduced to raise quality, such as the minimum 12 months duration.

My noble friend Lady Wilcox raised a concern about over-bureaucracy. More responsiveness will be possible from the sweeping away of lengthy, convoluted, unnecessarily complex frameworks to bring in new, short, clear standards that are written by employers, not bureaucrats. Apprenticeships will then be able to focus on the skills and expertise that employers want and need. Reviewing the standards every three years will ensure that they remain relevant. The Government are also taking specific steps to support access to apprenticeships for young people as part of their work to deal with youth unemployment. We want apprenticeships to be held in the same high regard as university degrees. My noble friend Lord Stoneham and the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, rightly alluded to this very important point. Young people must be able to choose the right route to the skills and knowledge they need for their career. Careers advice and guidance at the right time have never been so important. It is crucial that schools, colleges and universities play their part alongside the National Careers Service in inspiring and helping young people to make those choices. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, spoke about the importance of schools taking responsibility for promoting apprenticeships. If time permits, I should like to say more about the careers advice questions that were asked during the debate.

Apprenticeships must also be open to all. Not all young people leave school ready for the demands of an apprenticeship. I paid tribute earlier to the work done by my noble friend Lord Baker and Lord Dearing on university technical colleges. We have also introduced traineeships which enable 16 to 23 year-olds to develop the skills, experience and confidence they need to compete for an apprenticeship. Higher apprenticeships provide opportunities for able young people to undertake apprenticeship training at a level equivalent to a degree. It is precisely because apprenticeships must be open to all that the Government cannot create an “entitlement”, or a guarantee, that an apprenticeship will be available for every young person who would like one. Recruitment decisions must rest with employers for apprenticeships as much as for other jobs. Through the Education Act 2011, we have prioritised apprenticeship funding for vulnerable young people—those aged 16 to 18 and those aged 19 to 24 who have a learning difficulty or disability, or who have been in local authority care when they have found a place. This guarantee has priority over funding for other places in line with our focus on supporting vulnerable groups in all areas.

My noble friend Lord Addington, supported by my noble friend Lord Cormack, referred to vulnerable groups—my noble friend Lord Addington focused particularly on those with dyslexia—and exclusion in relation to apprenticeships. I reassure them by saying that all apprenticeships stretch and prepare individuals for sustained employment. Dyslexia should not present an insuperable barrier to those candidates who demonstrate competence and commitment in their chosen field. Access to Work and Additional Learning Support are two possible sources of funding to help provide equipment or other assistance for apprentices with dyslexia. The Government certainly recognise that there is more to be done to support apprentices with learning difficulties or disabilities and we aim to improve the operation and delivery of apprenticeships without jeopardising the standards that make them so valuable to apprentices and employers. I would be delighted to meet my noble friend Lord Cormack and the organisations that he mentioned, should that still be appropriate.

We fully fund apprenticeship training for 16 to 18 year-olds. This reflects the fact that they are likely to need more supervision and support initially and take longer to become fully productive in the workplace. For all young people, the National Apprenticeship Service—NAS for short—works with organisations that provide careers advice to make sure the benefits and demands of an apprenticeship, including what employers look for when recruiting, are understood and can be fully explained to the young people with whom the organisations work. NAS also provides an online apprenticeship vacancies job site. Between 12,000 and 20,000 vacancies are on the site at any time and can be accessed in a number of ways convenient to young people, including through Facebook, Twitter and apps for iPhones and Android phones.

My noble friend Lady Wilcox made a very valid point about the esteem of apprenticeships. Apprenticeships are something to aspire to and apprentices should be awarded recognition for their work just as graduates are. As I have said, our goal is to see an apprenticeship place valued equally to one at university. Celebrating success is so important to this. National Apprenticeship Week 2014, on 3 to 7 March, is an excellent opportunity to do just that. I know that all noble Lords will lend cross-party support when the time comes.

Apprenticeships are also promoted at large-scale events, including the Skills Show in Birmingham this month. More than 80,000 people attended that and large numbers of young people took up the offer to “have a go” at more than 40 different skills offered at different stands. The show is now going nationwide with 220 local events planned between now and December 2014. Organisers expect that more than 200,000 young people will attend the events. This shows that there is keen interest in skills and apprenticeships.

My noble friend Lady Wilcox, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby raised the issue of the careers service, and asked particularly how the new careers service is performing. They raised the issue of careers advice at schools and the important point as to whether options other than university are provided and discussed. As part of the new agenda, the National Careers Service will work with schools, colleges and employers to bring greater cohesiveness to careers guidance. We want these new arrangements to be in place from October 2014 when the new National Careers Service contracts will start.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoneham, raised the issue of apprentices in the public sector and the need for more transparent data on this. We do not currently measure a breakdown of apprenticeships in the public and private sectors. However, the fast-track Civil Service apprenticeships scheme was launched in October and is taking 100 18 to 21 year-olds through a two-year apprenticeship. At the end of the scheme they will, if successful, have earned a higher level qualification at level 4. We do intend to expand the scheme for another cohort, which we hope will be launched in early 2014. In addition, Civil Service Learning is currently working with its prime contractor to put in place a single provider or a consortium to offer to partners an easier way of sourcing apprenticeship services.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby and my noble friend Lady Wilcox raised the issue of learning to be good citizens as well as gaining skills for work. National Citizen Service is a life-changing experience open to all 16 and 17 year-olds across England. It is a unique three-week full-time programme of fun and discovery that benefits both young people and society. Participants build skills for work and life while taking on new challenges and adventures and learning new skills and making new friends. Taking place outside school and term time, the part-residential programme is made up of four sections that focus on personal and social development, including leadership, teamwork and communication. This works alongside the apprenticeship reforms, so I am pleased to mention it.

My noble friend Lord Shipley raised the important point about the need for more apprenticeships in engineering and manufacturing, a point to which I alluded earlier. The new higher apprenticeships are available or are in development in sectors including construction, advanced engineering, engineering environmental technologies, energy and utilities including water and waste, and space engineering. It is important to articulate to young people the career opportunities in STEM-based occupations via STEM apprenticeships.

Time has pretty well run out.

Before the Minister sits down, if time does not allow a response now, I should welcome a written reply on the question of public procurement contracts and apprenticeships and on the question of encouraging group training associations and ATAs.

Before the Minister sits down, will the Government take steps to rationalise the 48 schemes identified by the CBI from three government departments all of which can apparently be referred to as apprenticeships?

In answer to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, I shall be happy to write to him. In answer to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Young, on public procurement, the Government support the appropriate use of apprenticeships in procurement as they can contribute to encouraging growth in the UK economy. I shall look at his question in Hansard to see whether we can produce a fuller answer to it.

In conclusion, I urge noble Lords to support apprenticeships, as I know they all will, and to support the reforms that the Government are making to them.

Police: Public Trust

Motion to Take Note

Moved by

To move that this House takes note of public trust in the police, its role in effective policing, and the system for investigating complaints into police conduct.

My Lords, the system of policing in this country is almost unique in that there are insufficient police officers to enforce the law by force and weight of numbers, they are predominantly unarmed and, by and large, the public work with them in that they act as the eyes and ears of the police, they co-operate with the police to enforce the law and maintain order, and they provide information and give evidence in judicial proceedings. The police should be “citizens in uniform” who act on behalf of, with the approval of and with the collaboration of the public. Were this not so, our police forces would have to be considerably larger and they would undoubtedly have to be armed.

Unlike other professions, the police’s ability to carry out their primary functions of improving public safety and preventing crime, harm and disorder is dependent on people trusting them. The more the public have trust and confidence in the police, the more likely they are to collaborate with them and therefore the more effective the police will be. For the police, reputation is therefore not simply a matter of professional pride but a matter of effectiveness in that, if there is a lack of trust and confidence in the police, they will be less effective, and that could inevitably result in a downward spiral.

As with many things in this world, that police chiefs want to cover up mistakes and misconduct is understandable but not justifiable. In the case of the police more than any other public body, there is a need for responsible journalism and, I have to say, responsible politics. Political grandstanding and media sensationalism when mistakes occur or misconduct is discovered not only compound the damage to the reputation of the police but make it less safe for all of us, because they unnecessarily undermine public trust and confidence and therefore police effectiveness. We need level-headed debate and objective and factual reporting.

There is evidence that public collaboration with the police is under threat, despite what the opinion polls may say. When I was a police constable in 1977 and we arrived at the scene of a fight, because the combatants were aware of our presence they used to stop what they were doing and we would arrest those whom we wanted to arrest. Nowadays, the combatants are likely to turn on the police. The riots in London and across the country in 2011 showed flagrant disregard for the law, for the maintenance of order and for the authority of the police. Research conducted after that rioting indicated that a lack of respect for the police was a major influence over the conduct of those taking part. While it is still true that trust and confidence in the police at a local level remain higher than for other public bodies, it is of growing concern that an increasing minority of citizens are refusing to accept that authority and refusing to co-operate with the police. So what is going wrong?

Clearly, there has been an erosion of respect in the attitude of some members of the public towards authority generally. Respect towards teachers, bankers, politicians and the police has shown signs of diminution in all cases. Some of the issues that specifically tend to undermine public trust and confidence in the police are what I would call “slow burn”; others are “big bang”. Almost all of them, I suggest, are the result of a less than ideal police culture and the failure of the systems designed to deal with that misconduct.

In the former category, there continue to be ongoing issues around the disproportionate stopping and searching of black and other minority-ethnic people. The propensity is for them to be arrested rather than warned, and to be charged rather than cautioned by the police. This is eroding communities’ willingness to collaborate with the police. The fact that a smaller proportion of black and other minority-ethnic people than of the white population is recruited into the police, that there are even fewer black and minority-ethnic senior police officers and that black and minority-ethnic police officers and police support staff are more likely to face formal misconduct hearings does not help black and other minority-ethnic communities to trust the police. Why has the police service not tackled these race-related issues and why have successive Governments not put pressure on the police service to put its house in order?

To deal with an issue, we have to admit that we have a problem. I believe that the police fear that if they admit that they have a problem with racism they will give their critics a field day, further undermine the morale of front-line officers and allow the unjustified stereotyping of all police officers as being racists. The statistics around stop and search and those other issues in policing that I have just mentioned continue to show that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Why have politicians shied away from the problem? When the police were last accused of institutional racism, following the Macpherson inquiry into the tragic death of Stephen Lawrence and the attempted murder of his friend Duwayne Brooks, front-line officers disengaged from stop and search for fear of being accused of racism. Street robbery increased to such epidemic proportions that the then Prime Minister personally pledged to bring down the number of street robbery offences. Neither police officers nor politicians—or any of us—want to see such an increase in crime again.

I appear to be in the minority who believes that such a situation is not inevitable. I believe, and have believed since the time of the Macpherson inquiry, that these issues, particularly the disproportionate stopping and searching of black and minority-ethnic people, can be dealt with without condemning every police officer and without harming relations—indeed, I believe that it would improve operational effectiveness, and could reverse the continuing damage to police community relations. Of course, black and minority-ethnic people will not join the police if they believe that the police treat them unfairly on the streets.

In the big-bang category we have high-profile and much publicised examples of organisational failure and malpractice. The most alarming perhaps in recent times is what has been discovered by the Hillsborough independent panel. The evidence suggests a cover-up of the kind to which I have already referred—one designed to prevent the damage to the reputation of the police service generally, not just to spare the embarrassment of the senior officers responsible. This appears to be an attempt to protect the reputation of the police ordered by some senior police officers, not misconduct by the rank and file.

For those who wish to think that attitudes have changed, I must disappoint noble Lords. When I was the police commander in Lambeth in 2001 a small riot took place in Brixton. In the subsequent investigation closed circuit television was examined and revealed police officers apparently beating an unarmed man on the ground with their batons. When that was brought to my attention as the police borough commander, I called three people—my immediate boss, the head of the internal investigation and the chair of the local community police consultative group. A group of trusted community leaders convened at the police station, where I showed the CCTV footage and assured them that everything would be done to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice. Apparently my bosses were apoplectic that I had revealed such malpractice to members of the community. I was told that next time I should not inform the community unless and until we had identified the perpetrators and had brought them to justice—presumably meaning that if we had not identified the individuals we should have kept the public in the dark. This is the understandable but unjustifiable mindset that still exists among some senior police officers, which is unhelpful, unhealthy and self-defeating. Openness at the time is far less damaging and can even be reassuring to the public, rather than attempting to cover up and being found out later. This culture of denial and cover-up, perpetuated and encouraged by some of those at the very top of the police service, inevitably impacts on those in the lower ranks, where there are additional reinforcing pressures.

Again while I was at Brixton, a young police officer told me that he was thinking of resigning from the police service. He said that the culture in the military, from where he had come, was very different. He said that in the military the most senior officer present when mistakes occurred took responsibility and, if necessary, faced a court martial. In the police, his experience was that mistakes were covered up, and if they came to light responsibility was pushed down to the lowest possible rank in order to protect senior officers. My 30 years of experience, albeit in one police force, absolutely chimes with the perceptions of this young police officer.

However, there are other factors at work that encourage cover-up, including the unfair way in which the police complaints system operates. When complaints are investigated, those investigating seem determined to get you for something. When a complaint was made about an incident in which I was involved, during which I scratched my hand, because they could not find anything else on me I was later criticised and formally sanctioned for failing to report an injury on duty.

A series of cases have been brought to my attention since I left the police in 2007, where officers have been open and honest about what took place and feel that they have been punished for their honesty. Their use of what they considered to be reasonable force resulted in them being sacked, while others who falsely denied touching anyone during the same incident escaped justice. I have been presented with evidence of biased and one-sided investigations where investigating officers, convinced of the guilt of individuals, have excluded, and even illegally withheld, evidence that might prove otherwise.

The perceived unfairness of the complaints investigation system is compounded further in the Metropolitan Police by the fact that each and every misconduct hearing, almost without exception, is chaired by the same senior police officer. The judge in these cases is effectively employed by the prosecution. When I sat on such hearings, I would sometimes be told afterwards by the Department for Professional Standards that I had wrongly acquitted a corrupt officer. My fear is that the fact that it has a tame judge might tempt the Department for Professional Standards to give such a briefing before the evidence is heard.

My noble friend Lady Doocey will have much to say about the IPCC. All I will say is that I refer to it as the so-called Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The major issue that needs to be tackled is the culture of blame and cover-up in the police, which must change. In my experience, there will be no change without political pressure from outside. In return there should be responsible debate and reporting of police activity, with as much airtime and column inches in praise of the good work and successes achieved by the overwhelming majority of decent, hard-working police officers as is given to the tiny minority whose conduct falls short of what is required.

We need a system for the investigation of incompetence, mistakes and deliberate malpractice that is both fair and independent and has the confidence of both the public and police officers. We still have the best police service in the world, but we need to bring about radical change if we are to preserve and enhance its hard won reputation. I beg to move.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Paddick on securing this debate. I was going to add, “on this critically important and very timely subject”, but of course this debate is really about two critically important and very timely subjects—namely, public trust in the police and its role in effective policing; and the system for investigating complaints into police conduct. Although these are different subjects, they are closely related. It is because public trust in the police is at such a low ebb today that there is so much public concern about how complaints against individual police officers are investigated. As we all know, however, public opinion is notoriously fickle, and we must guard against making fundamental changes to our institutions simply to keep up with it.

I well remember, as a young official in the Home Office many years ago, that it was generally believed by the public—and reflected in the policies of Ministers of both major parties—that the best way of dealing with complaints against police officers was to allow chief constables to deal with them. This was based on the equally firm belief that those who had got themselves into trouble—that is, those who had complaints filed against them—were a tiny minority of police officers: the rotten apples at or near the bottom of the pile. That is why we thought that their elders and betters—those of ACPO rank—could be relied upon to sort them out in one way or another.

However, this belief that most police officers were fundamentally honest and that chief constables were the best people to deal with their own “rotten apples” was undermined towards the end of the last century by both the Scarman inquiry into the Brixton riots and the Stephen Lawrence inquiry in 1999. As a result of what the public learned from these inquiries, they were no longer prepared to trust ordinary police officers to behave properly or to trust chief officers to investigate complaints against their colleagues honestly and fairly. This in turn led to the demand for an independent element in the police complaints procedure; it was in response to this demand that an Independent Police Complaints Commission was established by the Police Reform Act 2002.

However, as I have already said, public opinion is something of a fashion industry. As recently as two years ago, when your Lordships were debating the then Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, the public’s main concern about policing was not how to improve the integrity of officers but how to improve their value for money. As a result, local chief constables were once again given the main responsibility for handling complaints, including appeals, against their officers. The IPCC would now consider only complaints and appeals which were thought to be, or classified as, “serious”. This change was justified as,

“streamlining and removing unnecessary bureaucracy from the system”,

and ensuring that,

“complaints were handled at the lowest appropriate level”.

In other words, this was justified as a way of improving value for money.

Sadly, however, although perhaps not surprisingly, public opinion has changed again in the last year or two. This is because so many of the police officers who have managed to get themselves into trouble in the last few years—or, more accurately, whose inappropriate behaviour has been exposed in the last two years—were not at the bottom of the barrel, but at the very top. The public once again turned against chief constables and decided that they could not, after all, be trusted to deal with complaints against their own officers.

This led to a fresh demand to remove responsibility for complaints from chief constables and move it to the centre: hence the plans to “beef up” the IPCC by transferring to it staff presently employed in the professional standards departments of local forces. Indeed, as recently as Monday of this week, the commission set up by the Labour Party under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, which we will be discussing in this Chamber next Thursday, recommended the creation of a new national body to handle police complaints. Why? It was because, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Stevens:

“The spate of organisational failures and scandals over recent years has badly damaged public confidence in the integrity of the police”.

As I said a few minutes ago, I am very worried about making changes to institutions as fundamental to our society as our police complaints system simply as a response to public opinion polls. If the problem he is concerned to tackle really is, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, believes, a loss of public confidence in police integrity, the answer must be to take steps to improve police integrity. The response cannot be to accept the present level of police integrity as a given and try to work round it by transferring responsibility for police complaints away from chief constables to a team of civilians in a national body. This will simply reinforce the public’s loss of confidence in the police. It will also damage the confidence of those chief officers—the vast majority of whom, I hasten to add, are public servants of the highest professional standard and men and women of unimpeachable integrity. It cannot be right to tar them all with the same brush. As a PCC said to me in an e-mail the other day:

“The more external checking the Government advocates, the less it is seen to trust the police to do the right thing in the first place”.

I do not accept that nothing can be done about police integrity, or what some people call police culture, or that, for this reason, we must not let chief constables anywhere near the arrangements for handling police complaints. Police integrity is no doubt in a bad place at the moment but something is being done about it. The Government’s College of Policing has already begun to tackle the issue with determination. I am optimistic about what the college will achieve, particularly if its board is expanded to include a larger number of truly independent individuals whose careers to date have not been linked to the police in any way.

In short, making major changes to the way police complaints are handled is not an appropriate or sensible response to the public’s concerns about police integrity. That is not to say that I am entirely satisfied with the present arrangements for handling police complaints: I most certainly am not. These arrangements were described to me recently by one PCC as, “labyrinthine, slow and bureaucratic”. They are seen by the public as unfair and stacked against them, as my noble friend Lord Paddick said. Even the police are unhappy with them. As another PCC wrote to me last week, “in my force, PSD”—the standards department—

“has almost a terror factor over officers and I don’t think this is healthy. Officers need to feel supported to make difficult decisions rather than afraid to do so”.

There are plenty of reasons for changing the present arrangements, but the changes must deliver a system which is much more user-friendly, quicker, more transparent and more responsive to local needs. All this points to keeping the complaints system as local as possible. Policing is primarily a local service whose principal aim is to make people safe in their own communities. The best way of achieving that objective is by retaining responsibility for local policing locally. As noble Lords will know, that is why I argued so forcefully for police and crime commissioners, directly elected by the people and accountable to them.

That is also why I believe that complaints against local officers should be dealt with within the local community. If the local community is not prepared to trust its chief constables to deal with complaints, the answer is not to transfer responsibility to the centre. The way forward is to make the complaints procedure part of the overall governance arrangements of the force and hold the PCC accountable for the way complaints are handled in the same way as the PCC is accountable to the local electorate for the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the force.

There is nothing radical in this. Most complaints can be handled by people without police powers or operational experience. In fact, many are not even complaints but expressions of dissatisfaction which should be used to improve the service. They are easily resolved with common sense, tact and a willingness to apologise. However, under the present rules, they are forced into a legalistic, bureaucratic process which puts officers on edge and complainants into deep despair.

There are several ideas for changing the way that the police complaints procedure works. The APCC—the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners—is working on this and will be coming up with proposals. Winston Churchill is reported to have said, among other things, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. There is clearly a crisis in confidence in the police and, more particularly, in police integrity. Let us not waste this opportunity to improve our system of police complaints, a problem which has bedevilled policing in England and Wales for a very long time.

My Lords, I enter this debate with some trepidation. It is not an area that I normally deal with, but I was fascinated by the first two contributions and I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, on giving the House the opportunity to debate this vital issue. I was interested in the contrast between the two contributions that we have just heard on the cause, the analysis and what the cure should be.

I suspect that there will not be any silver bullet. You cannot improve the complaints system without seeking to change the culture. Anybody who has done any examination of organisations will know that the hardest thing to change in any organisation is the culture. You can change structures and processes, but changing the culture is really difficult. However, we have to address the issue and I would be interested to hear the Minister’s response.

Along with all the other concerns that have been expressed about recent and not so recent cases, perhaps the most recent example was when the Public Administration Select Committee heard evidence from both a serving police officer and an ex-chief inspector. There were revelations concerning the reporting of crimes by the public and the disparity between those figures and the figures that were recorded by the police; for example, in rape cases there appeared to be a 70% discrepancy, and in one London borough there was a disparity of 400 in relation to burglaries from dwellings. I would be interested to hear the Government’s response to that.

Having looked through the Library note and the analysis of the role of the IPCC, I ask: do the Government feel that it is genuinely as independent as it should be? Does it really have the necessary powers to inspire confidence in the public that it is independent and that it can genuinely and thoroughly investigate complaints? As the report pointed out, it cannot call evidence from non-serving officers or those who have retired. That seems a yawning gap in its role. Some would suggest that, given its make-up, the commission is not truly independent.

Like the two previous speakers, I do not want to cast aspersions on the police generally. I work with them locally very well and very satisfactorily, and I think that the majority of them do a difficult and sometimes dangerous job very well indeed. But the question of public trust and confidence is of fundamental importance and cannot be ignored. A number of recent cases, which are not just about police constables but go much further up the hierarchy of command, give the public genuine cause for concern. I look forward to hearing what the Government intend to do in relation to recent revelations, and what changes they think are necessary.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Paddick for enabling the House to consider the question of public trust in the police. Public trust is absolutely vital. A loss of public trust can damage the reputation of any organisation, but because public trust is vital to the functioning of the police, the effects of its loss are much worse.

The problem has become more acute in recent years because of a change in the climate of public opinion. People have become increasingly sceptical about power and authority generally. In a healthy democracy, that is not necessarily a bad thing, but this scepticism can easily tip over into a corrosive cynicism.

Therefore, it has become more important to ensure that public trust in the police is protected and enhanced. This can be done only through the effective, transparent and fair resolution of complaints made against our police. The vast majority of police officers are honest and hard-working, and they should not have to suffer public criticism because of the failure to investigate properly the activities of a badly performing minority.

The system currently used to resolve complaints is through the Independent Police Complaints Commission. However, there are a large number of problems with the IPCC that combine to undermine public confidence. The IPCC generally lacks independence from the police. Most investigations of complaints are carried out by the police themselves, and relatively few are investigated independently by the IPCC. When the IPCC investigates complaints, a large number of these investigations are conducted by former or seconded police officers. The IPCC lacks transparency and does not do enough to ensure trust and confidence in its work.

A major problem for the IPCC is its perceived lack of independence. That is ironic, given that the principles of transparency and independence were central to its creation. Unfortunately, the IPCC has not lived up to those high hopes of independence. It has the power to carry out independent investigations, but in the vast majority of cases it delegates those investigations to the police.

There are presently four categories of investigation. Most fit into the two least serious categories—local investigations and supervised investigations—where all investigation work is done by the police. That is not a problem when it comes to more minor cases, where a complainant agrees to a local review. However, it is a problem when the case is more serious. The third and more serious category of investigation is the managed investigation. This still relies on police to carry out the investigative work. Even when we reach the most serious of the four categories, independent investigation, many people would be surprised to find that, in most cases, it is still former or seconded police officers who carry out the investigations. That lack of independence, even in many of the most serious cases, undermines public confidence.

The IPCC’s own statistical review identified that, in 2011-12, the IPCC upheld more than 1,400 appeals against the outcome of investigations—a huge, 40% increase on the previous year. The IPCC investigates only a tiny proportion of complaints about the police and only a small proportion of even the most serious cases. That becomes absurdly clear when one sees how many complaints are made and how few are investigated independently. In 2011-12, more than 31,000 complaints were made about police officers in England and Wales. Compare that figure with the total number of police officers in post—some 134,000—and the scale of the problem becomes clear.

Of course, not all complaints warrant the attention of the IPCC. It is right that low-level complaints about rude and uncivil behaviour by police officers, for example, should be considered by their supervisors, provided there remains an independent appeals process. However, not enough serious cases are subject to independent investigation. For example, of the 128 deaths in police custody in the five years to 2008-09, only 43—just over a third—were independently investigated. The overall number of referrals—that is, the more serious cases demanding the attention of the IPCC—was 2,165 in 2011-12. However, of those 2,000-plus referrals, the IPCC launched only 126 independent investigations—just one for every 17 cases referred.

To restore public confidence in the independence of the IPCC, we need more independent investigations and fewer police officers working as IPCC investigators. We should remember that it is not just for victims that we need an effective police complaints system. Only by prompt, open and fair investigation will honest police officers be able to continue to police by consent. I look forward to the opportunity to address this issue in more detail as we continue to consider the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for his very courageous speech. I listened with great care and I think we all learnt from it. I should declare an interest as the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which undertook some work on the disproportionate use of stop and search and managed to show that reducing levels of stop and search, in particular its inequitable application, does not in any way lead to increased crime. That is an extraordinarily important empirical finding.

I want to talk about trust. I am not an expert on policing, but I have thought a good deal about trust and trustworthiness in other contexts. It is a constant worry in most areas of public and commercial life that there may be a crisis of trust, that things may have gone radically wrong.

There is very mixed evidence for that claim, because the evidence that people like to cite is that of the opinion polls. In the case of most of those, we do not have a long time series, so it is difficult to compare the past with the present and to draw that conclusion of the declining level of public trust. Where we have longer series—20 years, say—we find that the people who came low in the trust rankings, for example, politicians and journalists came low 20 years ago and those who came high, for example, judges and nurses, came high 20 years ago. Most of the rest of us are in between. That is mixed evidence.

However, I think that this is probably the wrong sort of evidence to focus on. What we are really interested in is trustworthiness rather than trust. To get evidence of trustworthiness is a good deal harder. How does it make a difference if we switch to think about trustworthiness? I start by characterising the received view on these matters as consisting of a claim, an aim and a view about the task that we face. The claim is that the trust has gone down and the aim, it is said, is more trust. The task, therefore—I hear the conclusion coming from all directions—is that we must rebuild trust.

I do not think that that is a sensible position. I do not want just more trust; I want something much better. I want more well placed trust and, if you please, more well placed mistrust. For example, I do not think that it was desirable that all those people placed their trust in the aptly named Mr Madoff, who then made off with their money. That was an example of too much trust placed in the wrong way.

My view is that what we really want is trustworthiness before trust. Our proper question should be: how do we increase trustworthiness? It is not easy, of course. It is much harder to think about trustworthiness than to think about trust, but it is pointless for us to seek better trust in the police unless we think first about what helps and supports the police in being trustworthy, and what helps and supports the police complaints procedures, current or future, to be trustworthy. When we have thought about trustworthiness, that is the time to start thinking about how we might increase the alignment of public trust with trustworthiness.

Two received answers have been popular over the past 20 years as to what one should do. It is thought that we should go for more accountability. Who can be against that? It also thought that we should go for more transparency. Who, it is said, can be against that? I am only selectively for transparency and accountability. Those remedies have, after all, been tried energetically and repeatedly—you could even say, obsessively—for some 20 years, but they do not seem to have worked. Is it sensible to say, “We must try harder. We must do more, we must jump in and have more of the remedy that did not work”?

We need to think about the supposed remedies. The forms of accountability that have been instituted in policing and elsewhere have not always been brilliantly designed. We all know that, sometimes, detailed regulation works by setting targets. Targets have been set in policing and the targets that have been thought appropriate in policing have sometimes, including recently, been subject to change. That suggests to me that we need to think much more carefully about which targets we have and what effects the setting of targets has. In general, the problem with targets is not that they are ineffective but that they are all too effective. Once targets are set, people know what the aim is, and they pursue the targets at the expense of the broader, deeper social aims. That, perhaps, has happened in policing, in which I am not expert, as it has in higher education, which I know a bit about, and certainly in schooling.

We also need to think about what the real aims of policing are. I do not intend to enter into that large debate but I take it that we probably have a considerable measure of consensus there. We need accountability, but we need intelligent accountability and we have had to do without it all too often. What sort of processes would help us to secure more intelligent forms of accountability? Here, we are looking at the thickets that grow up around primary legislation, so I would bring it back to Parliament in part.

Although primary legislation seems odiously detailed when you are looking at a Bill, it nevertheless leaves a great deal that is open. In its wake comes masses of regulation, with codes of practice and guidelines. In another context, I was told by a midwife that the trouble was that it took longer to do the paperwork than to deliver the baby. Something has gone wrong if anywhere in our public life we have forms of regulation that achieve that, where the accountability measures disrupt performance of the primary task. I have heard, as all your Lordships will have heard, complaints again and again that police officers are overwhelmed by that aspect of accountability. We conduct many consultations; we conduct them until the cows come home. Yet seemingly we do not have reliable ways of weeding out dysfunctional, useless and merely burdensome forms of accountability. I am sure that we can do better.

Secondly, I will add a word or two on transparency. Suppose that we had a better set of systems of accountability, which were not dysfunctional but useful to police officers. How then would we link that to systems that would help the public to discriminate and would strengthen the trust placed in trustworthy policing? If trustworthiness is to be matched by public trust, we need to pay attention to how the public are enabled, or not enabled, to place trust in others’ performance. It is often said that transparency will do that. Transparency is about putting more information into the public domain, as we all know, and that creates certain incentives. I believe that this remedy is inadequate. Transparency is surely, in the first instance, a really good remedy for secrecy, including inappropriate secrecy.

However, if we want intelligently placed trust we need more than a reduction in secrecy. Secrecy is after all not the only problem with the procedures of the police, or indeed with IPCC investigations. Trust is given only when the public can judge the honesty, competence and reliability of those in whom they might place their trust. If the processes for investigating complaints that the IPCC or a successor body uses do not enable ordinary people to judge the honesty, competence and reliability of the police, they will not enable ordinary people to put well placed trust in policing. It is that matter of discriminating, well placed trust and, where appropriate, well placed mistrust that surely goes to the heart of it.

My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, both for leading this debate and for his powerful and serious introduction to it. I also look forward to the first of many contributions to the work of this House from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb.

I am also grateful to our police forces for their major role in establishing a courteous and sensitive society. Like many of my colleagues, I have, for example, accompanied police when they have been sharing news of a tragedy with relatives. I have been consistently impressed by the careful way that they have gone about their task. It is professionalism of the highest order. That reputation does indeed depend on the confidence of the public. I was a vicar in Sheffield at the time of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, and I spent much of the following week taking relatives of the Liverpool fans who had died onto the Hillsborough pitch, working with police officers who were invariably courteous, sensitive and supportive. It is tragic that so much good work has been lost to our collective memory by the subsequent lack of confidence in senior police behaviour at that time.

Similarly, I was the vicar of the south Yorkshire mining community of Wath-upon-Dearne at the time of the 1984 miners’ strike, when relationships between police and the community were at their most fraught. Reputation then was upheld—significantly—only by the story that the police officers guilty of taunting the community were not the local officers whom we knew, but officers imported from Sussex and other places south of the Trent. I still do not know whether that was true, but it was a very convenient story for all sides in that tense situation. Confidence becomes fragile so quickly. In many of our communities, however, trust is still based on personal knowledge of individual police officers. I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, for stressing the importance of keeping policing local, including the discussion and inquiries into offences.

In this context, I will not so much talk about the IPCC and its work as welcome warmly the draft code of ethics for the police forces of England and Wales that is currently published for consultation by the College of Policing. It is good to have specific standards of professional behaviour delineated there, for the police to build that confidence based on community relationships. These standards are filled with detail of how that relationship is to be developed, and I welcome the robustness of the sections on honesty and integrity, authority, respect and courtesy, and equality and diversity. Those are at the root of the proper use of authority by a citizen police force that is a part of our society and not set apart from it in order to police it. Police forces are given authority by the public and trusted to use it honestly, and to be aware of the dangers that are inherent in all authority and that come to the surface so easily.

I have two general points about the code on which I would be grateful for comments from the Minister. First, I regret what seems in the code and in our discussions about the IPCC to be a note of persistent negativity. The code seems more concerned with preventing bad policing than promoting the good. Not for one moment do I deny that we need to stop bad policing, and that where it happens we need to make due inquiries about it; but “thou shalt not” goes only so far in creating an effective culture for the way in which we work together.

It would be good to see the code developed so that it points confidently to the part that policing can and I believe does play in building a good society, creating and upholding the Queen’s peace, and positively establishing a foundation of confidence on which our communities will flourish. I have seen good policing doing just that, in personal contacts with those in need, in good relationships with local schools, and in the way in which, where necessary, arrests are carried out. The negativity of the code is understandable because it grew out of a disciplinary code, but positive energy for the common good is even more crucial than the elimination of bad practice.

I would also value a comment from the Minister on those points where the code seems to overemphasise the role of public opinion. In this, I support some of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill. A key stated criterion in the code is,

“whether their behaviour … is likely to reflect well on themselves and on policing”.

The unintended logic of that could be that an action is good or bad only if someone is watching or if somebody finds out about it. That cannot be the only—or an appropriate—moral imperative. Honesty and integrity exist or do not exist whether or not anyone knows about them. If the culture of respect to which the noble Lord, Lord Young, referred is to be developed among our police, the College of Policing would do well to get on to the front foot in its ethical work so that our police see it as their duty not simply to avoid wrongdoing but to pursue values that will make them still more a force for the common good.

My Lords, 100 years ago last month, my father’s father, Thomas Jones, was killed in the Senghenydd mining disaster in south Wales, along with 438 other men and boys. It is still the worst industrial accident ever to happen in these islands. It left hundreds of widows and orphans, including my grandmother, Polly, who had seven children, including my father, Percy, who was eight. The mine owners paid out something like £26 in total for all those men and boys. My dad therefore grew up in abject poverty. He and one of his brothers had to share a pair of shoes; one of them would wear them one day to school and the next day the other would wear them. After the First World War, when my father left school, rather than work down the pit that had killed his father, he and a brother walked all the way from Abertridwr in south Wales to London to find work. They slept in Hyde Park on benches until the Salvation Army found them and fed and sheltered them.

My dad found work in London and then moved to Brighton, where he met and married my mother, Christine. She came from a staunch Labour Party family. Her granddad, Will Evans, was the first Socialist—no Labour Party back in the 1890s—councillor on Brighton Council. He was a strong supporter of trade unions. During the Second World War, my dad was a cook with the RAF while my mother painted railway engines. When the war was over, they moved to a new suburb of Brighton, Moulsecoomb, which was part of the Homes Fit for Heroes project. I grew up very happy and secure, with my brother Allan, not realising that we were quite poor and the last in our road to get a fridge, a phone or a TV.

Having known hard times, my parents were big fans of the welfare state. They both knew a Britain where it did not exist. So my upbringing was full of gratitude and awe about free education, free medical help and an understanding that you have to help the most vulnerable in society because how you help the poorest is the mark of civilisation. I will skip over the next 40 years, which involved marriage, two wonderful daughters, some travelling, archaeology and lots of very deep-Green politics, and say that I am astonished to be here, but perhaps not as astonished as others. Considering that I have done nothing but talk abolition since my appointment, I have received a very warm welcome, for which I am very thankful.

On the issue of this debate, I would like to say trust in the police has always ebbed and flowed, but “plebgate” has caused a flurry even among the usual supporters of the police. Even the middle classes are saying, “If the police might do something like this to a government Minister, what chance does a working class youth have on a council estate?”. I have been working on the issue of trust in policing for more than a decade. I published a short report this year that looked at the levels of trust among young Londoners and the Met. I went and talked to young people and listened to them, and I found out what they thought. It was very marked that they did not trust the police. It was also marked that they differentiated between different parts of the police. Local police they accepted and saw as doing a generally good job, but the TSG—the Territorial Support Group—for example, was heartily disliked. Young people talked about “bully vans”, and about how the TSG would come into their streets, cause problems, make messes and then leave the sorting out to the local police.

The worst reaction seemed to be a result of stop and search. Although most young people could actually see a use for it, and felt that it might make them safer sometimes if the police found weapons on others, they disliked the way it was done. Again and again, Met officers managed to mess things up because they did not show professional politeness and did not communicate properly.

My years of Met scrutiny, first on the Metropolitan Police Authority and now on City Hall’s Police and Crime Committee, have led me to the conclusion that the police’s biggest problem is communication. If forces could communicate better, they would hear more useful intelligence from communities, and get more support on the streets and fewer attacks in the press, which would raise morale internally and improve the public’s confidence. For example, recently I complained that the Met was reducing its training of armed officers. Now this really is an area where you would think that you need the maximum amount of training, the highest level; there are already enough incidents and we do not want any more. It was explained to me by the Met that the training had reduced slightly but appeared to be generally better for officers and their skills. But the Met had not bothered explaining the changes to anybody. They had not communicated properly, which wasted my time, their time and actually gave them some unfavourable publicity.

Then there are the undercover police, spying on and sleeping with their targets, particularly in environmental organisations. Remember, these targets are people—women—who are innocent and who have not committed a crime. The officers have intruded in their lives to the most astonishing degree. One of them even fathered a child—and then vanished, of course. The Met seems strangely mixed up about this. In public the Met Commissioner has told me that such activity, sleeping with targets, is never authorised. In court, the Met lawyers claimed that the police who were charged had been authorised. At some level, there is a deep amount of confusion about this. It really does need cleaning up.

Of course, I have taken this seat courtesy of the Green Party, whose members voted for me and whose policies I shall do my best to promote.

My Lords, it is a privilege and a pleasure to congratulate the noble Baroness on behalf of the whole House. It is entirely appropriate that she was introduced on 5 November. I am sure that she will forgive me for saying that the term “feisty” could have been coined for her. I have to warn your Lordships that she takes no hostages when she is set on getting something done.

If Wikipedia is to be believed, the noble Baroness spent 10 years in the Middle East studying carbonised plant remains—we are more lively here—having studied archaeology as a mature student before politics took over. The noble Baroness, to whom I an finding it hard not to refer by her first name, has been a member of the London Assembly since its inception in 2000; was deputy mayor to Ken Livingstone in 2003-04; and I could use my nine minutes listing the positions that she has held, including, as she has mentioned, membership of the Metropolitan Police Authority and, now, deputy chairmanship of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee.

However, the noble Baroness is more intent on doing than on being. I understand that, for instance, she still goes out early on a Monday morning on a tea run for homeless people. That is between things such as working on a food strategy for London, promoting cycling and much more. She tweeted of her appointment:

“I feel very lucky, but the possibility of protocol disasters is high”.

That is as may be, but the probability of her making an impact on the House is high.

I do not normally tell anecdotes, but I will tell one. A long time ago, before the current rules on evidence-taking, I gave a statement to the police after seeing someone behaving suspiciously. I was asked what he looked like and what he wore, and I said, “I couldn’t really see. He was wearing dark clothes”. The statement, as written by a police constable, was: “He was wearing a pale grey sweater with a navy V-neck trim”. I refused to sign it but I am ashamed that I did not take it further. However, I realise that that has coloured the attitude—the trust—that I have. That is one reason why neighbourhood policing is so important, because it is not just about the content of what is done but the impression that is made. Neighbourhood police are the police whom the public meet day to day, whether north or south of the Trent. Little things like that, as well as the big, have an impact, and a small bad experience can leave us with a large loss of trust.

I confess to your Lordships that I am very embarrassed to presume to talk about trust in a debate in which a recent Reith lecturer has made such a contribution. My personal experience has had a particular impact. I think that personal experience has an impact because one applies one’s own judgment and makes one’s own assessment of trustworthiness. There is a different approach to assessing trustworthiness in the case of individuals and of institutions. I was interested in the comment about young people making a distinction between local police and the TSG. When you look at individuals you are more discriminating and nuanced, but of course you often judge the whole institution by a small part.

Of course, these are general comments that apply to public service generally, as did the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Young, about the necessity and difficulty of changing culture. There is a range of obvious reasons why trust in public services and public servants is so important—that is blindingly obvious, and I apologise for my cod philosophy. However, without trust, how can one win the co-operation of the public or, as my noble friend Lord Paddick, has termed it, “collaboration”? That may be right, because it suggests partnership, which is so necessary for effectiveness. I was interested to see the extract from the ESRC’s Policing by Consent, which said that,

“perceptions of legitimacy are stronger predictors of compliance with the law than perceptions of deterrent risk”.

It referred to authorities behaving,

“fairly and respectfully towards those they govern”,

and added:

“When the police act according to principles of procedural justice, citizens regard such activity as legitimate; they defer to its authority and recognise and justify the power that it wields”.

Another reason for the importance of public trust is its impact on recruitment. The police, like other services, need to recruit good people and I doubt that anyone is more upset by the bad apples than other officers; in that, I echo my noble friend Lady Doocey. The police service needs to be a service with which people want to be associated. It needs to be seen by young people thinking about it as a career path as a profession of which they would be proud to be a member, and one that would provide job satisfaction. Therefore, like other noble Lords, I welcome the College of Policing, about which we will talk more outside this debate. However, I will say now that leadership and training need to recognise and capitalise on a range of abilities, among which I place emotional intelligence very high.

On recruitment and retention, it is clearly necessary to recruit a mix of people who inspire trust. Some people trust the stereotypical powerful authority figure, but even that figure does not necessary come in the form of a white male. However cohesive our society, having forces comprised of people we recognise—“people who look like us”, as they say—is a component. Progress is being made but the struggle is uphill.

Stop and search has been mentioned. That is not just a matter of numbers or of who is stopped and searched, but the quality of the encounter and how they are treated. Transparency is also a component, as has been said. However, I share the view that it is not a panacea. It is not just a matter of pushing information into the public domain. Indeed, one way of concealing information is to give so much that what matters is not noticed—it is hidden in plain view.

The general public depend very much on the media. My noble friend referred to the media. Indeed, I think he used the term “sensational” in that regard. Social media as well as the more traditional media select and interpret what is published.

The debate has largely been about specific policing mechanisms and arrangements. Some have referred to high-profile events and investigations and their devastating impact on how the police are regarded. In what is still a fairly new policing landscape—as we have learnt to call it—the focus has largely been on police and crime commissioners but I want to mention police and crime panels. We cannot assess the success or otherwise of commissioners without also looking at the panels because they have the specific role of being a check and balance, for which they need powers and resources. They should be able to analyse information and ask questions in holding police and crime commissioners to account. I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, said about the importance of that. Very shortly, we will consider in detail the mechanisms with which to respond to complaints—mechanisms which must be, as well as be perceived to be, independent, timely, fair and competent—but should we not consider whether a fall in the number of complaints is a good thing, or whether it indicates a lack of trust even in how they are dealt with?

The debate has been about trustworthiness, which I welcome. However, trust is not an entitlement: it has to be earned again and again, day by day and every day.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for securing this extremely timely debate. I want to focus my remarks on one element—the element of trust—although there are two elements in the Motion, as the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, said. I want to talk a little about some of the recent polling in this area. I do so with some trepidation because I am well aware of the wise words of my noble friend Lady O’Neill on the subject of opinion polls and trust, and on how much of the evidence needs to be treated with scepticism. I absolutely agree with her. Her Reith lectures on the subject of trust were published in 2002 by Cambridge University Press in a book entitled A Question of Trust. The noble Baroness has demonstrated the ways in which moral philosophy can inform our public debate in a most important and essential way.

In talking about some of the issues concerning policing and trust, I want to make only a very limited point—one which I think is sustainable—about transitions in public mood. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, that we need to be careful about these matters as the public mood can be enormously fickle. I draw attention particularly to the Survey of Public Attitudes Towards Conduct in Public Life, which was published in September 2013 by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, often known as the Nolan committee, of which I am the recently appointed chairman. The survey looks at public perceptions of trust in public officeholders, including the police and politicians. There is a general trend in the survey, and in surveys of this type across Europe. Our survey is entirely compatible with the data from the European Social Survey 2002-10. Our survey states that the European survey,

“also indicates that ‘representative institutions’, such as national parliaments, political parties and politicians, tend to be trusted less than ‘implementing institutions’, such as the police or national legal systems in many other European countries”.

We are not alone in this. We are typical. In our survey, judges score particularly highly as to the amount of trust the public is prepared to bestow upon them. The police come next with a level of public acceptance of almost 70%. This is a summary of the results from 2004 to 2012. Cabinet Ministers lurk at around 25% to 26%. Until recently, in our country in this type of polling the police have been running at more than twice the levels of respect or trustworthiness of Cabinet Ministers.

However, looking at more recent polling there is evidence of a worrying change. For example, in a recent YouGov poll, respondents who trust senior police officers have decreased from 72% in 2003 to 49% in 2012, and a quarter of those surveyed by ComRes in 2013 said that the plebgate affair has made them less likely to trust the police. These very high-level indicators do not characterise the surveys carried out by the Nolan committee. Let me give a health warning: I take seriously everything that the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill, says about such surveys. However, for what it is worth it does seem possible that, over the past year, a change in the public mood from that high level of acceptance of the police is occurring.

Noble Lords will remember the debate in this House in the early part of this year in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, with a technical title about looking at police performance management statistics. This most interesting debate, in the Moses Room, looked at gaming in the police service and the gaming of statistics. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, has played a major role in drawing attention to these interesting questions. As an academic, I think it only fair to add that gaming, as the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill, said, is not confined to the police service, and can also be found, as we both agree, in universities. That debate, although it was an important and serious, attracted little attention. Since then the momentum around this question has been transformed. The Public Administration Select Committee has announced that it is going to hold an inquiry into the management and accuracy of police statistics. It is a major consideration in terms of the public trust. Earlier this month my own committee, the Committee on Standards in Public Life, made a submission on this question to the Public Administration Select Committee, and in the middle of last week the Times front page led with serious questions about how accurate our police statistics have been and about the pressures that existed in the past which have perhaps ensured they are not as accurate as we would hope they would be. So there has been a dramatic change in that one specific area in just a few months.

Taking a more positive view, one interesting thing in the last few weeks is the publication by the College of Policing of its Draft Code of Ethics. I welcome this with all my heart, as I welcome the fact that the Nolan principles, particularly those of honesty, accountability, integrity and leadership, have been put at its heart. In principle, this document from the College of Policing is a good thing. I want to add a few caveats and concerns about the current draft. One is that in the earlier code of conduct for the Police Service of Northern Ireland from 2008, there is a clearer relationship between not living up to the code of conduct and possible issues of misconduct. It is much clearer in the PSNI document than in the College of Policing document. The great danger is that the College of Policing statement of principles just becomes abstract and out there and is not fully operationalised in the conduct of police officers.

There is considerable evidence of good faith and seriousness in the production of the document and greater clarification could make it even better. Another area where one needs greater clarity is on declaring business interests. That needs to be clearer than it currently is in the document.

I hope that the College of Policing document is an indication of a growing understanding among senior police officers in our country and those concerned with the matter that we are at a difficult moment which requires some redress and serious thinking.

My Lords, I add my thanks to those that have already been expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for securing this debate. I also congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, on her very-easy-to-listen-to maiden speech, which made it clear that a lack of forthrightness will not be a feature of her contributions in your Lordships’ House.

Among the things that have become clear during the past three and a half years are the reservations felt by the Government about the police. The creation of police and crime commissioners, the setting-up of the Winsor inquiry and some of the provisions on policing in the current Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill are a reflection of the Government’s apparent feeling that the police are no longer one of us. It seems at times that the fact that crime has been falling for a considerable number of years appears to the Government to have happened despite the police rather than, at least in part, because of the contribution of the police.

I have been fortunate enough to take part in the police parliamentary scheme and to have spent some time with the Metropolitan Police and learnt something about the considerable range and depth of police work that they undertake. I also spent some time with officers on immediate response duties and with the traffic police, as well as with police community support officers. You certainly see and begin to appreciate some of the frustrations and aggravations that police officers have to put up with daily and the importance of the ability to keep calm, to keep one’s temper and in potentially very heated or dangerous situations to think rationally and coolly, and act decisively in order to prevent things getting totally out of hand. While there are certainly glaring exceptions to this, I think that, overall, the police do a far from easy job very well indeed.

The very helpful briefing that we have had from the Library provides some firm information on trust in the police. It refers to a recent Ministry of Justice report which analysed data from the 2010-11 Crime Survey for England and Wales and considered long-term trends which suggest that, from the early 1980s until 2001, there was a gradual decline in public ratings of the police but that, more recently, public ratings of the police have improved. On current levels of confidence in the police according to the Ministry of Justice report, approximately three-quarters of the sample agreed that they had confidence in the police in their area, 13% disagreed that this was the case and 15% expressed no opinion. Approximately 85% agreed that the police would treat them with respect if they had contact with them for any reason.

The Library briefing also refers to a report using data from the European Social Survey to compare levels of trust in the police across Europe. An article summarising this report indicated that in the United Kingdom and Ireland residents consistently trusted and legitimised their police and court systems at well above average levels although to a lesser extent than their Scandinavian counterparts.

The Ministry of Justice’s report to which I referred a few moments ago considered levels of trust in the police among different genders, ethnic groups and socioeconomic groups. The analysis undertaken indicated that opinions of the police were more favourable among women than men, among younger and older people compared to those who were middle-aged, among those in full-time employment compared to those who were unemployed and economically inactive, and with relatively little variation by ethnicity.

The results of those two surveys do not suggest that everything is perfect and that nothing needs to be changed or addressed, but nor do they indicate that trust and confidence—or, rather, the lack of them—in our police is quite the cataclysmic issue that has been suggested or implied by some, although not here this afternoon, unless there has been a shift in attitude over the past three years that has not been reflected in serious studies. There are some indications that that might conceivably be the case.

Certainly concerns have been expressed, particularly in the light of some recent events and disclosures, including that the system for dealing with complaints no longer seems adequate. It is regarded by many as taking too long, with remedies that are not clear. The body in charge of pursuing misconduct is not seen as being strong enough, and too often in serious cases the police end up investigating themselves.

As many have already said, trust and confidence are vital, and that is no doubt one reason why suggestions or evidence of any police failure to conduct themselves in a manner justifying such trust and confidence make the headlines. As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said, without trust and confidence there will be less likelihood of communities and individuals working collaboratively with the police, providing information, reporting suspicions, coming forward as witnesses and reporting crime. That then affects the ability of the police to address and prevent criminal activity and behaviour and to bring those responsible before the courts.

Some commentators have suggested that levels of trust in the police and in the criminal justice system as a whole have a greater impact on levels of compliance with the law than any perceived deterrent effect of the criminal justice system. Others have argued that perceptions of fairness in the way the police conduct themselves are an important determining factor in the level of trust in the police and, with it, compliance with the law. A further school of thought argues that trust is related to the extent to which the police force is perceived as representative of the society that it serves, which might mean that the lower levels of trust in the police among ethnic-minority groups are, in part, a result of the low representation of ethnic minorities within the police ranks. Indeed, the Metropolitan Black Police Association suggested quite recently that the police force remains “institutionally racist”.

The Government have taken various measures since they came into office, some of which have hardly contributed to increasing confidence and trust. They abolished the target introduced in 2009 under which police forces were expected to achieve an improvement in public confidence, as measured by the British Crime Survey. The policing pledge, which introduced a set of 10 standards for the police, was also abolished. It is interesting to see that, having done that, the Home Secretary has now expressed astonishment that the police do not have a code of ethics and has decided that such a code should be brought into existence.

Issues that will also affect questions of confidence and trust will be the visibility and availability of the police and their success rate in preventing and solving crime. More than 10,000 police officers have been taken off the front line since 2010, with neighbourhood police teams being cut. While the government response to that is, in effect, “So what?”, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers says that the thin blue line is in danger of reaching a tipping point, and that police forces are, in his words, “hanging on”.

After years of falling crime rates, we are now seeing some worrying signs, with increases in the numbers of mugging and shoplifting incidents across the country and violence against the person increasing in 13 police force areas in England and Wales. Evidence indicates that police forces are taking longer to respond to 999 calls, and there has been a reduction in the solving of overall crime in 22 forces, with nearly 14,000 more crimes unsolved in a year than when this Government came to power.

The latest statistics show that the number of rape allegations handed to prosecutors in England and Wales has hit a five-year low, despite a 30% increase in the number of rapes reported to police. There is a similar trend in respect of child sexual abuse cases. Then there is the crime that is rising fast—namely, fraud. This crime, particularly when it occurs online, often goes unreported because people feel embarrassed at having to admit that they have been taken in, and they also have real doubts as to whether the police will be able to catch the perpetrators anyway.

Much of the police work on online fraud and scams is geared to disrupting such activities when they are identified, rather than the all too often likely fruitless task of successfully identifying, building up a robust case against and then apprehending those behind such offences. It is an area of police work that is seriously underresourced, no doubt in part because so many victims do not often hit the headlines amid strident calls for action. As long as there is a continuing failure to provide the resources to get on top of, or even contain the rising rate of fraud-related crime, it will slowly gnaw away at the issue of confidence in the police.

There are a number of issues and factors that influence and determine the level of trust and confidence in the police, and in police officers and staff, the overwhelming majority of whom do a magnificent job that not too many would wish to take on in their place. However, while the quality of police leadership is crucial and now very much under the microscope, Governments, decisions and policies, including change programmes and how they are implemented, also have an impact on morale, which ultimately is reflected in trust and confidence in the police. We await hearing from the Minister whether that is something the Government accept or will seek to deny.

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for tabling this important debate. The mantra of Robert Peel that,

“the police are the people and the people are the police,

holds as true today as it did when he first founded the Metropolitan Police all those years ago. I note, too, that while we are not debating it today, there will be a debate next week on the report of the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, on the future of policing. There is a real dialogue on this important issue. I am delighted to see that the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, who is not in his place today, has identified many of the issues on which the Government are already taking action: a code of ethics, a published list of officers dismissed for misconduct, and a more robust and independent complaints regime. However, I feel that the report, in calling for the abolition of police and crime commissioners, has overlooked the contribution they have already made. Despite only being in post for a year, PCCs are already more visible than anonymous police authorities. Seven out of 10 members of the public are aware of PCCs. PCCs are also introducing many different innovations in their areas to address their communities’ problems.

While statistics on public confidence in the police remain resilient, we have reason not to be complacent. I agree with my noble friend Lord Paddick on this and I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Bew, was very perceptive in his analysis. If we reach the point where people may be satisfied that their local officers are honest and fair but the majority begin to assume that the police in general are not to be trusted, it will be too late. It will be far harder to recover from such a position. The noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill of Bengarve, in a remarkable speech, brought a profound wisdom to the relationship between aim and outcome in a critique that had a far wider application than just trust and the police. I value the opportunity of reading her speech on the record, as it was extremely profound.

To address this issue, the Home Secretary announced a number of measures back in February to strengthen police integrity. We have been working with the new College of Policing whose remit is to set and maintain standards for the police and to implement some of these measures. On 24 October the college launched for public consultation the first ever code of ethics for the police. The code will be the highest level of declaration of the principles and standards of behaviour expected of those working in police forces. The code of ethics will be a living document, embedded into forces’ policy and practice, and refreshed with all officers and staff at regular intervals. It illustrates what compliance with the standard of professional behaviour looks like and will provide clarity for all members of the police force in what is expected of them.

It is always interesting to listen to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds. He said that it focused too much on the negative. The college is about good practice, too. Perhaps I may tease the right reverend Prelate and say that those Ten Commandments include a few negative injunctions as well as the positive imperatives. So there is a good precedent for it.

As the noble Lord, Lord Bew, said, the Nolan principles are enshrined within this code of practice. Indeed, Northern Ireland is the source of much of the thinking behind this document. I would like to talk to the noble Lord about the extent to which he feels that the document produced by the college is less clear and self-evident. We want a document that is clear not only to the police but also to the public, in whose name the document is being delivered.

The college cannot address the issues of police confidence and police integrity alone. It is essential that there is public confidence that the most serious and sensitive cases involving the police will be dealt with effectively. As part of her announcement in February the Home Secretary made clear her intention to transfer resources from forces to the Independent Police Complaints Commission so that it is equipped to deal with such cases. I stress that by resources I mean funding. There will not be a transfer of officers to the IPCC but it will receive substantial extra funding—I cannot give details of the funding—so that it will be able to recruit its own independent investigators. The public can then be reassured that we are finally putting an end to the police investigating the police in the most serious cases and that the IPCC is acting with genuine independence. I agree with my noble friend Lady Doocey that this independence is vital to ensuring public confidence in the police. The events of last year proved overwhelmingly the case for a strengthened IPCC, and that is what the Government are determined to deliver. The plans to increase the capacity of the IPCC are on track and it will begin to take on additional cases from next year.

Police and crime commissioners will also play a vital role in ensuring that public trust and confidence in the police are maintained. That is why I think the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, is wrong. PCCs are responsible for setting the police and crime plans for their force areas and, in doing so, they must consult victims of crime. This gives them a vital link to those who have come into direct contact with the police and who will therefore have a view on the integrity and behaviour of officers within their force. PCCs hold their chief officers to account for the totality of policing in their areas. If, as we have said, the public lose trust or confidence in their force, the PCC obviously has a role in holding the chief constable to account for this.

Earlier this week the Crown Prosecution Service announced that it had charged a Metropolitan Police Service officer, PC Keith Wallis, with misconduct in public office in connection with the incident on 19 September 2012 in Downing Street involving a former Cabinet Minister, Andrew Mitchell. The decision not to charge the other MPS officers connected to this incident does not preclude misconduct proceedings from being instigated. The MPS has announced that PC Wallis and seven other police officers will be subject to misconduct proceedings. The issues raised by the Andrew Mitchell case are very serious. It is right that cases such as this hit the headlines. We must remember that these are not the rule. Even so, it is an issue and we are targeting unprofessional behaviour through the range of measures that we are implementing alongside our partners. It is a privilege for us in the Home Office to work with the IPCC, HMIC, the College of Policing and PCCs to enhance police integrity, and we look forward confidently to seeing some excellent results from this work.

Perhaps I may address some of the issues that were raised in the excellent speeches made in this debate. My noble friend Lord Paddick referred to the difficulties of black and ethnic minority recruitment into the police. I think we would all agree that police forces that reflect the communities they serve are crucial to cutting crime in a modern diverse society. While the police force is much more representative than before, there is still much to be done. The Government’s reforms will stimulate progress. We support the aspiration of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to achieve a much better representation of BME officers in the force in the next wave of officer recruitment.

My noble friend also referred to stop and search, which is not a totally unrelated issue. Where stop and search is used properly, it allows the police to tackle serious crime effectively. Where it is used badly, it can cause personal humiliation for the individual, a disconnect between the police and the public and an undermining of public confidence. A number of reports have raised concerns about the use of this power, which is why we have undertaken a consultation on it and are currently analysing the responses to it.

My noble friend Lady Doocey was concerned about the independence of the IPCC. I can understand that concern. That is one of the reasons why it is having funding of its own to recruit its own staff. About 80% of the IPCC staff do not come from a police background. Investigators in the most serious cases overseen by the IPCC can never have worked for the police; they are not allowed to have worked for the police. All IPCC investigators undergo a period of training. As I said, giving the IPCC the resources to recruit its own independent investigators will be a great step forward.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, made an amusing, remarkable and moving maiden speech. She asked a number of questions and raised a number of points. In particular, she talked about the deep concerns that have been raised by allegations that undercover police officers were deployed in an attempt to smear the Lawrence family after Stephen Lawrence’s murder and that undercover officers used the identities of deceased children. As the noble Baroness will know, Operation Herne and the review by Mark Ellison will address these issues.

The noble Baroness also suggested that the police needed to be better at communicating. New recruits into police forces must pass both written and oral communications tests and continuing professional development is available for officers throughout their career. The code of ethics currently out for consultation acknowledges the importance of effective communication between police and the public, emphasising the need for the police to talk to people in local communities, break down barriers and ensure that their behaviour and language cannot be interpreted as being oppressive. There is no role for oppressive policing in this country.

My noble friend Lady Hamwee referred to the professionalism that needs to be at the heart of the police and the sensitivity and emotional intelligence needed among the individuals who make up the police force. Her speech reinforced my view that we are in a period of great—and very necessary—change, a view already expressed by my noble friend Lord Wasserman. I believe that that change is justified.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, referred to his membership of the Police Service Parliamentary Scheme. We were both, unfortunately, engaged on the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill when it had rather a nice dinner, and we had only a smell of the food. I can only recommend the scheme, which is run by Sir Neil Thorne. It has been a great success. Although I listened to what the noble Lord said, and understand that he is there and I am here, he has reinforced my view of why the Government are treating the reform of the police service as important. Although I can hardly expect him to agree with everything that we are doing, I value the opportunities that we have to debate these issues.

This has been a well argued and interesting debate on a very current issue. We have been fortunate to hear the first of what I expect to be many contributions from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. She will be a real asset to the House and I congratulate and welcome her. This is also the first time, I believe, that my noble friend Lord Paddick has led a debate. He brings considerable experience of holding senior rank in our country’s largest force. His presence is a valuable addition to the House and I am grateful to him for bringing this important topic for us to debate today.

Before the noble Lord sits down, I raised the question of the revelations at the recent sitting of the Public Administration Committee about the discrepancy between the figures for incidents reported by the public and the police figures. I did not hear any response from the Minister and would welcome hearing him address that.

I am not in a position to comment directly on those figures but they have been raised in this House before. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, has raised a number of questions with me and has been in correspondence with me on this. There are indeed differences with police statistics and I agree with the noble Lord that one of the most important things that the Government will need to do is ensure that police statistics on reported crime correspond to the real experience of individuals. Figures can be used to build trust in the police but can also be used in a negative sense. I would like to think that the figures that I quoted were authoritative.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for his contribution and noble Lords for all their contributions to the debate. We have been reminded that public opinion is fickle but it is essential, for police effectiveness, that the public have trust and confidence in the police. The issue of crime figures is a very complex one, to which a degree of common sense needs to be brought to bear. I share the concerns that have been expressed about the independence, transparency and effectiveness of the IPCC. We have also been reminded of the perils of accountability and transparency. I was very grateful for the glimpse of another and positive side to the policing of the Hillsborough tragedy. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, on her maiden speech. She is right about the importance of communication.

We have been reminded that one bad experience has a disproportionate impact on the reputation of the whole police service and should also note that trust and confidence in senior police officers appears to have shown the most marked decline. The code of ethics for the police is clearly a step in the right direction. It is out for consultation so there is time to change it for the better.

Motion agreed.

Armed Force: Constitution Committee Report

Motion to Take Note

Moved by

To move that this House takes note of the Report of the Constitution Committee on Constitutional arrangements for the use of armed force (2nd Report, HL Paper 46).

My Lords, I am pleased to have the opportunity to open this debate on your Lordships’ Constitution Committee’s report on the use of armed force. Our report was published in July and, because of the war in Syria, was very timely.

Interestingly, the extensive public commentary on the report that took place at the time of its publication focused on our finding that the Government had until that moment been rather unclear about UK military action in Syria. That question was of course resolved by what has been rightly described as a historic vote in the House of Commons on 29 August. I will return to that vote and the events leading to it later in my remarks. The other important findings of our report remain extremely relevant to future strategic decisions.

Before moving on to the main body of the report, I place on record my warm thanks to all those who gave evidence to the committee and to its members for their diligent work on the inquiry. As always, I also warmly thank the committee’s clerk, our policy adviser and our special advisers on the law.

For some years now, there has been a debate about the role of Parliament in decisions about whether to use armed force overseas. In 2006, our predecessor Constitution Committee undertook a major inquiry into this area and produced a very substantial report. Since then, the position has continued to evolve, with various proposals put forward about how Parliament’s role could or should be formalised or, indeed, enhanced. Both the previous Labour Government and the coalition have considered whether to formalise Parliament’s role. It is also relevant that in recent years there have been significant changes in the nature of military intervention and the techniques of warfare. As a result of all these developments, both political and military, we decided to carry out a short inquiry into the constitutional arrangements for the use of armed force.

We very deliberately used the expression “use of armed force” although the 2006 report had spoken of “waging war”. The committee thought the term more accurately conveyed the different scenarios for intervention that may occur today. We thought it useful to examine developments in the Government’s internal processes for deciding on the use of force, as well as looking at how Parliament’s role may have changed.

Our report dealt first with the Government’s internal decision-making process. We were particularly interested in the significant innovation in 2010 when the coalition Government created the National Security Council. This is a Cabinet committee that meets weekly under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister. Its membership includes senior Cabinet Ministers and Armed Forces personnel. The National Security Council has a very wide remit, covering all aspects of foreign, defence, security and international development policy.

The committee explored the impact of the National Security Council in the political and military sphere. Several witnesses commented positively on how it has allowed a cross-departmental approach to develop in a way that reflects the very close connections between foreign policy, security and defence. Although not all the commentary on the council was complimentary, we were informed that its existence ensures that there is a regular and formal line of communication between Ministers, military officers and the heads of the intelligence services. The committee agreed that this was particularly valuable. It was clear that effective structures were essential when it came to decisions on deploying our forces overseas.

The evidence of Mr Jack Straw MP, who was Foreign Secretary from 2001 to 2006, was telling in relation to the invasion of Iraq. He said:

“I was uncomfortable … about the informality of decision-making that took place when Tony Blair was Prime Minister … I absolutely stand by the decisions we made on Iraq but, on this issue of legitimacy, they would have been regarded—then and today—as far more legitimate if there had been a much more formal process within the Government over making them”.

Of course, the committee recognised that informal discussions will always take place outside the Cabinet room and that smaller, ad hoc groups of Ministers and officials will no doubt make preliminary decisions. However, we re-emphasise the need for decisions on the use of armed force to take place in the full Cabinet, both to ensure that the principle of collective responsibility is engaged and to help to legitimise decisions to use force by the proper process.

We consider that, taken as a whole, the Government’s current formal internal arrangements seem appropriate. However, we were concerned that these processes may not be generally very well understood. For example, we looked at the Defence Council, which has been in existence since the 1960s and has formal legal authority for the conduct of defence in the UK. One might therefore think that the Defence Council is a significant factor in decisions on whether to deploy force. That is not the case. The evidence we heard was almost unanimous that its practical role in the UK’s defence arrangements is very limited. We were told that it meets infrequently and is not involved in the executive decision-making. Mr Andrew Robathan, who was then Minister for the Armed Forces, told us:

“Put it this way: I do not have an appointment for the Defence Council in my diary”.

Given the different players and the apparent lack of clarity even in Whitehall, we recommended that the Cabinet Manual should be amended to include a detailed description of the Government’s internal arrangements for advising and deciding on the use of armed force. I am very pleased to say that in their written response to our report, the Government undertook to include that information the next time a major revision of the Cabinet Manual is carried out. The last time that was done was of course some time ago. Could the Minister this evening give us an indication of when the next major revision is planned for?

I turn now to the committee’s consideration of Parliament’s role. Of course, the legal position on decisions to deploy force is not in dispute. Such decisions are made by Her Majesty’s Government, exercising the royal prerogative. Parliament has no legal role in authorising and approving the use of armed force overseas. However, that is not to say—as Members of the House will be very aware—that Parliament does not scrutinise such decisions closely. In recent years, the House of Commons has passed substantive Motions to approve the deployment of force in Iraq and Libya, and now to disapprove any intervention in Syria. Parliament has also scrutinised several other conflicts through regular debates, Questions and Select Committee inquiries. In 2013, it would be generally agreed that it is commonly accepted that the House of Commons should have the opportunity to debate decisions to use force before troops are committed, unless there is an emergency and such action would not be appropriate. The Government have stated that this is now a constitutional convention and it is accordingly recognised at the moment in the Cabinet Manual.

The debate in recent years has centred on whether this convention should be formalised in any way, so as to require precise parliamentary approval before force is deployed. Three possible options have been put forward for another role for Parliament: first, a detailed resolution of the House of Commons; secondly, primary legislation on this subject; and thirdly, continued reliance on a constitutional convention. In 2008, as part of its The Governance of Britain White Paper on constitutional reform, the previous Labour Government proposed that a detailed resolution should be passed by the House of Commons, requiring the Government to secure its approval for the deployment of troops overseas. It would be for the Prime Minister to decide when to seek approval. In emergency situations, retrospective approval would not be required. Nor would re-approval be required when the nature of the conflict changed. The proposed resolution would not have had the force of law, but would have meant that Parliament’s role was formally set out. Although a draft resolution was produced, no progress was made in implementing it before the 2010 election.

When the coalition Government came into office, they made no specific commitment to formalising Parliament’s role. However, during the debate on approving the intervention in Libya in March 2011, the Foreign Secretary, Mr Hague, said that the Government would,

“enshrine in law for the future the necessity of consulting Parliament on military action”.—[Official Report, Commons, 21/3/11; col. 799.]

At the time, that was understood to imply primary legislation, but since then we understand that there has been an internal debate within the Government as to the desirability or nature of any formalisation. Once again, no further action has been taken.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Clegg, told us that that was still under review, and Mr Andrew Robathan told us that there was a division of opinion between Ministers in the coalition. Those in favour of a formal process argue that Parliament is the only body that can provide the necessary democratic legitimacy for a decision as important as this. It is argued that Parliament’s role should be enshrined so that no Government can bypass it. If Parliament’s role is formalised, all concerned will understand the process that must be followed before force is deployed and that following due process will itself increase the legitimacy of any action.

In addition to the democratic principle, some of our evidence from military experts and generals suggested that knowing that they had the clear backing of Parliament was very important to troops in the field. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, who I am delighted to see will be speaking today, told us that,

“there were huge advantages if Parliament could be involved. When you visit people in the field on operations … the questions you were asked were, ‘is the country behind us? Is Parliament, the Government, behind us?’”.

On the other side of the current debate, none of those against formalising Parliament’s role sought to argue that Parliament should have no role. However, the committee heard several arguments against having either a formal parliamentary resolution or primary legislation. They were problems of definition, the risk of challenge in the courts, the risk of parliamentary engagement in operational decisions, the need to preserve political and military flexibility, and the argument that, given our convention, more formal procedures are just unnecessary.

Perhaps I can elaborate briefly on some of those arguments. First, there are the definitional problems. Formalisation would require Parliament’s role to be codified in a workable way. There would be major problems in what were called operational definitions. It will be necessary, for example, to specify what type of action would engage formal parliamentary involvement. For example, if the deployment of ground troops—boots on the ground—was the trigger, as was suggested in the 2008 proposed resolution, that would risk leaving out such interventions as the bombing of Kosovo in 1999 and imposing the no-fly zone over Libya in 2011.

A further decision would have to be made about the potential escalation of any activity and about at what point approval would have to be sought or might have to be renewed in different circumstances. The military might want a blanket approval at the outset, but parliamentarians might, for obvious reasons, want to keep their options open. A further dilemma would be whether there should be exemptions for emergency or secret deployments. If so, should Parliament’s approval be retrospectively sought? If so, what would happen if approval was declined? Having looked at such complexities, the committee was not surprised that Ministers still had difficulty in agreeing the best way forward.

Another objection to formalisation was the need to ensure strategic political and military flexibility. It was suggested, for example, that when the UK’s international obligations required the Government to commit to action with fellow NATO members, it would be detrimental to the Government’s position for there to be any doubt about whether they could commit. Any Government would also want to preserve flexibility to take defensive action or deploy force in an emergency. It is likely that any formalised process would leave a wide margin of discretion to the Prime Minister about when and where to seek Parliament’s approval, and there might in the end be so many exemptions that the formal process itself became only theoretical.

Additionally, there was the question of whether, if Parliament passed a formal law on authorisation, for example, the statute might be liable to be challenged in the courts and there might be judicial review. This was a new risk raised, which I thought was very interesting. Our witnesses were united in thinking that the appropriate forum for controlling and scrutinising such decisions is Parliament. In noting a recent judgment of the Supreme Court in Smith v Ministry of Defence, we were concerned that this demonstrated the court’s apparent willingness to become more involved in decisions relating to the battlefield. The committee shared the concerns expressed to us about the negative effect on the morale and operational independence of the Armed Forces when the courts scrutinised some operational decisions. In response, again, the Government have agreed with these comments and say that they will vigorously defend cases which call into question the principle of combat immunity, and will take further action as necessary.

To me, perhaps the final and most persuasive argument against greater parliamentary formality is that it is unnecessary. We understand that, in practice today, any Prime Minister seeking to deploy force overseas would politically be obliged to obtain the approval of Parliament, except in very exceptional circumstances.

The committee concluded that formalising Parliament’s role would involve significant difficulties and that such difficulties would outweigh any benefits. We concluded that much of the impetus for formalisation was to make a political statement rather than to correct deficiencies in the existing legal or military process. We therefore recommended that neither primary legislation nor a resolution should be introduced in an attempt to formalise Parliament’s role.

Finally, and without wishing to be unduly wise after the event, I will return briefly to the events of last summer in relation to Syria. Your Lordships will remember that at the time of the report in July, there was widespread and agitated discussion about whether the Government would arm opposition forces in Syria. It was only after sustained parliamentary pressure that Ministers gave an undertaking that the House of Commons would be given a vote before any decision to arm the so-called rebels was taken. As I said at the outset, it was the committee’s view that the Government’s intentions had perhaps been unhelpfully opaque. Very importantly, it was also unclear about how the Government might intend to involve Parliament should Her Majesty’s Armed Forces get further engaged in what seemed then, and seems now, an escalating conflict.

In late August 2013, the Government reacted to the apparent use of chemical weapons by President Assad’s forces in Syria by recalling Parliament. The proposal then was for the House of Commons to debate a government Motion, authorising the Government to take action in response to the attack. However, the business for 29 August stated that the proposal was in two stages and that before any direct British involvement, a further vote of the House of Commons would take place. The House will not need reminding that the Government’s Motion was defeated, and that in response the Prime Minister immediately stated that the Government would respect the wishes of the House of Commons. No further consideration of military intervention has, at least publicly, taken place.

These August events had major constitutional importance. First, the Government recalled Parliament before any decision to deploy force was taken. The Government respected the existing constitutional convention and, I would say, perhaps further entrenched it. Secondly, the Government immediately undertook to abide by the decision of the House of Commons, even though Ministers legally retain the power to commit the Armed Forces to action through the prerogative. Again, that can be seen as strengthening the convention. Thirdly, the fact that the Motion, if passed, would have involved a two- stage process of agreement by the Commons showed the benefits of keeping these matters flexible. It seems fairly clear that as a two-stage process of approval had not occurred in any previous conflict, it is unlikely that it would have been foreseen in any formalised resolution or legislation. In other words, the practical and contemporary experience of the intense debate on Syria underlined and demonstrated the correctness of our report’s conclusions and recommendations.

I look forward very much to the contributions this evening from speakers who, although they are somewhat small in number, are extremely distinguished, expert and authoritative on this very important subject. I beg to move.

My Lords, I start by paying tribute to our chairman, the noble Baroness, Lady Jay of Paddington, and our legal advisers, notably Professor Adam Tomkins, for an extremely intellectually stimulating inquiry.

I was enthusiastic about it as the follow-up to the 2006 report, because in the types of armed conflict in which the United Kingdom may be engaged, as well as in the deployment of technology, much has changed. Many of these armed conflicts have the potential to draw in the United Kingdom, as the permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, leading member of NATO and contributor to several other alliances that our history, international outlook and diplomatic responsibilities call upon us to be. We will continue to see these foreign engagements posing difficulties for parliamentary scrutiny, as we witnessed recently during the recall of Parliament for a vote on our response to the crisis in Syria.

I want to devote my remarks to two issues: formalising the process for securing parliamentary approval; and how Parliament might be best placed to take the decisions that it needs to take. In doing so I will refrain from wholehearted endorsement of the committee’s report, as I believe its conclusions have been overtaken by the parliamentary discussion and vote on Syria on 29 August. If we were writing this report today, our witnesses might with the benefit of hindsight of that vote have taken a different view, thus affecting our conclusion in terms of relying on convention rather than formalisation of the process of parliamentary approval.

I turn to the events of 29 August and the vote on Syria and my belief that we must now formalise the process for consulting Parliament on the use of armed force. As a member of the Constitution Committee, I had been concerned for some time that the previous Government’s failure to act on their Governance of Britain White Paper of March 2008, which proposed a draft detailed war powers resolution to formalise Parliament’s role, had left us with a vacuum. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, has pointed out, we had had assurances from the Foreign Secretary in the other place when in the debate on Libya he stated that the Government of the day would,

“enshrine in law for the future the necessity of consulting Parliament on military action”.—[Official Report, Commons, 21/03/11; col. 799.]

I fear that this Government have failed to formalise that process and I suspect that they have no intention of doing so.

In the period since 2008, we have seen from successive reports by the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, and from several discussions with the Minister, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, why we have not achieved a satisfactory outcome. I should say that the Minister is ideally placed to be answering this debate given his long experience of all three relevant ministries in this discussion: the MoD, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Cabinet Office. Moreover, lest there be any doubt, one of our witnesses, the former Foreign Secretary Mr Jack Straw, who was the originator of the Labour Government’s proposed detailed war powers resolution, told us when he gave evidence for this report that he still believed that a formal resolution was the way forward.

I will not labour the point that all sides were and have recently been committed to giving the House of Commons a formal role in approving the use of armed force in conflicts abroad. What sets me apart from the committee’s report and the government position is whether we rely on convention, which is necessarily ad hoc, or whether we have a formal and more transparent process for engaging Parliament, which I favour.

Let me go through the arguments that the committee poses as obstacles to formalisation. The report highlights the difficulties of definition, specifying the kind of action that would engage parliamentary involvement. The detailed war powers resolution goes some way to spelling out the definition of a conflict decision: this is if the use of force is outside the UK and is regulated by the law of armed conflict. For those who feel that this is too narrow, I suggest that its definition is that of the director of Royal United Services Institute, Professor Michael Clarke, who said,

“if one was looking to establish a rough working threshold [for engaging the need for parliamentary approval], it might be where troops were going to be deployed overseas with the clear intention of engaging in conventional military combat operations”—

that is, death and destruction.

Other obstacles include what we would do if Parliament was not in session. The vote of 29 August demonstrated that a recall can be effective when the situation is serious enough. As for when Parliament has been dissolved, I argue that the Government of the day would have to take the relevant decision through the exercise of the royal prerogative and seek retrospective approval from the fresh Parliament.

The committee was also concerned about retrospective approval being sought for certain emergency deployments. What would happen if approval was declined? The draft detailed war powers resolution could be improved in order to make provision for that through being provided with a 90-day period when, retrospectively, it could call for UK deployments to cease. That is what the US has, were Congress not to approve a deployment under the War Powers Act. In other words, the action could go ahead contingent on retrospective approval.

The report also talks about problems of disclosing secret, legal and tactical information. We saw all of them come into play on 29 August, and I know, from having read Hansard extensively, that the advice provided was insufficient for the Members voting in the other place. I think that the proposal put to the other place’s Political and Constitutional Reform Committee by my friend Professor Philippe Sands is a good one. He argues that since the Attorney-General is not Parliament’s law officer, the House of Commons should consider appointing its own law officer who would interface with the Attorney-General on the extent of disclosure to be provided. That law officer could also interface with the Intelligence and Security Committee and provide assurance of the legality of a course of action.

At paragraph 53, the committee also covers the difficulty of lifting the arms embargo to Syria, finding that if the 2008 resolution had been in force, it would not have covered a decision to provide arms to the Syrian National Coalition. I specifically asked Mr Straw about this. He replied:

“It is a plainly conflict decision, in my view. The emergency condition is not met because everybody knows about this and it is hard to argue that the security condition is met because this is a very public decision. So I think it would be triggered”.

At best, experts disagreeing prove that there is a question mark over our assessment in terms of what a key witness believes. My view is the same as that of the committee: the condition would not be met, but these different interpretations make my point precisely. It is that until a draft resolution has been put forward by the Government for consideration and a chance has been given to the relevant committees in the House of Commons and this House, we cannot arrive at any consensus about what conditions would require parliamentary approval and what would not.

Let me come to the final point against formalisation: the justiciability of deployment decisions. A parliamentary war powers resolution rather than an Act of Parliament was the chosen instrument of the previous Government in order to avoid these decisions reaching the courts. In other words, they chose a resolution over legislation. I shall briefly touch on the reasons why I believe the time has come for us to formalise the role of Parliament in the use of armed force.

In today’s world, it is right that our citizens expect that major decisions of war and peace which are made in their name are made with deliberation, accountability and lawfulness. It is also right that in a representative democracy their representatives have access to a clearly defined and reliable process which is employed in all circumstances, whether they are predictable or not. Where they are predictable, the maximum information should be provided in advance. Where the actions have to be taken as an emergency, they should be guaranteed the right to disagree and have the tools with which to seek to draw back from the decision. A parliamentary resolution such as that proposed in 2008 may be capable of amendment and improvement. What is not in dispute in our report is that Parliament has a role to play in these decisions; what is regrettable is that all three political parties have pledged in the past to formalise the role of Parliament on these decisions yet, in office, seem to be incapable of honouring that commitment to the electorate, who are, after all, the very people to be sent into harm’s way.

We are at a time when trust between the public and Parliament is at an all-time low. The public have not had the opportunity to know much about the lead-up to the Iraq war, as the Chilcot report is not published. They may have concurred with the outcome of the vote on 29 August, but will not have been provided with any reasoning other than that their representatives did not want to be embroiled in another conflict. That back-of-an-envelope process, hurried and mismanaged as it was, does not give reassurance that either Parliament’s will or the United Kingdom’s interests will be served by more of this muddling through that we now call a constitutional convention on the use of armed force.

My Lords, I first thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, for initiating this important debate and for the way in which she chaired the Constitution Committee, before which I appeared.

The power to send men and women abroad into a situation of armed conflict is one of the most important decisions a Government can ever take. In a democracy, it is surely desirable that decisions by Governments to use armed force should be taken extensively and substantially on the basis of thorough and accurate information made publicly available, and of candid and consistent explanation by Governments, fully involving Parliament in advice and decision. However, although it is highly desirable, can it be fully entrenched in our constitutional practice?

We should be cautious of letting the experience of Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, which has undoubtedly given impetus to the debate, overinfluence our deliberations. Recent armed conflict has taken many forms. The background and run-up to the Korean War, Suez, the Falklands, the Balkans, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Iraq and, of course, Special Forces operations have all been different. Often, the nature of the conflict has quickly and dramatically changed, and the rules and objectives of our forces have had to be amended. What is certain is that, historically, it has not been easy to predict armed conflicts far in advance of hostilities.

The services want to know that the country is behind them before they are committed, that they are supported by Parliament and that what they are being asked to do is legal. Parliament’s stamp of approval is important, but Parliament must not run the risk of hazarding the lives of service men and women. Secrecy, security and surprise are critical to many operations and if, for instance, one day it became necessary militarily to pre-empt an enemy attack—which is not inconceivable—how would Parliament debate such actions in advance?

The deployment of a military force for armed conflict is complex and takes—as it did for Iraq or Afghanistan—considerable time. Of course, the very deployment before hostilities can be a deterrent in itself, but our current arrangements allow quick decisions to be made and we have been able to act quickly, often before the situation on the ground has deteriorated. As a member of NATO we are committed to aid other members who are attacked, and the United Nations charter mandates countries to undertake operations should the Security Council require them. As a signatory to NATO and UN treaties, we are expected to commit troops quickly when called on to do so.

We also have to recognise the difficulties that arise once a force is deployed. Circumstances change. Humanitarian and peacekeeping operations can suddenly become peace enforcement and develop into armed conflict. All four of these states can take place in a theatre at the same time. Deployments often lead to unforeseen consequences and mission creep.

Formal declarations of war have been described by some as an historical anachronism, and it is difficult now to see occasions when they would happen. I understand why many think that the royal prerogative being the legal basis for the Government’s war powers is an outdated state of affairs in a modern democracy. Having said that, it has not served the country all that badly over the years.

One should not legislate and have a statutory solution. Deployments vary so much and are accompanied by much uncertainty. One template would rarely work for all situations. I see the best solution as a formal but non-statutory convention. It should be necessary, whenever it is possible and sensible, to seek parliamentary approval for deployment before service men and women are committed, but there is a need for some flexibility and it would not always be wise or practical to debate prior to deployment, even though parliamentary debate and approval would be highly desirable. It would also be reassuring for the Armed Forces. I do not see it as particularly helpful for us to vote in the House, but it would be of immense value if we were to debate, preferably before the House of Commons had their debate, and were able to inform MPs and the Government of our views. There is much experience in this House that could be used.

If, for some reason, armed conflict or substantial deployments occur without Parliament’s approval, it would be important for Parliament to meet at an early opportunity to endorse the decisions that had been made. I also see a necessity for Parliament to watch and discuss the progress of a campaign from time to time, always bearing in mind the effect that such a debate would have on our troops in the field. It is almost inconceivable for the Prime Minister and Government to commit troops without thinking they had the backing of Parliament.

We should be concerned that parliamentary oversight could lead, unless we are careful, to pressure to debate how operations should be conducted. Parliamentarians are not qualified to do this and they must avoid micromanaging and taking tactical decisions. Those are the province of the commanders on the ground. In very general terms, the size of a deployment and the likely direction should be discussed. Those last two matters are notoriously difficult to predict, as they depend very greatly on the actions of the ill intentioned that are causing the problem in the first place. We are not in control of what the enemy’s reaction to us will be.

We must avoid an overly prescriptive solution and maintain flexibility. Slavishly following a statutory parliamentary procedure on every occasion, whatever the circumstances, could endanger the very people we are trying to help.

My Lords, it is a privilege, and one that humbles a speaker, to follow the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, in this debate. His knowledge and experience are unrivalled in this House. I must say that I do not wholly agree with his conclusions, and I will explain why.

In the first place, it is a widely perceived truth that the royal prerogative in the area of committing forces to overseas conflict is an anachronism. It was described in evidence to the House of Commons by Professor Nigel White as an unregulated vestige of former times. It is certainly the case that the movement of governmental opinion since 2003 has been rapid—and, to my mind, it has moved in an appropriate constitutional direction. I do not think that it would be wise to reach a final conclusion about these matters until we have heard from the Chilcot committee of inquiry into the origins of the Iraq war, because it is to be hoped that that will reveal something about the inner workings of the decision-making process that have not yet been fully revealed.

I fully acknowledge and accept the comments of the Minister who is to reply to this debate when he said on 24 October, in giving evidence to the House, that we must recognise the urgency and secrecy requirements of decision-making in certain circumstances if defence is to be properly sustained and if the outcomes are to be favourable. Our troops will require as much evidence as may be made available, but the public are behind them in the actions they are taking. That, I believe, is one of the strong points made in the distinguished report of the noble Baroness, Lady Jay. It seems to me that there are precedents for making transparent the issues that face government. The law passed by Germany in 2005 requires parliamentary approval to be given before the Executive can take a decision. However, I admit that Germany’s global role is considerably more limited at present than that of the United Kingdom.

Another factor brought out very clearly in the report is that the country needs reassurance that action is being taken in accordance with international law. I repeat my noble friend’s recommendation, taken from evidence given by Professor Philippe Sands, that Parliament should have a legal adviser. The Attorney-General does not, and cannot, fulfil that role because doing so could involve a conflict of interest between the advice that he gives to the Executive and that which he gives to the legislature. However, if Parliament is to make decisions such as that which it made on 29 August this year in respect of Syria, we need to have the best evidence we can on the legalities of what is proposed. That may not mean that it is a final view, but it will be an opinion.

I accept the committee’s view that judicial review of such action is neither appropriate nor desirable if one is to maintain the sense among our fighting troops that they are acting in accordance with the law and public opinion. I hope that the possibility of a statute will not be pursued. None the less, there is a strong case for parliamentary resolution: for setting out the requirements for the taking of action and for approving or rejecting the proposals of the Executive. Parliament, in particular the House of Commons, is the representative of the people, and the decision in most cases should be that of the people through their representatives. I therefore urge the Government not to seek hurriedly to reconcile the differences that have been made clear within it, but to think about the possibility of couching a resolution in terms that are wide enough to cover most eventualities. In so doing, they would strengthen the basic protections of our constitution.

My Lords, I declare my membership of the Chief of the Defence Staff’s Strategic Advisory Panel, though I have not given my views on the matter before your Lordships’ House this evening during any of the panel’s deliberations.

It was the late Viscount Stansgate, father to Tony and David Benn, who said that the fundamental purpose of the House of Commons was to control the purse and the sword. It used to be thought that Parliament controlled the sword by controlling the purse; that kings, and later Prime Ministers and Cabinets, could wage war only if the House of Commons granted sufficient supply to pay for them. That changed in the era of “fight with what you have got” conflicts, such as the Falklands War, which came out of the blue in 1982, requiring the putting together of a task force without time to convert British defence industries to a war footing, although some crucial procurements were very swiftly stepped up.

Ours is also an era when wars are no longer declared, a point to which my noble and gallant friend Lord Guthrie alluded a moment ago. The last time the United Kingdom did so was, I think, against Siam in January 1942. A declaration of war against Argentina was considered over what one might call the “Falklands weekend” in the first days of April 1982 and the 1939 file on how to do it was sent for. It could not be found. A search was mounted in what was then a called the Public Record Office. Still no file was found. It turned up 12 years later in 1994. It was just two sides of paper, drawn up for the Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, by the Foreign Office’s legal adviser, Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice, on the day of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, 23 August 1939. On 12 September 1939, it had been consigned to the FO’s registry in a collection known as “General and Miscellaneous” and therefore lost for 55 years.

A number of Select Committees in both Houses, as we have heard, have examined the shift of war-making from the ancient prerogatives of the Crown exercised by Ministers to the convention that, if time and circumstances permit, the House of Commons will have the ultimate say on peace and war in a substantive Motion. I welcome the latest of these examinations, the report from your Lordships’ Constitution Committee, which lays out the current position on future options clearly, concisely and persuasively—so persuasively that I have to confess that its report of July 2013 has changed my mind. I used to think it desirable that at least some of the war-making powers should morph from the back of an envelope not just into a convention, which is where we are now, but on to the face of a Bill, so profound, fundamental and laden with consequences, foreseeable and unforeseeable, is the question of peace and war. I shall return in a moment to my second thoughts.

There is a spectrum—a hierarchy of needs and contingencies—on this most sensitive of constitutional matters. Some threats by their very nature require the specific constitutional arrangements for tackling them to remain what one might call prerogative pure.

I shall give two examples. The first is the almost unthinkable contingency of a Prime Minister authorising nuclear retaliation after a nuclear assault on our islands. This responsibility falls to the Prime Minister and to usually two so-called nuclear deputies, lest the PM is wiped out straightaway by a bolt from the blue. If the alternates are killed as well, the Prime Minister’s instructions, to retaliate or not to retaliate, from beyond the grave are inside the inner safes in the control rooms of all four of the Royal Navy’s Trident missile-carrying Vanguard-class submarines. As we debate this evening, the boat carrying one of David Cameron’s so-called last resort letters is somewhere deep and undetectable in its patrol area beneath the swell of the north Atlantic.

A second example of prerogative pure decision-making is the, I regret to say, far more likely contingency of the Prime Minister and his three or four alternates having to make the decision—which they have all exercised—on whether to authorise RAF Typhoons to shoot down a civil aircraft which there is reason to believe is on a 9/11 mission against our country and is ignoring an array of indicators and instructions from the Typhoons and air traffic control to divert and land at Stansted.

The central question before us focuses, however, on the deployment and use of British Armed Forces beyond our territory in circumstances that allow for sufficient time for the question of peace and war to be placed before Parliament. Developments this century have created a near consensus not just on the desirability of the House of Commons voting on a substantive Motion, but on the Government providing ingredients for the debate that should be placed before the Chamber before the Division Bells sound.

They include a full opinion, not a shrivelled one, from the Attorney-General on the legality of the deployment proposed—an intelligence assessment containing as much as can be safely divulged about what is known to the Government through their mix of secret and open sources. Also desirable, though humility is needed here on the part of all Governments, is an assessment of the duration of operations and the eventual exit arrangements from foreign soil.

The question is whether the existing convention on consulting the House of Commons is all that is needed to ensure that future Governments in anxious and uncertain times retain a sense of due process and a duty of care and consultation to Parliament. I was pleased when the Foreign Secretary said on 21 March 2011 during the Commons debate on Libya that the coalition would,

“enshrine in law for the future the necessity of consulting Parliament on military action”.—[Official Report, Commons, 21/3/2011; col. 799.]

I understand, however, that real difficulties have been experienced in framing such a statute in a way that reflects the contingencies that our country might face. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, was very eloquent and persuasive on that. The report of your Lordships’ Constitution Committee makes plain how stretching such a task is, which is why I have changed my mind somewhat on the feasibility of a use of Armed Forces Act for the UK.

However, we need to buttress the existing convention with a House of Commons resolution. Conventions can be friable and fragile. They can crumble at the touch of a powerful, insensitive and determined Executive, especially in circumstances where one’s country and its allies are living and breathing in the shadow of potential armed conflict.

House of Commons resolutions, by contrast, are things of sinew and, one would wish, endurance. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, when he winds up, will give a more detailed explanation of why the coalition has ruled out the framing of a “Use of Armed Forces” resolution in time for it to be put to the House of Commons before the end of this Parliament, although I recognise the force of what my noble and gallant friend Lord Guthrie was saying.

In the mean time, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, and her colleagues for the considerable service that their committee has provided for your Lordships’ House with this report on such a fundamental constitutional matter.

My Lords, I wish to intervene briefly. First, I congratulate the noble Baroness and her committee on what I think is an absolutely excellent report and on the way in which she introduced this debate. The report is certainly extremely timely, coming so soon after the recent debates on Syria that exercised us all.

I do not know why the Defence Council ever got involved in this. I never thought that it had any relevance to this problem, and I am not surprised that it was quickly dismissed. I certainly agree with the Cabinet role. I served in a war Cabinet, which then had to report to the formal Cabinet. I recall that at the time of the Falklands War, Mrs Thatcher went round every single member of the Cabinet to ask for their support for the action she proposed to take.

The role of Parliament and the support of Parliament, as the noble and gallant Lord said, are absolutely crucial. When I was involved in the first Gulf War, I used to go out to talk to the troops in the Gulf. It was hugely important for me to be able to say to our forces, “Not only is there support for you from the Government and the Prime Minister”—and I had a change of Prime Minister halfway through—“but there is enormous support from the people in the form of their representatives in the House of Commons”. That was extraordinarily important.

I think that the convention is a stronger element than some might give it credit for, although I will be interested to see whether the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, who gave a most interesting speech, can find a resolution that can be drafted.

I have been thinking about the things that have happened since I had any responsibility in this area. We never had drones or conducted anti-piracy operations. We did not have counterterrorism. We had not had 9/11 by then, so there was not the need for the speedy reaction that the noble and gallant Lord referred to. We had not had cyberattacks. We had not had sanctions supported by military force or the threat of military force. Certainly, I never declared war, even though we were involved in an exercise in which we sent 45,000 troops fully armed and equipped to evict Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.

I do not know under what authority we set up something called Operation Provide Comfort. We had a United Nations resolution to evict Saddam Hussein from Kuwait—a country that he should not have been in—but at the end of that conflict, as some may recall, we found that he was attacking the Kurds in northern Iraq. We sent into Iraq a Marine commando unit and Tornados, based, I think, on a Turkish air base at Incirlik, and we conducted air patrols over northern Iraq. I am not sure under what authority we did that, but it illustrates exactly the point made by the noble and gallant Lord: things develop and you get mission creep, although mainly very desirable mission creep, and that has to be covered.

Against that background, I entirely understand why the Minister, in giving his evidence to the parliamentary committee and discussing Mr William Hague’s assertion that the necessity to consult Parliament would be enshrined in legislation, said that we had found that things were a bit more complicated—“a bit more complex” was, I think, the phrase that he used—than we had previously imagined. I agree with that very much. There are complexities and difficulties, and when our forces are put into “harm’s way”—an awful phrase—it is very important to ensure that their position is protected.

Noble Lords may be aware that I serve on the Select Committee that is looking at the operation of the Inquiries Act 2005. Yesterday we took evidence from a senior official at the Ministry of Defence whose job never existed in my time. He is head of claims, judicial reviews and public inquiries. This covers a whole range of activities in which we see the problems of our forces being faced with the threat of legal actions of one sort or another. In the brief and necessarily quick remarks that I will make, I will say that the noble Baroness’s committee came to the right answer.

I will make one further point. As was rightly said, this is a decision for the House of Commons; the House of Lords can only advise. Looking back to those debates on Syria, would it not have been a good thing if the House of Lords debate had been the day before, when the considerable experience of this House and the advice brought to the subject would have been available to the House of Commons? By accident, fortunately, the House of Commons prevented us going to war. I was highly relieved about that, as I made clear in my speech. That is one element that might be added to convention. Otherwise, the Government’s response is that they are now considering which way to proceed. I do not think that they need to proceed very far. We have the right basis on which to operate.

My Lords, along with other noble Lords who have spoken in this excellent debate, can I put on record my thanks to my noble friend Lady Jay of Paddington for bringing this report to the House? I also thank other members of the committee under her chairmanship for the thoughtful, well argued, incisive and timely report into the constitutional arrangements for the use of armed force.

As the report and the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, said, the committee looked at the issue in 2006 and conducted an extensive inquiry. It came to the conclusion more recently that with the establishment of the National Security Council in 2010, the lack of clarity in the role of the Defence Council and the changing nature of military interventions overseas, it should have another look at the constitutional arrangements. We are all grateful to the committee for that.

The position on the use of force by Her Majesty’s Armed Forces is clear. As noble Lords know, it is exercised by the Prime Minister of the day and the Cabinet. It is a decision of the Government, and Parliament has no legal role in authorising or approving the use of our Armed Forces overseas. Parliament looks carefully at the use of force and we in this House benefit from enormous expertise, such as that of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, on such matters. Members will be aware that for the conflicts in both Iraq and Libya, there were votes to approve the use of force, that recently a vote in respect of Syria was not carried and that the Government respected those votes.

It is also important to point out that there could be emergency situations when the immediate use of force is necessary. It would be helpful to the House if the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, could elaborate, as other noble Lords have asked, on the Government’s decision-making process in respect of Syria. The committee rightly highlighted that the Government took some time to make their position clear. The committee during the course of its inquiry looked at the internal decision-making processes of the Government, and at the major difference since the 2006 inquiry with the creation of the National Security Council. The view of many is that this has been an important and significant development that is proving beneficial to the decision-making process—I am very much in agreement with that—and helps allow an institutional memory to develop.

The inquiry also confirmed the position of the Defence Council, and noble and gallant Lords, such as Lord Guthrie and Lord Stirrup, confirmed the process of providing advice to the Prime Minister of the day in respect of the Armed Forces. We on these Benches very much agree with the committee when it says that the processes and mechanisms of the Government are not well understood and that the Government should amend the Cabinet Manual to include a detailed description of the internal arrangements for advising and deciding on the use of armed force. I am pleased that in the response to the report the Government have confirmed that they will do so the next time a major revision of the Cabinet Manual is carried out.

On the role of Parliament, it is Parliament’s job to hold the Executive to account, and it does that in both Houses through asking questions, scrutinising and challenging the Government of the day. This House benefits enormously from the specific expertise of Members who have held senior positions in the military, the foreign and diplomatic service and other senior Civil Service positions, such as previous Cabinet Secretaries, along with former Ministers such as the noble Lord, Lord King, who have held Cabinet positions in some of the most senior offices of state.

I very much agreed with the committee when it highlighted the need for parliamentary approval, not only in holding the Executive to account for their actions but in securing legitimacy and improving the morale of service men and women who are away from home and putting their lives at risk to keep us and our fellow citizens safe.

I congratulate the committee on how it sets out the three options for Parliament’s role, to which many noble Lords have referred today: first, primary legislation; secondly, a detailed resolution of the House of Commons; or, thirdly, remaining with the existing convention whereby the House of Commons is given the opportunity to debate and vote on the deployment of Armed Forces overseas. As I mentioned earlier, the House of Lords also has a role to play in debating the merits of deployment decisions.

I am sure that in years to come the committee will look again at this issue but, from these Benches, the Opposition agree with the committee and the Government that, save in exceptional circumstances, the House of Commons should be given the opportunity to express its view by way of a debate and a vote. This will enable the House of Commons to exercise political control and confer legitimacy on such decisions. As the committee said, it is flexible, effective and consistent with the existing structure of parliamentary scrutiny of the Executive.

The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, made clear her support for a full resolution of the House of Commons, but I do not agree with her at this stage in that respect. I agree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank. The noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, who was described by the Independent as the giant of constitutional scholarship, in his excellent contribution, has given all in the House points to reflect on.

I agree with the committee when it expresses concern at the effect on morale and the operational independence of the Armed Forces that scrutiny by the courts of operational decisions could bring. I am pleased that the Government concur with that view. The Prime Minister of the day, with his or her Cabinet, often has to ask extraordinary servicemen and servicewomen to put their lives on the line to protect the country and keep us safe. As the report highlighted—this was referred to by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank—when the decision to deploy has been made, commanders must be given the freedom to command on the battlefield in the way that they think best. We have to trust the commanders to get it right. We cannot, as politicians, micromanage conflict situations on the ground.

In bringing my comments to a close, perhaps I may ask the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, two questions. First, given the excellent and thorough report of the committee, will the Government commit to writing to the committee in 12 months’ time, setting out the relevant progress made on the committee’s recommendations and, in particular relation to the Cabinet Manual, can he tell us, as my noble friend Lady Jay said, what he means by a major review of the Cabinet Manual and how often it will happen?

Secondly, given the understandable public concern about the use of armed force, what ongoing work will the Government carry out to ensure that the conventions articulated in the report around the consultation with Parliament are fully understood by the public?

Finally, I thank all noble Lords who spoke in the debate; the Constitution Committee, under the chair of my noble friend Lady Jay of Paddington, for its thorough and excellent report; and my noble friend for bringing the report to the attention of the House and enabling us to have an excellent debate.

My Lords, the Government welcome the report of this committee. As noble Lords will be aware, the Commons comparable committee, to which I gave evidence last month, is now compiling a similar report. We hope that that committee’s report will be published within the next few weeks and that it will take our debate a little further forward. The Government will reflect on both reports and respond to the Commons committee report. I have no doubt that in the course of the next year our conversation will move on.

As outlined in their response to this report, the Government are extremely grateful for the committee’s thorough and thoughtful consideration. As the committee recognises, the decision to deploy UK troops in overseas conflicts is one of the most difficult and important that a Government can take. We all recognise that the shadow of the decisions on Iraq, and the fact that the available information which led to the decision on Iraq was not entirely full, is part of the context in which we have been discussing this ever since.

In 2011, the Government acknowledged that a convention had evolved whereby the House of Commons should have the opportunity to debate and vote on such deployment decisions before troops were committed, except when there was an emergency and such action would therefore not be appropriate. Our commitment to that convention was demonstrated most recently by the Government’s decision to request the recall of Parliament on 29 August this year to debate the role that the UK should play in relation to the conflict in Syria, and then to respect the will of the House of Commons expressed by the subsequent vote. The committee’s report concludes that that convention provides the best framework for the House of Commons in which to exercise political control over, and confer legitimacy on, decisions to deploy UK forces in overseas conflicts.

There have been, in this debate, a number of interventions saying that we needed to go further and that we should formalise that convention through a resolution of the House of Commons, although there has been a great deal of sympathy in this debate for the view that formalisation through statute would perhaps attempt to make things too solid in a situation where, as the noble Lord, Lord King, remarked, the definition of armed conflict and the decisions about deployment we are taking could take many forms. Those include whether or not one puts troops on the ground, sends cruise missiles or drones or sends a training unit to Mali, supported by a couple of transport planes, to deal with a situation in which one is dealing not with conflict, let alone with forces of another state, but with armed groups operating across borders in states which do not entirely control their own territory and one does not know how far they may have to go once they are there. That is very much where we are now.

I have immense admiration for the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, and indeed I recall a stage in 1996 when we regarded him as so much the living embodiment of the British constitution that my party arranged for him to give a lecture on how coalition government might be formed, because we thought that his would be an authoritative view if we found we had to do so. I say to him that the idea that any Government could now say, before committing troops to armed conflict, that we knew how long they might be deployed for, let alone what the exit strategy might be, does not fit with where we now find ourselves. Mali is a good example. There are a number of other conflicts in Africa at the present moment—indeed, there have been a number of other requests for a couple of British transport aircraft or a training team—of the sort that we are likely to be find ourselves in in the coming years where the question of where the threshold comes is very difficult to operate. That is part of the argument that we are going through within government at the moment and about which we are having a dialogue with Parliament.

My response is that I find myself—rather to my surprise—becoming one of the Government’s supposed experts on this area, and we need to have a continuing dialogue with Parliament about the numbers of deployments that we have. I remind the House—as I said in evidence to the Commons committee—that there are now 16 different operations overseas under European common security and defence policy. The British have contingents in 14 of these. I am sure all noble Lords taking part in this debate could name all of them. In most cases, these are very small numbers of people; some of them are policemen, not military. In all of them, we are not entirely sure how secure they are or how long these deployments will last. In places like Somalia and South Sudan, or in Darfur, where we are often working with UN, AU or other forces, the question of how far we are formally committed is itself not entirely clear. That is part of the uncertain world in which we live.

I do not want to make heavy weather of this, particularly not at this late hour. I do not think, however, that anyone in this House first of all talked of legally enshrining in statute a method of dealing with this. The difference between us is about a draft resolution or the convention. The conflicts that my noble friend has described are of course in a wide grey area, but several of them are not covered by the law of armed conflict, hence the Labour Party’s draft resolution would not need to come into force in that regard.

The question of where the threshold should lie and what sort of triggers one has on this is very much part of what we need to discuss further.

I will try to answer some of the questions raised by noble Lords. Several noble Lords asked when the next revision of the Cabinet Manual will be. I think that I have to say, “In due course”. The latest revision came early in this Parliament under a new Government. I think it is likely that the next Government will find it convenient to take in a further revision but I hesitate to commit that Government, whoever they may be.

Much of what we are talking about is whether you are taking a decision—as on Syria, for example—where it is clear that you are making a major commitment. It would clearly have been a major event to send either cruise missiles or planes over Syria. We were over the threshold and therefore it was entirely proper for Parliament to consider it and take the decision.

There are a number of other areas where it is not entirely clear where the threshold is. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, rightly pointed out that the Gulf conflict involved a very major commitment of forces. However, we found ourselves carrying on afterwards in Kurdistan, with a number of much more shaded decisions to take. I think I recall being told that there was a point during that deployment when the colonel in charge of the Royal Marine commando issued orders to his companies, and the Dutch major who was part of the commando said, “If you ask my company to do that, I will need to refer back to The Hague”. We are all struggling with evolving situations in which one has to say, again, that the legality and legitimacy are also in play.

The noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, talked about legality and the need to make sure that we are in accordance with international law. Similarly again, as Professor Sands would accept, it is not entirely clear what international law requires. Do we have to have a resolution of the UN Security Council, with all five permanent members authorising the action? The western powers intervened in Kosovo with some real sense of legitimacy, in spite of the resistance of some permanent members of the Security Council. Do we have to be sure that we can justify what we did in terms of the concept of just war? In the aftermath of the Iraq war, I remember taking part in a rather large Anglo-American conference, jointly organised by the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church, on the concept of just war and coming away thinking that we had failed to agree on what that concept really meant in the modern world. We have the doctrine of responsibility to protect, which is very attractive but also not entirely easy to pin down on the ground.

A number of noble Lords spoke about the importance of public confidence and of troops knowing, once deployed, that Parliament has given formal approval. In an extended conflict, it is important to make sure that Parliament continues to have confidence in the mission. Going to war nowadays, or committing troops to conflict, is not simply a decision but a process. It therefore requires a continuing dialogue between the Government and Parliament and, of course, between the Government and the wider public.

I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, that conventions are not entirely fragile. Conventions are developed and are difficult for a Government to break. Commons resolutions have more solidity but they can also be bent—they have sinews but they do seem to move up and down. My own sense of all this dialogue is that we need to continue to reflect and argue.

Within a few weeks we will have the report of the Commons committee. The Government will have to respond to that committee and that will take us further along the road to deciding how far we can strengthen the existing convention, how far it should be formalised in a resolution—I recognise that there are those in both Houses who believe that the time has come for a formal resolution—and how far the convention should be written into the next edition of the Cabinet Manual. Rightly, this issue will continue to attract the attention of both Houses of Parliament. Mention has been made of the Chilcot inquiry, which we all hope will emerge soon, and that will feed into this debate.

I end by thanking the committee for this report. It has aroused further debate within the Government. I have met officials in recent weeks to discuss it further. We will continue to reflect on this. The Government’s response to the Commons committee will be the next stage in that. Part of that reflection will be whether we are satisfied that this convention has now become strong enough or whether we should yield to the demands in both Houses that what we now need is a resolution. If so, we need to reflect on how that resolution should be formed and what sort of threshold one might need to write into such a resolution, as well as the continuing dialogue that Parliament and the Government need to have about the commitment of armed forces. In future these are likely to be in relatively small elements, which are multinational, in which the British may not be a major element, in which we are in support of the troops of other nations, and in which we are dealing with multiple conflict situations in weak states as often as we are dealing with a conflict against a state—after all, the Gulf conflict was a conflict against a state and therefore relatively clear—and we will come back to Parliament with our conclusions when they are ready.

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I asked him two specific questions which perhaps he could clarify. I am very happy if he wants to reflect on these and come back to the House at a later date or write to Members and place a copy in the Library. I asked him about writing to the committee in 12 months’ time with regard to the progress of the recommendations. Secondly, I asked him what the Government are going to do about ensuring that the public more fully understand the conventions.

My Lords, I hoped that I had answered the question about the evolution of the conventions and the future of the Cabinet Manual. Before 12 months have elapsed, the Government will be responding to the report of the Commons committee, which will take us to the next stage.

Of course we wish to ensure that the conventions are understood by the public. I am not sure that the mass public all want to understand the exact nature of parliamentary conventions but we will do our best. Perhaps the Government should consider sending the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, on a tour of the country to give a number of public lectures explaining the nature of this particular convention.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his very thoughtful and detailed response. Following the point just made by my noble friend Lord Kennedy of Southwark, it would be helpful to the Constitution Committee of your Lordships’ House if, in responding to the Commons committee, the Government could explicitly take note of and reflect on the points that have been made in this report, which I think will continue to be relevant.

Of course, everybody in the House understands that the Government are dealing with a rapidly evolving situation and, in the Minister’s words, are continuing the dialogue. I am sure that is something that we are all glad to hear.

I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. As I predicted, the speeches have demonstrated the knowledge and experience of all those who have spoken. I am particularly glad that the noble Lord, Lord King, as a former Secretary of State for Defence and member of war cabinets, found time to intervene. He was very helpful in making his observations about how rapidly things were changing, particularly how rapidly they have changed since he was making these decisions on the country’s behalf.

It was also very interesting that both the noble Lord, Lord King, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, referred to the role that the House of Lords can play in debates and decisions on these matters. I hope the Government will take note of that. I think everyone in the House would be convinced that the House of Lords would not be able to have a particular decision-making role in this. However, there is a necessity to use the experience here—which has been well described this evening and of which we are all very well aware—to spotlight the questions that arise in these different matters. That is very important.

Overall, frankly, the debate illustrated the complexities of the practical situations in which the Government and the country find themselves, and the difficulties of formulating any process more formally than the one we have at the moment. I know the committee will be particularly impressed to hear that it persuaded the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, to change his mind. When I report back to it, that will be something of which it is particularly proud. The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, illustrated the animated discussions that we had within the committee but she, as a good democrat, accepted the overall position of the committee in the report, which was—to summarise it in the phrase of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie—that we could not be overly prescriptive. That reflects my continuing position.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 6.46 pm.