House of Lords
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Leicester.
My Lords, the appointments process for the Recognition Panel is now under way. This is an independent process being followed by the Commissioner for Public Appointments and is not a matter for the Government. The panel will be formally established from the date when the chair and the initial board members are appointed. I understand that applications for the chair of the panel closed on 7 March, and I also understand that the industry is making progress with establishing a new self-regulator.
My Lords, can the Minister confirm whether it is still government policy that all press regulators should seek recognition from the independent Recognition Panel, as set up under the royal charter? If so, does he share my regret that the Independent Press Standards Organisation, the regulator set up to replace the discredited Press Complaints Commission, insists that it will not seek recognition and is therefore unlikely to achieve public confidence?
My Lords, as I think is very much part of the principles of Lord Justice Leveson’s report, the issue of seeking recognition is a matter for the self-regulator and the industry. The Government hope very much that the industry and the self-regulator will look at recognition. Through the Crime and Courts Act 2013, Parliament has made clear the incentives there are in looking at recognition, and I hope that with the passage of time and the Recognition Panel being set up, an application would be made.
My Lords, perhaps I may remind my noble friend that 12 months ago, on 18 March 2013, the Prime Minister announced that there was cross-party agreement for a new system. He said:
“My message to the press is now very clear: we have had the debate, now it is time to get on and make this system work”.—[Official Report, Commons, 18/3/13; col. 636.]
Will the Government now do all they can to bring this ridiculously long debate to an end? Most important, will they give an assurance that Parliament will have the opportunity to judge whether any arrangements that are agreed will be truly effective and will effectively guard the public interest?
My Lords, the whole purpose of what we have sought to achieve is that it will be in the public interest. That is because one of the things that is very clear from what has happened is that we want any new system to command the confidence of the public. My noble friend has said that the debate has gone on for too long. In fact, I think that we have gone beyond the debate because we now have a structure in place. As for Parliament considering these issues, part of the whole issue of why we think it is important that the Recognition Panel, through the royal charter, is the body that considers whether the self-regulator meets the criteria, is that this is very much a matter for the Recognition Panel which is independent of Government or Parliament.
My Lords, can the Minister confirm who runs Britain? The question is whether it is run by the rule of law and will of Parliament, both of which have determined that the PCC replacement must be audited by the royal charter’s independent Recognition Panel, or by the press barons themselves. They seem to think that, despite everything that the Leveson inquiry uncovered, they can ignore the recommendations of a public inquiry, which has been overwhelmingly endorsed by this House and the other place and which has the support of the general public.
I understand what the noble Baroness and your Lordships are implying, but one of the key facets of Leveson was precisely that there should be a voluntary self-regulatory system. However, Parliament has obviously put in place incentives whereby we very much hope that there will be recognition through the Recognition Panel for whatever self-regulator there is.
Does my noble friend agree with the conclusion of Sir Brian Leveson that the “ideal outcome” to this process would be,
“a satisfactory independent regulatory body, established by the industry”?
If he does, will he therefore welcome the progress that is being made by Sir Hayden Phillips and his appointment panel in selecting an independent chair and a new board for the Independent Press Standards Organisation?
My Lords, as I said before, I think we are all seeking an outcome to command public confidence that there is a means of proper redress and that we also ensure the freedom of the press. The principles of Lord Justice Leveson’s report are based on independent and effective press self-regulation. I therefore welcome the progress in setting up a self-regulator, as I do the formation of the Recognition Panel.
Your Lordships may be able to crystal-ball gaze but I certainly cannot. As I say, I very much hope that the self-regulatory body will apply for recognition. There is nothing to stop another self-regulator being formed, as the royal charter caters for a further self-regulatory body coming forward for recognition.
My Lords, it is the turn of the Labour Party.
My Lords, thank you. Has the Minister seen the Media Standards Trust report, published late last year, which assessed how the IPSO proposals measured up to the Leveson recommendations? It found that IPSO failed to meet 26 of the 38 recommendations. Has the Secretary of State pointed out to the IPSO representatives that their model is a very long way from complying with Leveson? At what stage is the Secretary of State going to intervene to put the Leveson proposals and the royal charter back centre stage going forward, which is where they ought to be?
My Lords, I have, of course, studied the Media Standards Trust report. The whole basis of the design of Lord Justice Leveson’s report is precisely for the independent Recognition Panel to opine on whether the criteria in Schedule 3 of the royal charter have been adhered to. That is the key point of the independence: it is for the Recognition Panel to decide. The idea that the Secretary of State should intervene misses the point about the independent arrangements that we have put in place to ensure that we get a decision that is independent of Parliament and government.
I am very clear that the country and your Lordships have not forgotten the victims. If one takes oneself back as to why the Prime Minister asked Lord Justice Leveson to produce his report, it was precisely so that the things that had happened would not happen, but if they unfortunately did happen there were proper means of redress, and that is what we want to achieve.
NHS: Mental Health Funding
My Lords, our aim is to ensure that mental health has equal priority with physical health. We have made this an objective of NHS England. The mandate of NHS England makes it clear that everyone who needs it should have timely access to the best available treatment, including in mental health services. We enshrined in law the equal status of mental and physical health in the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
My Lords, that is all well and good, but the noble Earl knows that NHS England has not carried out the instructions in the mandate, and in the tariff for this year it has discriminated in the funding of mental health services. In our most recent debate on this, the noble Earl said that we should not worry about it because clinical commissioning groups will be heavily monitored. But the Government have no power to instruct clinical commissioning groups to make up for this rather perverse decision by NHS England. So I ask the noble Earl: will he not intervene and tell NHS England to reverse this funding policy?
My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, the tariff for mental health services is determined locally. Having said that, we are clear that it is important that these tariffs and the priority given to mental health are scrutinised very carefully indeed, which is why my honourable friend the Minister of State for Care and Support has said he will do just that in the case of every single clinical commissioning group. If he determines that the plans are unsatisfactory, we as Ministers will work with NHS England, which we do regularly, to ensure that there is indeed that progress to parity of esteem that we all want to see throughout the country.
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that there is significant evidence that two-thirds of local authorities have reduced their child and adolescent mental health service budgets since 2010, draining money from early intervention services, which, I think he will agree, is short-sighted and stores up problems for the future? Will he ensure that NHS commissioners and councils provide comprehensive services to address the deepening damage caused by further cuts to children and young people’s mental health services?
My Lords, I share my noble friend’s concern. I am aware that some local authorities are not giving the necessary priority to this very important area of service. It is an area that local health and well-being boards should focus on. Our aim must be to support children and young people with mental health problems, wherever possible, in the community where they live rather than seeing them go into acute settings. Admission to hospital should be a last resort. While we have no direct leverage over local authorities, we shall endeavour through NHS England and joint working with area teams to ensure that this message is not lost.
My Lords, on this seventh World Autism Awareness Day, will the Minister join me in paying tribute to the parents and campaigning organisations? I ask him, on behalf of the one in 100 autistic individuals in this country who are disproportionately affected by mental illness: given the actual reduction in cash investment in mental health services, do the Government agree that funding for mental health must encompass funding for the prevention of illnesses among those most at risk rather than responding to crises that can be prevented by early intervention?
I agree with the point made by the noble Baroness. Prevention is much better than having to cure. I pay tribute to those organisations that champion the cause of those with autism. It is a tribute to the previous Government that they published the Autism Act, part of which involves collecting evidence at local level about the population affected by autism and, in that way, focusing minds at local level—principally the health and well-being boards—to direct services appropriately.
Given the significant disparity in mental health diagnosis, treatment and outcomes between minority ethnic groups and the general population, what steps are being taken not only to uphold parity of esteem between mental and physical health but to reflect that in the provision of accessible and effective mental health services for all people?
The right reverend Prelate raises an important dimension of this whole issue. We have been looking at ways to overcome inequalities in access to services, which includes better access for black and minority ethnic communities to mental health services. For example, we know that people from BME communities have been less likely to use psychological therapies. To tackle that, the department is working with the Race Equality Foundation and other stakeholders to understand why that is so and to understand inequalities around access to other mental health services and what can be done to improve that. NHS England is also working with BME community leaders to encourage more people to use psychological therapies.
I can only repeat what I already said to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. We have expressed our dismay at ministerial level about that decision and will therefore scrutinise local commissioning plans to ensure that, if cuts are implemented and there is freedom not to do so, outcomes and access to services are not damaged.
My Lords, there are three times as many deaths from suicide as from road accidents. The prescription of antidepressants went up by 10% last year and still only one-quarter of people with a mental illness are in treatment. Are the Government satisfied with the level of funding for preventive and psychological support services?
Health: Folic Acid Fortification
My Lords, we have previously stated that we were waiting for data on the folate status of the population from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey before making a decision with respect to fortification of flour with folic acid. The noble Lord is aware that delivery of these data has been significantly delayed. However, we will make a decision by Easter and will communicate it as soon as possible thereafter.
That is very good news because the congenital anomaly register, which the Minister will be aware of, currently shows that, on average, every week in England and Wales, 13 pregnancies are terminated due to neural defects and three babies are born with spina bifida and other conditions. Two-thirds of those tragedies could be avoided by fortification. Although the delay in the checking of samples is to be criticised in some ways, is it not ironic that British blood samples have been sent to America for checking and delaying, when America has fortified flour since 1998 based on the UK’s Medical Research Council’s work in the 1990s? When are we really going to get a decision so that we can use this for the benefit of our own people?
My Lords, we will announce a decision by Easter. I am aware, as the noble Lord is, of the impatience that many people have shown about this matter. However, it is right that the Government balance both the risks and the benefits of a policy that would see the mandatory fortification of a staple food. I think that that is a responsible course to take.
My Lords, is my noble friend convinced that the evidence for introducing folic acid into white bread flour is irrefutable, given the fact that successive Governments have tried to introduce fluoride into water for all of us but have failed to do so?
My Lords, there are risks associated with the fortification of flour with folic acid. That was pointed out by the scientific committee and was why its recommendation was conditional on certain things taking place. As it pointed out, there is a potential for significant numbers of the population to be pushed above the guideline upper limit for folic acid. We have to take those issues seriously in reaching a balanced decision.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is time for this important public health development and this important contribution to preventive medicine to be enacted, as it has been in many other countries? I am aware that there are likely to be those who object to this addition to flour. Surely it would be possible to meet those objections of a minority if a limited amount of bread free of folic acid were to be marketed to meet that concern.
My Lords, I note the noble Lord’s helpful suggestion but it is important that the Government take a decision on folic acid that is right for our own population, rather than anyone else’s. It is worth remembering that no other country in the European Union has taken the decision to fortify flour with folic acid. We need to do this by evaluating the risks and the benefits, as I said, based on the most up-to-date data we can get.
My Lords, we know that 50 countries have introduced folic acid. On the fluoridation question, the legislation is for local people and local authorities to decide, so there is a clear difference. It is clear that the Government have already briefed out that they will agree to this. We are going off on a very long Easter Recess. Joy would be unconfined if the noble Earl told us now what we know the Government have agreed to. Why does he not come clean on it?
My Lords, pending that decision, and even with the fortification of flour, the fact is that not all women planning to get pregnant will have the right level of folic acid. Are the Government planning a media campaign to encourage mothers about this? I mean not just the information on NHS pages but radio and magazine advertisements for young women so that they start to think about it when they begin to consider having their families.
There is a range of routes whereby we ensure that, as far as possible, women are advised on folic acid intake, particularly those women of childbearing age who may be thinking of starting a family. That includes the Start4Life information service and other media routes. I am not aware of specific media campaigns in this area, but if I can be enlightened on that I will write to my noble friend.
The Minister commented that no other European country has adopted fortification. Does he agree that the reason for that is that no other European country has the same incidence of neural tube defects as we have here in the United Kingdom? The incidence is far greater in the United Kingdom.
My Lords, the scientific committee pointed to several risks. One is that an overdose of folic acid may mask vitamin B12 deficiency, particularly in the over-65s—and this may be an issue in which a number of us wish to declare an interest. The committee also pointed out that although there was no specific evidence of a link to bowel cancer, there are nevertheless experts who believe that the evidence is equivocal in that area, and we need to take the balance of opinion very seriously.
Ukraine: Gas Supplies
My Lords, we currently do not have any disruption to gas supply through Ukraine. We have a range of different gas supply sources and high storage levels. The risk to our energy supply is low. We do not anticipate that a disruption to gas transiting Ukraine would have an impact on the UK’s physical gas supply, particularly as we currently source less than 1% of our gas from Russia, but we are monitoring the situation very closely.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her Answer, but even if, as we hope, the crisis in Ukraine blows over, should we not, as a matter of long-term policy, aim to reduce our dependence on imported gas and to regain energy self-sufficiency, which stood us in good stead over so many years?
My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right to raise this very important issue, and it is right that the Government are encouraging investment in domestic gas production to help to reduce our reliance on imports. We are also taking steps to support UK shale gas exploration by accepting the recommendations of Sir Ian Wood’s report following his recent review of how to maximise recovery of oil and gas in the UK continental shelf. However, the real answer must be to ensure diversity of supply so that we can ensure affordable and cleaner energy.
My Lords, I am delighted to hear my noble friend say that we need to get ahead with the exploitation of our shale gas resources—their exploration, appraisal and development —which, as the Geological Society pointed out, we have in abundance. However, is it not time to follow up words with deeds, to sort out our immensely cumbersome and unnecessarily complicated regulatory system and to stop the present Secretary of State for Energy dragging his feet, as, I regret to say, he is doing at present?
My Lords, I am, as always, grateful for my noble friend’s intervention, because it enables me to lay out exactly what the department is doing. We are trying to streamline the planning processes so that we do not have unnecessary hurdles in the way. The Government have established the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil to help to develop the shale gas industry in the UK. My noble friend will be aware of the new tax allowance recently announced by the Treasury, which will reduce the tax on a portion of a company’s production income from 62% to 30% at current rates. However, as with all projects, including shale, it must be subject to rigorous scrutiny through the planning system and the regulators and there must be proper engagement with local communities.
My Lords, I am glad to hear that the Minister now appears to accept that linking gas demand with Ukraine is not far-fetched but a very important issue. In reality, we are more reliant on coal from Russia than we are on gas: 70% of our coal is now imported, 40% of that from Russia. Will the Minister confirm that we must maintain every effort to support home-grown energy, including wind power, to reduce our dependency on both expensive gas and imported coal—which, I might add, would improve our air quality substantially?
My Lords, although Britain may not be reliant on Russian gas, that is not true for much of central and eastern Europe. There is a real issue here: since the problems we had between 2005 and 2009 over Ukraine, the EU and European states have been very unfocused on diversifying and getting alternative supplies of gas to that part of Europe. What is happening in terms of getting political will behind the Nabucco pipeline, or something else like it, which would bypass Russia and make the whole of Europe less dependent on a very unreliable state and partner?
My noble friend is absolutely right to raise that issue. The southern corridor project is a key pillar of EU and UK energy security and will bring gas from Azerbaijan directly to Europe. The choice of the most viable route is a commercial decision for those investing in the production and transport infrastructure. The UK Government support the southern corridor project but we cannot involve ourselves in the commercial decisions.
My Lords, we have been hearing a great deal about the massive coal supplies which are available off the north-east coast of this country, which would give this country energy independence for hundreds of years. Would it not be as well to find ways in which this resource could be used, on a green basis, by gasification or other means?
My Lords, although the Minister makes a strong case for what the Government are doing, one feels that there is an element of complacency. The noble Lord, Lord Lawson, is absolutely right: to achieve this is not a Sisyphean struggle when we can do things regarding contingency. One never knows quite what will happen. Thirty-two years ago, the Argentinions invaded the Falklands with less than 24 hours’ notice. Things change, so we should have contingency plans in place. We seem to have made it very difficult to get our shop in order to provide power, when power is needed if things go wrong.
My Lords, I reassure the noble Lord that we have plenty of supply and I urge him not to err into thinking that this country is fast running out of it. We have only a tiny dependency on Russia—less than 1%—so the Government are doing a very good job of ensuring security.
European Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Regulations 2014
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Police and Crime Commissioner Elections (Amendment) Order 2014
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Motions to Approve
Anonymous Registration (Northern Ireland) Order 2014
Motion to Approve
Defence Reform Bill
Clause 50: Short title
Clause 50, page 33, line 6, at end insert—
“(3A) Before a draft is laid before Parliament in accordance with subsection (3), the Secretary of State must—
(a) prepare and lay before Parliament a report on the options for carrying out defence procurement, and(b) publish the report.(3B) A report on the options for carrying out defence procurement is a report about—
(a) the arrangement of a kind mentioned in section 1 that the Secretary of State proposes to make following the coming into force of that section, and(b) any other options for carrying out defence procurement that the Secretary of State has considered as an alternative to those proposed arrangements.(3C) The report must include—
(a) an assessment of the impact of the proposed arrangements and the other options, and(b) any other information the Secretary of State considers appropriate for the purpose of enabling a proper comparison to be made between the proposed arrangements and the other options.(3D) The report must deal with at least one other option under subsection (3B)(b), namely the carrying out of defence procurement by the Secretary of State in the way it is carried out at the time of the report.
(3E) In subsection (3A) to (3D) “defence procurement” has the meaning given by section 1(8).”
My Lords, this amendment fulfils a commitment I made on Report. During that debate I made it clear that the Government supported an amendment, tabled in the names of the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Craig and Lord Stirrup, the noble Lord, Lord Levene, and my noble friend Lord Roper, that would have required a future Government to publish a White Paper and an impact statement before laying a draft order commencing Part 1 of the Bill. I agreed to bring forward a suitable government amendment at Third Reading, and that is the amendment that is before us today.
I do not intend to repeat the debate that we had on this issue in Committee and on Report. In essence, the debate centred on the need for parliamentary oversight and scrutiny of a future decision to proceed with a GOCO and the provision of sufficient information to Parliament to enable it to have an informed debate prior to the commencement of Part 1. In the end, there was consensus that this should take the form of a statutory requirement on any future Government to publish a White Paper and an impact statement. The government amendment reflects that commitment, although the need for precision in legislative drafting requires us to describe the content rather than the form of these documents. Nevertheless, the information that would be provided under the amendment is effectively the information that would be included in a White Paper and impact assessment.
Amendment 1 therefore makes it a requirement to publish and lay before Parliament a report on the options for carrying out defence procurement that the Secretary of State has considered. This must be done before any draft order commencing Part 1 of the Bill is laid before Parliament. The report will need to cover not only the GOCO option but any other options that the MoD is considering at the time for the reform of DE&S and it must include an assessment of the impact of the options and any other information that is appropriate to enable a proper comparison to be made between them.
It should be noted that the report must deal, in particular, with the option of what is commonly called DE&S-plus-plus—that is, the new DE&S as it will be once the transformation, which began at yesterday’s vesting day, is in place. This requirement specifically to consider the reformed DE&S is covered by new subsection (3D) of the amendment. I know that this is something that noble Lords were particularly keen should be captured in the amendment.
I hope that the amendment will command widespread support. It reflects the detailed debates that we have had on this Bill about the need for Parliament to have oversight of a decision to proceed with a GOCO and shows that the Government have listened carefully to the concerns raised by noble Lords from all sides of the House. The amendment will ensure that Parliament is provided with sufficient information to enable it properly to scrutinise and consider a future decision to proceed with a GOCO. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation of the amendment. As he has mentioned, the amendment reflects Amendment 9 on Report, which was tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Levene and Lord Roper, my noble and gallant friend Lord Stirrup and myself. The amendment that the Minister is now proposing is indeed fuller than the one that we put down but it carefully covers all the points that we had in mind. It may not mention the words “White Paper” but it spells out, in 25 lines compared with our five, the very thorough and comprehensive look at the proposals that is to be taken before Part 1 is passed into law. I thank the Minister and all those who have worked on the amendment. I shall certainly give it my support.
My Lords, like the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, I want merely to express my gratitude to my noble friend the Minister for having brought forward an amendment which, as he explained, goes somewhat further than the amendment we considered on Report. Like others who have been involved in these discussions, I am very grateful that he has taken so much care to ensure that this matter is properly dealt with and that we have in the statute a very good basis so that if at some stage we come to consider the introduction of Part 1, we will have useful material for the parliamentary consideration. I have great pleasure in saying that I am keen to support the amendment.
My Lords, all credit is due not only to the noble and gallant Lord and my noble friend Lord Roper but to the Labour Front Bench for starting this ball rolling and developing it into an affirmative or, perhaps I should say, slightly super-affirmative Motion, to which I hope the House will agree.
My Lords, the Minister explained the background to this amendment which arose from an undertaking that he gave when we last discussed the Bill. I should like to take this opportunity to explain our position on the amendment and our views on it.
We welcome the amendment as it represents a move from the Government’s previous stance that the affirmative order without any associated requirements stated in the Bill would be sufficient, if passed by both Houses, for a future Government to change significantly defence procurement services by making arrangements for such services to be provided by a company to the Secretary of State under contract. The Government’s amendment does not go as far as we would wish, given that the Government were not prepared, as we sought, to withdraw Part 1 when it became known that they could no longer proceed before the general election with their preferred option to go down the road provided for in Part 1. We argued for a super-affirmative procedure involving an independent examination of a future Government’s case for bringing in an outside company to provide defence procurement services and for a report on that independent review by the House of Commons Defence Select Committee prior to Parliament being asked to make a decision on the affirmative order. That did not find favour with the Government either.
What we do have is the Government’s amendment providing for a report to Parliament on the options for carrying out defence procurement with a requirement, as the Minister said, that one option that must be covered in the report is the carrying out of defence procurement by the Secretary of State in the way it is carried out at the time the report is prepared. In other words, the effectiveness or otherwise of the new DE&S-plus-plus organisation that started to come into effect a couple of days ago, at the beginning of this month, will have to be compared with any other proposed arrangements that a future Government may wish to introduce. That is important because the Minister said in the debate on this issue in Committee that if it had been a matter for this Government rather than a future Government, they would have looked at the outside company option—the GOCO—only if the new DE&S-plus-plus organisation now being introduced did not transform the defence procurement operation.
If a future Government adopt the same approach, the report on the effectiveness of the new DE&S-plus-plus organisation will be crucial, as will be the objectivity of that future Government’s assessment of DE&S-plus-plus and their case for believing that the GOCO option would be more successful. Proper time will be needed to evaluate and consider the report to Parliament from that future Government, as provided for in this amendment, if that Government decide they want to go down the GOCO route and not to continue with the new DE&S-plus-plus organisation.
A big concern we have about the Government’s amendment is that it does not lay down any minimum timescale, either directly or indirectly, between the report on the options for carrying out defence procurement being laid before Parliament and the associated affirmative order being considered by Parliament. A future Government, having made up their mind that they wanted to go down the GOCO route, might be tempted to try to rush through the affirmative order. In that context, I cannot help but recall that this Government, in declining to withdraw Part 1, argued that there might in future be a need to bring in the GOCO option with a minimum of delay—an odd argument, bearing in mind that the Government themselves had just had to delay their intentions on the GOCO option by at least two or three years, but nevertheless an indication of a Government’s thinking that they might seek to make the change as quickly as possible at the possible expense of proper scrutiny. Hence my comments and concerns that the Government’s amendment does not provide any real check on such an intention by a future Government.
However, despite our reservations, we shall not oppose the Government’s amendment, as it clearly represents progress towards our position and a move away from the Government’s earlier stance. We are grateful for the support there has been from other noble Lords in pressing the Government to move from their initial stance that affirmative orders, without any associated requirements that would also have to be met, were sufficient.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords and the noble and gallant Lord for their helpful contributions to our short debate. It is clear that this amendment attracts support, particularly from the Official Opposition, and that it would significantly improve the arrangements for parliamentary oversight should Part 1 ever be commenced. I accept the observation of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, that our amendment does not go far enough but I think we can agree that this amendment makes a good Bill much better.
As we have, I hope, reached the final stage of the Bill in this House, I thank noble Lords for their work on the Bill. In particular, I am grateful for the contributions of the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Craig and Lord Stirrup, the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Tunnicliffe, and my noble friends Lord Palmer, Lord Roper and Lord Lee among many other noble Lords who have spoken during the course of the Bill and done so much to ensure that it leaves this place in good shape. We have covered a lot of ground including on some quite technical matters.
I am also grateful to my noble friend Lady Jolly for her assistance on the Bill and to my officials for their support and hard work. The Government have listened to the concerns that have been raised and have responded, where appropriate, by bringing forward amendments such as the one before the House today. I therefore ask noble Lords to support this amendment.
Before we go through the final stage, I should like to thank the Minister for his usual patience and courtesy in taking the Bill through your Lordships’ House, and not least for the detailed responses he has given to the amendments that have been pursued and the questions that have been asked. I should also like to thank his ministerial colleague, Philip Dunne MP, for meeting us on more than one occasion, in particular my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe on Part 2 on single-source contracts. We extend our thanks in that regard to the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly. Having meetings with Ministers has also involved officials, and likewise we extend our thanks to them for their courtesy and helpfulness in responding to the many points that we raised.
Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.
Intellectual Property Bill [HL]
Motion on Amendments 1 to 3
1: Clause 3, page 2, line 33, leave out subsection (1)
2: Clause 3, page 2, leave out lines 42 to 44 and insert—“(b) a body corporate or other body having legal personality which— (i) is formed under the law of a part of the United Kingdom or another qualifying country, and(ii) has in any qualifying country a place of business at which substantial business activity is carried on.”.”
3: Clause 3, page 3, leave out lines 7 and 8 and insert—“(a) in subsection (1)(a), omit “who is exclusively authorised to put such articles on the market in the United Kingdom”, (b) in subsection (2), for “requirements” substitute “requirement”,(c) in subsection (3), for “those requirements” substitute “that requirement”, and (d) omit subsection (4).”
My Lords, these amendments were moved in the other place following discussions that I and my right honourable friend David Willetts had with industry representatives. They raised concerns about the possible unintended consequences of simplifying the eligibility requirements for UK unregistered design right. Their concerns focused on whether the qualification requirements had been extended too far and as a result included those countries which did not offer reciprocal protection to UK designers.
Following further helpful exchanges with industry groups such as the IP Federation, SIPA and the International Chamber of Commerce, the Government amended the Bill. Commons Amendments 1, 2 and 3 ensure that those who qualify for UK unregistered design right must fall within the definition of a “qualifying person”. Broadly, they must be either an individual who is habitually resident in a qualifying country, or a company that is formed under the law of a part of the UK or other qualifying country and which has in a qualifying country a place of business where substantial business activity is carried on. Further, where the unregistered design right arises by virtue of being the first to market the design, such marketing must be done by a qualifying person.
Representatives of both large and small players in the design industry have welcomed these changes, and noble Lords may also be aware that the changes received broad support in the Commons. I therefore hope that this House will agree to these Commons amendments, which represent a reasonable and realistic way of ensuring that the design framework continues to support UK businesses in an appropriate and fair way while also meeting the original aim of simplifying overly complex aspects of unregistered design protection. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction to this group of amendments and for his kind words about the role we played last year as part of the group that was involved with the Bill when it was in your Lordships’ House. As the Minister said, these amendments simplify the criteria under which individuals or businesses may be eligible for the UK unregistered design right under the CDPA—Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
I have no wish to claim all the credit for the Government’s change of heart, but it is fair to point out that my noble friend Lord Young of Norwood Green proposed a very similar amendment to the Bill when it was in Committee in your Lordships’ House. Our amendment focused on the meaning of “qualifying country”. In his speech, my noble friend quoted the comments of Lord Justice Jacob, who said in Dyson v Qualtex that the definition of the current UDR,
“has the merit of being short. It has no other … The problem is deeper: neither the language used nor the context of the legislation give any clear idea what was intended. Time and time again one struggles but fails to ascertain a precise meaning, a meaning which men of business can reasonably use to guide their conduct. The amount of textbook writing and conjecture as to the meaning is a testament to its obscurity”.
That is not very politically correct, but I think noble Lords will get the sense of frustration and the feeling that the present law is unsatisfactory, and that changes were required to ensure that designers in the UK could not unintentionally infringe a UK unregistered design right when they are building on ideas that they may have taken from elsewhere in the EU.
When he replied to the short debate in Committee, the Minister said that our proposed amendments,
“would create an anomaly in the Act and a level of complexity, which the Bill, on principle, is trying to remove”.—[Official Report, 11/6/13; col. GC 333.]
I am glad that in the event the Government have seen the wisdom of what we were proposing, and have decided to bring forward these amendments with the aim of establishing coherence and ensuring that this legislation does not disadvantage UK business. I confirm that we will support this group of amendments.
My Lords, I am grateful for the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, to whom I pay tribute. I also pay particular tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, for highlighting the issue at an earlier stage of the Bill.
To summarise, these amendments ensure that appropriate reciprocity arrangements remain in place. They ensure that, to be considered a “qualifying person”, businesses must be formed under the law of a part of the UK or other qualifying country. They also ensure that only qualifying persons can benefit from being the first to market. Finally, they do not change the position in relation to individuals, who are not required to have citizenship in a qualifying country as long as they are habitually resident there.
Motion on Amendments 4 to 12
4: Clause 13, page 11, line 22, after “person” insert “intentionally”
5: Clause 13, page 11, line 23, leave out “exactly or substantially to that design” and insert “—(i) exactly to that design, or(ii) with features that differ only in immaterial details from that design”
6: Clause 13, page 11, line 31, after “been” insert “intentionally”
7: Clause 13, page 11, line 31, leave out from “product” to end of line 32 and insert “— (a) exactly to the design, or (b) with features that differ only in immaterial details from the design.”
8: Clause 13, page 11, line 40, after “been” insert “intentionally”
9: Clause 13, page 11, line 42, leave out “or substantially to the design” and insert “to the design or with features that differ only in immaterial details from the design”
10: Clause 13, page 13, line 1, leave out “or substantially to a registered design” and insert “to a registered design, or with features that differ only in immaterial details from a registered design,”
11: Clause 13, page 13, line 2, at end insert “intentionally”
12: Clause 13, page 13, line 4, at end insert “intentionally”
My Lords, Clause 13 makes it a criminal offence intentionally to copy a UK or EU-registered design in the course of business without the consent of its owner. It will also be an offence to try to profit from the use of the copy in the course of business. This clause has attracted much debate, both here and in the other place. My right honourable friend David Willetts and I have also had extensive discussions with industry representatives, and I have listened carefully to the views of both large and small design businesses.
A number of industry representatives voiced serious concerns that the drafting of the clause left some uncertainty as to the scope of the sanction. They believed that the clause could be interpreted more widely than the Government intended—a view supported by members of the judiciary. As a result, the Government made two sets of amendments to this clause in the other place to clarify the scope of the sanction, and therefore strengthen its effectiveness. The Government recognise the importance of creating certainty for those businesses that may be affected by the criminal sanction.
Amendments 4, 6, 8, 11 and 12 insert the word “intentionally” into the clause to make it absolutely clear that unconscious and accidental copying should not be caught by the offence. These amendments are not intended to make the offence harder to prove, but simply to clarify that the offence should apply only to intentional copying. It has always been the Government’s aim to create an offence that deters specific, purposeful copying, as can be seen from previous debates in this House. I do not believe that inserting the word “intentionally” into the statute changes this underlying aim.
I now turn to Commons Amendments 5, 7, 9 and 10. These amendments concern the scope of the offence, in the context of assessing whether one design has been copied from another. The amendments replace the word “substantially” in the clause with the phrase,
“with features that differ only in immaterial details”.
I will take just a moment to remind noble Lords that the intention of this criminal sanction has always been to cover exact copies, and copies where the design has been very slightly altered. In achieving this policy aim, the Government have been mindful not to capture the type of differences that can quite legitimately result in the creation of a new design. The amendments help achieve this, so that when making an assessment of whether a design has been copied, immaterial details may be disregarded. It is right that what amounts to “immaterial details” should be determined by the courts in the light of the details of the case in front of them.
The decision to replace the word “substantially” arose from detailed discussions with industry representatives. They expressed concern that the term was not clearly defined in registered design law and could therefore create uncertainty, which in turn could affect legitimate follow-on design. The revised form of wording—“immaterial details”—is more familiar to industry and reflects existing language in the Registered Designs Act 1949, in the context of deciding whether a design is new. By definition, a new design cannot be a copy. The wording provides users not only with a familiar term but gives the courts a more precise test than “substantially”.
These amendments will help remove uncertainty in the criminal sanction that could impact negatively on innovation, but the new wording also reinforces the important point that someone who intentionally copies another person’s registered design will not be excused simply because they have made some immaterial changes to that design.
To conclude, both sets of amendments made by the Government to Clause 13 will help clarify the scope of the offence and give industry the certainty it needs to allow follow-on innovation to continue without fear of crossing the line. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction to this group of amendments and, indeed, for his oral and written briefings while the Bill was going through the Commons. It was most helpful to have a blow-by-blow account of the amendments as they were put forward by the Government.
I do not want to appear churlish, and I will not be pressing the matter to a vote, but the amendments cause some considerable concern. The inclusion of the phrase,
“features that differ only in immaterial details from that design”,
as inserted by Amendments 5, 7 and others, give me particular cause for concern. I and organisations such as ACID, which represents smaller designers, are concerned that this change drastically narrows the offence to such an extent that it will apply only to the production of counterfeits. Given wider consultation, a much better form of words would have been achieved—something on the lines of “to make a product exactly to that design or to a design which does not produce on the informed user a different overall impression”. In the circumstances, that would have been far preferable.
The provision will put in place a deterrent to protect registered designs against absolutely slavish copying, but the new wording, as it stands, will allow someone to make sufficient small changes which are not “material” changes to avoid the offence. The intent to copy is still there whether they are immaterial or material changes, and I have grave doubts about whether the newly amended provision will be effective in protecting designers, particularly small designers.
At this point, I want to quote from the noble Viscount’s letter of 5 March, which was very heavily directed towards explaining why these amendments had been adopted in the way that he has described. However, it goes into rather greater detail. In his last paragraph dealing with Clause 13, he says:
“Some have inferred that because the term ‘substantial’ is used in copyright legislation, and therefore in the context of criminal sanctions for copyright offences, that this provides a suitable precedent for using it in registered design sanction”.
Truer words were never spake. That is exactly the case that many of us have been making. However, I do not believe that the remainder of that paragraph holds water in the context of copyright law and the ability to enforce it in relation to substantial copying in these circumstances. The term works for the criminal offence in copyright and I see no reason why it should not also work for registered design criminal liability.
I also regret that unregistered designs have not been given greater protection under the Bill. BIS figures, which were very recently welcomed by the Minister, demonstrate that UK investment in intangible assets now totals some £137.5 billion. Of that, some 46% is protected by copyright, 21% by unregistered design rights and 21% by trademarks. That demonstrates why throughout the passage of the Bill I have supported the case for extending criminal sanctions for registered design infringement to unregistered designs. Those are vital matters of national investment. If anything, the addition of the word “intentionally” by the Government in the Commons, as reflected in Amendments 4, 6 and others, has strengthened the case for that protection under the criminal law.
I believe that the amendments relating to intentionality introduce unnecessary additional mens rea to the offence. It is a belt-and-braces approach to what I believe was already there. However, I do not see how, given its inclusion, the Government can still refuse to extend criminal penalties to unregistered designs. If someone has “intentionally”—that is, deliberately—set out to copy someone else’s work for their own commercial gain, it should not matter whether that work is protected by a registered design right or an unregistered design right. It has still been deliberately stolen. I repeat that these rights are extremely important for our national investment. I still live in hope that sense will prevail at some stage in the future and that our designers will be properly protected by the criminal law, as are trademark and copyright owners.
The one bit of good news for designers is the European Court of Justice Advocate-General’s decision today on the Karen Millen v Dunnes case. As we know, the majority of the UK’s designers rely on unregistered rights, so this has provided clarity and will strengthen the unregistered design right in that it is the totality of the design one holds which the law protects, not by eliminating individual parts of a design. There is some good news coming out of the ECJ but not out of the House today.
My Lords, in Committee, we opposed the criminalisation of the unauthorised copying of a registered design and the dealing with unauthorised copies. We also opposed any possibility that that might be extended to unregistered designs. To that extent, I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, who has just spoken at length and with passion about these issues, as he has throughout the passage of the Bill. I understand where he is coming from but we simply do not agree on this point.
On Report, although we lost in Committee in terms of these discussions, we decided that the best thing to do was to come back with a series of amendments which would try to moderate where the Government were trying to get to. When I introduced the first of these, I quoted the noted British designer, Sir James Dyson, who had written to many noble Lords on that occasion. He said:
“In the law relating to copyright, acts of unintentional infringement are excluded from criminal sanctions. In the proposed clause of the Intellectual Property Bill relating to registered design … the same is not true. If this Bill is passed unamended, innocent designers will be threatened with criminal proceedings. It is wholly wrong that a designer should go to prison for unintentional infringement. The current wording of the Bill does not exclude that possibility”.
“I have spent decades fighting to protect my ideas; taking on competitors who have flagrantly copied my patents and designs. I abhor intellectual property infringement. It is something I feel passionately about. But the Intellectual Property Bill’s inclusion of proposals to criminalise infringement of registered designs is a serious mistake”.
Our argument on this issue is, in essence, that the legislation would open a Pandora’s box of unintended consequences, potentially discouraging the very kind of legitimate, competitive risk-taking that policymakers have been very keen to encourage as a driver of growth. In particular, I said that this could be a deterrent to inward investment in UK design, which may not only result in an innovation drought but threaten the future employability of UK designers. I thought then, and I still believe, that the Government had failed to make their case.
However, notwithstanding the reservations, we also argued that if criminal sanctions were to be introduced we wanted to raise the bar to criminal proceedings by making it clear that they would be commenced only if it was clear beyond reasonable doubt that the action taken had been persistent, calculated and motivated by evidence of an intention to exploit the original registered design.
In that debate, the Minister said he would give serious consideration to the concerns that we expressed, and he brought forward an amendment at Third Reading which would introduce a defence of reasonable belief that the design in question was not infringed. While we were happy to sign up to that amendment, which raised the bar as we wished, we said that it did not go far enough.
We are therefore very pleased that with these new Commons amendments the Government have returned to what is in effect the original IPO consultation document, which for example promised that the criminal offence would contain defences,
“against unintentional infringement of registered design rights”.
We are therefore pleased to agree with the new amendments to Clause 13, which specify intentionality—that the act of copying must be a considered act—and define how close to the original the copied design would need to be by reference to terms currently used in the relevant legislation. We continue to oppose the introduction of criminal sanctions for registered design infringement as a matter of principle. However, we will support the changes to the Bill.
My Lords, I am grateful for the contributions to this short debate on these government amendments by my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones and the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. I shall begin with a brief summary and then I fully intend to answer the questions, particularly those raised by my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones. These amendments make it absolutely clear that the criminal offence will apply to only those who intentionally copy a design in the full knowledge that it belongs to somebody else. They introduce more clarity for users in describing how two potentially conflicting designs are compared. They seek to ensure that legitimate follow-on innovation by business will not be caught under the offence, but also ensure that those who get too close to existing registered designs are rightly caught by the offence. I believe that we have got the balance right in setting the boundaries of protection for design rights.
If the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, will excuse the pun, the Government have deliberately chosen the word “intentional”, as we believe that the concept of intention is more familiar to the courts in terms of framing the mental element of a criminal offence and less likely to provoke legal debate than the term “deliberately”. In making this amendment, the Government have acted merely to remove uncertainty, which can be detrimental to innovation. The amendment will help to ensure that we do not deter anyone who legitimately seeks to innovate around an existing design.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, for his overall contribution to the Bill and for his early desire to make this part of the Bill better. I am glad, if I read him correctly, that he is comfortable. I am always happy if the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, is happy.
I would like to address a number of questions that were raised by my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones. His first substantive point concerned the word “substantial”. He asked why that would not work. He argued that, because the term “substantial” is used in copyright legislation and therefore in the context of criminal sanctions for copyright offences, this provides a suitable precedent for using it in registered design sanction. However, in copyright law, it has been determined to have a “qualitative” as well as a quantitative meaning, such that, for example, a few bars of music from a song, or a single still from a film, could constitute a “substantial part” of the whole work. Such a potentially wide meaning from an unrelated IP right does not provide for a sensible read-across to design legislation.
My noble friend also suggested that the amendments make the offence narrower. But as the Government have previously stated, the policy is to target acts which are “considered”. The amendments do not alter this policy, or make it harder to prove in practice. They simply clarify and reinforce the nature of the act which is inherent in the word “copying”.
My noble friend also asked why there could not be an extension to unregistered design rights. This is a matter that my noble friend has raised before. It is because of a number of fundamental differences between registered and unregistered design rights, which have been examined in detail previously both here and in the other place. These differences mean that it is often not possible for a legitimate business, be it large or small, to find out whether unregistered design rights protect a design or a part of that design. This creates a high level of uncertainty. The Government are simply not protecting and supporting our small businesses if we subject them to this level of uncertainty, especially given the huge number of unregistered designs in existence. The Government have made this distinction between registered and unregistered design rights, we believe, for good reason, and for the benefit of the UK design industry.
My noble friend Lord Clement-Jones also asked about the alternative wording and suggested—although I am not sure that he actually used these words—that we might use the informed user test. The Government have considered alternative wording carefully including the wording based on the phrase, “producing on the informed user a different overall impression”. However, this was rejected because it relates to the test for civil infringement in registered design law. The scope of civil infringement is much wider than the intended scope of the criminal sanction, which is of course restricted to intentional copying. Application of this phrase to the criminal sanction could lead to confusion for businesses.
Because this infringement test is wide, it is also likely to affect the ability of innovators to produce valid follow-on designs. It would require expert testimony, for example, about who is “the informed user” in a particular industry; such testimony would complicate criminal prosecution and can be contradictory, leading to delays in the proceedings.
The test is also still subject to interpretation and development by the EU courts. The Government believe that any uncertainty around such a test for a criminal sanction, which could affect personal freedom, would be unacceptable. As with the sanction in general, this is a fine balance to strike. But the Government do not believe that their amendment, which refers to “immaterial details”, restricts the application of the sanction to exact copies.
My noble friend raised the issue of intention in the Bill, and I shall expand on this a bit more in terms of the link to unregistered designs. New offences are not introduced lightly and the Government must ensure that they have been drawn sufficiently tightly and are workable in practice. The Government believe that these would be difficult criteria to fulfil for unregistered design rights, as mentioned earlier, given the complexity of establishing basic facts such as whether the right exists, what parts of the design it relates to, and how long the protection would last.
However, in completing this analysis, the Government recognise that primary legislation is not the end of the process, and we are working with the relevant bodies, including ACID and its members, to explore ways in which we can improve the experience of designers in the UK. I hope that this will be of some comfort to my noble friend. For example, we are developing plans to introduce a more comprehensive IT system to facilitate the processing of registered design applications. In addition, we will be assessing our fee structure, having taken on board stakeholder concerns regarding the cost involved in registering numerous applications. We will also be evaluating the provision of information about protecting designs to make the system more accessible for businesses. I am confident that these measures will assist our design industry, and I look forward to working closely with members of ACID and other organisations as developments progress. This Bill and the excellent scrutiny given to it by noble Lords have been a catalyst for this further work with the UK design industry.
More widely, I am most grateful to noble Lords for the time and effort they have put into their scrutiny, and I am confident that as a result we are making a series of important and positive changes to the UK intellectual property system which will support our designers, inventors and creators in the years to come. I commend the amendments.
International Roma Day
Question for Short Debate
My Lords, why is there an International Roma Day on 8 April? It was declared in 1990 to acknowledge the first major international meeting of Romany representatives who had founded the International Romani Union in April 1971. The different groups who make up the Roma peoples were finally motivated to come together to form a united front against the prejudice, discrimination and violent persecution which had dogged them since they first arrived in Europe in the 14th to the 16th centuries. The IRU now has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Committee and institutional links with the Council of Europe, OSCE and other UN agencies. The excellent pack produced by the Library gives more information.
The motivation in the 1970s perhaps drew on the increasing capacity and political consciousness of a small number of educated Roma Europeans, but the declaration in 1990 had more to do with the persistent and indeed often growing hatred expressed by populist movements unleashed by the collapse of the Soviet hegemony, backed in many cases by the state itself. Let me briefly set the scene.
Because until recently there was no written history, the reasons why these people migrated west from northern India in the 11th century are not fully understood. However, the world was full of migration then, even more so than now, as readers of the fascinating Vanished Kingdoms by Norman Davies will know. Until Europe solidified into nation states, it was more or less normal to owe major allegiance to a much smaller group. Of course, many of them gained dominance through warring against others, but the Roma are distinctive in not going to war against their neighbours as well as travelling, and thus they did not found a state. They travelled via Persia, the Middle East—hence the British term “Gypsies”—and Turkey, adding words from those languages to their native Indian language as they went. It is only through linguistic analysis of the present-day European Romani languages that these steps can be traced. One theory for the discovery of their ancient roots has it that a Hungarian student at Leiden University in the 1760s recognised in the language of his fellow students from Malabar in India words used by Roma slaves on his father’s estate.
In contrast to ethnic groups who conquered and seized territories, the Roma have experienced only brief periods of acceptance. The story of the relegation of these peoples, who insisted on preserving their culture without fighting, to a demonised or sometimes exoticised limbo has many cruel twists and turns. In our time, the culmination was the genocide during the Nazi Holocaust, when perhaps a quarter of their number was annihilated.
However, even this did not give the nation states of Europe pause. It is important, I think, to recognise in the life-threatening persecution experienced by Roma in so many European countries an extreme tendency of a sadly common human trait. The treatment of the Roma is a European scandal, but racist persecution is hardly confined to Europe. I think we should admit that it is human and general, and work out more thoroughly why it is that worthwhile emotions of solidarity with one’s own can be transformed into murderous extinction of those who are different. We enjoy the more or less harmless rivalry of national and local football teams, but we have not learnt how to call a halt to extreme and violent separateness. In a time when the mysteries of the origin of the universe are increasingly within our grasp, could we not pay a bit more attention to the safety and security of its inhabitants? Could we mark International Roma Day in this way?
In the European domain, one forgotten area is the situation of the Roma in Kosovo. Tens of thousands of them fled the Balkan wars for refugee camps set up by the United Nations in 1999. These were, however, heavily contaminated by lead. Eventually, after several years of much pressure, the families were moved, although not to their original home, which the incoming Albanians appropriated. Their children suffered serious lead poisoning but were not afforded any treatment other than dietary supplements. Your Lordships will be aware of the brain damage and behavioural difficulties which follow a high level of lead poisoning. May I ask the Minister to find out what in the EU aid sent to address this problem was aimed at reversing the physical effects of the poison—to the extent that that could be done—and what more can be done?
Another issue for these unfortunate victims of a conflict for which they bore no responsibility is that they became effectively stateless, with therefore none of the rights to assistance which accrue to residents or to nationals. It is a long and complicated story, and I have only skimmed over what seem to me to be the essentials. Can the Minister tell noble Lords what knowledge she has now of the residence rights of the Roma in Kosovo and what pressure Her Majesty’s Government can bring to improve their position?
The American Secretary of State, Mr John Kerry, marked last year’s International Roma Day by reaffirming the determination of the United States to achieve, together with European Governments, equality, opportunity and inclusion for all Roma. I commend those British faith leaders who signed a letter a few weeks ago to the mayor of Cluj-Napoca in Romania, urging him to stop the deportation of his Roma citizens to substandard accommodation on polluted industrial land, and I am delighted that the right reverend prelate the Bishop of St Albans will speak today.
What will our Government do now to signal the repugnance I hope we feel for the treatment meted out to Roma all over Europe, and to enable remedies? The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has had a good record so far, through both diplomatic efforts and exchange of good practice, as the noble Baroness has had the task of informing me many times through Parliamentary Questions, for which I am grateful. So I hope for more good news on the diplomatic side.
How is International Roma Day to be marked in the UK? We still have widespread expression of prejudice and many attacks. We have made it hard for children of Romany descent, whether recent immigrants or citizens of many centuries’ standing, to attend school and thus gain the credentials which will lever them out of poverty. I declare an interest as chair of the Department for Education’s stakeholder group for Gypsy, Traveller and Roma education. Health outcomes are worse than for any other minority ethnic group. Despite that, we have responsible Roma citizens who have formed constructive neighbourhood groups and who are anxious that the positive values of their culture should be properly acknowledged, as well as their extraordinary history. It would be good to hear of their heroes of our two world wars, of our writers of Romany descent and even of Members of your Lordships’ House who are descended from the Gypsy kings—and there are some.
Surely it is good to have among us groups which value family solidarity, which care for their children throughout the extended family, which respect old people and which have the culture of enterprise and skill, albeit one that needs easier entry into modern circumstances. Surely nothing can be gained by marginalising people, other than the risk of marginalised behaviour on the part of a few and much hardship for many.
The previous Government funded Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month. The present Government refuse to devise a strategy to comply with the European Union framework on Roma integration to which they signed up. The European Commission is holding a European Roma summit in two days’ time. Ministers from most member states will be going but so far none from the UK. Perhaps the noble Baroness can tell me who will attend on our behalf.
Finally, the Decade of Roma Inclusion Secretariat Foundation has commissioned a prominent British charity, the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups, to monitor the progress made in the UK on this framework. I hope it has a better story to tell when it reports in the summer than what we see now. I urge the noble Baroness to exert what pressure she can in her faith and communities role to target resources on the unfair plight of our oldest and most neglected minority ethnic group, and to mark International Roma Day by this commitment.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for securing this debate, and give my sincere apologies for arriving just after she had started her speech. I am sorry; I had been told that we were starting around 6 pm so I ran down the Corridors to get here.
I am very glad that we are thinking about how we mark International Roma Day next week. As the noble Baroness said, I was glad to be one of the signatories of the letter that was published on 17 February in the Telegraph, highlighting the forced eviction of Roma in Cluj-Napoca in Romania. I then tabled a Question to ask the Minister whether any representations had been made to the Government of Romania, and in particular if she would urge the Romanian Government to enforce the decision of the Cluj-Napoca county court that the evictions targeting the Roma community were illegal.
I am grateful for the noble Baroness’s reply and for the assurance that the British embassy there was monitoring these and other forced evictions of Roma, although I was concerned to learn that the decision of the Cluj-Napoca court was subject to appeal. Is the Minister able to give us any update on what has happened since then? Is she able to tell us about the response of the local government following the British embassy visit to Cluj on 11 February, when the issue of forced evictions was raised? Will she also tell us more about the progress being made by the partnership with the local NGO to develop projects aimed at preventing disadvantaged Roma children leaving school before the minimum age?
The situation in Romania is worrying but similar situations can be found in many other countries and they are equally worrying. The danger is that we spend quite a lot of time thinking about the problems elsewhere rather than focusing on some of the very evident problems that we have here. Britain is rightly proud of its long and honourable tradition of welcoming immigrants and fighting discrimination. If International Roma Day is to have any real significance, there needs to be some action behind it.
I know something of the background because in my own diocese we have a Roma congregation. When you meet people from that congregation, you will find that stories of discrimination are commonplace. The Roma church in Luton meets in a United Reformed Church building—it is one of those ecumenical initiatives that we are all involved in nowadays. The leadership is shared between one of my own clergy, the Reverend Martin Burrell, and some of the Roma men from the congregation. The church began meeting in May 2011; it has an average weekly congregation of around 70 people; and it has children’s programmes for different age groups. All the congregation are Romanian in their ethnic roots, although many did not come directly from Romania to the UK.
They are not a homogeneous group—they come from different parts of Romania and belong to different family groups—yet many share similar stories of rejection and racism. There is a certain unwillingness to talk about it, as they want to fit in and, not surprisingly, want to be viewed as normal—as just regular people in the community. There is no doubt that the Roma’s historic problems with integration have been compounded by some confusion, certainly in the popular mind, over Roma and Romania and some of the current issues around migration, especially at a time when the economy here has not been in such good health.
There have been a significant number of Roma economic migrants, especially since 2007. Interestingly enough, the majority would describe themselves as Christian. Therefore, the Church of England has a particular responsibility to engage with them, to minister to them, to provide them with a safe place to meet and worship, and to help and support them in all the practicalities of life towards integration into the wider community.
It is encouraging that some members of that congregation are making significant progress in integrating and building their lives here in the UK, although others are still struggling to break through. Local churches are seeking to provide holistic service to this community, in which multiple, complex needs are evident. Such needs include difficulties in accessing education, employment, social services and medical care. Part of the problem is a language barrier to being able to benefit from much needed help. For these, the provision of translation allows discussions with doctors, schoolteachers and so on that would otherwise be very difficult.
There is a great deal of work for those of us in the churches and the voluntary sector to do, and we are applying ourselves to it and engaging with it. However, there is a vital role to play for Her Majesty’s Government. Tackling the current paucity of employment opportunities for the Roma must be prioritised if long-term social cohesion is to be achieved. I believe that there is a large potential workforce of young, intelligent and willing people whose skills, if they can be linked to needs on the ground, could be a huge benefit to us all. Literacy and language barriers often form some of the difficulties, so we need to do more to make available to Roma people work opportunities that perhaps do not require the highest level of spoken English or literacy at the same time as focusing on education.
The report, They Go the Extra Mile, produced by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, pointed out that Roma pupils have the lowest attainment rate of any ethnic group at GCSE and that the highest rates of formal and legal exclusion were for children from Roma, Irish Traveller and Caribbean backgrounds. The level of fixed-term exclusion is worryingly high for these groups, compared with the 5% of children from the general population who have a fixed-term exclusion. The level for Roma Traveller children is 15%.
The first recommendation of the report, backed up by the Children’s Commissioner, concluded:
“We share Ministers’ conviction that a child’s background should not limit our shared expectations of their achievement. We believe that this holds as true for behaviour as for academic attainment. We therefore recommend that all parts of the education system that disproportionately and adversely affect the most vulnerable children remain priorities for action. This includes the large differences in rates of exclusion”.
I have no doubt that there are some complex cultural reasons why we are facing some of these difficulties. I am not naive; I know many teachers who are working with populations which come to this country. Therefore, the education, support and resourcing of heads and teachers is vital if we are to lower the level of exclusion and raise the level of academic achievement. Can the Minister tell us whether the Department for Education has any particular plans to help work and support in this specific area?
Of course, I am well aware that funding is, as always, tight but is there any opportunity for us to create posts for Roma community champions who can model good citizenship to their own people and help with integration? The creation of drop-in centres where there are significant Roma populations to provide advice and education could also have a dramatic impact in preventing current inefficient practices and reducing crime, thereby saving money.
I hope that we will have some assurance from Her Majesty’s Government about a more considered response on the European Roma integration strategy, which the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, mentioned a few moments ago. That is a really important way forward.
Finally, I was very heartened by what was news to me but will probably be familiar to all Members of your Lordships’ House: the foundation of the Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association. Through this new association, members of the police force—men and women of varying seniority—work together to encourage one another in their commitment to their own vocation as police officers and to help recruitment. This is an important aspect of how we can integrate Roma more into our communities. I know that the local branch has just been launched down in Kent. Can the Minister tell us if there are any other ways in which we could strengthen and encourage the formation of other branches of this police association throughout the country?
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Whitaker on initiating this debate. What a shame it is that so few noble Lords have seen fit to contribute to it. It is perhaps sad testimony to the marginal nature of Roma in our society and in Europe more generally that that should be the case.
International Roma Day was set up for two purposes: to publicise the suffering and hardship that has marked the history of the Roma in Europe; and at the same time to celebrate Romany culture, the origins of which—as my noble friend said—seem to go back some 1,000 years. When one considers the enormous progress that has been made in overcoming persecution and discrimination against stigmatised groups in Europe, such as the Jews, the unhappy situation of the Roma almost everywhere is utterly scandalous.
There are 10 million to 12 million Roma living in Europe, plus several million more living in adjoining countries. For example, Turkey has a very substantial minority Roma population. According to most estimates, there are some 200,000 Roma living in the UK. Contrary to popular imagery, the majority of these are not recent immigrants but are long-standing citizens whose forebears have been resident here for several generations back or more. They have long been subject to the same scare stories as in other countries, but these have recently resurfaced, sometimes in virulent form here, as part of the climate of hostility to immigration fostered, if I may say so, in some sectors of the press.
A survey sponsored by the World Bank, UNDP and the European Commission carried out in 2011 gives statistical flesh to the reality of social exclusion affecting the Romany populations across Europe. It covered 11 EU member states and the findings are quite shocking. Levels of unemployment among the Romany people are on average three times those of the indigenous populations of the countries of which they are a part. Some 90% of the Roma across Europe live below national poverty lines. About a quarter of the Roma have no formal access to healthcare.
How can we stop International Roma Day being simply a nominal event, forgotten about the next day —Sunday’s speeches not followed up on Monday; or, in this case, Wednesday’s speeches not followed up on Thursday? I suggest three strategies, because we are dealing with deeply embedded problems and superficial policies will make no impact. I have three main points to make and I would be pleased if the noble Baroness would comment on whether she endorses them.
First, speaking as a sociologist, it seems important to have a comparative perspective. There is one very interesting comparison, although it is barely known in this country: the comparison that one could make between the Roma in Europe and the Burakumin in Japan. The Burakumin have faced ostracism and persecution, just like the Roma, lasting over many centuries. The Burakumin are physically indistinguishable from other Japanese. They are clustered in occupations which used to be considered impure or degrading. There have been many years of official denial of exploitation and exclusion within Japan, but that is now changing dramatically. There is a new generation of Buraku activists, such as the Buraku Liberation League. Interestingly, it has had close contacts recently with Roma activist groups in Europe.
The lesson, if you look sociologically at the Burakumin, is one that applies directly to the Roma in Europe and explains their long history. There is a causal spiral whereby forms of ostracism and prejudice help to create and reinforce the very traits which the wider public then condemn. The two cases are amazingly similar. For example, recklessness and criminality become real. They are produced by ostracism and then reinforce ostracism. That produces a deep historical cycle, which must be broken through.
Secondly, to see how we might do that in the case of the Roma in Europe and such other historical examples, we need more anthropological studies of how those mechanisms of exclusion work and how they are translated into those somewhat oppressive characteristics. In the case of the Roma, by and large, we simply do not have those studies. However, some are starting to appear. For example, there is a very interesting study sponsored by the World Bank, which has become involved in the Roma situation, which is concentrated on poverty, social exclusion and ethnicity in Serbia and Montenegro. That study is based on in-depth research, and it shows clearly how specific the cycle of exclusion is.
The implication which is correctly drawn by the World Bank is that we will never get anywhere in improving the situation of the Roma by concentrating on isolated policy interventions, no matter how attractive they might be on the surface. For example, there is a lot of material on trying to address the poverty of Roma children through education, but the research shows that that is subverted. We will not get very far simply by introducing well intentioned single-plank policies. We must address structural problems within the Roma communities.
Thirdly, in Europe, an investment-driven approach is the way forward, not one based simply on improved access to welfare. Modelling carried out by the World Bank indicates that full Roma integration in Europe, if set up as in its model, would produce a net economic gain of €0.5 billion a year to the EU economies. Breaking through the centuries of prejudice would therefore represent a major social investment, not just an additional cost to be foisted on an already overburdened system of welfare states. Interestingly, the World Bank has outlined how such an investment-driven strategy might be instituted. Its advantage is that it has electoral appeal as well as being directly relevant to the mechanisms of exclusion which have kept the Roma on the outside for so long. I hope the Minister will agree with these points and that she might build on them in her reply.
I congratulate my noble friend Lady Whitaker on initiating this debate and my noble friend Lord Giddens for, as usual, describing pretty much exactly what should happen next. I also congratulate the right reverend Prelate, whose newness we are aware of and who will learn that debates in your Lordships’ House are sometimes a moveable feast. I think we have all been there.
I will start with a short quote. I express my appreciation to the René Cassin charity for its campaign on the chronically excluded. Its short exposition of the issues surrounding the Roma starts with this quote from Ruth Barnett, the author and activist:
“I have no right to protest against anti-Semitism unless I also protest at other peoples being targeted through prejudice and hatred”.
Discrimination against Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers is often called the last bastion of acceptable racism in the UK and Europe. Although we all know, as this debate has shown, that such people go by a variety of names—Romany Gypsies, Irish Travellers and Roma people—together they constitute Europe’s largest ethnic minority. They are also without doubt the most discriminated against. Whether that discrimination is direct, as in much of southern and eastern Europe, or indirect, which is more common in the UK, the results affect this group’s ability to find shelter and access social services, education and healthcare, and they ultimately result in severe consequences. For example, the average life expectancy of a Romany Gypsy or an Irish Traveller is 10 years less than the UK average.
The Roma share a history of persecution with the Jewish people. Both communities have experienced racist hostility for centuries and were targeted by the Nazis during World War II. Gypsies, Travellers and Roma continue to face racist stereotyping, discriminatory treatment and violence throughout Europe and we all need to be ashamed, in this day and age, that that is still the case. This manifests itself in: higher mortality rates and poorer health generally; higher rates of homelessness and poverty levels; lower employment rates; lower self-esteem; lower literacy rates; abusive media coverage; greater likelihood of experiencing hate crimes; greater likelihood of criminalisation at a young age and more rapid progress into custody; and, indeed, greater likelihood of exclusion from our democratic processes.
Although without doubt some progress has been made in the United Kingdom, does the Minister believe that the UK is fulfilling and complying fully with its international obligations to Roma? The European Court of Human Rights has held that the United Kingdom has a positive obligation by virtue of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to facilitate these groups’ traditional way of life. Is the Minister satisfied that this is indeed the case?
As my noble friend Lord Giddens said, there is no doubt that there is inadequate understanding of the Roma population in the UK. That cannot be right and his suggestions about how to progress that research are very welcome indeed. However, there are also practical considerations. There are no legal sites for the 25,000 who have to resort to unauthorised sites, either because the local authority will not build a site or because they will not give planning permission for a private one. Obviously, this affects Irish Travellers as well as Romany Gypsies. This constraint means that they are significantly prevented from educating their children and therefore suffer from prejudice and all the disadvantages that go with that.
Another question might be: what use will Her Majesty’s Government make of the new census category of Gypsy or Traveller, which has already yielded information on very low education attainment figures and subjective ill health? I am particularly concerned about the health outcomes for Romany people. What can the Government do to measure health outcomes? As far as I can see, this was last done in an ad hoc survey funded by the Department of Health in about 2004. That survey yielded information on very much higher rates of maternal and baby mortality as well as general ill health. Surely the time has come—I am seeking a commitment here—for a thorough survey of, and research into, health outcomes for Romany people, particularly their children. We know that there is a great deal to do on poor access to services generally, but I am particularly concerned with their access to our healthcare system.
I hope that, when we discuss the position of Romany people on this day next year, we will have a much more optimistic tale to tell. I look forward to the Minister’s remarks.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for proposing this debate to mark International Roma Day, which will happen on 8 April. I congratulate the noble Baroness on her longstanding support for the rights of Roma, including her vice-chairmanship of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gypsy Roma Travellers and her commitment to the Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and other Travellers, which looks specifically at the education of children.
The Government share the deep concern of the noble Baroness and other noble Lords about the situation of Roma in many parts of Europe. We deplore the fact that in many European states Roma live in deep poverty and are routinely subject to discrimination and racism. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, that there is a difference between what we see in some countries on mainland Europe and here in the UK. Despite our positive record, though, I agree that we could do more.
Sadly, there is a historical precedent of Roma persecution. The Roma people have been subject to centuries of exclusion and persecution, and the Roma genocide at the hands of the Nazis is not as widely understood or acknowledged as it could and should be. I agree with the noble Baroness that the Roma genocide needs to be acknowledged and commemorated throughout Europe. The destruction—or the “Porajmos”, as it is referred to—is remembered in the UK on Holocaust Memorial Day; it is part of the commemoration on that day.
The Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission is looking into whether the UK should have a new permanent memorial to the Holocaust so that future generations can learn about and remember all victims, including the thousands of Roma lives that were tragically lost at that time. The commission is asking for written evidence. It is actively encouraging members of the Roma and Gypsy community to submit evidence, and is working with members of the community to hold a consultation event. We need the voices of both history’s witnesses and today’s Roma community to participate and ensure that their suffering is never forgotten. However, the sad fact remains that prejudice and discrimination continue to follow Roma communities throughout Europe.
With a significant number of Roma living in the UK, the better treatment of the Roma people must therefore start on our own doorstep. This Government have made it easier and fairer for local communities to channel funding and support to where the most need is. We have removed targets that dictated which communities should receive help and meant that many others sometimes lost out. My department’s projects treat everyone, whether a Roma or any other minority group, as equal citizens with a shared need of education, employment and heath.
The specific issue of language was raised by a number of noble Lords. If Roma communities need to access language courses or specific help for under-18s, the Department for Communities and Local Government has a nationwide spread of funding which can be used to benefit the Roma community. In Sheffield, two projects have won funding to improve the provision of English language skills. One of the organisations running English courses is in Page Hall, an area with a significant Roma population, and has strong links with the community and is maintained by Roma members of staff.
Where a local authority has concerns about the Roma population, I would encourage it to work with local voluntary organisations—and, indeed, faith groups, as mentioned by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans—to find local solutions. Local areas no longer need to wait to be told by Whitehall what they should be doing. Towns and cities with Roma populations have started to demonstrate the progress that can be made by engaging with these projects. This approach is underpinned by our strong anti-discrimination and hate crime laws which protect all individuals from racial and other forms of discrimination and racially motivated attacks.
We are equally aware that sometimes local areas need more assistance. In January, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government met two Sheffield MPs to discuss in detail the impact of Roma migration in that city. The local authority-led national Roma network makes information and best practice sharing possible, and this is something my department is also involved in.
The Government’s approach to integration was set out in Creating the Conditions for Integration in February 2012. In response to the inequalities being experienced by Gypsies and Travellers, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government set up a ministerial working group in 2010 to examine this issue. The group produced a report in April 2012 which set out 28 commitments from across government in the areas of education, health, employment, accommodation and criminal justice, which are areas that have been mentioned today. These 28 commitments are consistent with the priorities we agreed with our EU partners in response to the EU Council conclusions on the EU framework for Roma integration.
The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, asked about health outcomes. The ministerial working group included a number of commitments from the Department of Health on improving health outcomes for Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities. We are currently reviewing that and will report on progress later this year. Acting on these commitments is part of our broader social inclusion and integration policy, because we believe that is the best approach in a diverse country. We are reviewing our progress on these commitments and will publish a report in due course.
The noble Baronesses, Lady Whitaker and Lady Thornton, asked about the Government’s compliance with EU commitments to draw up a strategy. We are taking Roma integration forward within the broader social inclusion policies. This is fully in line with our European commitment. The measures set out in the Council recommendation are optional, but many of them are in line with what we are already doing in the UK to encourage equality and social mobility.
There were a number of questions about our international role. The UK plays an active and leading role in EU-wide schemes. British embassies are spreading our reputation for integration and tackling discrimination. British teachers of Roma students have shared their experience and knowledge with Czech practitioners. Dolj county near Bucharest is taking part in an exchange with students from Rotherham to encourage inclusion through education, and our embassy in Romania has managed to increase the number of Roma children attending nursery.
The UK is making a real difference to Roma communities across the EU. My department plays an active part in the EU’s network of Roma contact points and currently chairs the Council of Europe’s committee of experts on the Roma community. The Council of Europe working group has heard from a number of British participants, particularly on tackling anti-Roma hate crime in Hungary and promoting inclusive education for Roma in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. We are keen to encourage countries with large and disadvantaged Roma populations to integrate their Roma citizens effectively.
Specific issues were raised in relation to Kosovo. I can inform the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, that the UK funded a study to establish the extent of lead poisoning in 2010 and found incredibly concerning levels of poisoning, which the EU instrument for pre-accession funding is addressing though relocating the affected families and providing supplements to reverse some of the effects of poisoning. The UK contributed to the European Union project, which cost around €6.5 million, to support the relocation and integration of Kosovo’s Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities from camps polluted by this lead. The House will be pleased to note that the last camp was closed down last year, and now the UK is focusing on education and economic development needs. This year, the embassy is planning to fund projects focusing on school support and increasing secondary school attendance. With just 14% of eligible Roma enrolling at secondary school, there is a long way to go to improving education.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans asked about specific support on education. Almost one in two children from Roma or Gypsy families, including those from EU accession countries, benefit from the pupil premium, since this community has a high proportion of families eligible for free school meals. Families may also be helped through the receipt of particular benefits. Children from Roma families will also have other needs including English as an additional language. Local authorities can allocate a proportion of their funding to schools on the basis of the number of pupils in each school who have English as an additional language. I have already mentioned the Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and other Travellers, on which the noble Baroness sits.
I shall take back the comments in relation to the Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association and see whether we can learn from that best practice. Unfortunately, I cannot give the right reverend Prelate an update about the evictions in Cluj. I do not know whether the appeal has been heard or what the outcome has been, but I shall write to him if there has been any progress.
The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, also asked about the Roma summit. As with Roma summits in 2008 and 2010, the UK will be represented by government officials. The DCLG official who chairs the Council of Europe’s committee of experts on Roma and who represents the UK on the EU network of Roma contact points will attend this particular meeting on, I think, Friday.
Ultimately, this comes down to how we integrate all communities. There is no doubt, from what we have heard and from my own reading, of the level of discrimination that appears to follow the Roma community. I have referred to a number of interventions in individual areas. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, was suggesting that that is probably not the solution overall; there has to be a much broader approach to how we integrate communities into broader communities and make the case for the benefits that brings. A phrase which I coined in relation to the persecution of minorities in the Middle East was that, ultimately, “persecution is bad for business”—it is bad for progress overall. It is important first, to make the case that persecution per se is something that we must stand against, and to make the economic case for why integration is essential for everybody else’s development.
I hope that noble Lords will be left today with the clear impression that, at home and abroad, we are working to improve the lives of Roma. I reassure all noble Lords that the persecution of minority communities is not, and will not be, tolerated by this Government. That includes the continued marginalisation and exclusion of Roma people. We want to see Roma families enjoy the same education and healthcare opportunities that are afforded to all European citizens, particularly those within our own British communities.
As International Roma Day approaches, I reiterate our commitment to working closely with our partners in Europe and though our embassies to improve the situation of Roma. In this country, we shall continue with our policies to create the conditions for integration for all communities, including Roma, and we shall ensure that the suffering of the Roma community is never forgotten.
Question for Short Debate
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have signed up to speak in this debate, and I very much look forward to hearing their comments.
In introducing the topic this afternoon I will draw on my experience as a former head of the British Film Institute, and in particular my worry that in the 20 years since I left the BFI the issues that affect cinema policy have not changed significantly. I am struck, for instance, by the continuing split between those who view film as industry and those who see it as an art form, or culture, and there is the parallel question of whether cinema is truly an art form on a par with other performing arts such as music and theatre. A colleague at the BFI used to say that you could tell how the British ranked cinema as an art form by looking at the buildings on the South Bank. There are the glass palaces for the orchestras of the Southbank Centre, the new brutalism of the National Theatre—and the National Film Theatre, as it used to be called, hidden under Waterloo Bridge.
I will argue that cinema is both art and business. The price you pay for getting to make a piece of popular culture in the form of a feature film is that you have to do it within a huge industrial process with staff, equipment, marketing and the whole damn thing. When you visit American studios it is no surprise to discover that they are largely staffed not by creatives or even accountants—although there are plenty of those—but by lawyers, who mainly specialise in intellectual property. That is what is being created, and why in many ways the case of cinema is paradigmatically also the case of the creative industries more generally.
How do we set out to achieve a vibrant cinema culture in the country? My starting position is that the Government must provide political leadership at the highest level and that they must sponsor and fund properly an effective and trusted arm’s-length body that must have sufficient resources to achieve what it feels are the necessary actions to achieve its cultural, creative and economic remits, either directly or in partnership with others. Therefore the key question for the Government to answer today is whether what we find on the ground is capable of delivering a cinema culture for the UK, and if not, what needs to be done to remedy that situation?
On the question of political leadership, responsibility for cinema comes under the DCMS. But is that the right place for a key sector of the creative industries, and one which, as I have said, is both art and industry? The film industry creates intellectual property, and many of the policy issues it faces relate to IP. For example, we are shortly due to debate a number of copyright statutory instruments, at least one of which, it is argued, materially affects this industry, although they come from BIS, not the DCMS. Higher education, apprenticeships and training report to different Ministers in BIS, the school curriculum is in the DfE, and export and other support services for the creative industries are funded and operate from BIS. The Treasury delivers over £1 billion of funding each year for the film industry through tax breaks, and it could do more if we could persuade it to look at reworking some of its enterprise allowances so as to work better for the risk-based industries, of which film is but one example. It is, therefore, a complex picture.
A good case could be made for responsibilities for film to be located in the Department for Education, in BIS, or even back to the Cabinet Office, where it originally started as the Office of Arts and Libraries. But at the last reshuffle there was no change. In truth, there is no “right place”. However, unless and until the DCMS gets more powers and responsibilities, I fear that these questions will continue to be raised. I ask the Minister to comment on this, although he may well respond that it is not a matter for him and that it is well above his pay grade. However, this is a question that we need some answers on at some point.
Given that we have leadership at the political level, our system of organising the various art forms has until recently been common ground between the parties, and is usually referred to as the arm’s-length principle. Under that, the department does not take the cultural decisions, which are delegated to the various sectoral bodies. My question is: does the arm’s-length body speak for and enjoy the confidence of those interested in the art form it champions, as well as those who work in every part of the industry?
We have some external guidance on this in the form of a report from former DCMS Secretary of State my noble friend Lord Smith—who unfortunately cannot be here today—who recently published a second report. I know that other noble Lords intend to refer to that, so I will not go through all the details. However, the sense that comes through on reading the report is, on the one hand, approval of the progress that has been made since the merger of the BFI with the UK Film Council, albeit on the other hand it is made clear that there is rather a lot more to do. As the report notes, a triennial review of the BFI will take place in 2014. When he comes to respond, can the Minister therefore give us some more detail about what will happen when that report takes place, at what point in the year it will happen, and what the main objectives will be?
As I left the BFI in 1997 I was arguing with the DCMS that there ought to be one lead organisation for film in the UK and that it should have a cultural, creative and economic remit. Like many people I disagreed with the way the present Government shut down the UK Film Council within weeks of taking office. However, I feel that having one body, independent of the Government, is the right way forward. I am therefore delighted that the BFI now occupies that role, with a mission to ensure that film is central to our cultural life, as it says,
“by supporting and nurturing the next generation of filmmakers and audiences”.
Surely, it is axiomatic that a successful film industry depends on a flourishing audience culture, and vice versa. Indeed, in this digital era, with the problems of physical distribution that bedevilled cinema in its first century all but evaporated, the two are more interdependent than ever before. Out of that combination ought to flow a vibrant cinema culture. So will the BFI be able to do what is required to achieve a cinema culture in the UK? I suppose that depends on its plans, the partnerships it can build and the willingness of the Government to support them financially.
In very broad terms, what we want is a chance for everyone to access a wide range of cinemas and types of film from all round the world, including films from different periods of film history. We want to be able to see these films in comfortable surroundings as part of a mix of contemporary popular films, and we want similar access to DVDs and downloads. We want a successful British film industry, making films that appeal to a wide range of tastes and audiences, an education system that prepares our young people for jobs in that industry, and a properly organised and funded archive to retain this material for scholarship and study—dead easy.
The BFI has a five-year strategy for supporting UK film—Film Forever—which includes as core priorities expanding education and learning opportunities and boosting audience choice across the UK, supporting the future success of British film and unlocking our film heritage for everyone in the UK to enjoy. This seems to me to fit the aspirations I have sketched out, so the question is: is the money there to deliver it? There is the rub. Does the BFI have the funding? The strategy will work only if it is supported financially by the Government.
First there is the question of the current budget cuts. At a time when most other arts institutions have been asked to find cuts of 5%, which is in all honesty bad enough, the BFI has been asked to find a cut of 10% in 2015-16. This, of course, comes on top of funding reductions of 18% over the past two years. Although the BFI is a lottery distributor, it cannot spend funds on itself, so the lottery funds the BFI gives to the film industry for making films are not threatened. These budget cuts actually threaten not only the cultural work of the BFI, the very activity from which film-making artistic talents emerge, but also the capacity to preserve the nation’s film culture for the future.
In a recent editorial in the BFI’s excellent magazine, Sight and Sound, the editor, Nick James, explains that,
“it is the cultural side of the BFI—the National Film Archive, the South Bank film and events programme, the London Film Festival, the BFI Reuben Library, film education, film distribution, publishing which has effectively had its funding squeezed year by year for the whole of this century”.
“What these cuts threaten is not only the cultural basis from which filmmaking artistic talents emerge, but also the preservation of the nation’s cultural memory on film … What sticks in our craw at Sight & Sound is the feeling that, for the British media, film never quite makes the grade as an art form and therefore it’s an easy mark for the government to target”.
So, once again, the feeling grows that we do not yet have the governance, the capacity, the funding or the commitment to create a cinema culture for the UK. Is this because film never quite makes the grade as an art form? Is it because we think of film, at heart, as an industrial process? Perhaps it is the combination which makes it too easy for the Government to pick on it as a soft option.
Does the Minister agree with my analysis and, if so, can he suggest ways forward for the Government, the BFI and the country which will remedy that situation? I look forward to the contributions from others more expert than I am in these matters.
My Lords, I am a working film-maker, a former trustee of both the BFI and the UK Film Council, and a trustee of multiple arts organisations recorded on the register.
I want to address just three points. Last year, the arts community greeted with howls of outrage Culture Secretary Maria Miller’s assertion that we must focus on culture’s “economic impact”. She said that,
“there is no doubt as to the real social and educational case for public investment. But that is never going to be the argument that wins the day”.
She has continued to insist on privileging an economic measure. This value-driven approach misunderstands both the multiple values of art and how the sector operates. The creative economy is a complex ecosystem where the most valuable flowerings may gestate in long and very unpredictable ways.
No number of focus groups or spreadsheets could predict the mainstream success of strip-teasing steelworkers in “The Full Monty”, women’s football in “Bend it Like Beckham” or, indeed, the plasticine chickens in “Chicken Run”. Art seeks not to replicate that which has sold well in the past but to break new ground. Even the most commercial films rely on having actors, directors and technicians who have learnt their craft and rejuvenate their creativity by making subsidised art movies or working in other artistic mediums.
Misunderstanding cultural values, which are crucial to any development of the economic strength of the cultural or entertainment industries, risks undermining the very thing that the Culture Secretary is hoping to promote. The current crop of successes that saw the UK film industry dominate this year’s awards circuit were, of course, commissioned before the coalition was in power. Films take a long time to conceive, to write, to fund, to make and to get to the public. We will have to wait another decade before we can truly say whether the current policy has made the sector risk-averse or has undermined the original and non-commercial sparks that brought the likes of Steve McQueen, Danny Boyle, Alfonso Cuarón and Clio Barnard to prominence.
Last year in this Chamber my noble friend Lord Clancarty questioned the Competition Commission ruling on the Cineworld/Picturehouse merger. Again, by failing to recognise the distinction between an art cinema and a mainstream multiplex, the Competition Commission jeopardised art cinemas in Aberdeen, Bury and Cambridge, despite audience-building and supporting British and specialist cinema being key tenets of the review of the noble Lord, Lord Smith. It was an absurd decision in which there were no winners. Will the Minister now undertake to sit down with the Competition Commission to seek a way that allows the commission to attach a cultural measure when deciding on competition issues in the cultural industries? I am asking not for the Cineworld decision to be overturned, or for an inappropriate representation to an independent body to be made, but for Her Majesty’s Government’s convening power to be used to engage all stakeholders in a process that would deliver cultural breadth and depth of provision of British and specialist cinema right across the UK.
The Cultural Learning Alliance is just one of dozens of organisations to express dismay that for the first time in more than 20 years no mention of film has been made in the new national curriculum. It states:
“This is a real blow, and one that will make it extremely difficult to ensure that young people have the literacy skills to succeed in a world dominated by these forms of communication and expression”.
I am the founder of a charity that pioneered the educational use of film for school-age children, and I am now a founding trustee of Into Film, a new organisation charged with delivering the BFI’s 5 to 19 education offer in schools. We have a community of 8,000 clubs and the 300,000 weekly members are shown to have better communication skills, improved literacy, both verbal and written, and better educational outcomes overall.
We are a nation whose identity is inextricably bound up with the commercial films we produce, from James Bond and “Gregory’s Girl” to “Kes” and “Oliver Twist”. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, does not demand that we consider the value of the commercial industry, which of course contributes £4.6 billion to GDP and provides more than 100,000 jobs; he presents us with a more difficult question about how we might support cinema culture. Implicit in the Question is that culture is different from commerce and that we must support it.
Film is a meeting place of drama, music, literature, technical skills and art. It provides a gateway to other cultural experiences. It is a route for young people to discuss almost any subject. It comes in multiple languages from all corners of the earth, offering a window into our ever-more globalised world. In short, it delivers cultural and knowledge capital, which is desperately needed by the young. Ninety-two per cent of teachers running clubs say that they see the educational benefits, 99% of teachers say that it improves communication skills and 78% of teachers say that it positively impacts on reading and writing. Film is an explosive tool in educating the young. Head teachers need the imprimatur and explicit support of the Department for Education confidently to put film at the centre of the curriculum. Teachers need to be taught to use it effectively and creatively as part of their training. The educational success of using film as a key component of education, with its ability to improve literacy, behaviour and critical thinking, needs formal recognition and protection into the future. Young people are the citizens, audience and film-makers of the future. Her Majesty’s Government handsomely support the creative economy. They need both in voice and in deed now to support the cultural economy. They are not separate but synonymous.
My Lords, it seems strange that a country such as Great Britain, which lays so much emphasis on the performing arts, has such a weak film culture, at least in comparison with America, France, Italy or even Russia. We have a rich tradition in theatre. I doubt whether there are many other countries that can boast an active repertory company in nearly every large town, so many outstanding actors and so many prominent live playwrights as well as the classic ones. Until recently, we were recognised as having the best television in the world. Of course, we have the Royal Ballet, the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and half a dozen major opera companies. I am a personal supporter of Scottish Opera, which survived a major financial crisis recently but rose phoenix-like from the ashes to take its place as one of Britain’s most admired opera companies.
Foreigners from all over the world flock to Britain—not just to London—to experience our theatre, concerts, ballet and opera but they are unimpressed by our cinema. It seems that we, too, as a nation do not take cinema seriously enough. That is particularly distressing because historically we can boast a long list of very distinguished films. With Grierson and Jennings, we almost invented the modern documentary. We have the Ealing comedies from “Kind Hearts and Coronets” and “The Lavender Hill Mob” to “The Ladykillers”; the epics of Alexander Korda; and the classics of Powell and Pressburger, particularly “The Red Shoes” and “A Matter of Life and Death”. The works of Carol Reed and David Lean, including “The Third Man” and “Brief Encounter”, are regarded as masterpieces even in France. We have Laurence Olivier’s Shakespeare adaptations and Oscar winners such as “Tom Jones”, “Chariots of Fire”, “Gandhi” and, most recently, “The King’s Speech”. Today we have our auteur directors, such as Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Shane Meadows and Terence Davies, who are greatly admired at film festivals on the continent.
At this year’s BAFTA and Oscar ceremonies, two films dominated, namely, “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity”. The first was made by the British black director, Steve McQueen. The other was made at Pinewood and Shepperton Studios, and was handled entirely by British film technicians and recognised by Hollywood producers as the best in the world. After the success of the Harry Potter films, Warner Bros built studios at Leavesden to take advantage of all this great British talent.
However, in spite of such an outstanding record, Britain still seems to be a country without any serious cinema culture and it is difficult to understand why. One of cinema’s characteristics, which has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, is that it is a hybrid medium. It is an art form, entertainment and an industry. Some of the best and most famous films score highly in all three categories at once but different groups and countries put more emphasis on one of these categories over the other two and therefore value them differently. For example, the French see cinema primarily as an art form. They call it “le septième art”. To the Americans, it is primarily an industry, dominated by Hollywood. However, to the average member of the public, it is regarded as entertainment and I believe that the majority of British people, including politicians and civil servants, see cinema as no more than that. If that is true, perhaps it is not so surprising that we have such a weak cinema culture in Britain.
Another reason why British cinema seems to have made so little impression on us as well as the rest of the world is that so many of our high-profile films are closely associated with America. “Tom Jones”, for instance, was made by United Artists with American money. “The Third Man”, as just one example, had two American stars, Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles, and many people did not appreciate that it was a totally British film.
In the same way, much of the world does not regard this year’s top movies, “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” as British. Even the most talked-about film of the moment, “Under the Skin”, showing now at a cinema near you, which tells the story of an alien woman preying on the people of Glasgow, has an American star, Scarlett Johansson, in the lead. Perhaps we are too dependent on the American market to be able to establish a truly British identity in all but the most modest film productions. Also, the difficulty with so many of these so-called modest films is that they can afford only limited publicity and consequently only limited distribution. An example of this is “The Selfish Giant” which I, as a member of BAFTA, voted the best British film of the year.
However, several government-supported bodies are trying and have been trying for several years, to improve British attitudes towards our nation’s cinema. The British Film Institute, in particular, is committed to encouraging,
“the public to enjoy and appreciate the full range of our film heritage and to use it for creative inspiration and learning”.
Some £6.5 million a year is spent on trying to achieve this aim and £2 million a year on promoting film festivals such as Bradford Film Festival. The city has been voted the first City of Film by UNESCO. This money is also spent on helping local film societies all over Britain. In particular, the BFI wishes to engage children, because it believes that if young people can be enthused by the art of cinema, they are most likely to be the serious cinemagoers of the future. It must also be remembered that the BFI houses arguably the largest and most comprehensive film archive in the world. Last year, approximately £28 million of lottery money went to financing new British films.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts also does much to encourage British film-making talent and includes a number of special categories in its annual cinema awards for British films and workers in the British film industry, as well as laying on several film screenings a year and talks and master classes given by prominent film-makers. However, the BFI in particular needs considerably more financial government help if it is to make a real impact on a complacent British public. The French spend nearly 10 times as much as we do on promoting their national cinema.
The irony of all this is that British cinema has been doing particularly well over the past few years, both artistically and financially, yet so many of us do not seem to be aware of that fact. I suggest that the BBC or Channel 4 be persuaded to reserve a slot in prime time once a week specifically to show a classic or outstanding modern British film. Maybe that would help us to appreciate our heritage and raise the profile of British film culture.
My Lords, next year the Royal Opera House expects more people to see performances of its work in the cinema than in the opera house, exceeding the 670,000 a year who visit the opera house. By cinema standards, that is small stuff; it is nothing like the audiences for blockbusters with their budgets of millions for promotion. However, it is telling because it eliminates the gulf between art and cinema that my noble friend Lord Stevenson, who introduced this debate, mentioned. Is cinema art? We do not need to ask any more because the art is in the cinemas. People are now using cinemas for a great many different kinds of programme.
The abolition of the UK Film Council in 2010 and its closure in 2011 came as a terrific shock. Why did it happen? It was done with no consultation and no understanding of why it was created in the first place. The idea was for the BFI to deal with the culture of film and for the Film Council to promote the industry. Of course, the intentions would overlap, but I know that because I served on both, as a board member of the BFI from 1992 and its chair from 1999, and then on the UK Film Council until 2002.
The UK Film Council’s tasks were commercial. Why did this Government abolish it? The council took seriously the matter of distribution—getting more people to see films and breaking the grip of the big franchises on the cinema chains. John Woodward invited distributors and cinema managers on to the council. They pioneered unusual ways of showing films. We plumbed the archives held in towns such as Manchester, Mansfield and Bradford to show archive films on giant screens in the football grounds. We negotiated schemes with multi-screen cinemas to take over those screens that were not doing good business and earmarked them for showing old movies from the BFI archive. We showed classics such as “Brief Encounter” and the Ealing comedies. All these were projects to promote film. What was the UK Film Council doing wrong?
Since then everything has moved to digital and there are loads of new ideas for showing film. The Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre are now on show in cinemas. There are also little local enterprises. An unnamed donor recently provided for the installation of the latest screen facilities in Primrose Hill library, which we had just rescued from Camden neglect. Numerous television channels run and rerun movies because the appetite for storytelling and brilliant images is insatiable. But the structure of the industry is not meeting the need. Funding for small-scale films by ambitious but unproven talent is the hardest of all to provide, while the unavailability of films in rural areas and most of our small towns is deplorable. Also, while benefiting hugely from the existence of films for their screens, the broadcasters are making a less than commensurate investment in them.
The cancellation of the UK Film Council and the 10% cut in grant in aid to the BFI has positively hindered the future progress of British film, but none the less it persists. Our creative record is outstanding and our skills are recognised worldwide. But as the January 2012 report by the noble Lord, Lord Smith, says, there is much to be done. I believe that the BFI has been loaded with too many diverse responsibilities, and although it is doing a fine job of making steady progress with its five-year plan, the burden of what it is now responsible for requires support from all sides of the industry.
I would ask the Government to back in more positive ways the many small businesses that make up the film industry in this country. Small businesses are supposed to be the sector that the Government favour most. Well, here they are. We need small cinemas in every town. I can give an example of the Aldeburgh Cinema, which I know well. It is supported by volunteers and makes a steady contribution to the year-round Aldeburgh Festival. It has its own documentary festival. It is not just small cinemas that need support, but all the small industries involved: cutting rooms, editing channels, costumiers, make-up conglomerates, set designers, script consultancies, independent producers, agents and publicity companies. All of these come together in miraculous synergy to forward our chances of winning Oscars, BAFTAs and universal recognition. Will the Government please do more to recognise success and help to uphold and further the interests of those who make it possible?
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for having arrived a few moments late. I will look at Hansard to see what I missed. The business of culture is a difficult subject which is far too involved to be dealt with in this evening’s debate, an issue which a number of noble Lords have already addressed. My own view was implied by the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, in that the showing of opera productions in cinemas shows that we are actually taking a step towards creating a film culture. To me, a film culture exists when film rates on a par with all the other activities in our cultural life. That is what happens in France, as mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow. It is called the seventh art in France because the French taxpayer will stand the subsidy that goes to French cinema. People value the heritage of film and it ranks with equal importance to all the other cultural activities of music, literature and so on. Unfortunately, that is not the case here.
I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron—I apologise if it was not—who, in an excellent speech, talked about the Government’s attitude. I rather hesitate to tell noble Lords when I made my first speech on film in this House, but it was when we were debating the Films Act in the 1980s. The attitude of the then Government was absolutely extraordinary but, of course, films came under the Department of Trade and Industry at that time, and anything that was not consistent with the criteria of trade and industry did not really make much impression on them. In fact, the Government were what one might call indifferent, sometimes bordering on the hostile, to any suggestion that cinema should have special treatment of any kind, even though at no time were we begging for special treatment apart from a few tax breaks. That has all changed. I have recently been quite encouraged, certainly by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Treasury governs everything in terms of subsidy and all the rest, and the Chancellor has made some quite intelligent adjustments to the tax regime for film, although that does not solve all our problems.
The noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, mentioned American cinema, in whose shadow we have always been. The Americans have always made it quite clear that they want it to continue that way—they see us as a threat. In any case, with a British film, it is very difficult to get the kind of returns you expect if you do not get American distribution, so they have a lot of power.
We have to thank the television companies for keeping our film industry alive, as it is the BBC and Channel 4 that have held this country’s film-making activity together. Audience numbers were down until the multiplexes came in and extended their range of cinemas, after which numbers increased from 84 million per year to what we have today, somewhere in the high hundreds of millions. There is a lot of activity going on and the hybrid productions made as a result of the work done by television and film companies have provided a great deal of employment for actors, technicians and all the others who work in the film industry. Raising money is the main problem. When Stephen Frears came to talk to us he told us that film producers mostly scrabble round for money. The situation is unlikely to change so far as creating a film culture is concerned, but the number of interesting and excellent speeches tonight shows that there is some hope.
I do have one concern. Although no one seems aware of it, the cultural impact of the new education policy for dealing with recalcitrant children who do not conform is absolutely deplorable. Both in the new academies and in the existing state sector people are urging that there be a great increase in discipline and so on, and large numbers of children are being excluded. I have three close relatives—my wife and two children—who work in the industry. One of my daughters, a video editor, teaches excluded children when she is not working on an editing project. She asks the children who she teaches to think up a story and to film it. She then edits it, and teaches them how to edit. I can say without exaggeration that the results have been astonishing. The children become fascinated by and involved in the activity. The exclusion of such children is idiotic because they are the kind of people who go into the film industry.
I shall finish with a short anecdote to illustrate the point. My son was working on a television series in America with a very well known British actor. I shall not name the actor because, should he ever pick up the Hansard report and read it, which he probably will not, he would recognise himself. This actor appeared one day to talk to my son about the work that they were doing and my son said by way of conversation, “What drama school did you go to?”. He said, with probably a rather affected London thing, “I didn’t go to no drama school. Hang on a minute, I broke into one once”. He said that the drama school had high skylight windows and he came in with a friend, and it so happened that Alan Bennett was giving a tutorial on writing. Alan Bennett said, “Oh, where did you come from?”. They said, “We was interested in what was going on”. He said, “Well, you had better come in and sit down then”. They did, and that was the start of his career.
I reckon that among those excluded children there is talent. There is always talent with children. They are difficult for all kinds of reasons. Not everybody wants to be a solicitor or a diplomat. There are a lot of people who have talents that need to be exposed, and that is the additional point that I would like to add to this most interesting debate.
My Lords, I declare my interest as a former governor of the British Film Institute. I thank its former distinguished director, my noble friend Lord Stevenson, for initiating this debate, and congratulate him on his opening contribution, which framed the issues so well.
After leaving the BFI, my noble friend Lord Stevenson worked closely with successive Labour Governments to attract more investment into the UK film production sector. In collaboration with Gordon Brown, a long-time supporter of cinema culture, he helped devise the increasingly successful film tax relief scheme. In recent Budgets, George Osborne has made this scheme even more accessible to potential investors, as the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, also acknowledged.
In your Lordships’ House earlier this week, the Minister said that the UK film and allied industries generate more than 100,000 jobs and contribute more than £4 billion to the national GDP. Last year our film production sector’s total spend was more than £1 billion, with most of that money coming from international companies basing productions in Britain. Just outside the M25 near Watford, Warner Bros is investing £100 million to make its Leavesden studios one of the best film facilities in Europe. The president of Warner Bros UK, Josh Berger, said recently that Britain was in “a new golden age” for film-making. The impact of this international investment is demonstrated by the Oscars and BAFTA awards won by big-budget movies such as “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave”.
We should also celebrate the BFI’s unique contribution to our cinema culture through its financial support of recent British films such as “Sunshine on Leith”, “Philomena”, “Le Week-End” and “The Selfish Giant”. It is a good performance in these challenging times because, like other public bodies, the BFI has had its grant in aid from government cut significantly, while being asked to do more. When the incoming coalition Government abolished the UK Film Council in their bonfire of the quangos, the council’s extensive commercial responsibilities were transferred to the already overburdened BFI. My noble friend Lady Bakewell asked some very trenchant questions regarding that decision.
The new Government also set up the Film Policy Review Panel under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Smith of Finsbury, a former Labour Culture Secretary. It was a wise choice. When the Smith panel reported in 2012, its recommendations were supported by the Government and well received across the film industry. The review’s findings also helped the BFI shape its subsequent strategy document, Film Forever, which declared three core priorities: expanding educational opportunities and boosting audience choice; unlocking film heritage for everyone to enjoy; and, of course, supporting the future success of British film. In January this year my noble friend Lord Smith and his panel updated the review and gave the BFI a largely positive report; in a phrase it might be, “Doing well but could do better”. Across the board, a more collaborative approach by the BFI to potential partners and stakeholders was suggested.
The most direct criticism in the two-year update on film was of government inactivity. Back in 2012, in their response to my noble friend Lord Smith’s recommendations, the Government backed the panel’s call for increased investment in film by our major broadcasters. At present, BBC Films funds some original and popular films, but this investment represents a rather small percentage of the BBC’s huge programme budget for TV and radio. Our other not-for-profit public service broadcaster, Channel 4, now has as a statutory remit,
“the making of high quality films”.
Its Film4 arm is investing £15 million a year to produce an ever expanding slate of successful films. It also broadcasts the UK’s only free-to-air digital channel dedicated to films of quality from around the world, and 22% of its output is British.
That contrasts with the record of our major commercial broadcasters for film production. Back in 2012, the Government said:
“We want to see broadcasters like BSkyB, ITV and Channel 5 doing more to support the industry and this is something we intend to raise with them as a matter of priority”.
Two years on, can the Minister tell the House why nothing seems to have happened?
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for the opportunity to talk in this debate. If there were to be two little tweaks I would have made to the terms of the debate, they would have been to put “diverse” in front of “cinema culture”, and “access to a” in front of “diverse”, although the basic premise of having a debate where the accent is on cinema culture rather than on the film industry is an important one.
The way I understand the term “cinema culture” is that it is part of film culture more generally in this country, of which the film industry is then also a part. I think it is important to place it in this context because the cinema should not be regarded as merely an adjunct to, or only for the consumption of, contemporary British and American commercial cinema, important as that function is.
From the film industry’s point of view, it needs to be said that the film industry in the UK has not developed and does not develop in a cultural vacuum. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, made the point at Question Time on Monday about the interdependence of theatre and film, which has been a long-standing characteristic of British cinema and continues to be productive. One can add to that the influence of the visual arts, from Derek Jarman to Steve McQueen. As an artist, I am aware that the influences go the other way as well. One can see that in the work of Richard Hamilton, for example, whose retrospective is currently at Tate Modern. The arts world as a whole, which sometimes seems ghettoised, is a place where many influences pervade. This is certainly growing not just in the UK but in other countries in Europe and America, as many individual artists in the widest sense work more and more in different mediums of which film-making is one. With this wider cultural context in mind, the Government have to be careful that they do not simply narrowly support a film industry for purely commercial reasons while stripping away support for film culture and for the other less commercial arts that feed into that culture.
Cinema culture must include enabling access to global cinema and the history of film. The funding cuts to the BFI of 10% in the next year, in this context as well as others, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, pointed out, are worrying. I wonder, too, whether more can be done for our art-house cinemas generally, as I think that the appetite for world cinema is much greater than is commonly believed.
I want to take the opportunity of expanding further on an issue that we discussed in this Chamber late last year. I refer to the Competition Commission’s ruling on Cineworld regarding its arts Picturehouses, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, referred. There are two things I want to say about this. First, the Competition Commission must in such cases take into consideration cultural value, which perhaps ought to be a precept for the whole of this debate. There is a resonance here within the wider arts world about what all arts and cultural enterprises have to offer that is distinct from commercial interest. I think it is impossible for a body placed in this situation to make a meaningful decision without bearing in mind this concern. For example, one can cite the Cambridge Film Festival held at the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse as having a distinct cultural value. The second, and related, thing is the Competition Commission’s insistence on there having to be two entirely separate markets, and the accent being on so-called value for money and the behaviour of the cinema-goer. I can see how the problem has occurred because of the development in recent years of what might be termed combination cinemas, where new commercial releases are played side by side with foreign language films or older classics. The reality is that individual cinema-goers will often go to many different kinds of films. I do not know of an avid cinema-goer who would not, for example, go to see a new subtitled release from Iran one day but the next go to see—perhaps with their family, perhaps not—the latest Muppets film. It is pure snobbery to suggest that such a separation has to exist in cinema-goers but that is not so say that art houses do not nevertheless offer a distinct and uniquely valuable product over and above the commercial screens which an exclusive commercial cinema does not. The proposal of the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, of an art screen designation as a standard needs to be taken very seriously.
Commercial cinema is thriving in the UK, although it is also changing and may not always in future be completely about film in the traditional sense, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, pointed out. The rise of event cinema is testament to a burning desire that continues to exist for being part of an audience in front of a big screen. Such an event last year involving film, funded by the BFI Distribution Fund new models scheme, was Ben Wheatley’s film “A Field in England”, which premiered simultaneously at the cinema, on Film4 and on DVD and Blu-ray. Public funding should still have a hugely important part to play in promoting diversity and encouraging access and innovation in our cinema culture.
My Lords, this has been an excellent debate and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, on securing it. Yet again, the immense experience of your Lordships on these matters comes very much to the fore.
We have a vibrant and strong cinema culture in the United Kingdom. Last year, there were over 165 million cinema admissions in spite of tough competition from the internet, video on demand and the other growing sorts of format. It is one of the UK’s most popular cultural activities. In 2013, 58% of the population went to the cinema at least once. Many other activities would give their eye teeth for such a percentage of the population. Last year, the UK box office was worth over £1 billion—the third consecutive year it has exceeded that figure.
Cinema is integral to the film industry. As has already been mentioned in the Chamber twice this week, the UK film and allied industries contribute £4.6 billion to UK GDP and support 117,000 direct and indirect jobs. Through the British Film Institute, the Government are investing in a range of lottery and grant-funded programmes to encourage its further development. I am very conscious of the considerable number of your Lordships who have been so involved in the BFI but I was very pleased to have a very positive discussion only recently with Amanda Neville, chief executive of the BFI, on the work it is undertaking. I realise that there have been discussions about cuts. At the Dispatch Box earlier this week I said that I recognised that the BFI had had a 10% cut. That was the average cut across government. Having had discussions with the BFI, my personal view is that it is doing an extremely good job with the sum of money it was granted.
The purpose of the triennial review—which the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, raised—is to look at the functions and form of the BFI as well as its efficiency and effectiveness. This is in line with Cabinet Office guidance that states that government departments should review their public bodies every three years. Reviews are intended to be proportionate to the size and nature of the body under review. Of course, the Government will take that into account as part of their review and ensure that it is concluded as quickly as possible.
Part of the appeal of cinemas is the broad and diverse range of experiences they offer, from specialist programming to amazing sound, from modern auditoriums to community venues. I was very conscious of what both the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, and the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, said about art-house cinemas generally and specifically. The Government see art-house cinemas as a key element of the film industry. This sector generates substantial audiences and commercial income, and is a key element of cultural cinema. As I have mentioned before to your Lordships, the Competition Commission was designed by statute to be an independent organisation in dealing with these matters, but I will take away the points raised this afternoon.
Nearly all the cinemas in the UK have now converted to digital, with the sector investing £200 million to support that. I believe that that will also enable the sector to grow. To meet the challenges and opportunities provided by the growth in technology and other formats, cinemas are diversifying. More alternative content and event cinema is being programmed. Live performances at the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Opera House are being streamed worldwide, now accounting for nearly 2% of box office receipts.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, referred to the number of cinemas. There are now 400 cinemas across the UK showing Royal Opera House performances, compared with 45 when the scheme first started four years ago. A further 1,100 cinemas abroad will also participate. That is a very encouraging sign of our internationalism. That is not only innovative for both cinemas and our cultural institutions but hugely beneficial for audiences. I know that from my experience in Bury St Edmunds and other places, where seeing such performances gives great cheer to so many people.
The Government recognise the importance of the big-screen experience—both creatively and economically —but, as several of your Lordships said, we must broaden access to such entertainment. That is why the BFI has as one of its key strategic priorities to increase audiences and widen access to film. The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, challenged both the BFI and the Government to ensure that. As part of its audience development and production fund, the BFI is investing £5.5 million of lottery funding to expand audience numbers and support a diverse range of film programming and film festivals across the UK. That is designed to increase access to and widen awareness of high-quality British independent and specialised films to help to boost audience choice and enrich film culture in the United Kingdom.
The BFI’s Film Audience Network is investing in nine audience development hubs across the UK to help attract greater audiences for British and independent films, including five major independent cinemas. The BFI’s neighbourhood fund is supporting communities across the UK who are unable to enjoy a cinema experience due to geographical, social or economic circumstances. That will also help establish or develop up to 1,000 community film venues across the country.
The BFI is supporting eight exhibition and film festival venues across the country, including Bradford. My noble friend Lord Glasgow specifically mentioned the city being named the world’s first UNESCO city of film, which I think makes a real difference to morale in Yorkshire but also to cinema generally.
The Government are also playing their part in widening access to film. As part of the Deregulation Bill being considered in the other place, we propose measures that will remove a burden from film exhibition in community premises, such as church or village halls and community centres. I hope that that will be of encouragement to the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell. That has huge potential to benefit rural populations, where there can be limited access to cinemas.
The noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, and the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, placed particular emphasis on film education. To help to engender a cinema culture, it is important to encourage appreciation of film from a young age. I am delighted that the noble Baroness is involved with the BFI’s education programme, which is investing £26 million of lottery funding with the aim of reaching 26,700 schools across the UK over the next four years. The scheme is specifically to provide opportunities for every child and young person between the ages of five and 19 to watch, understand and make films. I shall be very interested to see what progress we have made at the end of that scheme.
The noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, also mentioned the importance of the work we are doing to encourage new generations of film-makers. That is why the BFI Film Academy, funded by the Department for Education and the lottery, is so important in providing opportunities for 16 to 19 year-olds in each of the nations to develop their skills for careers in film. We must not forget that the industry is also investing in skills development. For example, there is the Warner Bros. creative talent programme, Pinewood’s apprenticeship scheme and the BAFTA scholarships.
It has indeed been a great year for the British film industry, with an all-time high of more than 700 films being released in UK cinemas in 2013—an extraordinary number. There were eight British successes at the Oscars and there was inward investment exceeding £1 billion. The UK’s craft and crew, actors and musicians, state-of-the-art studios, visual effects houses and, indeed, our tax reliefs enable us to compete in a global market. As I think I said in your Lordships’ House earlier this week, Josh Berger, president of Warner Bros. UK, said only last week that this country is the best place in the world to make movies today. I hope that reassures my noble friend Lord Glasgow.
It was generous of the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, to refer to the Chancellor’s tax reliefs. I think that the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, also spoke on them. These tax reliefs are very encouraging and build on what the previous Government did. I hope that that is an example of where the creative industries are held in such regard, because they are a hugely important part not just of the economy but of our culture, too. UK film distributors have invested £350 million to release films in cinemas and promote them to audiences at home. The BFI is also investing £4.4 million through its film distribution fund to promote more specialised film to wider audiences. Again, that is very important. Indeed, the BAFTA award-winning “Philomena”, backed by the BFI film fund, was the biggest grossing UK independent film of 2013, taking almost £11 million.
I was intrigued by the great memory lane that my noble friend Lord Glasgow took us down, through “Kind Hearts and Coronets” and all sorts of films that were the beginning of one’s childhood film-viewing. However, we should be more positive about what we have created. In those great technicians, actors, musicians and visual effects people, we have some of the very best in the world involved in so many ways in our film industry. But it is also clear that audiences are also becoming more discerning and demanding more choice and content. As the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, said only recently as president of the Film Distributors’ Association, the ways in which cinemas are screening plays, opera and ballet are redefining what a modern cinema actually is. If we are to do this well and encourage a lasting cinema culture in the UK, we will need to be looking at adapting and re-thinking it. Cinemas need to be relevant to all parts of the population. There is a challenge in encouraging young people on that.
I will look at Hansard, as I will want to reply to a number of questions in some detail—from the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, for instance, and from others of your Lordships. I believe that cinema is one of the nation’s great cultural experiences, and it is our task to ensure that that continues.
Development: Post-2015 Agenda
Question for Short Debate
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the case for the United Nations Open Working Group on the post-2015 development agenda recommending a stand-alone global goal on inequality when it reports to the United Nations General Assembly in September.
My Lords, since 1990, the base date against which progress towards the MDGs is measured, hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. The world is within reach of seeing every child enrolled in primary school and many fewer lives are being lost to hunger and disease. The global population as a whole is healthier, wealthier and better educated than ever before. In addition, the millennium development goals galvanised political commitment and challenged the complacency and apathy that stood in the way of progress.
All of that is encouraging. Regrettably, however, the promise offered by the millennium declaration in 2000 has not been met. It promised freedoms, solidarity and social justice, the right to development and human rights for all. That pledge was negated, though, when the eight richest country Governments drew up the MDG targets and indicators. They were top-down and decided behind closed doors. They therefore left unfinished business, such as the fact that the improvements in the past 20 years have still not reached significant minorities, who continue to be denied basic social, economic, civil and political rights. Then there is the unfinished business that arises from increasingly excessive concentrations of personal wealth when it is clear, as Oxfam says, that:
“We cannot afford to have a world of extreme wealth and extreme inequality”.
The logic of that is plain: when just 8% of the world’s population earns half of the world’s income and the remaining 92% shares the other half, power is abused, economic growth is stunted and social tensions are exacerbated. That is why it is now vital to achieve proper controls on tax-dodging and on the use of wealth to buy political favours. It is essential that the post-2015 agenda addresses the structural causes of poverty and injustice by tackling inequality, social exclusion, skewed financial systems and gender injustices.
Twenty years ago, more than 90% of the world’s population lived in low-income countries. Now 75% of the world’s poorest people live in middle-income countries. There is a new geography of poverty and it presents a main challenge for the post-2015 agenda. We can tick the boxes when we use the MDGs, which were set 14 years ago, as our benchmarks, but social exclusion and environmental sustainability are just not factored in. Now they must be, not least because the gaps in wealth obviously produce chasms in opportunity.
Children born to poor families are between five and 10 times more likely to die in their first year, and the gap is widening. Up to 70 million children are still not enrolled in school, and the most marginalised children—child labourers, poor rural girls, slum dwellers and ethnic minorities—are doomed to fall still further behind. Inequality, in short, makes poverty congenital.
Post-2015, the reduction of inequality must therefore be an explicit policy because chronic systemic inequity limits mobility, restricts the choices that people can make and cancels their potential. Inequalities inflicted upon the so-called hard-to-reach poor originate and endure because of their gender, ethnicity, religion, caste, disability, language, sexual orientation and geographical location. These people are born marginalised and socially excluded, and are pushed out even further. These are the most powerless of the poor and, across many of the MDGs, they are being left further behind. Nothing should be allowed to stand in the way of the global efforts needed to tackle the gross inequality that ODI director Kevin Watkins has called,
“one of the greatest development challenges of our age”.
With that in mind, the new goals should include targets to eliminate wealth and gender gaps and to secure improvements in child survival, antenatal care and school participation. Unlike the MDGs, the post-2015 agenda will be universal. That is a bold aim, and it needs to be; the true scale and nature of disadvantage is hidden in the MDG assessments by aggregate figures and averages. They distort the picture of results and, consequently, the policies based upon them.
The post-2015 framework must therefore include timely, disaggregated data so that vulnerable groups are clearly identified. To be focused and effective, action must be based on accurate and reliable information and rigorous monitoring. That necessity must be recognised in September when the UN General Assembly discusses the recommendations of the open working group on the post-2015 agenda. Those recommendations include a focus on inequality. I am persuaded by the arguments made by the Overseas Development Institute in favour of equality-related targets and indicators, which Kevin Watkins describes as stepping stones for reducing inequalities, with timelines for 2020 on the way to universal goals in 2030.
What goes into the post-2015 agenda and sustainable development goals really matters because those goals will set the global sustainable development agenda for the next 15 years. It is essential, therefore, that multilateral government action focuses on redistributing global wealth and opportunity as an explicit objective of all programmes to combat and overcome world poverty.
Whether we support a stand-alone goal or targets across a number of agreed goals depends on whether we believe, as I do, that arguing the case in all the relevant areas of policy can ensure that inequality issues get a comprehensive hearing and can be at the centre of any new framework. I welcome the fact that Save the Children is campaigning for a cross-cutting approach with disaggregated data, stepping-stone targets, targets on eradicating extreme poverty and the inclusion of an appropriate inequality dimension in each target or indicator across the board in the post-2015 framework. This will be needed to monitor progress in reducing inequality objectives identified, for instance, on child health and access to education. Indicators that have been identified can then be disaggregated and equity criteria applied to disability, ethnicity or location.
Frankly, I am somewhat sceptical about a general stand-alone inequality goal because I believe that it would risk losing the preferable option of inclusion across the entire post-2015 framework where disparities are growing. The co-chairs of the high-level panel, including the Prime Minister, have accepted the reality that, without explicit targets, poor people will be left behind. They wrote:
“We propose targets that deliberately build in efforts to tackle inequality and which can only be met with a specific focus on the most excluded”.
In agreeing with that, I ask the Minister: does she accept that, first, we need relevant data accurately to identify the most excluded; secondly, that we need explicit targets that capture inequality; and, thirdly, that we need targets that are incorporated into other goals, such as health and education, to focus attention on the specifics of existing disparities?
Inequality has been on the edges of development policy for far too long, generally because it has been considered too political. That must change. Inequity threatens efforts on poverty eradication, sustainable development, democratic processes and social cohesion, and it deprives people of their right to opportunity. World leaders can recognise and respond to the needs of the forgotten millions who are the most vulnerable and hardest to reach only if they make inequality a central focus of their objectives and their actions. Without that, they will continue to address symptoms instead of generating cures.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, for this opportunity to discuss the post-2015 international development agenda. She has raised some very interesting issues which I am sure will be discussed further in this Chamber and the other place over the coming months in the run-up to the negotiations.
The current MDGs already implicitly embrace an inequality agenda. As has been demonstrated many times, reducing income poverty will be much more successful if growth is accompanied by declining inequality. This is even clearer in the case of the non-income MDGs. Universal primary education or massive reductions in mortality cannot be achieved without reducing inequality in health and education. The rich, healthy and educated are already doing well on mortality and education indicators, and further improvements for them will simply not even come close to achieving the large reductions called for by the MDGs. Reducing income, education and health inequality is therefore a critical means to achieving the MDGs. In that sense, a separate inequality goal seems redundant.
The MDGs were quite successful in generating a global consensus by focusing on acute deprivations suffered by people across the developing world and formulating goals to overcome those deprivations. It was possible to forge a consensus on reducing poverty, undernutrition and mortality, improving education and increasing access to water and sanitation. This was a great achievement in that the world community agreed on a common set of indicators that described human well-being in its multidimensional complexity—something to be welcomed. But would such a consensus be forthcoming for a goal to reduce inequality? A certain level of inequality is not an end in itself but a means to achieve greater growth, well-being and social cohesion. Moreover, it is, and it will remain, unclear what the optimal level of inequality will be. This sort of debate—about the optimal Gini coefficient, for example—has the potential to derail progress on a post-2015 development agenda.
It is comparatively easy and desirable—and, as the MDGs showed, possible—to forge a global consensus on reducing deprivation wherever it occurs. However, distributional questions are much more issues where we will ultimately have to defer to the local processes in each country to define what type of inequality is intolerable, what can and should be done about it, and how to do that. Is it feasible or even desirable for the international community to prescribe a goal for each country? Surely each country has to make its own choices.
In short, it is clear that tackling inequality will have to be an important part of any agenda to eliminate extreme deprivations across the globe. However, that is not a justification for formulating a contentious specific goal as part of the post-2015 development agenda. As the Secretary of State for International Development said recently,
“we know promises and words will mean nothing, unless they are backed up by strong monitoring and accountability mechanisms”.
The outcome of each and every goal should be clearly measurable and in the absence of sufficient data, this will be hard to achieve with a stand-alone goal on inequality.
The report of the high-level panel states that no target should be considered “achieved” unless it is achieved for everyone, whatever their gender, income or background. How could this be properly measured and how can problem areas be identified unless the type of data available is improved dramatically? DfID’s development tracker website that tracks British development money as it is spent is a step in the right direction. It is a good example of a project that will allow us to see where equality is being improved and to use a variety of measurements rather than a bog-standard, “one rule for everyone” method.
I turn briefly to a gender equality goal. This must be a zero-sum game. Surely development is sustainable only if both halves of the world’s population are engaged in this agenda? Women are consistently disadvantaged across the developing world, without exception. All the evidence shows that countries thrive when women and girls are educated, empowered and healthy. Women have the power to transform societies, but we must ensure that they have the tools to make the changes that are so necessary.
As we have said many times in this Chamber, DfID’s record on assisting women around the world has been exceptionally good. As a result of the department’s focus on the women and girls, more than 14 million women have gained access to financial services, almost 3 million girls are in primary education and more than 4 million women are using modern methods of family planning. I am sure that we are going to hear more about that from the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge. The value of these achievements should not be underestimated. The participation of women in their communities and wider society is invaluable. Government agendas which fail to address the representation of women may lead to free and fair elections initially, but a male-dominated parliament will never fully be able to tap into and harness the potential and capacity of its entire population —and here, my Lords, we might look at ourselves again.
Yet, history has proven that when times are difficult, women are often the first to be set aside or climbed over. It is well known that women are consistently disproportionately affected by crises. Only by allowing them fully to engage with strong governance structures and giving them the tools to empower themselves can we ensure that they are protected in the future.
When the going gets complex it helps to reach for a simple guiding principle. Noble Lords may remember this quotation from Mahatma Gandhi:
“Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen”—
he wrote shortly before his death—
“and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him”.
As a guide to international co-operation on development, that is tough to beat.
The high-level panel recognised that inequality holds back human development around the world, and the report made a powerful case for a focus on the poorest and most marginalised. It is our responsibility—and debates like this help—to ensure that political momentum behind the development of a bold post-2015 framework does not fade. While the agenda is undoubtedly an opportunity to build on the achievements of the millennium development goals, we must bear in mind that there is a risk that, in our efforts to leave no one behind, we end up splitting our focus and ultimately achieving little.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, for securing this debate this evening, which takes place in the week when we see the first evidence that the cross-party agreement in this Chamber and in the other place to achieve the target of 0.7% of our national wealth going to development each year is now starting to bear fruit. This evening’s debate is therefore happening at a very opportune moment. Those who, like the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, have campaigned for years for that achievement can take some pleasure in seeing the results starting to happen. I am also delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin. At the end of this month we will again take part in the annual Live Below the Line campaign, living on £1 a day for five days to highlight extreme global poverty. I am sure that we will enjoy the encouragement of noble Lords in that endeavour, even if we are not particularly looking forward to it.
I recently spent some time in the Philippines as a volunteer with VSO Bahaginan, which is the partner organisation of VSO in the Philippines. The organisation asked me to go there during the February Recess to work with the Beyond 2015 campaign there on some work it was doing with the Government and with civil society organisations in the country. I jumped at the opportunity, because for the majority of the population in the Philippines development has been held back by what seem to me to be the three key factors that need to be addressed in the post-2015 development agenda. The first is, of course, inequality: the population of the Philippines contains a small number of very rich people, who have done very well over the years. However, to this day a very significant number of people live in poverty and 25% of the population live in extreme poverty, even in a country which is, in comparison to some other parts of the world, at least in the early stages of development.
The Philippines also suffers from the dramatic impact of climate change and extreme weather events. For example, Typhoon Haiyan, which caused such horrific devastation in November, was called Typhoon Yolanda inside the Philippines because they name each typhoon that happens every year after the next letter of the alphabet, and they had already had 24 of them in 2013. The third issue that affects the people of the Philippines is conflict. A long-running conflict is still going on in Mindanao, and ongoing conflicts in other parts of the country that went on through the 1990s and in the early part of this century also hold back development.
It was a fascinating experience, a very stark reminder of the way in which inequality, climate—the environment —and conflict affect the ability of countries and communities to develop, even in the 21st century, and a reminder of the importance of those three strategic issues in the post-2015 debate. We need to recognise that the MDGs have made a major impact across the world. They have raised the level of provision in education, health, clean water and a host of other areas, in some of the poorest parts of the world. However, because of the way that the MDGs were constructed—as the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, outlined, and because of the delay in the first few years, perhaps up until the first Gleneagles summit, which affected the impetus behind their delivery—the MDGs have not have the impact that they could have had in many parts of the world. It is vital that in whatever replaces the MDGs not only do we have more urgency, universality and a global commitment to a genuine partnership that allows countries to lead their own development themselves with our support and with their own mechanisms, the engagement of civil society, transparency, accountability and all the things that matter to make that agenda work in practice, but three key issues also need to be addressed at that time.
First, we have a great opportunity here because, when the MDGs were agreed, there was a completely separate strand of international negotiations on climate. We must build agreements on climate change and the environment and on the ability to resist the worst impacts of natural disasters and incorporate them in the post-2015 framework and not have them as a completely separate set of international negotiations and a completely different strand of goals.
Secondly, as I have said in this Chamber on many occasions, we must address conflict and peacebuilding. If we do not, we will never secure the opportunities we seek for those people living in the poorest countries and communities who are most affected by violence, discrimination, inequality, lack of services and instability. Only by supporting genuine peacebuilding in those parts of the world most affected by conflict, and putting that at the centre of the new post-2015 agenda, will we assist the poorest and most vulnerable people.
Thirdly, we must address inequality—the key issue of this evening’s debate. That includes income inequality and economic inequality. We should address inequality in countries that have fallen behind over the years and in those which have never caught up or are in the very early stages of development and therefore need a greater level of support.
I should mention the living conditions of people in the developing world with disabilities, who are now living much longer than they have ever done previously. In many developing countries, disabled people have a place in society that they have never enjoyed previously. However, in many of these countries, disabled people still have almost no access to education, adequate health services or other forms of support, particularly the opportunity to work or receive financial support outside the family.
Women play a critical role in making development happen, as was mentioned by the noble Baronesses, Lady Kinnock and Lady Jenkin. The post-2015 agenda needs to address gender inequality but also needs to go significantly further in empowering women to be the drivers of development. We all know that in the most successful examples of development round the world women are playing a key role at both the community and national level. Therefore, the agenda needs not only to address gender inequality but to empower women to make a difference in the developing world and here, so that we can build the better world that we want to see.
My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, on securing the debate and giving those engaged in aid programmes and policy-making the opportunity to discuss these issues.
I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, on raising the points that he did, particularly his comments on the Philippines. Quite a few years have passed since I was in Manila, although I do not want to tell noble Lords how long ago that was. However, I shall never forget seeing two things all those years ago. The nightlife of Manila is world famous for all the wrong reasons, but I shall never forget seeing a neon sign in the centre of the city which said: “AIDS cured here”. That showed the level of desperation and ignorance—or optimism, if you want to call it that—which existed in those days. The other thing I remember is that the Philippines benefited in some ways from the control that was exercised by the United States of America. I think that it was the only colony that America ever had. The Americans gave the Filipinos the gift of education, on which they thrived. However, the tragedy was that well educated young people who trained to become teachers and nurses were employed as waiters and waitresses because that was the only work that they could get. That is where the inequality struck home. I was a young man at that time but I have never forgotten how tragic and unfair it was that these bright, talented people had no opportunities.
I also thank the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, for reminding us that we have achieved the aid target of 0.7% of our gross national income. I am obviously delighted that that is one of the great positive things that have come out of the coalition Government. The Liberal Democrats pressed to have that included in the agreement and it has been achieved. We should all take great comfort and pride from that.
In an Answer to a Written Question in March from my colleague Martin Horwood MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Lynne Featherstone MP, replied:
“The UK has been clear in its call for a standalone goal on gender equality and girls and women’s empowerment as well as ensuring that these issues are addressed throughout the goals and targets in the framework to be agreed by members of the United Nations. The UK’s statement at the Commission on the Status of Women highlighted the need for a standalone goal on gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women in the post-2015 framework. We are working with others across the international community, including civil society, to ensure that this is achieved”.—[Official Report, Commons, 24/3/14; col. 87W.]
In a wider sense, inequalities remain unacceptably high across all aspects of life. Inequalities in income and wealth are severe and widening globally between and within countries. The richest 1% of the world’s population now controls some 40% of the world’s assets—a point raised by noble Lords earlier. Inequalities of opportunity and of outcomes cannot be fully separated, as poor outcomes frequently undermine future opportunities. There is strong evidence that unequal outcomes are transmitted from parents to children, compromising life opportunities for the next generation. Impacts on capabilities, through poor health stunting the process of brain development and learning, are often cumulative, irreversible and lifelong.
Inequalities matter not only because of their impact on social justice; they matter in relation to reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development. They need to be systematically addressed if the aspirations of the post-2015 development agenda are to be realised for all. Their persistence has made the eradication of extreme poverty and the full attainment of universal goals very challenging. Inequalities in themselves tend to be a barrier to opportunities. They undermine people’s sense of well-being, they increase the risk of violent conflict and they lead to harm in the wider society.
The Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals recognised that the MDGs focused more on global and national averages and aggregate progress without explicitly addressing inequalities, both within and between countries. The new framework needs to go beyond global and national averages. It needs to measure the levels of achievement of different social groups to highlight who has been left behind. It needs to incorporate targets to ensure progress for all social groups and reduce the differences in achievements so that action can be taken to improve the situation for all groups.
Because inequalities cut across all dimensions of development, there has been much discussion over whether there should be a stand-alone goal on equality or whether addressing inequalities should be mainstreamed across all goals, targets and indicators, or a combination of both.
In the current MDG framework, there are well established goals, targets and indicators with respect to gender equality, and there are proposals for additional targets for the post-2015 agenda. In this regard, NGOs are making an important contribution. For example, Christian Aid is calling for the closure of gaps impeding global equity, such as income inequality between genders, as well as inequalities relating to tax, social protection, land rights, governance and partnerships. It is calling for gender equality and women’s empowerment as a stand-alone goal and for transformational targets in areas such as gender-based violence, participation, leadership and economic justice. It is seeking the integration of gender throughout the new sustainable development goals.
Christian Aid acknowledges that the MDGs failed to address poverty among the most disadvantaged and marginalised populations, and it welcomes the “leave no one behind” agenda. In particular, it supports the idea that no new goal or target should be considered met unless it has been met for all incomes and specified social groups.
Another NGO, Age International, makes a strong case for tackling people of all ages in the post-2015 framework. This, it says, will be effective only if it is relevant to people of all ages. The open working group’s focus on tackling inequalities echoes the high-level panel’s call to “leave no one behind” and the idea that no target would be considered met unless it was met for all relevant social groups, including older people.
The global population is ageing rapidly. The number of older people is predicted to increase to 2 billion by 2050. Some two-thirds of older people live in developing countries. By 2050, this will have increased to four-fifths. This is a cross-cutting issue for people of all ages. Older people experience inequalities in their daily lives and are more likely to live in poverty. Globally, half as many again older women and nearly a quarter as many again older men live in poverty compared with women and men of working age.
Poverty cannot be effectively eradicated without taking into account all people, regardless of age, gender or ability. The MDGs made great strides in reducing extreme poverty but failed to address deep-rooted inequalities of age, gender and disability. Bond Beyond 2015 UK is the global campaign aiming to influence the creation of a post-2015 development framework to succeed the current UN MDGs. It brings together more than 900 civil society organisations from across the world. It makes the case that inequality is extreme and in many cases growing. It is unjust and damaging. Promoting equality must therefore be a cross-cutting objective of the post-2015 framework in addition to poverty reduction.
Finally, the UK Government have an important role to play in championing the promotion of equality as a cross-cutting objective of the post-2015 framework through the open working group, agreement of a joint EU negotiating position and the UN intergovernmental process in the run-up to 2015.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, for introducing this debate. As far as I can remember, I have spoken in every debate that she has brought to this Chamber. I have always supported her views and I am very pleased that we have her pushing for these issues. These days I do not cry very much because I am quite a happy person. The only thing that makes me feel tearful—I hope that it will not happen now—is thinking about the nearly 1 billion women in India and Africa whose lives are beyond imagination. It is not as if we can sit here and say, “Well, they have very difficult lives”, or, “It is so bad for them”. No, it is impossible for them. I do not know how they survive.
Yet women do most of the work. We all know that without the work of women, no work would be done at all. When I went to Jamaica, I saw a lot of women doing quite important jobs but they were given no status or importance. I said to them, “Why don’t you go on strike for one day? Just down tools and don’t do anything. If you really feel bad, look after the people who are very sick. But, please, do it for one day because your country will come to a standstill”. That is the situation: the women do the work and the men do not work very much in Africa. They work a bit more in India but do not do anything like the same amount of work as women. However, everything that is available is in the control of men.
For me, inequality is not so much about how much money we have, who should be given what or who should be helped with what. Inequality is between men and women in the developing countries. It is striking that we live with it and put up with it. I have been to many conferences where the “W” word has never been used, which is not right. Today, 1 billion women are suffering in India and Africa. What do we do? Really, we do nothing. We talk about it and we feel sorry for them. We say that the NGOs will do it but they cannot do everything. We need to look further than that, and to find means and ways of sorting out their lives.
I know that noble Lords will say that I am touting, but three years ago I published a book about how to change extreme poverty through women. It is about finding paid work for women. One of the most amazing things is that women are not in the economy of Africa or in the economy of India. Christine Lagarde spoke about how much difference it would make to Africa and India if the women were brought into the economy. If you go past the Indian subcontinent, the women are in the economy. It is quite amazing how well they have all done. Do noble Lords think that China would be where it is today without women working? It would not. Women are essential, not just to bear children—which is how they are seen—and look after men; they are essential people who work, provide and produce. We should focus on that. How can we help them to produce something or work at something and earn some money?
I have seen so many projects where, when a woman earns the smallest amount of money, she changes. Her family starts to respect her and she is empowered, although I am not fond of that awful word. She says to herself, “This is my money. I earned it”. Some women in a village who did bits of work that an NGO gave them and then sold that work told me, “It’s so wonderful not to give every penny to my husband. If my child wants something, I can buy it for him or her”. The noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, mentioned Gandhiji’s quote about looking at the poorest, most deprived face and the most miserable one. I can assure noble Lords that it would be a woman’s face because they are the most deprived.
Somebody thought that we were moving forward. We are not moving forward in the poorest parts of the world. We are moving backwards. The situation of women in India is worse today than it was when I was a young girl. It is worse than when I was in my middle years. It is definitely much worse in recent times. It is so shocking to me. I cannot speak for Africa in the same way because I am not so familiar with the decades, but I see the women working all the time. The men are sitting around in the shops chatting and the women are doing all the work in the fields. That is Africa. The women are carrying loads. The men do not carry loads. You see a man walking down the street and he is not carrying anything. You see a woman walking down the road and she is carrying more than you can imagine. If she has a child, the child is carrying. It is quite amazing how that situation has developed.
In India, it is extremely sad. The situation of women is far worse today than it was in earlier days. The whole society seems to think in terms of material things, which is fine because they have nothing. What is happening to women? We talk about women who are trafficked, but all women are, in some way or another, slaves. We are slaves to the family. Not us, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin. We are all right, but we are the only ones who are. Women are slaves to their families.
They are mistreated by other women and that is another thing that I should like to mention. Women are not good to each other. Two young men from the University of Durham have just spent a week with me. They told me how bitchy the girls are to each other. One said in a surprised way, “We don’t talk like that about each other. If we have something to say, we say it. But the girls bitch about each other all the time behind their backs”. That is happening in this country. The women say, “But we are not getting on boards”. Women have not learnt how to make the most of their skills. They still compete with each other instead of competing where the power lies, which is with the men. Anyway, that is not today’s agenda.
I should like to touch on something that upsets me a lot, and that is the role of religion. In Africa, Catholics have a very strong voice. What do they say to the women? They say that it is a sin to use contraception: “You must not use contraception because it is a sin”. A woman has 10 children and the man boasts about it, but most of the children do have not enough food or they die of some illness. Is that what should be happening? What are we saying to the Pope? We should be saying, “Open your eyes and look at the lives of the women and children, and then see whether there should be contraception”. The most important thing in a woman’s life at the moment is family planning. With it, she can bring up her children properly because she will have only the number of children that she can feed. This is extremely important.
We say that people will be left behind. People are being left behind now. We will never be able to raise everyone up to any kind of standard. However, if we focus on improving the lives of women, as another noble Lord said, we will find that women are the key. They are the only ones who can bring about change in our world.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Flather. I cannot promise to measure up to her formidable indictment of the male half of the human species and her fervent call to women to unite using almost Marxian language: “Women of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains”.
I want to begin by thanking my noble friend Lady Kinnock of Holyhead for introducing this debate with such passion and eloquence. We know of her record in this area. She has done wonderful work over the years promoting the causes not only of the poor in our own society but also in developing countries in general. I would like to use this occasion to celebrate her work.
I welcome the United Nations System Task Team report to the Secretary-General of June 2012, and the Secretary-General’s own report entitled, A Life of Dignity for All. However, both of the reports have one big lacuna: they talk about sustainable development, which they define in terms of economic development, social inclusion and environmental sustainability, but there is no provision for equality or for the reduction of inequality.
I do not want to take up the time of noble Lords trying to rehearse all the facts of inequality that we know about; rather, I want to ask two questions which have not been discussed so far. First, why is inequality a bad thing? Only a few years ago a senior member of Tony Blair’s Cabinet told us that he was completely complacent and undisturbed about people becoming filthy rich. There are many who ask why equality is of any value at all, and if not equality per se, the value in the reduction of inequality. Why is it important? Is it just that some people are better off while others are poor? What is wrong with that? It is part of human nature, part of human history, and part of our circumstances. So I want to take some time as an academic answering the first question. Secondly, if I can persuade noble Lords to my view that inequality is a bad thing, what is it that we should be doing in developing countries? Let me take the two questions in order.
Inequality is a bad thing for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is unacceptable because it is unjust. If some are poor while others are rich, it is not because some people work less and others work more. It is due entirely to circumstances beyond their control. Certain handicaps acquired in one generation are accumulated over several, so that the poor man of yesterday is in that particular predicament because of circumstances that he could do nothing to overcome. The first reason why inequality is a bad thing is because it is unjust, and justice requires that inequality should be reduced, and ideally eliminated.
The second reason why inequality is a bad thing is that it divides human societies into two different species, the privileged and the underprivileged, and there is no common life between the two. In the absence of a common life you cannot have any kind of community. The rich, if they have no sympathy for or do not share any kind of common life with the poor, are not going to pay higher taxes. This is what people have found in lots of developing countries but not just there—even in our own society the rich will not part with money, simply because they do not have the same degree of sympathy for the poor or share a common life with them.
The third reason why we can press the case against inequality is the amount of wastage of human resources. An enormous amount of talent goes to waste, which leads to distress. It is crushed. The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, talked about one half of the human species, women. I would say: what about 99% of the poor and underprivileged, and many others, who would be able to contribute so much and yet cannot because they have no opportunity to do so? This is one of the greatest indictments of inequality—it violates human dignity and human essence and creates a situation of enormous frustration and distress.
Another reason why inequality is unacceptable is that it leads almost inevitably to public disorder and conflict, because the poor do not simply accept their predicament as God given. They are bound to protest, in small and large ways. If you cannot openly undertake a revolution, you can subvert the system in small ways here or there, and as a result social order is vitally disturbed. I could go on answering this particular question because I think it is very important. Lots of people I have spoken to, in government and elsewhere, simply do not understand why inequality is a bad thing—they say either it is natural or it is a result of contingency and factors we cannot control—so I have spent about four minutes trying to explain why it is a bad thing.
If we are right that it is a bad thing, what should we be doing? I want to put half a dozen important ideas on the agenda and I hope that the Minister will have the time to address at least one or two of them. The first thing is the abolition of tax havens, which destroy not only developed societies but the large developing societies, because the rich find it very easy, quietly and conveniently, to stack away huge amounts of money. India, for example, must have lost billions of dollars through people passing money into offshore accounts. The first thing we need to do is tackle tax havens.
The second thing we need to think about is stronger regulation of global finance. The international financial institutions privilege the rich and the developed countries and make it very difficult to create conditions in which the developing countries can flourish. That is also closely tied up with the idea of a regulatory regime for corporations, because many of these corporations, as we know in the case of raw materials in Africa and Latin America, plunder the developing countries and simply do not allow them to function, because they do not have any resources left.
We should also take a close look at intellectual property laws, which make it very difficult to ensure that developing countries have access to essential medicines, which, thanks to intellectual property laws, are frightfully expensive. Lots of diseases in developing countries that could otherwise be tackled are simply not tackled.
Finally, we also ought to be thinking in terms of improving access to western markets for developing countries. Here, I think we have gone fundamentally wrong by developing a growth strategy which is basically skewed. When we talk about economic growth or economic development, we are simply thinking in terms of total GDP or per capita income. We should be encouraging the view that economic growth should be people based, it should be job friendly and it should value equality or at least a reduction in inequality.
In India, for example, after liberalisation a small number of people have become enormously rich and lead a kind of life that westerners would find deeply distasteful, and a large number of people—at a rough calculation, between 30% and 65% of the population—are poorer than they were. That is because the growth strategy, largely based on global demand for IT, produces a lot of wealth for a small number of people but there is no manufacturing where jobs can be given to people. Developed countries have an obligation to encourage the correct kind of growth model, especially one in which people are able to make their own input.
My Lords, in welcoming this debate and thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, for introducing it, I add my congratulations and thanks to her for all the work she has done on development issues—over several decades, I suspect.
The first report by the UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, published in June 2012, recommended:
“A vision for the future that rests on the core values of human rights, equality and sustainability”.
Looking at the current state of the world, one might as well ask for the lion to lie down with the lamb. Despite modest advances since the millennium development goals were set, it is going to be a very hard task indeed, but for the sake of our children and grandchildren we simply must face this challenge.
I must get this off my chest: I find all the reports I read on tackling inequality somewhat irritating, full as they are of goals, targets and indicators. The best one yet is “disaggregated data”. Can you have a target for disaggregated data, or a goal? I do not know. Sometimes I wonder what on earth they are talking about, or if they even know what they are talking about. They all say what should happen but are very short on how it should happen.
The briefing from Bond, which I found very helpful, suggested that economic inequality should be tackled by including it in the overall framework and not letting it be solely the concern of national Governments, which is something that the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, addressed. The former chief economist at the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz, has proposed that a goal should be set so that by 2030 the post-tax income of the top 10% of the population is no more than the post-transfer income of the bottom 40%—discuss. Has anyone told George Osborne? But for inequalities to be ironed out we must also have universal public services. People are entitled to healthcare and education opportunities.
How is this to be achieved—by taxation? For taxes to be raised, people need to have an income and we have heard from many noble Lords that people in developing countries do not have incomes. What income the country has is often siphoned off into Swiss banks, tax havens—offshore this and that. The rulers siphon off the money before it reaches the people. Should the post-2015 framework include something on tackling corruption? I think it should. It is a very serious issue.
As chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health, I have a suggestion—more than that, a solution. The noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, has already referred to me in this context. The solution is really a very simple one. If we look at all the statistics and indicators—yes, and disaggregated data, if we must—produced by international authorities and academics all over the world, we see that no country has improved its economy and hence the well-being of its population without first stabilising population growth. It is a theme that I refer to over and again, I know, but it is true. It was always thought that it was the other way round: that once a country became prosperous, people would limit their family size, but it is not so. To stabilise population growth, yes, we need to make voluntary family planning available. No coercion is required, just readily available contraception supplies and advice. Women must be allowed to control their own bodies and fertility. The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, has alluded to that. It is a basic right of womankind to be able to control their bodies and the number of children they bear. We must discourage child marriage, on which our group has recently produced a report. I note with pleasure that Gordon Brown is now working hard on this issue in northern India and Pakistan.
By controlling their fertility, women can access education for themselves and their children, thus eventually adding to the workforce, to the potential for their country and to their own self-esteem and position in society. It is a provision that politicians in the developing and the developed world have tended to ignore until the recent initiatives by our own Government. I am proud that it is our own Government who have made family planning and maternal health so important in development issues, and indeed have achieved the target of spending 0.7% of GNP on aid.
Many women in this country whom I talk to have forgotten how important family planning provision is, and how important it is for women to be able to control their own fertility. They have got it; we have taken it for granted; nobody thinks about it any more; so it is not high on many people’s agenda. However, there are more than 220 million women worldwide who would limit their family size if only they had access to contraception. The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, alluded to religion being a factor in this. Yes, indeed, it is. I have to warn noble Lords that the influence of religion in these issues is rising again. On 10 April, there is to be discussed in the European Parliament what I think is called a “citizens’ initiative” which has come from the religious right all over Europe—they have gained enough support to get it debated in the European Parliament—to ban any aid from the European Union being used in any way for the destruction of an unborn child. That includes, as did the ban imposed by George Bush, not just provision of safe abortion but counselling about abortion and, in many cases, contraception too. All those programmes are as one. If you provide family planning services, you are also able to advise people on abortion. This initiative means that those funds will be cut. It is very serious that people should be seeking to curb what is the most essential form of aid we can give if we really care about development.
Free from endless childbearing and ill health, women could do so much to iron out inequalities in their countries, whether it is gender inequality or the inequality between the rich and the poor. As we have heard, women are the poorest people in developing countries. Two-thirds of the world’s poorest are women and they own only 1% of property.
By all means, let us insist that the new post-2015 framework tackle inequality by including considerations of ethnicity, of marginalised groups and of economic injustice, but let us not forget—and I am glad to say that our Government have not forgotten—that the most important thing of all which must be writ large in the post-2015 framework is the sexual and reproductive rights and empowerment of women.
My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Kinnock for initiating this important and timely debate. The OECD estimates that between 2000 and 2010, 83 developing countries achieved growth rates equivalent to double the OECD average, but that this growth has not necessarily been inclusive. Going back only 15 years, there were just two dollar billionaires in India; now there are 46. The $176 billion total net worth of the billionaire community has climbed from 1% of GDP to 12%. That is enough to eliminate absolute poverty in India twice, with enough left over to double spending on the country’s shockingly underfinanced public health system.
What is happening in India is part of a wider pattern. Almost half the world’s wealth, totalling $110 trillion, is now owned by just 1% of the population. Seven out of 10 people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the past 30 years. Developed economies with a fraction of the global population use about half of global resources and are responsible for 77% of all global emissions. As my noble friend Lord McConnell said, within countries, the vulnerable poor cluster in areas where climate change has a disproportionate impact, such as flood zones and dry rural areas. As my noble friend Lady Kinnock said, crucially, inequality is an issue that affects not only the global south but the global north, too. Between 1980 and 2007, the top 1% of Americans nearly tripled their share of the total national income from 8% to 23%.
Inevitably, tackling inequality will require confronting the root cause of discrimination that both drives and compounds such disparities in wealth. As we have heard in this debate, the most persistent and pervasive form of prejudice is gender inequality, but inequalities can also occur across urban-rural divides, or have different ethnic, religious or racial group dimensions. Discrimination on grounds of disability is also a critical factor fuelling inequality, as my noble friend Lord McConnell highlighted.
The conclusions of the recent session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women are a significant contribution to this debate. It concluded that gender-based discrimination, including the denial of the rights of women and girls, remains the most widespread driver of inequalities in today’s world. Gender-based violence, taking many forms, is a major element of this massive and continuing failure of human rights. What specific actions will the Government undertake to meet the challenges identified by the CSW, both domestically and internationally?
As we heard, when inequalities overlap they reinforce each other and create unique forms of discrimination and exclusion. Interventions to address the symptoms—for example, chronic poverty—will be undermined if the root causes are not also addressed. My noble friend Lord Parekh asked why inequality is a bad thing. He was right to highlight those issues. High levels of inequality generate considerable costs for society—weakening demand, restricting social mobility and undermining the labour market prospects of vulnerable social groups. Inequality is a key driver of financial crises, halting economic growth and fuelling economic instability. As we have heard, wealth inequality is also an engine of protest and instability, and a primary cause of political unrest.
A recent Oxfam report asserted that, given the scale of rising wealth concentrations, opportunity capture and unequal political representation are a serious and worrying trend. Both the Arab spring and the anti-World Cup riots in Brazil stemmed from public protest over high unemployment, increasing poverty and growing inequality. Widening gaps have accompanied progress towards the MDGs as Governments, in a bid to meet targets, have been guilty of targeting the lowest-hanging fruit. The common use of averages and aggregate data in MDG reporting and the lack of the data needed to disaggregate results by class, wealth, gender or race meant that emerging inequalities have remained unnoticed. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, will not be offended when I say that I hope that those issues are now much more apparent. It is when we disaggregate that we understand what is really behind the figures.
As my noble friend Lady Kinnock said, we have made progress under the MDGs. However, as Kevin Watkins of the ODI stated,
“data on progress has tended to divert attention from the disparities beneath the national averages. The disparities linked to wealth, gender, ethnicity and other markers for disadvantage have in some cases increased even as countries progress towards the 2015 goals. This is incompatible with the spirit of the MDGs. ‘Leaving the last to last’ is not compatible with a rights-based perspective. Moreover, inequality has emerged as a powerful brake on progress towards the MDGs”.
Although the high-level panel report makes a number of references to inequality and to a commitment to leave no one behind, no explicit inequality goal or target is suggested. Instead, the report recommends that data collected to mark progress on meeting the targets be disaggregated by specific groups.
I do not share the opinion of the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin. Like many others, the Labour Party was extremely concerned by the HLP statement that economic inequality is a matter solely for national policy and should therefore be excluded from the framework. The post-2015 development agenda is intended to be a single, unifying, global agenda. That means that whatever targets and goals we agree will be equally applicable to our work in the UK as to our work internationally through DfID. It is therefore crucial that our domestic and international approaches are both complementary and mutually reinforcing. For those of us on these Benches, tackling inequality complements not only our opposition to corporate greed but our promotion of responsible capitalism and Labour’s belief that our UK economy, just as our global one, must work for the many, not the few.
The UK Government should use their role in the ongoing negotiations to ensure that the post-2015 framework specifically tackles economic and other inequalities within countries through goals, targets or other mechanisms. Tackling inequality across the board will require a transformation shift in aid delivery. In education, the challenge then becomes not just universal provision but a focus on quality. In trade, it is not merely the provision of jobs but of labour market policies that allow for the role of trade unions, a minimum wage and measures to tackle the growing informal economy.
With decisions on the post-2015 agenda fast approaching, we are reaching a critical juncture. Decisions made now will shape the next generation of aid and development. More than this, they will shape the opportunities and life chances of the next global generation.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, for securing this debate. It is extremely important that we keep proposals for the post-2015 development settlement high on the agenda. I also thank noble Lords for their tributes to DfID. I am very proud of the fact that, after years of promises and aspiration but of never achieving this, we have finally reached 0.7% of GNI on overseas development. It was announced today that that has been achieved for 2013, and we have done that in a period of austerity. This reflects the fact that we recognise that we are all interconnected, as noble Lords have conveyed so very well.
It was almost 15 years ago that the international community came together to agree some simple, powerful objectives: that no one should live on under $1.25 a day; that denying girls an education was not acceptable; and that the terrible scale of deaths from malaria and HIV/AIDS had to be addressed. These things, among others, were targets which, it was agreed, could be tackled together—and the eight millennium development goals were born. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, for his key role in devising the MDGs. As the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, so clearly showed, these goals were historic: an unprecedented set of promises to the developing world, which have served to mobilise and galvanise us into action over the past 13 years. Like other noble Lords, I, too, pay tribute to the many organisations and NGOs which have been working in this area and made such a difference.
As the deadline for the MDGs approaches, we can cite many achievements: visible improvements in all health areas, getting children into primary education and halving the number of people living in extreme poverty. However, as other noble Lords have said, we know that there is no room for complacency. While some countries have made incredible progress in the past 20 years, others are lagging behind, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, has just made clear. Within countries, progress also often failed to reach the most vulnerable, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, pointed out: those disadvantaged because of their sex, age, ethnicity, disability, caste and where they live.
The point of the MDGs was to tackle huge inequalities and need. Some of that has been addressed but we still have much to do. As the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, pointed out, inequalities persist through generations, waste lives and, as he argued, lead to instability. Across the globe, approximately 1.2 billion people are still living in absolute poverty. These people are the most vulnerable, the most marginalised and the most difficult to reach. There is a clear danger that they will be left further behind. The United Kingdom is committed to an ambitious agenda post-2015 to eradicate extreme poverty and build shared prosperity for all. Addressing inequalities is critical to meeting this ambition. The high-level panel, co-chaired by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, called for no one to be left behind. The noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, referred to this. This premise must be included as a central shift in the new agenda and has resonated internationally.
This is about learning from the MDGs: there is broad agreement that the focus on average progress in the current MDGs masked the very uneven progress across different countries and population groups. The existing MDGs did not provide sufficient incentives to tackle the root causes of poverty and inequality, or to search out those who are hard to reach. As my noble friend Lord Chidgey made clear, inequalities meant that the MDGs were not achieved universally.
The UK supports the high-level panel’s focus on leaving no one behind as a central shift in the post-2015 agenda. We support a stand-alone goal on girls’ and women’s empowerment, and on mainstreaming gender and other dominant inequalities being addressed across the framework. Many noble Lords have mentioned this area, but of course there is no country in the world —no country—that has full gender equality. My noble friend Lady Jenkin made such a cogent argument for that stand-alone goal on gender. Gender must be mainstreamed and have a stand-alone goal, for all the reasons that she gave. She is absolutely right that we will not be able to eradicate extreme poverty if we do not advance the economic, social and political rights of girls and women. My noble friend Lord Chidgey and the noble Lord, Lord Collins, also made that extremely plain.
The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, was right about the situation of women in so many parts of the world. I, too, have seen the effect of women being able to earn just a little money, as she says, and how transformative even that can be and how much independence it can give. We also need to continue the battle to ensure that women’s reproductive rights are respected. She emphasised that, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge.
We recognise, as many noble Lords will know, that the longer girls spend on education, the later they have children and the fewer of them they have, and those children are more likely to thrive and prosper. I thank my noble friend Lady Tonge for her tribute to what DfID has done in this area.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, spoke about the CSW. I was pleased that there was agreement here and that the proposition of a stand-alone goal was accepted. However, what seemed to me to serve as a warning was how hard it was to prevent things going backwards. We need to work across parties and indeed across countries to ensure that that does not happen.
It is of course very important to track success across all the goals and indicators using disaggregated data. I understand that that word was rather difficult to pronounce, but my noble friend Lady Tonge will know from her scientific training that conclusions need to be based on evidence, which must be studied, analysed and taken apart—disaggregated. Women have often been aggregated with men, so disaggregation we must have, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, also emphasised.
I agreed very strongly with the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, that good data and evidence will be critical if we are to move this forward. Targets should be considered achieved only if they are met for all relevant income and social groups, so addressing inequality must be incorporated, as she and others have said, across the goals. We are also calling for the inclusion of zero goals in some areas of the new framework—minimum standards that must be met for 100% of the population.
My noble friend Lord Chidgey highlighted the situation of older people. That is why we need to take this approach: we need to look right across at the causes of inequality and improve opportunities for all. That is why we have to disaggregate the materials.
The UK supports goals on transforming economies, governance and peace that tackle the root causes of poverty and inequality. My noble friend Lady Tonge emphasised tackling corruption, and that is included. As the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, pointed out, for all the MDGs’ strengths, there was not enough focus on the devastating effects of conflict and violence and the importance of strong institutions and accountable government. The noble Lord made a powerful point about the importance of addressing factors such as climate change, which is the context in which people will increasingly be living. He will know that the high-level panel recognises the importance of tackling climate change, and we wish to see climate integrated across the framework, complementing the UN framework for the convention on climate change.
The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, made some very interesting points about the problems with inequality stifling aspiration, undermining peace and good governance and being basically unjust, and why we are doing this in the first place. With regard to his questions about tax havens and so on, I point out that we support better global and domestic tax regulations. It is very difficult but it is something that we have put on the international agenda and are trying to move forward. We are also pushing for better land and property regulations and for improved access to markets. That is right across the board, not only for those who are already well off. The noble Lord is right: we need to have sustainable growth which benefits all across society.
Tackling inequality must be at the heart of the new agenda but, as discussions on post-2015 continue in New York and beyond, and as we advocate for a concise and compelling new goals framework, it is not clear—as the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, and others pointed out—that a separate stand-alone inequality goal would achieve as much as a cross-cutting push. I think a consensus is emerging on that.
Whatever goals and targets are agreed, be they on health, education, sustainable development, peace or water and sanitation, they need to have “leave no one behind” embedded within and throughout them. Equality must be at the heart of the new framework, as we learn from the MDGs. That remains the highest priority for the Government as we work for that single framework.
There seems to be a consensus that addressing inequality must run through everything about the replacement for the MDGs. The MDGs were developed because there were huge inequalities between life chances and length of life in developed countries and developing countries. The MDGs need to be replaced with measures to bring with us those who have proved the hardest to reach because they are in fragile countries or because of their gender, social origins, disability or other factors. We need to work together to ensure that we deliver meaningful and effective goals to replace the MDGs. There has to be a real risk of not achieving that. As my noble friend Lady Tonge warned us, we have to face up to that risk. That is why I welcome the support of all noble Lords on this agenda.
House adjourned at 7.31 pm.