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Lords Chamber

Volume 754: debated on Thursday 12 June 2014

House of Lords

Thursday, 12 June 2014.

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Norwich.

Death of a Member: Lord Templeman

Announcement

My Lords, I regret to inform the House of the death of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Templeman, on 4 June. On behalf of the House, I extend our condolences to the noble and learned Lord’s family and friends.

Council Tax: Support Schemes

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they propose to assess the impact of council tax support schemes on vulnerable groups and on work incentives.

My Lords, the best councils are using local council tax support schemes to help get people back into work. They are increasing work incentives while protecting the vulnerable. An independent review of the schemes will be carried out, as required by the Local Government Finance Act 2012.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Is evidence not emerging already from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Citizens Advice, and through FoI requests, about the misery that these arrangements are causing, by deliberate acts of government such as the transfer of responsibilities—underfunded from day one—and continuing cuts to the ongoing budgets of councils? Is it not the case that, in the current year, some 2.3 million people in low-income families will pay an average of £149 more a year in council tax than they would have under the council tax benefit system? This year, a further 70,000 families will have their support cut for the first time and nearly 400,000 disabled people will see their council tax increase. All this is fuelling a debt crisis and is a job creation programme for bailiffs. How is this contributing to the creation of a fairer society?

My Lords, I notice that the noble Lord did not inform your Lordships that council tax bills more than doubled under his Government, as did spending on council tax benefit, rising to more than £4 billion, which equated to £180 for every household. Action was therefore essential. We have cut council tax bills and changed the benefit system for council tax so that people are supported properly in their local areas by their local authorities, which are responsible for setting and collecting council tax. Those authorities now have a vested interest in supporting local people back into work. The latest unemployment figures show how our overall approach to the economy is working.

My Lords, as welfare spending spiralled out of control under the previous Labour Government, could the Minister inform the House how much money this Government have saved?

As the Government try to minimise the gap that is being created between the wealthy and those at the other end, how can they justify people having a council tax freeze—people such as myself and others in this Chamber who could quite easily pay the appropriate amount without a freeze?

As the noble Lord knows, council tax is set by local authorities, and local authorities should be trying to reduce the burden of council tax on all local taxpayers and increase the quality of their services. That is what many are doing and that is a good thing.

My Lords, what evaluation has been done on the scope for renationalising council tax support as part of universal credit, including the costs and benefits of incentives to work?

My Lords, we think the approach that we are taking on the local council tax scheme is the right one because we are allowing local authorities to have a vested interest in supporting local people back into work. In Manchester, for example, they are doing some innovative work and ensuring that by helping people back into work they benefit from the collection of extra taxes.

My Lords, does the Minister recognise that there are some areas of the country, such as the one I come from, where there is no increase in employment—or at least no decrease in unemployment—and where councils know that the greatest cuts are yet to come? Next year and the year after the election will see every local authority having to find much greater cuts. In areas such as mine, there are still vulnerable people, who, whatever the local authority or charities are doing, are finding it difficult to access work. What is going to happen to them?

My Lords, I understand that certain parts of the country have faced greater challenges than others. Individual local authorities have much greater capacity to raise revenue through their tax-collecting regimes. Certainly, local authorities are starting to build up reserves at a rate that is quite staggering. They are now collectively sitting on £19 billion. I would therefore urge local authorities to look to what measures they can take before requiring further money from central government.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the same families who are being hit by the new council tax scheme and are having to contribute 20% or even 40% to their council tax, where in the past, because they were disabled, they did not, are very often the same families who are also being hit by the bedroom tax? They are being hit twice over. Is the Minister aware that the Resolution Foundation has now told us that more than 870,000 families are spending more than 50% of their disposable income in debt repayments, and a further 3 million are paying more than a quarter of their disposable income in debt repayments? How is she addressing that problem of inequality and the quagmire of debt?

In the context of this scheme, it is important for me to make clear to the House that when we went from a national scheme to the one that is operated now by local authorities, all councils applied the same approach to how they would support those who are vulnerable. A good proportion of them, about 43%, have actually offered additional protection to vulnerable groups. The most important thing I would say to the noble Baroness is that we have to have a strong economy that creates jobs, and that is what we are doing and that is the priority that we are focusing on.

Housing: Affordable Housing

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to increase the supply of affordable housing.

My Lords, we have made much progress to increase the supply of affordable housing, as the new figures released today show, but we want everyone to have the security and stability of a decent affordable home and so continue to make reforms and explore new opportunities to increase the level of housebuilding.

Will the Minister confirm that under Labour, in the four years from 2008 onwards, the Government invested £8.4 billion in housing, which was cut for the following four years by the Conservative Government to £4.5 billion, and that affordable housing was cut by 60%? On a more cheerful note, will she join me in welcoming the statement made by the leader of the newly elected and victorious Hammersmith council to urgently review three major housing schemes because they do not have enough affordable housing?

I can certainly confirm that under the previous Administration the number of affordable rented homes fell by 420,000 between 1997 and 2010. By contrast, I am pleased to inform the House that we have announced this morning that more than 41,000 affordable homes were started last year; that is 15% higher than the year before, and that means almost 200,000 affordable homes have been delivered in England since 2010. We clearly have further to go but in addition to the range of measures in the Written Statement I tabled on Wednesday, I expect my right honourable friend the Chancellor to announce further steps this evening.

Will my noble friend encourage her department to make it mandatory for all new housebuilding to include energy-saving devices, most particularly photovoltaics?

I am not at liberty to commit from the Dispatch Box to a new building regulation if one does not already exist but I will certainly explore the point that my noble friend raises and come back to him.

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that in many parts of the country the term “affordable housing” is a very slippery concept? Will she also confirm that since most housebuilding in this country at the moment is dependent on the private sector for its delivery, there is a straightforward conflict between the need of private developers to make profit and the requirements of the populations around which they are building houses? Does she believe that the National Planning Policy Framework—have I got those two Ps the right way round?—is actually allowing councils to make the right judgments about what sort of houses to build or is it too much weighted in favour of developers?

The noble Baroness makes an important distinction between affordable housing, which is a formal definition, and affordability, which is a separate matter. My simple answer to her question is that planning permission was granted for 216,000 new homes in England last year, so the planning reforms are working.

My Lords, eight years ago the Affordable Rural Housing Commission estimated that we needed at least 11,000 affordable new homes every year in rural areas. We have scarcely ever managed more than a third of that number, and the proportion is falling. That means that those who need such homes in rural areas move to urban areas, adding to the numbers of the urban homeless and further obscuring the rural problem. What remedy does the Minister have for this state of affairs?

In terms of the delivery of affordable homes, we feel—certainly from the statistics that I have seen this morning—that they are being built in the areas where they are most needed. I will come back to the right reverend Prelate about rural housing because I do not have any specific data on that for him at the moment. But the fact remains that affordable housebuilding is increasing.

My Lords, may I call on the Minister to give every encouragement to the community-based housing associations that operate up and down the country? When I served as an MP, I had six community-based housing associations in my area. They provided lovely homes, they rehabilitated old tenements, they build community halls, they built sheltered housing—

I can assure the noble Lord that we support all communities that are building new homes. I have met a range of different people leading development in their areas. I certainly agree with everything the noble Lord said.

Will the Minister join me in celebrating the achievement of Harold Macmillan, who, in the 1950s, promised and delivered the building of 300,000 houses per year? Can she explain why the achievement of that Conservative Government was so much better than that of this Conservative-led coalition?

I can certainly tell the noble Lord that this Conservative-led coalition has built more council housing in the last year alone in London than was built in the 13 years combined of the last Labour Government.

Affordable housing is housing that attracts some financial support from both public and private sectors so that it is available at a rent below the market rate.

My Lords, I declare an interest as working in the construction industry. What are Her Majesty’s Government doing to improve the quality of new homes?

I would like to think that we are doing quite a bit. As I said to my noble friend who asked the first supplementary question, I have very little information with me today on building regulations but certainly the new homes that I have seen being built are of a good standard.

My Lords, according to the noble Baroness, affordable housing has a rent set below the market rate. What is the connection between that and affordability in many parts of this country?

As the noble Lord heard me say in response to his noble friend, affordability is a different issue. “Affordable homes” is a formal distinction when we talk about the specific building of different properties. With affordability, we clearly need to make sure that homes generally are available at an affordable rate. That is important to everybody who seeks to buy their own home.

Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they intend to take to combat human trafficking and modern slavery.

My Lords, this Government are taking a number of important steps to tackle human trafficking and modern slavery. The Modern Slavery Bill will strengthen protection of victims and bring perpetrators to justice. In addition, a comprehensive programme of activity is under way to improve the operational response, including better identification of and support for victims. The Home Secretary also launched the Santa Marta group, which brings together senior international law enforcement chiefs to tackle perpetrators.

My Lords, I warmly welcome the introduction of the Modern Slavery Bill earlier this week in the other place. I wish the Government well with its progress. However, it seems essential that the position of victims is at the centre of our discussions on this. In Scotland, there are more victims in jail than there are perpetrators. I mention that for two reasons. First, it seems that the independent legal advocacy required for victims is an essential part of the Government’s trial of advocates later this year. I would welcome a commitment from the Minister on that. Secondly, coherence across the United Kingdom on this between legislation here and that in the Scottish Parliament is also vital. If the Minister would commit to working on that coherence, it would be very welcome indeed.

I am very happy to reassure the noble Lord on that point; the Government have worked and are working very closely with the Scottish Government on tackling modern slavery. The Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice is a member of the interdepartmental ministerial group on human trafficking. We continue to work with all the devolved Administrations to assess whether the provisions of the Bill are applicable and can be extended during its passage to include devolved authorities. The noble Lord will know that providing a defence for victims is part and parcel of the Modern Slavery Bill.

Will the Minister join me in congratulating the Home Secretary on securing this Bill, which will do so much to eliminate this appalling, evil trade?

I am delighted to do so. I also congratulate my noble friend on seeing some seven years’ campaigning in this House brought to success in such a Bill. It is definitely a matter in which the Home Secretary herself is very much involved. I am sure that all noble Lords will welcome the Bill when it arrives here later in the year.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate the Government on the Bill, but will they reconsider their omission of the supply chain from its contents?

I do not want this to be a self-congratulatory Question, but the noble and learned Baroness has been instrumental through her leadership of the pre-legislative scrutiny in presenting the Government with opportunities to consider aspects of the Bill, many of which have of course been incorporated. Yesterday, the Home Secretary met representatives of the British retail industry. It was a very successful meeting. As the noble Baroness will know, we believe that the best way of tackling supply-chain abuse is through a code that all retailers will sign up to.

My Lords, how can the Government justify their stated belief that new offences such as child trafficking and child exploitation should not be included in the Modern Slavery Bill on the basis that they will be less familiar to the judiciary than existing legislation?

I know that the noble Baroness, who was also a member of the pre-legislative scrutiny committee on the Bill, has a particular point of view on this matter. It is the Government’s view that modern slavery is about not just children but also adults, and that the law on modern slavery needs to be clearly applied to everybody who is a victim of this dreadful scourge.

My Lords, as has been said, we welcome the Bill, but clearly we will give it very proper scrutiny in this House when it arrives, because there may well be things that we wish to add. Having said that, I am delighted that it focuses on victims and perpetrators, but looking at the situation at Iraq at the moment—we look with horror at what is happening in Mosul—what can be done on the ground to ensure that people are not exploited as they flee from these terrible conditions?

Yes, I think that the whole House is concerned about developments in Mosul and Iraq in general. They are creating huge problems, which I know my noble friend Lady Warsi will be concerned about seeking to alleviate—to the extent of our ability to do so. Of course, the Bill concentrates on a problem that is clearly within our control and up to us to deal with here, within the United Kingdom. That is the right place to start. I would not deny that modern slavery is an international problem that needs tackling on an international scale.

My Lords, the effect that the new Bill will have is at present quite uncertain. However, can the noble Lord give the House any figures for prosecutions of people either for trafficking or keeping others in sexual or domestic slavery?

The latest figures that I have show that the number involved is not large. There were 34 people charged with human trafficking offences in 2012, while 148 cases were recorded by the Crown Prosecution Service as being linked to human trafficking although another offence was charged. The whole point of the Bill is that we recognise that the piecemeal legislation by which we have tried to deal with this business is not adequate. That is why the Bill is focused on this particular problem. I hope that it will strengthen the ability of prosecution authorities to make successful prosecutions.

Schools: British Values

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to draw up a list of British values to which all schools will be asked to subscribe.

My Lords, independent schools, academies and free schools are required to encourage pupils to respect fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. That provision was brought in by this Government. We plan to strengthen this requirement so that those schools will have to promote British values. Ofsted will also be asked to change the inspection framework to reflect that expectation so that maintained schools are also held to account on the same basis.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that encouraging and positive reply, for which I am sure we are all very grateful, but as we approach the 800th anniversary in 2015 of Magna Carta, which was the foundation of the rule of law in our country, should we not be considering drawing up a new British charter of responsibilities and rights which every school in the land should be asked to subscribe to? While we are thinking about these things, would it not also be a good idea to follow the example of our friends across the Atlantic and encourage schools to fly the flag?

I think we will all reflect deeply on the events in Birmingham. I am also sure that all noble Lords will study Peter Clarke’s report when it comes out. We will then decide what other actions should be taken. As for flying the flag, I think it is a matter of individual choice and for individual schools to decide.

The Minister referred in the first part of his Answer to the word “encourage”. Then he said that the new position will be “will have to promote”. What does he mean by “will have to promote”?

It does not seem to us to be satisfactory to ask a school merely to teach about British values if it does not also teach the importance and primacy of them and promote them. It is not satisfactory to teach about British values and then have a separate lesson that teaches that other values are more important. This will be inspected by Ofsted, within some clear frameworks, by Ofsted inspectors trained to do so. The governors’ handbook will reflect this, as will our guidance on the equality Act.

My Lords, in considering such values, will the Minister take into account a list of British values drawn up by faith leaders at the turn of the millennium, to which all faiths agreed to subscribe?

My Lords, does my noble friend agree with me that it might be very illuminating to ask immigrants to this country which British values incentivised them to come to live here? I suspect that free speech will be one of them, but there may be some very interesting ones that we could add to the list.

My Lords, will the Minister take this opportunity to confirm that in establishing and promoting British values, we are not undermining the multiracial and multicultural society?

My Lords, does my noble friend acknowledge that there are certain dangers in Governments dictating what should be taught and done in our schools?

I acknowledge that, but I think we all share the expectation that we prepare our pupils adequately for life in modern Britain and make sure that their curriculum is broad enough for them to be able to be so prepared.

My Lords, whilst I would have thought that we should all agree with and welcome the fact that there is to be added emphasis on respecting British values, will the Minister also undertake to ensure that the opposite side to values—bullying—is something which all schools should aim to abolish?

I agree entirely with the noble Baroness. All schools have to have an anti-bullying policy. Ofsted inspects on that. We have reduced the guidance on bullying behaviour from nearly 500 pages to a much more focused list.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that if we are going to have a statement of values, it will be meaningful only if it is properly embedded in the curriculum, rather than just a statement standing alone? How does that square with the Government’s decision to give academies and free schools the freedom to determine their own curriculum? Will the Government now be prescribing what British values should be taught in subjects such as history, English, citizenship—you can see that this could flow through the whole curriculum—and what consultation will there be if those curriculum subjects are going to be changed to reflect these new issues?

I must say that I struggle to keep up with the Labour Party’s flip-flopping on this point. Its last report said that it would allow all schools not to teach the curriculum. The fact is that all schools have to teach a broad and balanced curriculum and have to take account of spiritual, moral, social and cultural issues, and we will make sure that all schools have to teach British values.

My Lords, following on from the question from my noble friend Lord Morris of Handsworth, would the Government not find it wise to bear in mind the words of another very distinguished former general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, Mr Ernest Bevin, who stated about a matter of this kind: if you open up that Pandora’s box, you will find it full of Trojan horses?

Having spent the past few months dealing with this issue, I find it difficult to find it amusing, but I note the noble Lord’s point.

Voting Age (Comprehensive Reduction) Bill [HL]

First Reading

A Bill to extend the franchise for parliamentary and other elections and for referendums to all citizens over the age of 16 years.

The Bill was introduced by Baroness Suttie on behalf of Lord Tyler, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (Repeal) Bill [HL]

First Reading

A Bill to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.

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

Licensing Act 2003 (Amendment) Bill [HL]

First Reading

A Bill to make provision for the addition of a public health objective to the Licensing Act 2003.

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

Abortion Act 1967 (Amendment) Bill [HL]

First Reading

A Bill to amend the Abortion Act 1967 to make provision for the termination of pregnancy following certification by one registered medical practitioner.

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

BBC (Trustee Election and Licence Fee) Bill [HL]

First Reading

A Bill to make provision for the election of the trustees of the BBC by licence fee payers and in relation to civil enforcement of non-payment of TV licence fees.

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

Passport Office

Statement

My Lords, with the leave of the House I would like to repeat an Answer given earlier today in the House of Commons to an Urgent Question tabled there on passports, the Answer being given by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. The Statement is as follows.

“Mr Speaker, Her Majesty’s Passport Office is receiving 350,000 more applications for passports and renewals than is normal at this time of year. This is the highest demand for 12 years. Since January, HMPO has been putting in place extra resources to try to make sure that people receive their new passports in good time, but as the House will know, there are still delays in the system. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, the number of passport applications being dealt with outside the normal three-week waiting time is 30,000.

Her Majesty’s Passport Office has 250 additional staff who have been transferred from back-office roles to front-line operations and 650 additional staff to work on its customer helpline. HMPO is operating seven days a week and couriers are delivering passports within 24 hours of being produced. From next week, HMPO is opening new office space in Liverpool to help the new staff to work on processing passport applications.

Despite these additional resources, it is clear that HMPO is still not able to process every application it receives within the three-week waiting time for straightforward cases. At the moment, the overwhelming majority of cases are dealt with within that time limit. That is of course no consolation to applicants who are suffering delays and are worried about whether they will be able to go on their summer holidays. I understand their anxiety and the Government will do everything they can, while maintaining the security of the passport, to make sure people get their passports on time. There is no big-bang, single solution so we will take a series of measures to address the pinch points and resourcing problems that HMPO faces.

First, on resources, I have agreed with the Foreign Secretary that people applying to renew passports overseas for travel to the UK will be given a 12-month extension to their existing passport. Since we are talking about extending existing passports—documents in which we can have a high degree of confidence—this relieves HMPO of having to deal with some of the most complex cases without compromising security.

Similarly, we will put in place a process so that people who are applying for passports overseas on behalf of their children can be issued with emergency travel documents for travel to the UK. Parents will still have to provide comprehensive proof that they are the parents before we will issue these documents, because we are not prepared to compromise on child protection, but again this should relieve an administrative burden on HMPO.

These changes will allow us to free up a significant number of trained HMPO officials to concentrate on other applications. In addition to these changes, HMPO will increase the number of examiners and call handlers by a further 200 staff.

Secondly, HMPO is addressing a series of process points to make sure that its systems are operating efficiently. Thirdly, where people have an urgent need to travel HMPO has agreed to upgrade them—that is, their application will be considered in full and expedited in terms of its processing, printing and delivery—free of charge.

All these measures are designed to address the problem that is immediately at hand. In the medium to long term, the answer is not just to throw more staff at the problem but to make sure that HMPO is running as efficiently as possible and is as accountable as possible. I have therefore asked the Home Office’s Permanent Secretary, Mark Sedwill, to conduct two reviews: first, to make sure that HMPO works as efficiently as possible with better processes, better customer service and better outcomes; and, secondly, to consider whether HMPO’s agency status should be removed so that it can be brought into the Home Office, reporting directly to Ministers, in line with other parts of the immigration system since the abolition of the UK Border Agency”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement. However, those of us who have in the past renewed our passports, and were very impressed at the speed and efficiency of the passport service, are really shocked and appalled that it is now in chaos. Do the Government understand the impact that this shambles has had on those whose passports have been seriously delayed? The Statement mentions holidays, but it is not only holidays and honeymoons that have been wrecked—people have also missed crucial business appointments and family engagements. The Government’s excuses and denials have changed daily but the problems remain. I just wonder how on earth we got to this point after having such an efficient and effective service.

Why did the Home Secretary say that it was not true that staff had been cut when official government figures from her own department show a cut of 600? Why did Ministers not know that security checks had been dropped, and why did the Government insist on transferring overseas citizens’ passport renewals to the Home Office from our embassies in the face of evidence showing that it was not working? Will the Minister please also apologise to those who have suffered?

The Government are clearly aware of the impact of passport delays on customers; that is why my right honourable friend gave the Answer she did, which recognised that situation and has dealt with it. I think that the noble Baroness will know that my right honourable friend means business in this respect. The noble Baroness is wrong to say that there have been cuts in staff: 3,104 people were working in the Passport Office in 2012; 3,260 in 2013; and 3,444 full-time equivalent staff on 31 March this year. It is not true that there have been cuts in staff, but it is true that there has been an unprecedented surge in demand. Between 1 January and the end of May this year, HMPO has received 3.3 million applications. That is 350,000 more applications than in the same period last year. It is the highest volume of applications received in this period in the past 12 years. Indeed, in both March and May, HMPO recorded the highest level of applications received for any month over the past 12 years. These are extraordinary circumstances but the Government are taking real steps to make sure that people are not inconvenienced by them.

My Lords, the government website still shows the waiting time as being generally three weeks. Are the Government considering putting updated news on that website so that the public are aware of the position? The Post Office is another route to obtaining travel documents. Is it experiencing extra demand? Has there been an impact on Post Office services and on its level of work?

I cannot answer with specific information on the latter point, but I can say that, even at this point, 97% of passports have been issued within three weeks and 99.24% have been issued within a four-week period. None the less, because of the large number of applications, small percentages can mean large numbers of people whose lives have been inconvenienced. That is why the Passport Office is working seven days a week and efforts are being made to ensure that people are not inconvenienced. The Home Secretary’s Statement made that quite clear.

My Lords, this is an enormous increase in the number of applications. Have the Government made any discoveries as to why it has happened and what can be done to avoid it in future? Is it, for example, a factor of the improving economy, or is it something entirely different?

It could be to do with the economy; we all know that it is improving. It could well be that people want to take holidays abroad. It is also true that a lot of travel is now for business, as the noble Baroness mentioned. There are all sorts of reasons why this phenomenon may have occurred. I do not think that it helps particularly to try to investigate that at this moment, although it might be useful for the future. The key thing is to ensure that the problem is dealt with, and that is the objective of the Home Office now.

I have a suggestion for the Minister. One of my experiences in government over the years was the loss of corporate memory. Twice he has referred to 12 years; we all know what happened in 1999. By the time that I had responsibility for the Passport Service in 2001 when I entered this House, it was running smoothly. My suggestion is that the Permanent Secretary who has been asked to conduct this review goes and finds the managers who sorted out the previous issue. The problem now is that the service has run so smoothly for a decade that when you get a catastrophic change like this that is unexpected and unplanned-for, the corporate memory has disappeared and those civil servants have moved on, retired or been promoted. However, they are still around, and I suggest that they be asked for some advice about how they solved it so speedily between 1999 and 2001.

The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, is always good to listen to, and his words are very wise. I will make sure that the Permanent Secretary is aware of his advice in that regard, and I am happy that he chose to make his suggestion in the way that he did.

My Lords, what proportion of the increase would have been dealt with by our overseas embassies before the arrangements were changed?

Although I have a few papers here, I cannot say off the top of my head how many of those were the result of overseas applications coming in. Noble Lords will be aware of the security reasons why those applications were moved back into this country. Doing so avoids all the difficulties that we had encountered in having passport applications overseas—for example, the lack of security sometimes in sending blank passports overseas. However, I do not believe that that is a factor in this particular case.

I have been updated on the question that my noble friend Lady Hamwee asked about the website. The website is very much up to date; all the information about passports is at the top of the list of the website.

My Lords, is it not the case that if extra capacity were put in place “just in case”, that would have to be reflected in the cost of the passports being issued?

As noble Lords will know, we have in fact been seeking to reduce the cost of passports. The Passport Office works on the basis of trying to offer value for money to customers—for example, the adult overseas passport has been reduced by £45 this April as a result of the measures that we have taken.

My Lords, I am sorry to come back to the question of the website, but I think it is very important as far as ordinary people are concerned. Is it proposed to leave the period of three weeks as it is, as expressed on the website, or is the website now going to be amended to say that we hope that the period will be three weeks but it may be four and in fact we are not absolutely certain? It is very important that this aspect is clarified.

I will take the noble Lord’s advice. I am not an expert on how to handle a website, but I see that it is very important that the public are properly informed about the time taken. As I say, that three-week deadline is accurate for the vast majority of long and complex cases. However, I understand what the noble Lord is saying, and it would be wise to say to people, “Get your application in in good time”. That would avoid a great deal of anxiety on all parts.

My Lords, what advantages does my noble friend see in removing the Passport Office’s agency status? Will he ensure that at some stage there are discussions in your Lordships’ House on this matter?

I assure my noble friend that if such a move were undertaken, I am sure that we would have an opportunity to debate its implications here. It is a matter that the Home Secretary has quite rightly asked the Permanent Secretary to investigate, and no doubt he will be reporting back shortly. If I have information, I will ensure that the House is made aware of it.

Code of Conduct

Motion to Resolve

Moved by

To resolve that the Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Lords be amended as follows:

In paragraph 3(a), after first “duties;” insert “save for paragraphs 15A and 15B,”

In paragraph 9, at the end of the second sentence insert: “and should act as a guide to Members in considering the requirement to act always on their personal honour.”

In paragraph 9, leave out sub-paragraphs (a) to (g) and insert:

“(a) Selflessness: Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.

(b) Integrity: Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

(c) Objectivity: Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

(d) Accountability: Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

(e) Openness: Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.

(f) Honesty: Holders of public office should be truthful.

(g) Leadership: Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.”

After paragraph 15, insert the following new paragraphs:

“15A. A Member sentenced to imprisonment in the United Kingdom for a term of up to and including one year, or given a suspended sentence of imprisonment in the United Kingdom of any length, shall be deemed to have breached the Code; such a case shall be referred to the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Conduct for it to recommend a sanction.

15B. A Member sentenced to imprisonment outside the United Kingdom, whether the sentence is suspended or not, shall be presumed to have breached the Code; such a case shall be referred to the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Conduct for it to consider whether the presumption should apply in that case and, if it should, for the Sub-Committee to recommend a sanction.”

In paragraph 17, leave out “reports his findings” and insert “makes a report of his findings. If the Member is found not to have breached the Code, or if the Member and the Commissioner have agreed remedial action, the report goes to the Committee for Privileges and Conduct. If the Member is found to have breached the Code (and remedial action is inappropriate or has not been agreed), the Commissioner’s report goes”.

My Lords, this Motion proposes amendments to the Code of Conduct for Members. In essence, the Motion is purely formal in that it gives effect to the decisions already made by the House in the 13th and 15th reports of the Committee for Privileges and Conduct that were agreed by the House on 6 March and 13 May this year, and in the first report of the Committee for Privileges and Conduct from the 2012-13 Session. On Monday we will publish one document containing the revised Code of Conduct, the revised guide to the code and the new code for Members’ staff. The Registrar of Lords’ Interests will write to all Members drawing attention to the most significant changes and asking Members to ensure that all their staff in possession of a parliamentary photo pass are aware of the new rules. I beg to move.

My Lords, I welcome the announcement made today by the Chairman of Committees. The important part of the announcement covers the inclusion within the Code of Conduct of the seven Nolan principles of public life. As the current chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, I recall that Lord Nolan elaborated these principles 20 years ago. They have proven their value in those 20 years and it is in a way rather good to see them come home.

Motion agreed, and the revised Code of Conduct and Guide to the Code of Conduct were ordered to be printed. (HL Paper 5)

Deputy Chairmen of Committees

Administration and Works Committee

Communications Committee

Consolidation etc. Bills Committee

Constitution Committee

Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee

Economic Affairs Committee

European Union Committee

House Committee

Human Rights Committee

Hybrid Instruments Committee

Information Committee

Liaison Committee

National Security Strategy Committee

Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST)

Privileges and Conduct Committee

Procedure Committee

Refreshment Committee

Science and Technology Committee

Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Standing Orders (Private Bills) Committee

Statutory Instruments Committee

Works of Art Committee

Affordable Childcare Committee

Arctic Committee

Digital Skills Committee

Extradition Committee

Membership Motions

Moved by

Deputy Chairmen of Committees

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

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

Administration and Works Committee

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

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

B Anelay of St Johns, L Armstrong of Ilminster, Bp Chester, L Faulkner of Worcester, L Laming, L Leigh of Hurley, L Luke, L McAvoy, B McIntosh of Hudnall, L Moser, L Newby, L Roper;

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

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

Communications Committee

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

B Bakewell, L Best (Chairman), L Clement-Jones, B Deech, L Dubs, B Fookes, B Hanham, B Healy of Primrose Hill, L Horam, Bp Norwich, L Razzall, B Scotland of Asthal, L Sherbourne of Didsbury;

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

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

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

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

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

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

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

Consolidation etc. Bills Committee

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

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

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

Constitution Committee

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

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

L Brennan, L Crickhowell, L Cullen of Whitekirk, B Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B Falkner of Margravine, L Goldsmith, L Lang of Monkton (Chairman), L Lester of Herne Hill, L Lexden, L Powell of Bayswater, B Taylor of Bolton, B Wheatcroft;

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

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

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

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

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

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

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

Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee

That a Select Committee be appointed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B Andrews, L Bourne of Aberystwyth, B Drake, B Farrington of Ribbleton, B Fookes, C Mar, L Marks of Henley-on-Thames, B O’Loan, B Thomas of Winchester (Chairman), V Ullswater;

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

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

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

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

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

Economic Affairs Committee

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

B Blackstone, L Carrington of Fulham, L Griffiths of Fforestfach, L Hollick (Chairman), L Lawson of Blaby, L McFall of Alcluith, L May of Oxford, L Monks, B Noakes, L Rowe-Beddoe, L Shipley, L Skidelsky, L Smith of Clifton;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

European Union Committee

That a Select Committee be appointed:

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

The expression “European Union document” includes in particular:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

L Boswell of Aynho (Chairman), E Caithness, L Cameron of Dillington, B Corston, B Eccles of Moulton, L Foulkes of Cumnock, L Harrison, B Hooper, L Kerr of Kinlochard, L Maclennan of Rogart, B O’Cathain, B Parminter, B Prashar, B Quin, E Sandwich, B Scott of Needham Market, L Tomlinson, L Tugendhat, L Wilson of Tillyorn;

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

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

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

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

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

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

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

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

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

House Committee

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

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

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

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

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

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

Human Rights Committee

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

To consider:

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

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

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

To report to the House:

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

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

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

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

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

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

(c) the order should not be approved;

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

That the following members be appointed to the Committee:

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

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

That the quorum of the Committee shall be two;

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

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

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

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

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

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

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

Hybrid Instruments Committee

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

L Addington, L Grantchester, L Harrison, L Luke, B Perry of Southwark, L Quirk, L Swinfen;

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

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

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

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

Information Committee

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

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

L Aberdare, L Black of Brentwood, B Donaghy (Chairman), L Lipsey, E Lytton, B Massey of Darwen, L Mawson, L Maxton, L Norton of Louth, B Seccombe, L Sharkey, B Stedman-Scott, L Strasburger;

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

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

Liaison Committee

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

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

B Browning, L Campbell-Savours, L Craig of Radley, L Hill of Oareford, L Laming, B Royall of Blaisdon, L Touhig, V Ullswater, L Wallace of Tankerness, B Walmsley;

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

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

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

National Security Strategy Committee

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

L Boateng, L Clark of Windermere, B Falkner of Margravine, L Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L Levene of Portsoken, L MacGregor of Pulham Market, L Mitchell, B Neville-Jones, L Ramsbotham, L West of Spithead;

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

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

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

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

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

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

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

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

Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST)

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

L Haskel, L Oxburgh, E Selborne, L Winston.

Privileges and Conduct Committee

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

B Anelay of St Johns, L Bassam of Brighton, L Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, L Eames, L Hill of Oareford, L Hope of Craighead, L Irvine of Lairg, L Laming, L Mackay of Clashfern, L Newby, B Royall of Blaisdon, B Scotland of Asthal, V Ullswater, L Wallace of Tankerness;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Procedure Committee

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

B Anelay of St Johns, L Bassam of Brighton, L Blencathra, L Butler of Brockwell, L Campbell-Savours, B D’Souza, L Greaves, L Hill of Oareford, B Hollis of Heigham, L Laming, B McIntosh of Hudnall, L Newby, L Patel, L Roper, B Royall of Blaisdon, L Skelmersdale, L Wakeham, L Wallace of Tankerness;

That the following members be appointed as alternate members:

B Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, V Craigavon, L Faulkner of Worcester, V Montgomery of Alamein, L True;

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

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

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

Refreshment Committee

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

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

L Colwyn, L Curry of Kirkharle, B Doocey, L Fink, B Gould of Potternewton, B Jenkin of Kennington, L Kennedy of Southwark, L Mawson, L Newby, L Palmer of Childs Hill, L Pendry, B Wall of New Barnet;

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

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

Science and Technology Committee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

That a Select Committee be appointed to scrutinise secondary legislation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(e) that the explanatory material laid in support provides insufficient information to gain a clear understanding about the instrument’s policy objective and intended implementation;

(f) that there appear to be inadequacies in the consultation process which relates to the instrument.

(3) The exceptions are-

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

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

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

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

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

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

B Andrews, L Bichard, L Borwick, L Bowness, L Eames, L Goodlad (Chairman), B Hamwee, B Humphreys, L Plant of Highfield, B Stern, L Woolmer of Leeds;

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

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

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

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

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

Standing Orders (Private Bills) Committee

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

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

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

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

Statutory Instruments Committee

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

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

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

Works of Art Committee

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

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

L Cormack, L Crathorne, V Falkland, L Finkelstein, B Gale, L Harries of Pentregarth, L Luce, B Maddock (Chairman), B Rawlings, B Rendell of Babergh, L Roberts of Llandudno, L Turnberg;

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

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

Affordable Childcare Committee

That a Select Committee be appointed to consider issues relating to affordable childcare, and to make recommendations, and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:

B Gould of Potternewton, B Kennedy of Cradley, B Massey of Darwen, B Neville-Rolfe, B Noakes, B Morris of Bolton, L Patel, L Sawyer, B Shephard of Northwold, L Sutherland of Houndwood (Chairman), B Tyler of Enfield, B Walmsley;

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

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

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

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

That the Committee do report by 5 March 2015;

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

Arctic Committee

That a Select Committee be appointed to consider recent and expected changes in the Arctic and their implications for the UK and its international relations, and to make recommendations, and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:

L Addington, L Ashton of Hyde, B Browning, L Hannay of Chiswick, V Hanworth, L Hunt of Chesterton, L Moynihan, L Oxburgh, L Soley, B Symons of Vernham Dean, L Teverson (Chairman), L Tugendhat;

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

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

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

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

That the Committee do report by 5 March 2015;

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

Digital Skills Committee

That a Select Committee be appointed to consider information and communications technology, competitiveness and skills in the United Kingdom, and to make recommendations, and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:

L Aberdare, E Courtown, L Giddens, L Haskel, L Holmes of Richmond, B Garden of Frognal, L Janvrin, L Kirkwood of Kirkhope, L Lucas, L Macdonald of Tradeston, B Morgan of Huyton (Chairman), B O’Cathain;

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

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

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

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

That the Committee do report by 5 March 2015;

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

Extradition Committee

That a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report on the law and practice relating to extradition, in particular the Extradition Act 2003, and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:;

L Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, L Empey, L Hart of Chilton, B Hamwee, L Henley, L Hussain, L Inglewood (Chairman), B Jay of Paddington, L Jones, L Mackay of Drumadoon, L Rowlands, B Wilcox;

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

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

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

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

That the Committee have leave to report from time to time, and no later than 5 March 2015;

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

My Lords, I fear that it is that time of year again, as the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees put it when we last approved our EU Committee on 16 May 2013. Everything I said then remains valid for this proposed committee. Its composition is heavily Europhile with, so far as I can see, only two mildly Eurosceptic Peers out of its 19 proposed members, of whom at least eight are among the most ardent Europhiles in your Lordships’ House. I accept that the noble Lord’s task is not easy and that your Lordships’ House is a very Europhile place, perhaps because it contains so many former EU Commissioners and employees in receipt of forfeitable EU pensions, and so many former Foreign Secretaries and Ministers of the Crown who have played their part in this great country paying billions a year to Brussels to take our sovereignty from us. Indeed, I estimate that there are perhaps only eight out of roughly 750 active Peers in your Lordships’ House who are prepared to say publicly that we should leave the EU forthwith, without the charade of renegotiating the terms of our membership.

That is why I have been asking the Prime Minister to fulfil his commitment to make the composition of this House better reflect the votes cast at the previous general election. It is not because I agree with that policy, which is clearly very misguided. I imagine we all agree that one of the great strengths of your Lordships’ House is precisely that it does not reflect the composition of the House of Commons. However, I have been using the Prime Minister’s promise in an attempt to get some improvement on the present imbalance, to which I have referred. I should now correct last Saturday’s BBC News coverage in this respect because I never asked for the 23 new UKIP Peers which our vote at the previous general election would indicate. I have suggested four, or perhaps six, but without success.

I ask yet again whether we need six EU sub-committees, whose resources could be redistributed over many other subject areas where your Lordships’ House does such valuable work for the nation. In other areas, apart from the EU, I submit that your Lordships are often more in touch with British public opinion and interest than is the House of Commons, which is why your Lordships’ reports on those subjects are so respected by the nation.

By contrast, our EU reports are routinely ignored here and in Brussels where it is hard to find a recommendation that has been accepted. Between January 2010 and June 2013, the latest period for which figures are available, the scrutiny reserve of our committees was overridden 298 times in either or both Houses— 235 times in your Lordships’ House alone. Not that Brussels appears to take much notice of our Government’s views either. Our Government have been outvoted in the Council of Ministers on every one of the 55 objections they have raised against new EU legislation since 1996.

I suggest we reject this Motion today and respectfully request the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees to return with a more balanced composition for the committee and without our agreement for any sub-committees at all.

I conclude by suggesting that the first task of our new committee should be to report to the British people how EU law-making, which makes so much of our national law, actually works, of which they are at present largely ignorant. I suggest it would be helpful, as we approach renegotiation of the treaty of Rome, if our people understood how the unelected EU Commission has the sole right to propose all EU legislation, which it does in secret; how those proposals are then negotiated, still in secret, in COREPER—the Committee of Permanent Representatives, bureaucrats appointed by the member states—and how the proposals then go to the Council of Ministers for further clandestine discussion; and to the EU Parliament, with its powers of codecision. Such a report would also explain why the appointment of the next President of the Commission is so important, which at the moment the people do not understand at all. They are beginning to cotton on that the whole project is wildly anti-democratic, but they do not know why. I think they should be told. The BBC refuses to do it, so I suggest that the first report of our new committee should fill this vital gap in our people’s understanding of our arrangements with the European Union. I look forward to the noble Lord’s reply.

I do not want to delay matters, but I want to mention briefly these facts. On becoming a commissioner, a man or woman is required to swear an oath of loyalty to the European Union, which, to my mind, is incompatible with, for example, the oath which one swears as a privy counsellor, and when one retires from the Commission and draws a pension, that pension is dependent on the continuing loyalty of the former commissioner, who is enjoined not to do or say anything which would be to the detriment of the European Union. That seems to present a man or woman with the problem of two masters. I think it unwise that we should exacerbate that conflict by placing such people on the European Union Committee.

My Lords, I will not enter into an argument with the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, on the general points, but on the specific, as a former member of the European Union Committee, I think he has to be challenged on questioning whether there is a need for the number of sub-committees. Your Lordships ought to be reminded that one of the objectives of scrutiny is to hold our own Government to account. Rightly or wrongly, the amount of work involved covering the number of topics involved is such that to reduce the number of sub-committees, which have already been reduced from seven to six, would have a very adverse effect on that vital work of holding our own Government to account, never mind making our contribution and input into the policy of the European Union.

My Lords, as we have entered into a general debate on the Motion of the Chairman of Committees, I shall raise one other point. No one is more in awe than I am of the enormous workload of the Chairman of Committees, but as a comparatively new Member of your Lordships’ House—I think I have not yet achieved my 16th year —I remain in a state of some befuddlement about which of the various committees that the Chairman of Committees has put before us today is in charge of what, what their lines of accountability are, what decision-making powers they have and to whom they report. Would it be possible for the Chairman of Committees, not today, but on a future occasion, to lay before this House a statement which makes all that abundantly clear?

The sting was in the tail, was it not? I shall deal with the questions not necessarily in the order they were asked.

The question about pensions raises a number of issues. I am grateful that both noble Lords who made the point about former EU commissioners did not personalise it and did not in any way attempt to say that there was any dishonourable behaviour attached to the activities of those Members. I think the whole House would recognise that. For the sake of clarification, the important point is that if a Member thinks there is the possibility of a conflict here, his route is to seek the advice of the registrar. I know that the registrar has been consulted on those issues in a general way previously and the registrar has taken the view—I think properly—that no conflict arises. I do not think any criticism can be placed on the activities of those Members who are in that position. I hope we have now heard the last of that. It is repeated from time to time, from year to year. There is now a clear, authoritative resolution of that point, and I hope we can move on.

On the representation of the UKIP voice, the Committee of Selection acts on the basis of names that come forward from the parties and from the Convenor on behalf of the Cross Benches. Clearly, under our system, three UKIP Members do not constitute a political group. However, if anybody thought that they had a claim or that their voice should rightly and properly be heard on a committee, they have direct access to the committee through writing to me. I would ensure that any letter advancing a name was placed before the Committee of Selection when the composition of a committee was being considered.

I do not, alas, follow the logic of the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch. I take it he accepts the proposition of his leader that 75% of our laws are made, or are in effect made, by Brussels. I do not necessarily accept that figure, but if it is anywhere near that figure, I would have thought he would have been asking for more and greater scrutiny rather for a reduction in the number of scrutiny committees.

My Lords, the point I was trying to make to the noble Lord and your Lordships is that it does not matter what the committee or the Government think. They are routinely outvoted in Brussels. The scrutiny reserve is routinely overridden: 235 times in the past two years. I do not wish to prolong the debate. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his courteous—but, I am afraid, inadequate—reply.

Motions agreed.

G7

Statement

My Lords, with the leave of the House I will now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place. The Statement is as follows.

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a Statement on last week’s G7 summit in Brussels.

This was a G7 rather than a G8 because of Russia’s unacceptable actions in Ukraine. Right from the outset, the G7 nations have been united in support for Ukraine and its right to choose its own future, and we have sent a firm message that Russia’s actions have been totally at odds with the values of our group of democracies.

At the summit, we kept up the pressure on Russia. We agreed that the status quo is unacceptable and the continuing destabilisation of eastern Ukraine must stop. We insisted that Russia must recognise the legitimate election of President Poroshenko, it must stop arms crossing the border into Ukraine and it must cease support for separatist groups. And we agreed that wide-ranging economic sanctions should remain on the table if Russia did not follow this path of de-escalation, or if it launched a punitive trade war with Ukraine in response to Kiev proceeding with the trade aspects of its association agreement with the European Union.

I made those points directly to President Putin when I met him in Paris on the eve of the D-day commemorations. The inauguration of President Poroshenko has created a new opportunity for diplomacy to help to establish a proper relationship between Ukraine and Russia. I urged President Putin to ensure that this happens. It is welcome, I believe, that he met President Poroshenko in Normandy and that Moscow and Kiev are now engaging each other again. It is important that we continue to do what we can to sustain the positive momentum. We also agreed to help Ukraine to achieve greater energy security by diversifying its supplies.

The G7 also continued the work we began last year at Lough Erne to deal with the cancer of corruption, with further agreements on what I call the “three Ts” of greater transparency, fairer taxes and freer trade. We made good progress in working towards common global standards of transparency in extractive industries. We agreed to push forward with establishing new international rules to stop companies artificially shifting their profits across borders to avoid taxes, and we agreed to make a concerted push on finalising bilateral trade deals as soon as possible. This included the EU-Canada and EU-Japan deals, but of course also the EU-US deal, which we launched at Lough Erne last summer. I believe this is one of the greatest opportunities to turbo-charge the global economy and could be worth up to £10 billion for Britain alone.

With these agreements, the Lough Erne agenda on transparency, tax and trade has been hard-wired into these international summits, I believe, for many years to come. There was also a good discussion on climate change, where the recent announcements by the US make a potential agreement next year more achievable, and we should do what we can to make that happen.

In my bilateral meeting with President Obama, we discussed what I believe is the greatest threat to our security: how we counter extremism and the terrorist threat to our people at home and abroad. We agreed to intensify our efforts to address the threat of foreign fighters travelling to and from Syria, which is now the top destination in the world for jihadists. And here in Britain, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will be introducing a new measure to enable prosecution of those who plan and train for terrorism abroad. In Libya, we are fulfilling our commitment to train the Libyan security forces, with the first tranche of recruits arriving in the United Kingdom yesterday. And on Nigeria, we reaffirmed our commitment to support President Jonathan’s Government and the wider region in confronting the evil of Boko Haram. We continue to help address the tragedy of the abducted schoolgirls.

Finally, in all my recent meetings with European leaders, and again at the summit in Sweden yesterday, there was discussion about the top jobs in Europe. The European elections, I believe, sent a clear message right across the continent: the European Union needs to change. It is vital that politicians across Europe respond to the concerns of their people, and that means having institutions in Europe which understand the need for reform. And it means having people at the head of these institutions who understand that if things go on as they have done, the European Union is not going to work properly for its citizens.

Quite apart from the entirely valid concerns about the proposed people in question, there is a fundamental point of principle on which we must not budge. As laid down in EU law, it is for the European Council to make its own nomination for President. This is the body that is made up of the elected leaders of the European nations, and it is not for the European Parliament to try to impose its will on the democratically elected leaders of 28 member states.

Prime Minister Reinfeldt, Prime Minister Rutte of the Netherlands, Chancellor Merkel and I also agreed on the work programme for the new Commission: completing the single market, energising trade deals and making further progress on deregulation—a clear focus on jobs and growth. We also agreed that the Commission must work together to address the abuse of free movement so that people move across Europe for work but not for welfare. These were important agreements from like-minded European leaders who share my determination to deliver a reformed European Union.

Finally, amid the various meetings of the past week, I was able to attend the very special commemorations for the 70th anniversary of D-day in Normandy. Attending the vigil at Pegasus Bridge—marking the moment the first glider touched down on French soil—was a fitting moment to reflect on the importance of our collective defence, something that will be at the heart of the NATO summit in Wales this September. Above all, it was a moment to remember the sheer bravery and sacrifice of all those who gave their lives for our future.

The veterans who made it to Normandy are quite simply some of the most remarkable people I have ever had the privilege and pleasure of meeting. I will never forget the conversations that I had that night and, indeed, the next day. Our gratitude for their service and sacrifice must never wane, and neither should our resolve to protect the peace that they fought for.

I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Leader for repeating the Statement, and the noble Baroness the Chief Whip for agreeing to take this short exchange today rather than yesterday. I am sure that the whole House will be grateful for this flexibility.

Just one week after the anniversary of D-day, I take this opportunity to pay tribute on behalf of my Benches to all those involved in the commemorations, especially the veterans, who are truly extraordinary. Their stories were deeply moving, their fortitude a lesson to us all, and we owe a great debt of gratitude to them, and to the thousands who lost their lives, for their courage in fighting against fascism to safeguard the freedoms which we enjoy but too often take for granted. They were remarkable people who risked, and too often gave, their lives for our country. It is now our duty to ensure that we continue to honour them and their memories so that our children, our children’s children and future generations know about the service and sacrifice of those who went before us.

Before turning to the G7, let me echo the comments made by the Leader’s right honourable friend the Prime Minister about the European Commission President. The message from the European elections was clear: we need reform in Europe, and we need people in top jobs in Europe willing and able to pursue that agenda. The appointments of a new Commission and President now provide a vital opportunity to pursue this much needed European reform, which must be seized and not squandered. The Prime Minister is right to acknowledge that, but he might have had more influence if the discussions had been less personalised and more diplomatic. The negotiations might also have been easier if his colleagues in the European Parliament had not joined forces with parties that hold dubious views, including some which sat with UKIP in the previous Parliament. I still hope that the Prime Minister will make the necessary progress in the appointment of that key post.

The central issues of the G7 communiqué were the global economy, international development, climate change and Ukraine, and I will briefly address each. On the global economy, trade is a key engine for achieving that priority. It is important to work to reduce trade barriers while respecting states’ rights to regulate, which is why we support the EU-US trade agreement. What discussions has the Prime Minister had with EU leaders and President Obama on whether the TTIP negotiations are on track and when they are likely to be completed? Can the Minister reassure the House that there will be no impact on our public services, and in particular on the NHS? Can the noble Lord say what specific discussions have been held to ensure that the NHS will be excluded from any future agreement?

On tax and transparency, I trust that the Government are doing everything possible to ensure that the bold promises of the Lough Erne declaration are not watered down in practice. Last year we welcomed the OECD’s work to tackle tax avoidance and it was promised that developing countries would be part of that process. Can the Leader assure the House that will be the case going forward?

We support the conclusions on international development, and recognise and welcome the actions that have been taken by the Government. However, we still look forward to the Government bringing forward a Bill to enshrine the 0.7% aid target and would give that measure our strongest support.

Climate change is an enormous threat to our planet and is inextricably linked to many of the problems faced by the world, including poverty and migration. The agreement of a new international framework for tackling climate change is hugely important, and the G7 statement on that is very welcome. Britain and the EU can play a leading role in achieving a deal. One of the keys to success in Paris in 2015 will be to make good on the promise of climate finance made in Copenhagen. Can the noble Lord inform the House of when the UK will make money available for that and assure us that the Government are working to secure timely contributions from the other G7 members?

Finally, on Ukraine, following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, it was right for G7 countries to boycott this year’s G8 summit, which would have taken place in Sochi. This crisis has been the West’s most serious confrontation with Russia since the end of the Cold War, and there had to be consequences for Russia’s actions.

Secondly, we welcome the swearing-in of President Poroshenko and his first act of offering political concessions to the Russian-speaking east. I also join the Leader in welcoming the initial engagement between President Putin and President Poroshenko. Following the Ukrainian President’s commitment to sign an association agreement with the EU, has the Prime Minister received any assurances from President Putin in his bilateral meeting that there would be no further Russian aggression in response to that action?

Thirdly, we see the continuing volatile situation in eastern Ukraine and the rising violence in south-eastern Ukraine with growing concern. During the Prime Minister’s conversations with President Putin, did he seek assurances that Russia will accelerate its withdrawal of troops from the border with Ukraine and stop the flow of weapons and pro-Russian insurgents into the country? This G7 meeting was a demonstration of the unity of international action. It was right for the G7 to call for a de-escalation of the situation, the need to work towards a diplomatic solution and continuing to maintain the pressure on Russia. In taking that action the Government have our full support.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her response. I very much agree with her opening remarks about D-day and the importance of continuing to honour the memory of those brave men and women. Perhaps there was a time a few years ago when people were worried about young people being unaware of the contribution people made in the past in the Great War and the Second World War, and that they might forget it. However, from the response there has been in the run-up to the commemoration of the Great War, and in particular from the response to seeing those veterans going to D-day, it is very clear that there is very little danger of that, which is extremely good news.

I welcome the support that the Leader of the Opposition gave to the principled stand that the Prime Minister is taking on the question of who should appoint the President of the Commission. I am grateful that the Labour Party made it clear that they support Britain’s position on that, as are my noble friends in the Liberal Democrat party. All three party groups are united in thinking that the proper procedure should be observed, and that that appointment should be made by the members of the Council and not by the European Parliament.

As regards whether progress on TTIP is on track, there have been a number of meetings between my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, his colleagues in the EU and the United States to take that forward. A specific deadline for making further progress was not agreed at the G7, but it was certainly very clear that the pressure is being kept up on that, and that will continue.

The Leader of the Opposition asked whether there will be any danger to the NHS if we conclude that trade deal—which would have a huge beneficial effect on our economy. The way that healthcare is delivered would continue to be decided by national Governments; TTIP would not weaken regulation or lead to the privatisation of the NHS, or itself increase the rights of access to the NHS for private providers of clinical services. I know that there are concerns about that, and I am sure that the party opposite and others will want to keep a close eye on that. However, pursuing the trade deal and its conclusion should not carry the risk about which the noble Baroness is concerned.

On tax and transparency, I can report quite good progress. The UK’s position is that we want to make sure that countries sign up to the tax tool that was created so that we can see where profits are being earned. That is going quite well. Led by Britain, 44 countries have signed up to that already. There are also other measures, such as the small business Bill in the Queen’s Speech, which will include measures to establish a public register of company beneficial ownership information, which will be welcome. The Government have also just completed a consultation on increasing transparency in the extractive sector. So we can report solid progress on that.

On international aid, our position is that the target of 0.7% is being met and Britain is leading the rest of the world in its contribution to international aid. I know that the whole House supports that.

Climate change is an extremely important issue, as the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, reminded us. Britain and the EU can play a leading role in helping to achieve a deal, and President Obama has given some encouraging signs in that direction. I agree with the noble Baroness that we need to make sure that the EU has the political will to ensure that collectively we are in the right position on that. There is a push to make further progress on that by September.

I think we are in broad agreement on the position that the United Kingdom has adopted on Ukraine. I welcome the noble Baroness’s support for the decision to exclude Russia from the G8 and to have a meeting of the G7. There is hope with the election of President Poroshenko; this is a moment where one might try to make some progress. I understand that the Prime Minister, in his discussions with President Putin, emphasised some of the points that the noble Baroness raised about the importance of continuing to withdraw Russian troops. However, he also raised particular points about the supply of weaponry. Reports suggested that the kind of weaponry available to the separatists is quite heavy-duty military weaponry, and it is fairly obvious where that comes from; he certainly emphasised that point as well.

Overall, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I hope that I have answered the points she raised in all these areas and that we can continue to work in the same direction.

My Lords, I echo the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, in welcoming the decision to exclude the Russians from the G7 and G8 meeting, if only as a strong message, which I hope was firmly received, that we strongly disapprove of Russia’s behaviour in the Ukrainian situation. Nevertheless, I ask the Minister for an assurance that we and our EU colleagues will maintain a dialogue with the Russian Government, not least on the extremely dangerous situations in Syria and Iraq. Both the Russians and ourselves share a strong interest in warding off the infection that we are likely to suffer from that situation. In that context, can the Minister tell us anything about any movement to resume diplomatic relations with the Syrian Government in Damascus?

On the last point, I do not have any information to give the noble Lord. The Government’s position on the Assad regime has not changed. I take his points about the broader dangers across the region; we have all watched with great concern the developing situation in Iraq, which adds to those concerns. I take the force of the point that he makes.

As for discussions with President Putin, the noble Lord strikes the right note. We needed to exclude him from that meeting to send a very strong message, and to impose the range of sanctions that we did. With regard to the effect that they have contributed to the impact on the Russian economy, recent figures suggest that their economy has shrunk in the first quarter of this year. Capital flight has been considerable and projections of growth for the rest of the year are being reduced downwards significantly. So they are having an impact. But I also take his point that, at the same time as sending that strong message, to take an opportunity by having direct contact—partly to reinforce it but also to have a channel open on some of those broader issues—is the right way forward.

My Lords, I welcome the Statement and add our tributes to the D-Day events in Normandy.

I have two questions for the Minister. The first relates to the Statement in relation to Boko Haram and President Jonathan in Nigeria. What is the involvement of other G7 countries in this matter? Since we have not received any further resolution on the abducted girls, what further action can we take to help Nigeria in that matter?

My second point relates to our involvement in the training of the Libyan security forces, which are in this country now. What assurances have we received from the Libyan Government about their co-operation in identifying those responsible for the fatal shooting of Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy some years ago?

My Lords, my noble friend is right to raise the importance of the point about Libya and the training of security forces. The first group of Libyans to come to the UK for training arrived earlier this week; we will train 2,000 Libyans and help them to prepare for their role. On the point about Yvonne Fletcher and the nature of those discussions, I need to see whether I can provide him with any further information.

As for Boko Haram, Britain has been playing a leading role, along with others. I know that it was discussed in the margins of the meetings that have been going on this week, led by the Foreign Secretary, to deal with the whole question of violence in war and conflict. If I have any further specific information, I shall come back to the noble Lord. The general position is that we are continuing to do all that we can, but at the moment there is no further specific information on the latest developments.

I welcome the growing clarity on the G7’s reaction to Russia in relation to east Europe. Where I am much more troubled is on the lack of a clear foreign policy response by the G7 to developments in the Middle East, which are not new. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has been occupying parts of Iraq since the beginning of this year, and it is almost inevitably moving towards a wider regional war within the Middle East. Therefore, I am concerned that the G7 is not paying the sort of attention to this that it needs to pay. A number of western countries, including our own, need a clear foreign policy on this, which will take quite a bit of working out. It will not be easy, but we really need it, as it is a very serious situation.

I very much agree with the noble Lord on the importance of doing that. In the short term, I know that the Minister in the Foreign Office is meeting the Iraqi Foreign Minister today. Clearly, we need to do what we can to provide what assistance we can. In the first instance, this is very much the responsibility of the Iraqis to take the lead on; they have a properly elected Government and they have their own security forces. But on the noble Lord’s broad point about the need to focus on this within the G7 or EU or whatever, and to work up a concerted approach and devote energy to doing that, I agree with him entirely.

My Lords, clearly, the action by the Russian Government in relation to Crimea and Ukraine has totally changed the position on the G7’s relationship with Russia. That being so, it is obviously important to look at our defence position. While I hope that we have a clear position with regard to NATO and military matters, we appear to be absurdly vulnerable on economic matters, where President Putin is said to have shown a considerable interest in the ability of countries to use economic pressure to achieve their aims. That being so, was our response to the Russian actions not really very inadequate? Indeed, the only real sanctions were largely imposed by the markets, rather than by Governments. The vulnerability of Germany in particular, and other European countries, to the control by the Russians of gas to those countries, means that we have not been able to respond as would have been appropriate.

The Statement refers to diversification of supply of gas. I hope that my noble friend can spell it out a little more that we really are taking positive action to make sure that we are not dependent on Russian gas within the G7 countries generally, as we are at present.

I very much take the point about the importance of ensuring that there is diversification around energy supply, and a number of measures are in hand in the EU and through the G7 to try to take that forward. On sanctions more generally, I would argue that the steps taken so far have made a contribution. I understand my noble friend’s point about the importance of the power of markets to drive that, as well, but the combination of sanctions and markets is having the effect that I alluded to on the Russian economy. It is also the case, with regard to the adequacy of that response, that work is going on through the European Union. If Russia either destabilises the situation further or causes more difficulties with Ukraine over its signing of the accession agreement, urgent work has been going on to work up a range of sector-wide sanctions to hit various areas, whether it is defence, finance or energy. Therefore, I agree with my noble friend that we need to do that work and make it clear to Russia that, if we have to take further steps, we will do so.

My Lords, does the Leader of the House recognise the tactical problems and dangers to the national interest of this country in our taking such a strong personal lead against M Juncker? He is, after all, the favourite candidate, Chancellor Merkel still appears to be supporting him and he will offer us no favours if eventually he is elected. On Ukraine and relations with Russia, I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Wright, said. Yes, Russia annexed Crimea and is already paying a price economically in terms of market confidence and the rating agencies, and diplomatically in terms of its isolation. However, there are many areas where we need to engage with Russia, such as on arms control, Syria and Iran. During this difficult period, in what ways will we seek to engage with Russia on areas of mutual interest?

I will not reiterate the points I made to the noble Lord, Lord Wright, on striking the right balance between ensuring that there are consequences of taking action of which the entire international community disapproves and accepting the need to make sure that channels are kept open. Therefore, I agree with the noble Lord’s basic point. On the point about the top job, I think it is fair to say that from the beginning the Prime Minister adopted a position of principle both on who should make the relevant decision and on the attributes that one should look for in selecting someone to do the job. His argument was that the recent elections clearly show that there is widespread appetite for a different approach. However, for there to be a different approach you have to have someone leading the Commission who is open to that. That is the argument that the Prime Minister has made. It is an argument based on principle, not personalities. I accept that the media have reported the issue as one of personalities, but it seems to me that it is quite right for a Prime Minister to argue for something that he believes is right. One needs to make those arguments in a number of ways and sometimes you need to lead from the front.

I agree with what the noble Lord has just said and I agree with the Statement that he was good enough to repeat. In particular I agree that the power of nomination rests with the Heads of Government meeting in the European Council. They get the first word. Everything that was said in the Statement is true and I support it. However, it is important to bear in mind also that the Parliament gets the last word. Whoever is nominated by the European Council does not take office unless they are approved by an absolute majority in the Parliament. It therefore follows that the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, is important. The company the British Conservatives choose to keep in Strasbourg may affect the chances of a nominee known to have British support securing the necessary absolute majority in the Parliament. My second point is that for the very first time the nominations of the European Council will be made by qualified majority, so tactics that were appropriate in the past when the decision was made by unanimity, and every Head of Government therefore had a veto, are not necessarily appropriate to the world of qualified majority.

My Lords, I know from my dim and distant memory of the Maastricht process, when fortunately I was sitting quietly in a little back room while the noble Lord did all the heavy lifting, what a wily tactician he is.

That was meant as a compliment, my Lords. Obviously the way the noble Lord explained the recent change in the process was correct. However, I come back to the point that the Prime Minister felt that he needed to argue from a position of principle in relation to the approval process and the kind of person one should look for. I am sure that the noble Lord’s successors and others made the same arguments about how to go about doing it. The Prime Minister thought that the right way forward was to set out his case and argue for it.

My Lords, on Ukraine, what assessment did the Government make of President Putin’s offer in 2010 to set up a free trade area from Lisbon to Vladivostok? Would that not have been the way forward? Do the Government think that the EU was wise to reply by instead offering Georgia, Moldova, Armenia and Ukraine free trade and association agreements, with their defence implications for the road to NATO, when Russia had been saying for years that it could not tolerate Crimea coming under the sphere of influence of Brussels or NATO? So, was it not the EU’s specific later offer to Ukraine that sparked the unfortunate situation in that country? If, as I suspect, the noble Lord replies that Russia’s annexation of Crimea was illegal under international law, would he care to comment on the legality of our disastrous invasion of Iraq, when at least China and France were against it in the Security Council?

I simply do not accept the underlying point that I suspect the noble Lord makes—namely, that the current travails in Ukraine and Crimea were caused by the EU. If one is looking to attribute blame—if that is the right word—for recent behaviour, it is far more straightforward to consider the illegal and unrecognised referendum in Crimea, the other action that was taken and the support given to people to destabilise it than to lay the blame on the EU. I note the wish expressed by the people of Ukraine to have a closer relationship with countries in the West, which was restated in the recent election.

My Lords, the chances of Russia surrendering Crimea, short of by war, must be nil. However, it seems to me of the utmost importance to make it very clear to Mr Putin that there must be no more Sudetenland initiatives in relation to any part of the former Russian empire. I very much bear in mind what Mr Putin said some years ago concerning the G8—namely, that Russia’s accession to the G8 was the defining achievement of his public career. He may very well have been totally sincere in that. Therefore, there should be not only negative sanctions, if needs be, but positive allurements as well, which may result in him accepting that it is not too late to come to the stool of penitence and to show that he has respect for international law and international obligations.

I very much agree with that; it is what everyone would want. Whether it is the stool of penitence or somewhere else, I hope that we can get to a point where we normalise relations and Russia rejoins the G8. However, certain things need to happen before that can come about.

English Parish Churches

Motion to Take Note

Moved by

My Lords, what a wonderful illustration this is of the value of your Lordships’ House. We pass from a Statement on the G7, with all its international implications and ramifications, to come to talk about the English parish church. I am exceptionally grateful to have this opportunity. Almost exactly two years ago I had a similar opportunity to talk about the importance of English cathedrals; so this is mark 2.

It is impossible to drive anywhere in my native county of Lincolnshire without being conscious of the centrality of the parish church in all the many communities of that large county. I could spend my 15 minutes—if I chose to, but I shall not—talking just about Lincolnshire’s parish churches, which are some of the greatest in the land. One thinks of: the magisterial spire of Louth, second only in height and equal in glory to that of Salisbury; the incredible Saxon-Norman minster church at Stow, in the tiniest of hamlets; or the most magisterial tower of any parish church in England at Boston—a landmark to seafarers for centuries. Then there are the tiny churches: Langton by Spilsby, a Georgian gem where Dr Johnson was a regular visitor to his friend Bennet Langton; Snarford, with its Westminster Abbey-quality memorials to the St Paul family; and many more.

My passion for churches began in my native county at the little church of Clee, once a tiny village between Grimsby and Cleethorpes that has now been swallowed up. The church, with its Saxon tower and its Norman nave, contains a tablet on one of the pillars in the nave recording the dedication by St Hugh of Lincoln in the reign of Richard I. That is where it all began for me, but when I came to another place almost exactly 44 years ago, the first campaign that I sought to lead was to get state aid for our parish churches. The first Private Member’s Bill that I introduced had the same objective. In my first book, Heritage in Danger, which I wrote way back in 1976, the future of the parish church loomed large. This issue has engaged me for a long time. I suppose that I ought to declare—although I have no pecuniary interest—that for more than 40 years I have been successively trustee and vice-president of what is now called the National Churches Trust. For 15 years, I was president of the Staffordshire Churches Trust; and for 30 years, I have been trustee or vice-president of the Lincolnshire Churches Trust.

Why? It is because I believe that it is in the parish churches of our land that we come closest to the soul and history of each community that the individual church serves. You can trace the ups and downs of the community economically by the extensions and reductions in size to churches. You can follow the history of the worthies of that community by studying their monuments and memorials. Even in this secular age, everyone who lives in England is a parishioner, lives in a parish, is entitled to the ministrations of the Church of England—whatever his or her race, creed or colour—and can enter the only public buildings that are always open and welcoming to people. Every single one of our fellow citizens has this inalienable right. They are buildings that speak of their communities, to their communities, for their communities. In almost every case, they remain the most prominent public buildings. They are not just places of worship, although that is their prime purpose and concern. They are places where the community can come together. They are places where concerts can be held. They are the focal point. In almost every village and small town in England, the parish church is the most prominent building.

Some people might say, “Why just concentrate on the parish churches? Are there not many more important religious buildings?”. Of course there are. Some who will take part in this debate have a particular interest in those. All the trusts with which I am involved give grants to all religious buildings, be they Roman Catholic churches, Quaker meeting houses or Methodist chapels. The real problem facing those who care about these things, however, rests with the Anglican churches because the Church of England has some 16,000 for which it is responsible—12,500 of which are listed buildings; 45% of grade 1 listed buildings in this country are church buildings, most of which are parish churches.

All this comes at a cost that is not primarily borne by the state, even though that campaign to which I referred was successful. It was a marvellous illustration of the fact that this issue crosses party boundaries that it was a Conservative Government who made the decision that state aid should be available but a Labour Government in 1974-75 who implemented it. We are also grateful to successive Governments, particularly to Gordon Brown when, as Chancellor the Exchequer, he gave a special grant to offset the fact that repairs to listed buildings, wrongly in my view, are eligible for VAT. Nevertheless, as long ago as 2004, English Heritage estimated that maintaining our parish churches cost £175 million a year, of which the churches themselves produced £115 million. I would hate to move towards the French system, whereby the fabric of all religious buildings is vested in the state. If you go to France you do not find that local patriotism and passionate concern, shared by believers and non-believers alike, for their parish church. When, however, that is considered in the context of wind farms or what we are planning with HS2, the amount of money that we are talking about to safeguard our parish churches is a very tiny sum indeed. We have to bear in mind that our churches and cathedrals are the most visited buildings in our country and are worth £350 million a year to the tourism economy—something to which your Lordships will be turning attention in the next debate.

There are always problems with buildings that are old, fragile and vulnerable. One has to guard against lead theft, vandalism and all things. I want, however, to talk briefly about a particular menace to many old churches, the menace of the bat. I became acutely conscious of this when I visited the wonderful collegiate church of Tattershall in Lincolnshire last summer, which has some of the most remarkable 15th-century brasses in the country. They are all being corroded by bat droppings. In many churches in our land the bat is a terrible problem. I shall quote from a letter that I received only this morning from the Church of England Parliamentary Unit:

“Where there are large colonies it can become intolerable. Churches were built for the worship of God by people. They were not built as nature reserves. The smell, the mess which has to be cleared up puts an intolerable burden on parishes, and in some cases is making the buildings unusable. We have heard of one instance where the vicar has to shake bat faeces out of her hair while celebrating communion at the altar … The impression is that the bats matter much more than the worshipping community—and this is exacerbated by the fact that Natural England have abrogated responsibility … to the Bat Conservation Trust, who are quite legitimately a pressure group”.

I also quote from an article in Ecclesiology Today by Dr Sally Badham, who says:

“Of course it is important that our native species should be protected, but I firmly believe that a much more realistic balance needs to be struck between bats’ needs and the protection of our national heritage and the health of people visiting and attending churches … We must wake up to the fact that we just cannot afford for our historic churches to be turned into bat barns”.

This is a subject that is not sufficiently aired, but it really is a very true danger. If this debate achieved only one thing—a better balance between the demands of English nature and the needs of the English heritage—I would be well content.

I hope other things will come from the debate too. I hope the Government—the Minister will respond to this—will recognise that targeted grants to anticipate problems, aimed at clearing gutters and repairing roofs, would be greatly helpful. I would like to see a special national heritage memorial fund to devote resources to church memorials and monuments. What more appropriate time to do that than when we are commemorating the centenary of the first Great War and approaching the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War? I would also like to see more young people encouraged not just to go to church services—that is the job of the church—but to recognise their intrinsic architectural and historical importance. These buildings are part of the warp and weft of our civilisation.

As a result of the debate I had two years ago, a campaign was mounted. In that debate I called for £50 million for cathedrals. It did not succeed, but this year in the Budget we got £20 million from the Chancellor. Of course he cannot open a purse at the Dispatch Box, but I hope when the Minister comes to reply he will promise to talk to ministerial colleagues about how a little really does go a long way in this context.

One of the enduring sounds of the English countryside and the English townscape is the bells of our churches. We have a unique tradition of campanology in this country. I was talking only yesterday to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, who encouraged me to talk about this briefly, saying how wonderful it would be if more young people took up what is the mathematical art of bell-ringing. If the bells could ring out from the parish churches of England, acknowledging the fact that your Lordships’ House had devoted some time to their future and that a Government had been generous in recognising their problems, I would be delighted indeed. The bells ringing out might even have the additional advantage of driving the bats out of the belfry.

My Lords, listening to that leaves me with a certain amount of bemusement. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for bringing this debate and subject to our attention. He was in what I can only call symphonic form, with that lovely opening movement, which I wanted to go for a lot longer, as we visited, through his experience and the music of his words, those rather picturesque places in Lincolnshire and other places. However, there was the sudden shock as a new movement was brought in, where the word “bats” suddenly changed everything and made me wonder how on earth to respond. As a Methodist, responding to a debate about the parish church is the equivalent of Pavlov’s dog responding to a bell. The opportunity to interfere in other people’s affairs is too great a temptation to neglect. We do not have belfries in Methodism, so I guess we do not have bats. I will leave that bit of it aside. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, then moved into that last scherzoid movement, where money came into it and the pace quickened. So did the temperature. I might achieve that myself by the time I finish my own remarks.

As a phrase, “the parish church” simply conjures up all kinds of images that are not dissimilar from the ones spoken of by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. Simon Jenkins in his lovely book gave us 1,000 of the best churches in England. Of course, nearly all of them were village churches in one place or another, and every single page was taken with high-definition photography. That showed us why it is lovely to be British and why it is nice to have a day in the countryside. The church I am responsible for, Wesley’s Chapel in London, crept in through the back door and is one of the 1,000, but only grudgingly. Simon Jenkins said that it was a bit of a mausoleum, really, spoilt by all those Victorian monuments. I thought he was referring to Westminster Abbey for a moment, but it was us. I will take him there one day and show him that it is better than he thinks.

There are then, of course, all those monumental works that we become accustomed to, such as Nikolaus Pevsner’s The Buildings of England: 46 volumes, cataloguing in great detail all the great buildings we are thinking about. John Betjeman did it in a different style and mood—how wonderful he was too as a character—helping us to see the importance of the parish church.

All these works point to the importance of our built heritage, but the large majority of these 16,000 churches to which the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, referred are in the countryside. Thomas Gray’s “Elegy”, of course, is almost imprinted on one’s heart: those roses “born to blush unseen” and waste their fragrance on a “desert air”. The rural community was served by these churches when they were isolated from each other and were communities in their own right. Since industrialisation and the arrival of the motorcar they have been on a tourist trail. They are visited much more often, but in their day, before the pre-emptive takeover of the Reformation and before industrialisation, they were positively quintessential places that drew the communities they served together. The dark satanic mills of England’s green and pleasant land drove our imagination into overdrive so that we could think of the parish church as just what we were losing, just what we wanted to keep at all costs.

We have rather fantasised the parish church in the course of these historical developments. Once upon a time, as well as worship, business was transacted in the church. People were at play in the church: they had banquets and parties in the church. Schools were run in the church. There were mystery plays in the church porch. Feasts were held. Then there was a rather puritanical moment when ale could not be served in church, so village halls got built. Suddenly all the fun things started happening in the village hall and the church was simply left for its spiritual purposes. That is a rather sad moment to record in the history of our land. I want to have fun in church; I do not want to have to go to a dingy little hall to do it. The harvest festival suppers I have been to in church halls, when there was a lovely space just across the road, do not leave me with happy memories.

Then has come the reinvention of the village, as wealthy people bought houses as rural retreats, or they became dormitories for commuters, or places where the retired emigrated to, or second homes for those with ample means. Suddenly the village was reinvented. It was no longer the community of people indigenous to it. The vision of the English countryside as “timeless”, dotted with ancient houses and an immemorial landscape, became what featured in our imaginations and on those railway posters from the early days of British Rail, attracting us to leave the cities and go into the countryside. Suddenly we were thinking about “The Archers”, “The Vicar of Dibley” and “Midsomer Murders”. They all brought a rather fantasised understanding of the village to our imagination. Villages progressively lost their doctor, their school, their garage, their pub, their shop and their post office. The church, too, should have gone under by way of those same market forces. However, the wealthy people who had come to live there put their hands in their pockets, organised events and signed cheques, and against the evidence of the market the village church was maintained.

Alongside all that—I am sorry about the history lesson but I have had to dispose myself against my natural inclinations in order to remind myself of the real importance of the parish church—there is the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and all the preservation societies that the noble Lord sits on, or has sat on for many years. Sir Roy Strong, in his history of the parish church, makes a rather different remark. He suggests that the word “preservation” has been unfortunate, that churches were great at adapting to their circumstances and at serving the needs of their generation, and that preservation seems to oblige us not to change a thing but to keep things exactly as they were. That is very difficult to imagine in an organism that is breathing and alive.

Those who think of the parish church in these idealised ways—Jane Austen, George Eliot and Anthony Trollope—have left their imaginative mark on our minds, but I want us to debunk some of that and take the parish church on its own terms. Be good and feel good about it but do not keep it as a kind of mothballed creature protected against the depredations of time.

I also want to bring the imagination into the cities, where parish churches also exist. I want to go from “Dibley” to “Rev.”. Shoreditch, where that was filmed, is just around the corner from where I live. So there are parish churches in cities as well as in the countryside, and they, too, do extraordinary things. The chapel that I serve is in a covenanted relationship with our parish church, St Giles Cripplegate. The sacred space has often become secular space in the cities, where space is at a premium, and we should remember that very seriously. In our little outfit, for example, as well as being a tourist attraction—we get tens of thousands of visitors a year to what is effectively a world heritage site—we have 60 or 70 non-governmental organisations or charities within half a mile of us, all because we are near the City of London. They are headquartered quite close to us and use our premises all the time. We introduce charitable bodies to each other so that critical mass might be achieved.

The boys’ school—a state school—just 100 yards from us uses our space. We invigilate examinations for children who have been excluded from school. We provide a safe space and proper invigilation not on school property. When Ramadan falls at a certain time of the year, Muslims come in and find a place where they can lay their mats, turn in the right direction and offer their prayers. When the forensics were being done for 7/7 and dreadful things were being done in the Honourable Artillery Company across the street, people who could no longer stomach what they were having to do month after month in the examination of human remains would come over for a cup of tea, which we were very happy to serve.

Extraordinary things can happen when you have that kind of space as your legacy. It is terribly important that the parish church should be understood to be any ecclesial body which, as well as having its own interests in the field of spirituality and worship, sees itself as being of public service. That should win the acclaim of people instead of the opprobrium that it too often gets.

We have a marvellous thing happening at the moment. The boys’ school that I mentioned has 150 teenage boys singing in a choir. To join the choir, they have to come to school an hour early. They have breakfast and then come to our place to practise their singing. A contingent of them is taking part in a performance of “The Armed Man” at the Albert Hall in September with children from Belgium, France and Germany to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War. All these things are energies that we can harness and give some focus to in the space that we have to administer. So let churches do the churchy thing, but let all of us remember that we have a service—

I am sorry; I did not want to break into what is a brilliant speech, but in a way the noble Lord is dealing with the very easy bit—he is talking about space being used in the cities. At some point can he briefly get back to the village church, where there is a serious problem? He said, “Don’t leave them mothballed”, but where you have one vicar now serving 10 churches, how do you do anything else with it?

I thank the noble Lord for that intervention. I am very happy to offer a reply as that is the very basis upon which Methodists have been organised since time began: with one minister for about 15 churches. Either I would advise the noble Lord to come and join us or I would be very happy to put appropriate documentation under his nose or the names of people he can talk to to help him with his problem.

I was into my concluding remarks and my overdrive—what the Welsh call “hwyl”—with an appeal to see the parish church in its most generic and ecumenical way. It is an appeal to recognise that in the kind of space that people like me are responsible for in our church lives, we see the tools or the premises that we have as being at the disposal of the society that we serve. If only others would see us in that way instead of in a sectarian way, the energies and synergies would be very extraordinary indeed.

My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for initiating this debate. I start by talking about St Mary’s Priory church in Abergavenny. I have never been to this church, although I hear that it is very good. However, the reason I raise it is that, when I heard that the debate was taking place, Mr Humphrey Amos, who works in the Whips’ Office for the Liberal Democrats, immediately said, “You must mention this church because there is an appeal going on at the moment for a roof fund and any plug will be particularly good”. So, even though he was useless at predicting the time of this debate, I promised him that I would raise it.

That perhaps goes to the heart of a lot of people’s views of parish churches. If the debate had taken place somewhat later in the Session, I think that there would have been a raft of letters asking us to mention particular churches which are at risk, where the roof is going or where funds are needed. Therefore, I am thankful that we started off quite early in the Session before there was a chance to get those letters. I know that many noble Lords will have taken part in drives to raise funds or have worked with their local community. Of course, this is not just a rural issue, because the parish church is not just a rural phenomenon. In town, you go to your parish church and each church suffers the same problems. In fact, that has been brought very much to people’s attention with the recent television series “Rev.”, which gives a very clear indication of it. One of the major plot lines is that the electrics are for ever on the blink and the priest does not have the money to replace them, so he is for ever looking at how he can deal with that problem.

Unfortunately, that is an issue that I come across in many rural churches. My own rural church is Holy Trinity in Horsley in Northumberland. We are in the most rural part of England. The vicar has to deal with six churches, some of which are 30 miles apart. It is quite a feat in itself to service that type of community. Even though we have a falling population—in Northumberland we have an ageing population and some of the rural areas are depopulating—I have always found it amazing that the churches are still seen as being at the heart of the community, and much effort goes in to keeping them in the condition they are in. It is hard to think of any other institution like that. The congregations have fallen but the churches are still in excellent condition and being used on a regular basis. The problem we face is that there has been a change in people’s perceptions of how they want to worship. The practice of turning up at church on a regular occasion is falling out of style with many of the population as people change the way in which they look at it

However, when a big occasion takes place, such as a wedding or a funeral, the church is then again the centre of the community and gets packed out. I went to a funeral recently in Holy Trinity and I learned a salutary lesson. If you go to a northern funeral you have to turn up extremely early because people go to the church and want to sit at the back. The closer you come to the actual time of the funeral, the further forward you end up. At a recent funeral I thought I would try to sneak in at the end, to show I was there, and I ended up sitting in the choir stalls right next to the coffin. It was almost an embarrassing experience.

To keep these churches going we have a raft of people who come forward to do the everyday necessities such as cleaning the gutters. We have a team who go round cleaning the gutters of the churches on a regular basis and looking after the churchyards. I cannot support the view of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, that we should start to cull bats. If they cause some damage it is probably acceptable because of the threat that bats are facing, and churches are a refuge.

There is an enormous amount of nature in rural churchyards. Indeed, one of the problems we have is that there are diverse mushrooms growing in the churchyard so that people have made forays looking for a certain type of magic mushroom.

That leads me to two points that I wish to raise. The problems for churches have ever been thus. They have grown and shrunk throughout history and are indicators of the state of their communities. One of the standard pieces of work of an archaeologist is to look at the size of a church and to realise when that community was much larger and much richer. This is especially true in the Cotswolds, where a great deal of money was made from wool. Of course, the Woolsack is based on that money and most of the churches were built with it. We therefore now have enormous churches serving much smaller communities.

An enormous amount of work and rebuilding was done on churches in the Victorian period, and many of the problems we are now having are caused by roofs which are coming to the end of their lives. That puts a great deal of strain and stress on the community.

Now that some of these churches have gone forward we have a big problem with churchyards; many of them are filling up and there is little space—even in rural communities—for them to expand. As a society we should perhaps go back to the Shakespearean view: Yorick was dug up because you only got 10 years underground before someone else was put in your place. We have to start thinking about how we are going to use churchyards.

I commend the work of the Church Conservation Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund in preserving our churches. I do not want to denigrate the work of English Heritage in ensuring that we preserve the historical nature of churches, but we should recognise that they are living buildings and have to move forward to meet certain needs. If we have to change the layout of churches to move with the times and ensure that people use these buildings, that is the best way of preserving parish churches.

Although there is a problem with failing congregations, churches are fundamental to the way in which people view the countryside—and not only the countryside but city churches as well. They have a future and will bring congregations together. However, we should not forget that they are living buildings and that, used properly, they can bring a community together.

On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, I do not believe that we should see them as the preserve of the Church of England—although the Church of England has to maintain the 16,000 buildings. In Holy Trinity, I encountered a not very large congregation, the majority of whom were from different faiths. However, they all came there to worship together because it is a centre in that small community.

We also need to consider the stress that is being placed on our parish priests. In the north-east we have a problem in funding and finding parish priests. It is a difficult job.

I commend the work of the bishops who manage this large edifice. I particularly recognise the work of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle, Bishop Martin, who is a fantastic inspiration. He goes round and talks to communities, especially about the difficulty in keeping these buildings maintained. He is a calming presence, puffing on his pipe, when he looks at church roofs, as I have done with him. I know he is retiring next year.

It sums up our view of churches that, although we consider them to be in peril, suffering and having difficulties, as you go round from village to village and see well kept churches in pristine condition, you know they have a future as the heart of the community.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for introducing this timely and necessary debate. As a non-conformist minister I would like the debate to widen and take on board the non-conformist churches which are responsible for a large proportion of the 55,000 church buildings in this country.

Many of the traditional church structures in this country are facing some serious challenges and are reviewing the uses of their buildings, assets and people. This is happening at the same time as the present Government are rightly encouraging a localism agenda, which potentially brings many opportunities to the churches, but I worry that the dots, in practice, are not being joined up.

I have been a minister in the United Reform Church for over 30 years and have experienced the best and worst of what the Christian denominations have to offer in this country. At their best, they have offered kindness, opportunity and a strong sense of community that has helped relieve social tensions and supported the most vulnerable in our society. At their worst, they have been closed-off, sadly sometimes inward-looking, with their heads in the sand if not in the clouds.

Where there are successful churches, I have seen a strong correlation between their actions and those of a well run small business or enterprise. Fundamentally, the churches are organisations with accounts, property, services and employees on the scale of a medium to large corporation. They have a business model of sorts that is based around the attendance and donations of the congregation. However, since many of the churches’ traditional social services were appropriated by the formation of the welfare state, many, but certainly not all, have lost sight of the practicalities of daily life, and the amount of red tape they now have to dance around has created a risk-averse culture. Better to do nothing than to take the risk of doing something and getting it wrong.

Arguably, this lack of clear focus and positive activity by the churches, rather than just a straightforward rise in secular beliefs, led to a drop in congregation numbers, breaking their fragile model and leading to a spiral of decline. That this decline has not been more pronounced is due to the assets the churches have, the disposal of which has allowed them to continue as if their present structures and often relative inaction were justifiable. It is not. It is not sustainable and, more importantly, it is causing many churches to fail to fulfil the vast majority of their social potential.

Some of our churches have still not responded to 1945. The problem is that generally they have turned their backs on business and enterprise and do not understand it. Often there is an ideological element to this, an anti-business mentality guided by well-meaning but naive ideas that capitalism is in some way immoral, that profit is theft, and that globalisation is really a gloss for exploitation. These were the views that predominated among the faith and social sectors when I first came to work as a minister in the East End of London in the early 1980s, and in my experience were in practice the drivers of poverty and a dependency culture in the area. We need only look at the protests at St Paul’s Cathedral in recent years to see that these attitudes still exist. Where there has not been outright hostility to business and enterprise, there has often been apathy and the growth of its symbiotic partner, a grants-based dependency culture.

The financial position and attitude of many, but not all, non-conformist churches in particular is not healthy, but these issues are endemic throughout Christian faith organisations. I know this from my first-hand experience of conducting consultancy work for churches across the nation. Here I must declare an interest as a director of the agency One Church, 100 Uses, a church-based social enterprise I created with colleagues to undertake this work and support churches in this endeavour. The key to transforming the situation is to embrace sound business principles. Our company recently undertook a piece of work with the Church in Wales, and I believe that our recommendations carry considerable resonance with the rest of the denominations across the United Kingdom.

If churches are going to survive and play a useful role in society and our buildings are to continue to inspire, Christian communities need to embrace the opportunities that, in time, the localism agenda may bring. They are certainly going to have to become more flexible to the needs of their communities as the next generation of young people grows up in an enterprise culture. Although mostly old and many in need of some attention, church buildings are actually assets, but because they are underused they often become liabilities, sapping the energy of the ministers and congregations who look after them. They need to be used more often and to become income generators. To achieve this requires some entrepreneurial ability. If that is not present in the immediate congregation, people need to look outside their usual comfort zone and build partnerships with sympathetic local small business people and entrepreneurs.

On our recent trip to Wales, we visited a church with an attached café. It was heavily subsidised by grants, a situation that is simply not going to be possible in the coming years. Over the road was a curry house, the winner of the Cardiff “Best Indian Restaurant” award 2011. Did that restaurateur know anything about the culture of churches? Probably not, but did he know something about how to make a small food-based business work in the local area? Actually, yes, he did. However, the church people had no idea of his existence. He was outside the realm of their understanding even though he was a member of the local community, because they had not thought to cross the road to speak to him and learn from him. When this is done, I can say from experience that interesting things happen. This is not just an isolated incident or a Welsh problem. It is a whole enclosed way of thinking that pervades the public sector as much as the churches.

Where there is some entrepreneurial flair within the church, it needs to be supported by a permissive attitude that sees the buildings as assets to be used and within which innovation and enterprise are encouraged alongside reflection, prayer and contemplation. Our beautiful ancient monasteries knew a great deal about this approach and embodied a culture of work and prayer that we need to engage with again. We are certainly actively doing this in the church I have been responsible for in Bromley-by-Bow, where with colleagues we have created over 50 businesses. That enterprise culture has helped to provide many hundreds of jobs and thousands of homes. There is nothing new here for Christianity.

The clergy are not generally regarded as the most entrepreneurial of people, and usually with good reason: you do not become a member of the cloth to open a haberdasher’s. However, for the clergy to be fully trained but ignorant of the very basics of business is irresponsible, if not inexcusable. A minister I spoke to recently said that by the time he had finished his theological training, he could not read a set of accounts, even though his church’s funds would ultimately be his responsibility. I find this baffling to say the least, but unfortunately not surprising. I would suggest that churches need to revisit their clergy recruitment and training and address this gaping hole in their education to give people the tools to put their natural creativity into practice.

Beyond the lack of entrepreneurs and a reluctance to move from a position of complacent decline, there are greater problems of leadership and management. As has already been mentioned, throughout the denominations there is an ever increasing number of church buildings that a single minister is becoming responsible for. It is a situation that is not going to attract good candidates to ministry or keep the current group fresh and motivated. Instead of being the salt and the yeast in the community and addressing social issues, ministers find themselves engaging in an endless round of services and meetings about property. If the churches are to embrace some of the opportunities presenting themselves in the localism agenda and the enterprise culture within which we all now live, hard questions need to asked about closing some churches, at least temporarily, to allow ministers to get involved in the communities in which they are meant to be leaders and to focus on making the other churches in their care self-sustaining. For churches to develop working and enterprising partnerships with their communities, it takes time and the ability to take the long-term view, but those are precisely the resources that the churches should be bringing to bear. There are some great examples of people doing all of this right across the country, but they are far too few and the lessons are often not being learnt by our church structures.

I am making all these suggestions to help revive the churches and encourage a practical and creative culture, one that is less about dependency and more about making the most of opportunities and assets. In spite of the churches’ committee-heavy structures and wide turning circles, there is time to rectify their problems; the situation is not irretrievable. It requires a shift in mindset that challenges a culture heavy with bureaucracy to become one that encourages entrepreneurs and celebrates ingenuity. There is a theological element that the churches are failing to grasp here. We believe that we are made in the image of God the creator and therefore we are creative beings. The fact is that business principles are those that work best at putting these ideas into practice, having been tried and tested by the competition of the marketplace. They are not “evil”, but are a set of tools that can be used for moral or, of course, immoral ends. I urge the churches to embrace this enterprising culture, to use their talents and join the next generation of young people as they become ever more entrepreneurial, while they still have the time.

My Lords, we are meant to declare our interests in this House, but I think that standing here dressed like this is probably a visual declaration. Noble Lords will not be surprised to learn that I believe that the Motion tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, to take note of the importance of our parish churches, is one that I am happy to endorse. It applies in Wales and Scotland as well, of course, although I need to be a bit careful of the Presbyterian conscience and not presume any authority north of the border. Born as I was in a non-conformist manse, indeed a Congregationalist manse, I welcome the contributions of the noble Lords, Lord Griffiths and Lord Mawson, to our debate. A good deal of what I will say later about community engagement in our parish churches would apply equally to churches of other traditions.

The diocese of Norwich actually outflanks the diocese of Lincoln in all sorts of ways. It has more medieval churches per square mile than anywhere else in western Europe. In our 577 parishes there are 642 churches serving a total population of only 900,000 people. I have parishes in urban areas of well over 20,000 in population, but I also have 150 parishes with a total population of fewer than 150 people each, in which the parish church will often seat the whole village and several other settlements nearby as well. So “parish” means different things in different places, but the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, was right to say that all parishioners have a right to the ministry of their parish church.

Of course, our churches are not owned by their congregations or by the parochial church councils: nor are they branches of the diocese, let alone of the national church. It is the local worshipping communities which, largely, maintain these great historic buildings, especially in rural areas.

I sometimes ask people what Norfolk might look like if you removed all the parish churches from the landscape. It would lose so much of what makes each individual community distinct and, indeed, what makes our city distinct. Norwich Union, now Aviva, has used the cathedral spire in different ways as its logo for many years. It is no surprise that a great church represents that great company’s location of origin—we should have patented it. Remove those parish churches from Norfolk or from any other county and you would also have a spiritually flattened landscape. Our parish churches are hallowed by prayer. Two-thirds of them are surrounded by churchyards: a reminder of the gift of previous generations and now, in many cases, nature reserves—too much tidiness can be destructive. They are centres of community life and, of course, the worship within them spills over into the establishment of all sorts of social action agencies, cultural events, drama, choirs, music-making and all the rest.

Before I look at the community life in our churches more fully, I will say a word or two about the buildings themselves and remind the Minister and the Government just what a good deal they get from the Church of England. I recall a survey, not many years ago, which said that 37% of the population believed that the clergy of the Church of England were paid by the Government—there’s a thought. An even higher proportion of people believed that our church buildings were maintained by the taxpayer. That continues to be true. With the increasing significance of the Heritage Lottery Fund in relation to historic buildings—which I welcome, including its repair grant scheme for places of worship—less now comes from the UK taxpayer to maintain this massive part of our built heritage. No other country in Europe has less financial support from the taxpayer for ecclesiastical heritage than England—which, ironically, has an established church.

Around £115 million is raised by congregations every year, on top of everything else, to maintain our parish churches. The tireless voluntary effort of the faithful members of the Church of England is not always adequately recognised as a massive contribution to our national heritage. As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, pointed out, even in secular France, every parish church built before 1905 is maintained entirely at the expense of the state. However, as he also pointed out, absolutely rightly, they do not see very much love. As a result, I would not argue for that, but I am conscious that the rising generation of worshipping Anglicans is much less content to take on responsibility for the maintenance of these historic buildings than their parents and grandparents were; they believe that much of what is listed and monitored by the state should be supported by state funds.

If the economic recovery is as bright as we are told, we ought to look again at the prospects for this huge inheritance of glorious medieval buildings. I echo others who say that there are ways in which we might be able to target some of the most testing and hidden parts of our buildings, such as roof repairs, where a grant scheme would be really useful. I would be very grateful for the Minister’s comments on future funding in what I believe to be a pending crisis. Even though our church buildings are in such fine condition now, I am not sure what the future holds for 20 or more years’ time.

People love churches: even excluding worshippers, they visit them in droves. Some 31 million people will visit our cathedrals and churches this year. That is worth about £350 million to the tourism industry, but these iconic buildings are often ignored or marginalised in many tourism strategies and cultural plans. Often that is down to a failure of imagination and perhaps a default secularist mindset.

The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, mentioned bats. Anne Sloman, the chair of the Church Buildings Council, Sir Tony Baldry, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, and I, with others, have had lots of ministerial meetings, and a great deal of work has been done with Natural England and Defra. There are positive developments, but it is always odd to me that our parish churches seem to be treated much more as barns than as houses. They are places where people gather to worship and to eat—not just the sacrament of holy communion but more socially as well, although I doubt any other eating place would be allowed to be so unhygienic.

In my remaining time I will concentrate on community engagement. We use the same word—church—for the people as well as the building, of course. I remember some years ago at a conference a bishop saying, “We must put buildings before people”. I could feel the hackles rising all around. But what he meant was that we should present our buildings to people, to place them at the disposal of the community, to do many of the things the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, spoke about—to put them in front of people.

Nowadays I spend a great deal of time, even in a diocese with a host of medieval buildings, dedicating extensions and adaptations to ancient churches to make them usable community buildings—often reversing some of the things that the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, spoke about: removing the pews and returning the nave to those community purposes that he spoke about. One of our churches is turned weekly into a cinema. In another of our churches, the nave is used as a school hall and gymnasium for a school nearby that is on such a restricted site that it does not have the space to do these things. That is precisely what a medieval church is meant to be and do, and we are discovering all sorts of possibilities. I could take noble Lords to churches with shops in them or which host farmers’ markets; there are a few with post offices, but that has proved more difficult to achieve than we expected.

Of course, it is in our churches that people gain the inspiration to serve the community around them. I think of two Christian magistrates, two women from Norwich—one Anglican, one free church—who almost 20 years ago formed a small charity to offer help, advice, support and friendship to sex workers in the city. They began by making a vestry in one of our churches an extremely comfortable drop-in centre, with voluntary and paid staff. The Magdalene Group is now well respected and widely admired for its work with sex workers and is consulted internationally for what it has done. All that would not happen if the church was not people as well as buildings—people who care for one another and have entrepreneurial spirit.

It is well known now that there are many food banks in our churches. That is true with us, too. But it is less well known how often the church has reached out to those with drug and alcohol problems or how many of our churches offer debt advice services, bereavement care and a host of other activities.

On Sunday week I will be on a visitation to one of our council estate parishes in Norwich. It is a modern church, not a medieval one. As well as visiting the morning congregation, in the afternoon I will visit a Tamil language congregation given hospitality by the local parish. That congregation has grown and integrated exceptionally well. The ethnic diversity of our urban parishes is nowadays a cause for celebration and I am proud of the way in which so many of our churches welcome the stranger and engage with the migrant worker as well as those permanently in our country. The English parish church is now typically multi-ethnic in urban areas, and increasingly so in our market towns and even our villages.

Last Sunday I was in a small Norfolk village called Bergh Apton. It is a dispersed community. It has only about 300 people. Over the past three weekends more than 60 local people, including some from nearby settlements, formed the cast of a four-act modern mystery play, “The Legend of the Rood”. It was written by a Norfolk storyteller. It was full of humour and local references. It was the story of salvation with a contemporary twist. Pharaoh looked rather like Boris Johnson. Moses was based on “Citizen Smith”, who sought the liberation of the people of Tooting which he wanted to be the promised land. I had a part. I was cast as God—typecast, I suppose. It was an extraordinary cultural event, set in and around the parish church, drawing the community together: creative, empowering, spiritual, human, educational and entertaining. It was the English parish church doing its job. Similar stories can be told everywhere.

We hear much in the media about declining congregations and the church in conflict. That narrative is much too easily accepted and fails to recognise just how fertile and creative is the English parish church. Churches are as engaged with their communities as ever, and I thank God for that.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Cormack very much for giving the House the chance to debate the importance of the English parish church. I am an oblate of the Anglican Community of St Mary the Virgin at Wantage. I go home at weekends to my village and my church of St Just in Roseland. When I am in London for the rest of the week I can worship at St Peter’s Square, so I am used to a fair variety of Anglican worship.

Today, I am here to speak as the chairman of the Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches in the diocese of London. From this position, I can reliably inform noble Lords that in the diocese of London bats are our friends because they do not, largely, like our church buildings and steer clear of them. I will also explain a little further about the importance of the English parish church in an urban, metropolitan context.

The diocese of London consists of 480 parish churches, each with its own defined parochial area. The diocese covers London north of the Thames from the M25 in the west as far as the River Lee in the east, including the heart of the East End, the City, the West End, Metroland and beyond. The rest of greater London is shared between the dioceses of Southwark, Rochester and Chelmsford. I need hardly remind noble Lords of the great diversity and stark contrasts to be found in these places, from the hardest pressed urban deprivation to the richest square mile in the world, with every inch of this area having its own parish church—whether it wants to use it or not. The best English parish churches do not conform to any defined standard imposed from above. They find their place among their local community and grow out of it, imaginatively tailoring their activities to the needs of their locality.

My role in the diocese of London is to chair a learned body called the diocesan advisory committee, or DAC. DACs have been around since the 1920s and have a very specific remit in preserving, enhancing and promoting the importance of English parish churches. I count among my predecessors Ivor Bulmer-Thomas, Member of Parliament for Keighley and founder of the Friends of Friendless Churches, and Sir John Betjeman, already lyrically referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, and whose writing on churches is among his most enduring.

Each of the 42 dioceses of the Church of England is required by law to have a DAC and the purposes and workings of each of those committees are equally clearly defined in legislation. The DAC provides advice on all aspects of managing church buildings. In London we see around 300 cases every year, from major extensions and restorations to minor re-orderings and making lavatories accessible. In this way the diocesan advisory committee is a key guardian of English parish churches, protecting their importance for future generations.

As chairman I see two main branches to this. I am sure that we are all familiar with the historical, architectural, artistic and academic importance of our church buildings, each of them a record in stone of the people who built them and the generations who have worshipped there since; witness to the formative events of our country, nationally, regionally and parochially. This importance is duly acknowledged by Her Majesty’s Government: 45% of all grade 1 listed buildings are Church of England parish churches. Following changes to VAT rules in 2012, the Government acknowledged that more prosaically by generously providing funding to ensure that the impact on historic church buildings was minimised.

What can sometimes be forgotten is that that rich cultural resource is as rich as it is only because the buildings have been used. The use of the buildings is the second branch of importance that I oversee. Our churches have been chopped, changed, extended and reduced, with every phase adding its piquancy to the cultural soup. In being awed by the splendour of these buildings, we must not be lured into misguided preservationism, which will silence our generation to the ears of the future. Church buildings must be permitted to change to meet the needs of the present. That, in turn, will give them a sustainable future.

Balancing between those two potentially competing forces—the accident and the substance of churches, if one wishes to be philosophical about it—is the challenge that greets every new DAC chairman, such as me. The governing legislation enjoins us to,

“have due regard to the role of the church as a local centre of worship and mission”,

not only to ensure that the building is well fitted to its congregation but that the very act of making it so may become a new chapter in the rich history of that building.

One thing that is changing is the way in which church buildings are used. Other speakers have referred to this. Long gone are the days when it was frowned on to clap in church—I remember when you could not clap in church—and in many cases, church doors were shut during the week. The activities of parish churches in London now encompass much more than worship alone. They include running 150 schools, educating 53,500 children from all faiths and backgrounds and administering more than 1,000 projects of social transformation, impacting on the lives of more than 200,000 people annually. All that work is ably supported by more than 10,000 volunteers.

Many of those projects require transformation of the church building and, consequently, the advice of my committee. In recent years, the DAC has seen proposals for post offices, doctors’ surgeries, free schools, nursery schools, a gym, several night shelters, cafes, counselling services and innumerable charitable activities meeting local need. That is not on a small scale. Taking night shelters as an example, over the winter of 2012-13, 280 churches mobilised 5,200 volunteers across every denomination. There were church night shelter schemes in 23 boroughs, offering shelter and hospitality for more than 1,300 people.

The diocese of London has given central recognition to those new developments in the life of the church in London through an ambitious programme entitled Capital Vision 2020. The belief behind Capital Vision is that London’s churches should not be static museums, nor should they be bland community resources. Rather, they should have the confidence to be churches: outward looking and inward welcoming. Capital Vision aims to find the best examples of thriving, open, community-focused churches in London, and to teach their lessons to others that may be struggling.

I like to think that I see a lot of the importance of the English parish church in the work that I do for the diocese of London. London’s churches are as varied and colourful as London's communities. They are places where differing strands come together, both temporal and eternal; places of history and beauty; places of celebration and of mourning; places of splendid ceremony and of ministering to the poor.

Churches are also places where international visitors of all faiths and none can connect with God, yet also places which stand at the heart of their local communities, seeking to connect with people’s hopes and needs. Through being an open presence in the midst of our city, our church buildings will bear a welcoming witness to the Christian faith to all who enter them.

In an era when, nationally, fewer of our citizens attend church for worship, more than ever before are visiting churches for cultural, community, educational and altruistic purposes. In this way the English parish church will, I believe, continue to be the beating heart of its local community and one of the key defining features of English society in the 21st century.

My Lords, this weekend I am going to bake some scones—probably fruit scones. I am then going to bring them in to St John’s church in Neville’s Cross in Durham, of which I am a member, to serve to the people of Durham. On Sunday we are having our annual gathering in the field behind our church, when the neighbours collect and people come from across the city. Once again I am in charge of the tea tent—or, to be more precise, the tea and coffee bit of the scout hut. I have to confess that my scones are not very good, at least not by the competitive baking standards of the Church of England. However, as the tea monitor, when I looked down the list showing me the promised baked goods, I found all kinds being offered—rock cakes, flapjacks and sponge cakes, but no scones. I normally make a chocolate cake. However, I am also aware that somewhere there is a piece of canon law in the Church of England requiring that if 50 or more Anglicans gather outside in public then they must be given scones with their tea—so it was Sherlock to the rescue.

So far, so Barbara Pym. But what in fact is going on next Sunday is not a church fête but what we call our EcoFest. About seven years ago we gathered for our regular church parish weekend away in Whitby and two members of our congregation challenged our church to think about what we were doing about the environment. We discussed it a lot that weekend and made a number of changes to our own homes and to our church, including putting solar panels on the roof, but we also began to think about what we should do for the city. As a result, we now have an annual gathering in which we bring together people from across the city who are interested in the subject.

The result is a huge mix of campaign groups, green campaigners, alternative energy providers, people who do vegetable boxes, beekeepers, fair trade stalls, bicycle repair workshops and a car-sharing club. There is also a toy swap-shop for the kids so that you can swap the toys you are bored with for those that you have yet to get bored with. The Durham Foodbank will be there because many of our church members are involved in running it. At the end, our rector, Barney Huish, will lead us all in beer and hymns accompanied by a brass band, this being the north-east. A special addition this year will be hustings so that the local political parties can come along and talk to us. When we first did this we were amazed to find that many of the people and groups who are interested in the same subject did not know each other. They met for the first time when they came to our EcoFest, in the little field behind our little church.

I am not going to talk about the wonderful buildings of the Church of England—partly because although my church has much to commend it, having been set up as a mission church at the end of the 19th century by our mother church, which is 800 years old, its charms have yet to trouble greatly either the bat community or English Heritage. I want to talk instead about what happens inside it.

I have been a regular attendee at just three churches, having acquired the churchgoing habit rather late in middle age. The first one that I went to was very different. It was St Mary’s Islington, which is famous for many things. My noble friend Lord Griffiths might be familiar with it because it is notorious for having ejected Charles Wesley at least once from its premises. The church is at the heart of Islington, a borough which is polarised between conspicuous wealth and mostly hidden but profound deprivation. It is a neighbourhood of incredible diversity but one in which people live parallel lives. Their thoughtful and very impressive current vicar, Simon Harvey, put it like this:

“The people who share the 43 bus share little else. Parochial ministry in this context is about offering opportunities for encounter, understanding and fostering commitment to a common good, as well as worshipping God”.

They do indeed pursue the common good.

The facilities at St Mary’s are used by 2,000 people a week, meeting in more than 100 groups that range from 12-step drug recovery programmes through to a stroke club, a project on childhood obesity and an annual “Soul in the City” community festival that serves thousands of people. They have been working to keep the church open every day, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, described, so that people who work and play in Islington today can find this space of sanctuary, as people have done on the same site for the past thousand years. The church also runs an open youth club, which I chaired for a bit while I was there—although that is now being done much more ably—as well as a preschool, both of which bring together council funding with church time and investment.

My church when I am in Westminster is St Martin-in-the-Fields. Many noble Lords will know that church well. They may well have been to concerts there; the church has one of the foremost chamber ensembles. Dick Sheppard, the vicar of St Martin’s during the First World War, used the church to give refuge to soldiers on their way to France. He saw it as what he called “the church of the ever open door”, and its doors have remained open ever since. It offers ministry to homeless people both directly and through the Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields, which cares for around 7,500 individuals each year. St Martin’s was involved in the anti-apartheid movement and the founding of many charitable and campaigning bodies, including Amnesty International, Shelter and the Big Issue. It is an inclusive, welcoming church to this day, a place where people of different faiths regularly pray together.

These three churches, united only by the rather random fact that I have had the privilege to worship at them, show me some really important things about the English parish church. First, English parish churches are places of meeting, gathering and connection. The theologian Luke Bretherton talks of the early church as having been what he calls a third space. In those days there were two clear spaces: the public space, the polis, and the household, the oikos. The church, the ekklesia, was a third space, and a very unusual one where men and women, Greek and Roman, slave and free all mixed together, which simply would not have happened elsewhere. The first time that I walked into St Mary Islington, I realised that this was the one place in Islington where I had seen such a huge variety of people gathered together under one roof. The first time that I attended morning prayer at St Martin-in-the-Fields and heard the sounds of people who had spent the night all across the streets of London coming inside the church as we prayed at the centre of it, I realised how rarely our lives intersect in a great city like this—but they do in church.

Secondly, like many church and other faith groups, these English parish churches are doing so much for their local communities—in fact, they are focusing lots of their time and money on those who are outside the church. As well as all the events that so many noble Lords have described, we all know of the unsung heroes, those who visit the sick and the housebound, who volunteer in prisons and food banks and who run holiday clubs for local children and lunch clubs for older people.

Thirdly, without any disrespect to my nonconformist friends, both noble and otherwise, there is something unique about the established church. On a practical level, it is a body whose churches are maintained from its own resources, as we have heard, yet, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich have pointed out, is by definition open to anyone who lives within its boundaries.

I was chatting this week to Father Richard Carter, the inspiring associate vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields. He described having received a call to tell him that someone in his parish was dying, so of course he immediately went to the hospital to be with them. When the person had died, he went to visit the family more than once, organised and conducted the funeral and went to the crematorium. The point is that he would, and does, do this for anyone who lives in his parish boundaries, whether or not they or their family have ever set foot in church, and so do vicars up and down the country.

As we know, any English person can be baptised or married and have their funeral in their parish church. We often joke about the “hatch, match and dispatch” role of the church but these things really matter; they are the crucial life stages, the rites of passage that secular society increasingly does very badly, especially the first and the last of those. This is a huge challenge for a cash-strapped Church of England but it is very important, and I am proud that so many churches work hard to maintain it.

The interesting thing is that that same priest used to serve in the Solomon Islands. He described an occasion on which charities had gathered there in the wake of a crisis to ask the local people how they wanted the aid money they had brought to be spent. The response was pretty surprising: people said that they wanted the money to go to their local churches. The reason was that the local church knew the community intimately and, literally, knew the lie of the land; it understood the needs and challenges facing the local people. This priest, Richard, and his fellow clergy minister with the same understanding and care to their new congregations here in the centre of London, with all their diversity.

One of the most unusual things that I find about the English parish church is that it spans a huge range of theological views, often indeed in the same church. The Prime Minister talked recently of a,

“perceived wooliness when it comes to belief”,

on the part of the Church of England. Actually, I think it is slightly more complicated than that. When I first started going to a Church of England church, I likewise assumed that its members did not believe things very strongly. I then realised that they actually do—just not in the same things. That is actually really important; it is an aspect of the Church of England that tells us quite a lot about its history.

I heard a well known priest give a talk a few years ago at the Greenbelt Festival about the lessons of the English Civil War. He talked about comparing experiences with an American about the same thing. His view was that the overriding lesson for the Americans from their civil war was that it was important to be right and to win, but that what the English learnt from their civil war was that it was very dangerous to fall out over religion.

Actually, that means that there is a very strong historical and pragmatic reason for the theological diversity of the Church of England. But there is also something very impressive about it. The capacity to hold together in one body people who have radically different understandings of the meanings of central beliefs, not to mention religious practices, is hugely significant. It is really countercultural to those of us who live in the world of politics, where the slightest hint of disagreement or division is leapt upon and held up as a sign of weakness. I find it a very attractive characteristic, but in practice a very challenging one, because it means being in fellowship with people with whom I disagree, sometimes profoundly, over things that matter to all of us a great deal. It also means that I am forced continually to come back to working out what it is that matters most. It is also a constant reminder to me of the possibility, however slight, that I may on occasion be wrong. For that alone I am profoundly grateful to each and every English parish church, and also to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for giving us the opportunity to celebrate them today.

I agree how phenomenal it is to have an opportunity to debate the English parish church in the House of Lords. I thank my noble friend Lord Cormack. I freely admit that I came to this debate without a prepared speech. I love churches, buildings and architecture, and my greatest thought is of an awayday when I can escape, look at buildings and enjoy them for what they are. I think it is important to bring us back to one point that should be repeated, which is that we must not forget how unique and priceless is our heritage not just in England but all over the British Isles. It is tremendous to be able to discuss it.

Noble Lords may know that 20 years ago I founded a charity called the Open Churches Trust. Its aim was to keep churches open. About five years ago, I decided that it might be the moment to apply the charity’s resources elsewhere. It was for two reasons. We had the most phenomenal administrator, who I did not feel we would be able to replace, and when we started we found that probably only one or two in five churches were open, but initiatives since we began suggested that our work was, in a way, done.

I came to this debate with an open mind, and I am glad I did not have any prepared thoughts. I completely share the extraordinary views about how churches can be used. That is one of the things that we passionately tried to promote. From the very beginning, we tried to promote the idea that the nave was a place of business. Today, many modern vicars—I am not sure I necessarily approve, but that may be because I am a Tractarian at heart—will bring the church forward in front of the screen. Of course, the purpose of the screen was to keep the nave, where business was done, separate from where the church business was done. Times have moved on. We can see that.

That makes me think how wonderful it would be if we could take that idea further. I was thrilled to hear what was said about using the building for everything from a gymnasium to a school. That was what naves were about. We should have wi-fi in churches because you could have an app, and that app could say, “This is what this building is about”. Also, any wise church will know that by having an app, it has a captive audience because somebody has used the app. Anything we can do to further the use of churches as the centre of the community, and as a place where people feel they want to come to, has to be good.

I shall share with noble Lords my last trip. It is the only thing I have made notes on. I shall not try to follow the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, and speak about Wales, but a lot of the trip was in Wales and although my name is Lloyd I am not Welsh, and I am afraid my Welsh accent is not good enough to do some of the names. However, I started in Tamworth at—again, my pronunciation of this will be wrong; some noble Lord will correct me on this—St Editha, is it? It is an extraordinary building—ruined by six huge 15-storey blocks of council flats along its reach, but a most wonderful building. Here I found something that I would like to share with your Lordships, because it is very important. It is about the contents of the churches and, in this case, the church windows. I am a great lover of Pre-Raphaelite art, which is now recognised in a way that it was perhaps not 50 or 60 years ago. St Editha has some of the greatest windows you will ever see, by Burne-Jones and Ford Madox Brown. I was concerned that the Burne-Jones windows are not protected. That makes me feel that there must be a role, which we might discuss in a moment, for the Government in giving a little help to buildings for which it is perhaps beyond their custodians even to appreciate the value of what they have.

I was very impressed by the fact that St Editha has a bookshop, which keeps the church open. It is doing everything it can. I was unable to talk to the vicar because St Editha does not have a present incumbent, but many things that it was doing there struck me as pretty extraordinary.

I then moved on to—I cannot say “Shrovesbury”; it is “Shrewsbury”, is it not?

I apologise, but I was told in Shrewsbury that it was “Shrewsbury”. There I visited St Mary’s. It is a very interesting place for stained glass, now run by the Churches Conservation Trust. I was very impressed by the fact that they said that they had more visitors to the church than when it was a church—although there was something slightly sterile about it, I have to say. However, they had a break-in and one of their Dutch windows was badly damaged. You begin to think again that we must work out what we are going to do to protect the treasures within these buildings, which people do not necessarily immediately understand. There was an eccentric vicar at St Mary’s in the 19th century, who collected glass from all over the world. It is therefore, of course, a treasure trove of glass that is not specifically English or British.

I contrast that with a church that I went to in Gresford, All Saints’ Church, in Wales. How wonderful it is when you find that a diocese has a dedicated scheme to make churches available and open, as its diocese has. Here comes the mea culpa: a volunteer said, “Would you like to come and see the mural of the mine disaster?”. Now, I freely admit that I am afraid that I did not know that there had been this catastrophe at Gresford. Nor would you realise today, really, that it had been a mining community because the mining has long since ceased. I saw one of the most moving pictures that I have seen outside the Stanley Spencer memorial chapel in Burghclere. It is a much smaller picture than that, a tribute by a local artist to those who had died—of whom I admit I had no idea.

I suddenly thought, “That is what these buildings should be about”. I come back to the idea of an app or something: if there has been such an app, would it not have been wonderful if somebody like myself had actually known about it? Now I have come away with something that I have learnt, and that is entirely due to the volunteer who showed me around.

If there is any one thing that I would suggest to the Government, it is only a thought but it might work: through the National Heritage Memorial Fund something could be created that draws attention to the works of art in buildings and churches, and ensures that they are somehow protected. It may well be beyond the resources of many churches to do that. A simple thing like protecting the glass of the church in Tamworth could save a Burne-Jones window of incredible importance. Goodness, a Burne-Jones watercolour sold for £15 million. What is that glass worth? Who is looking after it? Who realises what it is?

Finally, I saw four kids playing around outside in the rather empty market square in Tamworth. They were following me around, and I said, “Do you know that that window in your church is by Burne-Jones?”. While they thought I was terminally mad, or on some strange thing, I managed to say, “Why don’t you come in and have a look?”. Their reaction when they saw something in their own town which they had not even dreamt of seeing makes me feel that we must fight passionately for the future of our parish churches.

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow my composing colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber. I agree wholeheartedly with everything he said, especially about protecting works of art. One encouraging little point is that tomorrow morning I will be at King’s College, Cambridge, with Stephen Cleobury and a couple of hundred local children, recording a small piece only for an app. The whole purpose is that when the Tour de France starts in Cambridge, a series of pieces will have been created with local institutions and people will go round Cambridge listening to the app that is relevant to that particular place. So that was a prophetic idea from the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber.

We heard about bats. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for instigating this debate, and in particular for focusing on bats. I am afraid that I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that we need not worry about them. My experience in the country in mid-Wales is that they are a real problem, and I will be very interested to hear what the Minister thinks might be done to tackle the problem of bats in Wimbledon and elsewhere.

An extraordinary amount of wonderful art has been created for English churches, and English parish churches. I think, for example, of an amazing man, Walter Hussey, who was dean of St Matthew’s in Northampton. He commissioned Britten, Henry Moore, John Piper, Gerald Finzi, Marc Chagall, and even one Lennox Berkeley. On moving to Chichester he commissioned Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms”. That was a man with great vision. Sometimes, of course, that takes money, but it is amazing what can be done when local people are brought together and raise funds, and composers and artists will do things for the love of the area they live in.

One thinks of festivals and how churches have been important to them, such as Aldeburgh and its parish church, where Britten and Pears are buried. There are performances there every year and in Blythburgh and Orford—stunning East Anglian buildings. Moving to Norfolk, there are wonderful churches such as that of Cley next the Sea. Just down the road is Stiffkey. Noble Lords will all remember what happened to the rector of Stiffkey, Harold Davidson. Unfortunately, he was defrocked for consorting with ladies who were, you might say, already defrocked. He then decided to raise money by exhibiting himself in a barrel, and finally by getting into a cage with lions. The unfortunate Harold Davidson met his end being eaten by the lions. That is rather an unusual story, and fortunately not typical of most of the parish churches we have heard about.

There is something terribly important about creativity and religion, whether you have great faith or are an atheist. Hearing a marvellous piece of music or even just local children creating sound has an extraordinary, transcending quality. Some of the people I know who are most devoted to English churches are, in fact, atheists. They are passionate about them. We can all get an extraordinary sustenance from the communal coming-together, making music and worshipping—or not worshipping; just savouring that extraordinary calm that you get in an English parish church.

At Cheltenham we had, for concert venues at the festival, Gloucester Cathedral and Tewkesbury Abbey, but perhaps I remember even more fondly the concerts in Wynchcombe and the local surrounding area, where local people came. It is this thing of outreach—bringing the local parishioners in. Funnily enough, even those of us who have perhaps strayed from the faith in some ways go back to our local churches to be baptised and married and to bury our dead. It is a fulcrum—a lever on which everything turns. What is so extraordinary in this country, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said, is that we have so many fantastically beautiful buildings. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, that we cannot put everything into mothballs, and we may have to concentrate on the greatest. Let us be realistic. But it is vital that we precisely do that.

We are privileged in this country; we can go for a drive somewhere and look up in a book, like the one by Simon Jenkins, a wonderful church to sit in, be with ourselves and think of God, if that is what we want to do, or our place in society or in humanity. That is a staggering privilege, and we must protect it at all costs.

My Lords, I shall speak briefly in the gap, first to say how grateful we should all be to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for introducing this debate, which has turned out to be extraordinarily entertaining and enlightening, and in my case very reassuring.

I shall take a few minutes to use my parish church to exemplify some of the points that have come up. I speak from the position of being that atheist to whom the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has just referred, but I am also a trustee of the parish church in Thaxted, in Uttlesford, in north-west Essex. It will be known to those who are connoisseurs of the English parish church, because it is one of the finest; it has four stars in Simon Jenkins’ book. It is also huge. It has a massive nave, and in mentioning that I think of the uses which the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber, and others have reminded us that naves of churches have been put to in the past and should be again. Thaxted parish church gives the community a wonderful opportunity to use the nave in a wide variety of ways.

Thaxted is also the home of a very well known and widely respected music festival, founded by Gustav Holst, who lived in Thaxted for a number of years. Indeed, one of the great tunes from “The Planets” was subsequently named for Thaxted. The church has in it one of the only two surviving, untampered-with Lincoln organs, built by Henry Lincoln. The other is in Buckingham Palace. The parish of Thaxted managed to raise well over £300,000 from various sources to have the organ restored, and it is just about to be recommissioned. It will be a great resource for the parish and for musicologists throughout the country. It also has some wonderful medieval glass, which needs to be preserved, just as the Burne-Joneses do, to which the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber, referred.

The church has an extraordinary history of Christian socialism, which goes back to the parish priest in the early part of the 20th century, Conrad Noel, who believed in a very active Christianity. That came from a deep socialist conviction, which he turned into reality. In fact, for one brief moment there were riots in Thaxted because he flew the red flag in the church.

The church is also the source of one of the greatest revivals of the English folk tradition. Every year outside my window, Morris dancers come from all over the UK and beyond to dance in the streets—and we see Thaxted as it used to be, with a market square, rather than a main road running through it. All this points to the fact that the church is, has always been and must remain a vital community asset. But it is very difficult to allow it to evolve in the way in which many noble Lords have stressed that churches must evolve. It is difficult partly because money is needed to do so, which is always a problem, but also because, I am sorry to say, there is an ageing group of people, of whom I am one, who are prepared to give their time and energy to get some of the work done that is needed and to raise funds for that.

I have one request to make to the Minister. It is to do with the fact that Thaxted, an extremely beautiful medieval town, is now the focus of a great deal of rather predatory development interest on the part of private developers. Some of that predatory activity will be fought off by a community that is not too keen on it, but some of it will be successful. Does the Minister consider that it is important and necessary for developers who wish to develop places such as Thaxted—and there are many of them all over the country—to realise that the church is a critical part of creating a strong community and a focus for a community that is growing through that development, and that they should therefore be not only encouraged but required to contribute to the church’s capacity to evolve its buildings, to create new amenities and to allow the community to make better use of some of these wonderful spaces?

That is all I have time to say, but I hope the Minister will take it seriously.

My Lords, I, too, wish to speak in the gap. I welcome this debate although I am afraid that I missed the opportunity to put my name down to speak in it.

The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, has a number of strings to his bow. Churches are one of his passions and he is president of the Prayer Book Society, which reflects a particular approach to the Church of England, of which I am a member. That leads me to my first point, which concerns the endless paradoxes embodied in English parish churches. I think it is part of the English tradition of tolerance that we can believe what we like, although I am sure that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury would not put it quite that way. However, he made a very interesting remark in a previous debate when he said that the Church of England is everywhere. Indeed, people connected with the Church of England are involved with food banks and work on the ground everywhere. The Church of England knows more than any other organisation in the country about what is happening on the ground. It is, of course, concerned with theology, doctrine and fundamental belief but it is also defined by its church buildings.

This leads me to the many interesting points touched on by noble Lords who hold eminent positions in the world of theology—notably my noble friend Lord Griffiths and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich. Somebody touched on the church and state and the establishment and the English way of doing things. In France, the Roman Catholic tradition does not allow that space. It creates a type of socialism on the opposite side which is anti-clerical. We have never had that tradition. We believe in fuzziness.

I invited a former Archbishop of Canterbury to address the TUC in Brighton a couple of decades ago. I am sure that some people in the Church of England would be horrified at the prospect of not having the cutting-edge doctrine that they would like to see. We are talking at cross purposes. Just as in the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, you have to have people who are clear about the doctrine, and then, at the other end of the scale from one to 10, you have to have people who do not care very much at all about the doctrine. That is the nature of the beast. It is not like the Roman Catholic Church, which in some respects has more difficulty than we have in the Church of England with the theory of evolution. The contrast between the two non-conformist speakers as regards God and mammon was interesting. I need more time to think about tail and the dog, the baby and the bathwater, and so on.

A friend of mine at the TUC, who was known to be an atheist or agnostic, died. We were a bit surprised that she had a Church of England funeral. There was the vicar and the coffin, and about 50 of us attended. Before the service started, the vicar read out a letter from Miss Nicholson, sent just before she died. It said: “Dear vicar, I am an atheist—perhaps an agnostic—but under the Act of 1551 I am entitled to this funeral and want you to carry it out”. The “births, marriages and deaths” idea is what keeps a lot of people together, even people who do not think that they are members of the Church of England. There is a huge tapestry and I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, tabled this debate.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for his success in securing this debate. It is, as he said, a counterpoint to a debate he secured a short time ago about cathedrals. Perhaps there is a rolling sequence here—first, cathedrals; then churches. Now what? What is his next trick? I suggest that if the noble Lord is in any doubt about what he might raise, perhaps it might be something that appeals to a slightly broader audience than even today’s—rural cinemas, for example. I am worried about them and perhaps we may get together on that one.

More generally, it is always a comfort when the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, is in his place. I feel happier in the House of Lords when I see him sitting opposite, with his avuncular style and ability to anticipate the trends and fashions of the day. I am a little surprised that he is not sporting his MCC tie, today of all days—given the test match taking place. That is a bit of a blot on the discussion. However, when he is there the sun will rise. It may not always shine but it certainly rises. Larks will sing, choirs will raise their voices in wonderful places, and all will be right in the world. I do not know why I got into that but it seemed appropriate, given that we are all traipsing down memory lane, recalling churches we have visited and books we have read about them.

I should also say that I live in Little Missenden in Buckinghamshire—a small village of about 100 houses. We have a Norman-Saxon church, St John the Baptist, which, according to the records, was founded in 975. As it says on the website—we have a website—it has been a place of Christian pilgrimage for more than 1,000 years. I recommend it to those who might want to visit, not least because we have a wonderful festival every October for the wall paintings of St Christopher and St Catherine that were uncovered in 1931. It is a place with whitewash and bright vermilion drawings of these extraordinary figures, which reflect faith in a different time but offer continuity, because they are, in some ways, very modern. While I am in local tour mood, I should say—because it was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Griffiths—that the house in which I live was used to film some of the scenes of “The Vicar of Dibley”. I claim no credit because it was before we moved there. Perhaps this is a point for the next debate but Dibley Manor, as it would have been, attracts a lot of visitors who come and gawp at us through our windows—which is a bit surprising sometimes.

That, for me, is context, but it is not really an explanation of what I want to say today. I find myself in a slightly difficult position because, although we have lots of variations on English religious practice, I do not think we have any other of these in the room: I am a Scottish Presbyterian by background and I am married to a Catholic. So I am probably not the best person to respond to all aspects of the debate. Rather than try to dig into the question of faith—I will certainly be turning to fabric later—I thought I would research who else has been talking about faith, in particular about churches. I found two reports from two of our most advanced think tanks, Demos and ResPublica, which have not been mentioned so far and rather surprisingly were not on the list of material that was circulated in the otherwise excellent Library note.

The Demos report is largely authored by Stephen Timms MP, who I think is well known to many people as being very interested in issues of faith. It is quite a recent report which has researched religious activity. Interestingly, it found:

“Religious people in the UK are more likely than non-religious people to volunteer regularly in their local community, to feel a greater sense of belonging to their local community … and to have higher levels of trust in other people and … institutions”.

They are more likely than non-religious people to take “decision-making roles in committees”, and to go into jobs such as being a councillor or a school governor. Religious people who feel religion is important to them are also more likely than those who said it was not important,

“to be civically engaged and to give to charity via their places of worship.”

So far so good with my research; I am sure I have lost noble Lords already in my tract. It was interesting that the research also found that those who belonged to religious organisations or felt they belonged to it—this was particularly a UK issue, not so much a European issue, because they did research across Europe as well—were more likely to base themselves on the left side of the political spectrum. They were more likely to “value equality over freedom”, less likely to have a negative association towards living next door to immigrants, but slightly more likely to say those on benefits should have to take a job, rather than be able to refuse. There are lot of mixed messages there; I do not quite think it fits with the standard UKIP pattern, or that of the left of centre. I thought noble Lords would like to know that.

Although religious people might be more likely to volunteer, they are also less likely to have a meaningful interaction with people from backgrounds different from their own. Efforts to encourage greater mixing between people of different backgrounds in pursuit of common goals should be picked up as part of an issue to do with religiosity.

That was the Demos, new-left/centre thinking. I then turn to the report from ResPublica, Holistic Mission. As I am sure noble Lords will be aware, ResPublica describes itself as an “independent, non-partisan think tank”, developing,

“practical solutions to enduring socio-economic … problems”.

It starts with a bit of blast. It says, quite unashamedly,

“Britain needs both new and renewed institutions … We are now in the UK at a point of institutional miscarriage. Both state and market have failed us. The NHS has been implicated in massive scandals of appalling care and resultant coverups. Our banking system has been the province of vested and rent-seeking self-interest. In the UK, social mobility is stagnating and inequalities are both rising and embedding; all of this despite massive expenditure by the state and vast amounts of contracting out to the private sector”.

You know where they are coming from—at least I think you probably do. Phillip Blond is well known for being a bit of a polemicist. My point is that, in the research ResPublica has done—there is a lot more of the type I just mentioned before we get to it—it decided, in looking at the need to,

“create, recover and restore new transformative institutions that can genuinely make a difference to people and their communities”,

that the church can fill this gap. It says,

“the Church has the potential, the experience and the capacity to become one of the foundational enabling and mediating institutions that the country so desperately needs … the Church has a wealth of in-depth and varied experience across most fields and in many areas”.

We have heard a number of those. The areas it mentions range from,

“helping women recover from prostitution, to mental health, to work experience and training to homelessness and drug addiction and prisoner rehabilitation”.

So the point of the research is that the church is already doing a lot and it wants to do more. But—there is always a “but”— the church has to make itself fit for purpose. The report says:

“If the Church is to fulfil its purpose and its potential, it has substantially to upgrade its internal and external structures. It has to adapt to governmental demands for accountability and standards, while at the same time allowing its localities to innovate and create”.

The Government, too, have to work hard with the church in order to create the opening, the incentive and the encouragement.

My researches leave me somewhat perplexed about what think tanks are doing but I think that there is a theme, which this debate has also picked up. There is a feeling that the church’s enduring mission has relevance today; that the facilities, the people and the resources there could be deployed in a more creative way; and that possibly there are ways in which we could see a new compact or a new arrangement established for developing help and social context.

I want to conclude with a few questions for the Minister, drawn mainly from the documents in the Library report. There is reference to a DCMS Select Committee report which dealt with heritage more generally but also picked up questions about English churches and cathedrals. The first point it makes is that,

“state support for all places of worship through general taxation would not be readily understood by the public and would at present be inappropriate”.

A number of questions have been raised about whether the state should be involved either directly or indirectly in supporting places of worship. This is more generally stated for all places of worship but it would of course include parish churches. Can the Minister update us on what has happened since that recommendation was made?

The second point made is that faith groups have a responsibility for making sure that the buildings they use for their faiths are maintained. Many suggestions are made but one is that parish councils could be approached for support, perhaps showing imagination in how buildings could be used. Obviously parish councils are part of the apparatus of representational democracy, and again I should like the Minister to say whether he feels that there is a role for parish councils in that work.

The third point, which has been picked up by a number of noble Lords, is that, although significant funding is now going into churches, not just directly through English Heritage but through the generous support for repayment of VAT incurred, about a third of the total amount of money required—this is picked up in a number of papers—is not available and has to be raised by the individuals who use these facilities. That seems not only to be a big gap but a gap that will be worryingly larger in future years. Elsewhere in the papers, it is disclosed that the majority of the congregations who currently regularly attend parish churches are ageing and are not being replaced by a younger generation. Therefore, who will be responsible for filling this gap, which is currently about £60 million a year for the maintenance and repair of our churches?

The Church of England prepared a briefing note for this, and it is interesting that its “asks” were quite targeted. Again, perhaps the noble Lord can respond to its points. I think that some are covered in his briefing notes and he should be able to respond directly. A couple of them have been mentioned already. One is to encourage agencies, such as VisitEngland, to include parish churches in their campaigns and initiatives. That would seem to produce an easy win-win. Church visits are said to be very valuable and the tourism economy is not to be ignored. I would be grateful if the Minister could respond to that. Providing brown heritage “Historic Church” signs to all rural and out-of-the-way parish churches seems to be another easy win. Again, that would help to signpost people to these wonderful resources and would not be very complicated to arrange.

The church has picked up on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber, regarding help to install wi-fi so that the church can reach the 21st century along with others. This, the church says, would assist churches in providing professional services to all who seek them. I think that it was part of the rural broadband initiative, which is administered through the DCMS, and it is something that might be picked up.

Another point raised in the debate is the need for the National Heritage Memorial Fund to pick up on church treasures to make sure that those which are important to us in a more general historic and heritage sense are not lost in some other concerns about church or faith groups. They are important for us all.

Finally, the English Heritage note picked up a couple of points on which I think it would also be useful for the Minister to respond. One point that it makes concerns planning and relates to changes in the demography, to which I have referred, and in church usage—and we have heard about the extraordinary things that can be mounted in churches. However, there are problems with planning in some areas. Will the Minister think about how one might accommodate the flexibility that will be required as we go forward in order to make sure that these spaces are used, and used in a way which is contemporary and appropriate for those who wish to operate within that locality?

A number of points were slightly off piste, as it were, but are important. We need to think about the question of bats. There are two quite different issues: first, the need to make sure that our natural environment is protected; and, secondly, the impact of the bats. The glis glis is another problem. It is local to Little Missenden but is spreading out. It was until recently a protected species and caused tremendous damage. However, now that they are now longer restricted it has been possible to make some progress.

I hope the Minister will be able to respond to the question of how he is going to train the bell ringers who are going to maintain our music in the countryside, as the noble Lord asked us to do.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Cormack for bringing this important debate to the House. I join with all noble Lords in paying tribute to his enduring contribution in promoting our national heritage. I have a great fondness for my noble friend, not least because I happen to be his Whip and perhaps can exert greater influence over him than others in your Lordships’ House.

This has been a wide-ranging, enlightening and informed debate, as ever. We have talked about bells and budgets, buildings and bats, and hymns and history. This reflects the importance that the parish church has in our society today.

Before I turn to the role of the parish church, on a personal reflection, perhaps I may refer to what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich said about how this Government should fully acknowledge what they get back from the Church of England. I, for one, as a Minister of this Government, can certainly qualify that fact because my own primary and formative education was at an establishment called Holy Trinity, which is as Christian as the right reverend Prelate’s attire. So I can certainly lay testament to that issue.

It is right to talk about the importance of the role of faith in society. For example, a Christian has the right to wear a cross at work, and we took steps to allow local authorities to continue to hold prayers at the beginning of meetings, should they wish. As other noble Lords have said, the Prime Minister used his Easter address to speak about the importance of Christianity and Britain’s status as a Christian country. He spoke passionately about being confident and standing up to define the values of responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility and love—we have heard a great deal about these recently—Christian values that he identified as being shared by people of every faith and, indeed, none: the values of every faith; British values; indeed, the values of humanity.

Turning to the role of the English parish church, as many noble Lords have said, there are few sights that evoke the true Englishness of our great country than that of a parish church. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Cormack reflected upon this in his opening remarks, as did the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich and my noble friend Lord Lloyd-Webber in their contributions. We have been on a journey through England today. I was scribbling notes furiously. As my noble friend Lord Lloyd-Webber said, it is only when we embark upon our travels domestically and nationally that we realise the real strength of our heritage. This is reflected in our churches across the country.

The Church of England is responsible for 16,000 parish churches, 12,500 of which are listed as being of historic or architectural interest, and the oldest surviving parish church is St Martin’s in Canterbury, which dates back to around 590 AD. No other body has greater responsibility for England’s built heritage. An insight has been provided into rural parish churches, but as my noble friend Lady Wilcox demonstrated, there is great strength in our urban-based churches. That point was also well made by the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, in her contribution. To quote Dr Simon Thurley, the chief executive of English Heritage:

“The parish churches of England are some of the most sparkling jewels in the precious crown that is our historic environment”.

The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, talked about the importance of our new developments, and used the example of Thaxted parish church. It is right to reflect upon that, and her suggestion is certainly one that I will take back to DCLG. It is important that, when local plans for future developments are drawn up, they are reflective. Indeed, I recall from my years of serving on a planning committee that the word “sensitive” was often used in relation to the local environment. Being sensitive to the local parish church is an important part of that.

My noble friend Lord Cormack said that parish churches are fundamental to the life of communities, particularly in rural areas, but also in our cities. The Government fully acknowledge the essential role they play in our social and cultural life. Church buildings are important cultural venues. ChurchCare estimates that nearly half of the UK’s church buildings are used for arts, music and dance activities. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked about Wimbledon, whose name I carry. I am pleased to inform him that St Mary’s church in Wimbledon not only has music of a Christian kind, but also music of an Indian kind. Indeed, the hall is often hired out for festivities held by every faith in the community. That reflects the pivotal role of parish churches in our towns and cities across the country.

The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, talked about the diverse uses made of church facilities, while the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, talked about social enterprise. Parish churches have helped to shape our own identity. They remind us of the values of peace, charity, trust, service to others, humanity and social justice. The right reverend Prelate also underlined them. My noble friend Lord Redesdale talked about the vital role played by volunteers. Noble Lords will realise that he is not in his place right now, but he has a very good excuse. He is part of our rowing team and even now he is out on the Thames rowing, I hope, the Lords to victory over the Commons. Along with our colleagues, we wish him well.

Parish churches also offer significant resources: buildings, organisational capacity, skilled volunteers and experience of reaching marginalised and excluded groups. The role of welfare was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Mawson. Churches up and down the country have a pivotal role to play, and I shall come to it in a moment. According to the Church Urban Fund figures for 2013, some 54% of Anglican parishes run at least one organised activity to address social needs such as loneliness, homelessness, debt, low income, unemployment and family breakdown. Let us cast our mind back to the recent floods. A great example of this work is reflected in the fact that many parish churches, along with their multi-faith partners, contributed to the response in practical ways through the provision of storage, providing shelter and refreshments, rest for volunteers and workers involved in the emergency operations, as well as acting as clearing houses for offers of accommodation. St John’s church in Surrey opened up a free café in Egham High Street for those affected by the floods so that they could access hot food and drink and be given community support. Indeed, many church volunteers worked within communities to distribute sandbags to families who had been affected by flooding.

Several noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, talked about the need for churches to change. Although I could give several, I can think of no better example than that of the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Algarkirk, in the diocese of Lincoln, and thus in my noble friend’s patch. The church congregation wrote to say that the church had been locked every day except for Sunday worship until the summer of 2012. The church had suffered vandalism, lead theft, and a general deterioration of the building and its interior, as well as an accumulation of clutter in the churchyard. The parish took the decision to open the church, and since then it has welcomed visitors from all over the world. A big clean-up was held and a programme of events and activities established. The church is being used for book swaps as there is no local library. The atmosphere in the church has improved immeasurably and a huge repair and conservation project has been embarked upon. This demonstrates the diversity of the role of the churches, which are recognising that they have a wider role to play.

Several noble Lords raised the issue of church funding, in particular my noble friend Lord Cormack. At present, the Government provide funding to the sector through a number of means, including the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, where a budget of £42 million is guaranteed until 31 March 2016, and which is open to listed places of worship throughout the whole country. The right reverend Prelate asked about other funding. As my noble friend acknowledged, there is also the Heritage Lottery Fund, which makes grant available to places of worship in need of urgent structural repairs, and the £20 million additional funding allocated for cathedrals announced in the 2014 Budget. Importantly, this will ensure that Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals can undertake essential repair works as they play an important role in the First World War commemorations. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is also administering the First World War centenary cathedral repairs fund. These all go some way to helping to look after some of our most treasured national heritage. I shall take back the point made by my noble friend Lord Lloyd-Webber and by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, about the National Heritage Memorial Fund and write to noble Lords as appropriate on that matter.

Turning to bats, I will share a confession with noble Lords. This is one of those issues about which, when I sit down as a Minister for my briefings, I have very limited knowledge. I certainly remember bats of a cricket kind, and my memories of bats in childhood also refer back to Batman and Robin. Being the younger of two brothers, I always ended up playing Robin, but took some consolation from the fact that Robin was often called the Boy Wonder—I leave the rest to your Lordships’ assessment. As for bats specifically, most medieval churches will have bats, and Norfolk churches seem to have particular problems in this respect. In fact, historic buildings, especially churches, play an important role in helping to protect the conservation status of native bats. In a changing landscape, churches can represent one of the few remaining constant resources for bats, thus giving them a disproportionate significance for the maintenance of bat populations at a favourable conservation status. If churches wish to undertake works to address this problem, they can call the bat helpline—I am sure noble Lords will rush to it—where advice is given for free on timing and on whether investigation may be required. Under this service, 202 visits were made to churches last year.

I know there were different opinions about bats, but I am also mindful that noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, talked about music in churches, while the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, talked about the role of the church beyond the faith of Christianity. I look back to my Church of England education and remember a hymn:

“All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small …

The Lord God made them all”.

Perhaps we can reflect on the conservation of bats in that light.

I am pleased to say that many places of worship may be able to secure funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for conservation or repair works. This could include, on a serious note, bat surveys or mitigation works as part of a wider project. Defra has funded a three-year research project to develop bat deterrents for use in churches and English Heritage is now funding the development of a toolkit for churches based on those research results. This will be available by early 2015.

A central and pivotal role of the church, and indeed of all faith communities, is in social action. The Government fully appreciate that faith communities make a vital contribution to national life, something which has continued for centuries. The church is a primary example of this. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich talked about this, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, in one particular respect. I am sure I speak for all noble Lords when I say that we want to see a few cakes and scones make an appearance this way—we will hold her to that.

The Government want to help develop further effective working relationships between people of different faiths. Across our great country, people from different faiths are working hard not just in countless churches but in mosques, temples, gurdwaras, synagogues and in charities and community groups to address problems and challenges in their local communities. We are doing so because practical co-operation between faith groups is crucial to our society. It is about people from different backgrounds coming together, not just sitting around sharing scones, tea and perhaps samosas but working together for the common good and tackling shared social problems, from improving our green spaces to challenging homelessness, but also to confront and stand firm against the rise of the ugly face of extremism.

We have therefore invested more than £8 million in the Church Urban Fund’s Near Neighbours programme, which is using our country’s celebrated parish system. I pay tribute to the Church of England in this respect. We are putting our money where our mouth is, not through a top-down intervention but by using the existing infrastructure of the Church of England parish system to build productive local relationships between people of different faiths in areas of high deprivation. Again, I use the example of the floods, where the Near Neighbours scheme was a great example of communities working together.

Every area in which Near Neighbours works has active parish churches that are seeking the good of these communities. Local vicars are in place to provide support and expertise for local people, including those who are involved with the programme. In addition, through the Together in Service programme launched last year, we are further strengthening social action around the country. We are investing £300,000 in this programme over two years and there are 25 projects currently running.

We also continue to fund the important work of the Inter Faith Network for the UK in linking and encouraging interfaith dialogue across the country. I am pleased to say that there were more than 350 events across the country last year during Inter Faith Week.

The noble Lords, Lord Mawson and Lord Griffiths, talked about churches transforming themselves. We have heard from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich and the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, examples of churches opening their doors, changing their nature, welcoming communities—social action in cities, towns and villages up and down the country, communities coming together through the church at a time when society needs them to do so. Local parish churches, alongside other places of worship and non-faith-based community groups, act as a key point of contact for many local people.

As the nation emerges from this recession, I fully acknowledge that there are still people in need and I can think of no better institution than the parish church to continue working to address poverty as well as enhancing community relations at a local level. I have no doubt that the English parish church will continue to rise to the challenge and do what it is good at doing.

A number of questions were raised. If I have missed any, I will of course write to noble Lords. I always listen to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, with great intensity and attention. In his vibrant contribution he talked about funding. I have already talked about the various funding schemes in place. I hope he is reassured that I will take back his suggestion on the heritage fund. We have also announced, as I mentioned, £20 million for the repair of cathedrals. That is a recent example of the Government listening and supporting the sector. Of course, we are using the English parish system to administer the Near Neighbours programme.

The Christian parish church in England plays a key and pivotal role. It acts as an example to other communities—indeed, to other faiths. I hope and I know it will step up to the challenge in ensuring that it brings its Christian message of hope through its social action, through its architecture and, as my noble friend Lord Lloyd-Webber suggested, through its acts to build a society based on love and respect, which celebrates our history and our music with an exemplary ethos of service to the community, driven by an unstinting desire to serve humanity. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, said that the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, guarantees that the sun will rise. Thanks to your Lordships’ contributions, the sun has truly shone on this debate.

My Lords, I am exceptionally grateful to my noble friend the Minister for his extremely generous and wide-ranging response. I hope that he will allow me to come and see him to talk a little more about the bats because it is a very serious problem, particularly in rural areas, that we need to get a grip on and get the balance right.

I thank all noble Lords from all parts of the House who spoke. They made telling contributions, many of them passionate and some extremely moving. What united everybody who spoke in this debate is the recognition of the unifying force of the parish church, its evolving place within a changing community and how, all over the country, these buildings provide a focus and a purpose for the communities they serve. I have had the privilege of being a church warden of three different churches—one in a quite large village, one in a small village and St Margaret’s, Westminster—for a total of 35 years. I fully appreciate what we can and should do. We can never completely exploit the infinite possibilities that these great buildings bring to our society.

This has been a useful debate. I said at the beginning that we were going from the great international affairs covered by the G7 Statement to something much more truly parochial. We had contributions from all parts of the House that proved to me that the single Peer who said, “Oh, why do you want a debate about that?”, did not in fact speak for those here today. I thank all noble Lords for taking part and for recognising something that is to me of incalculable importance. I again thank the Minister.

Motion agreed.

Tourism and Hospitality

Motion to Take Note

Moved by

To move that this House takes note of the contribution of the tourism and hospitality industries to economic growth in the United Kingdom and the European Union.

My Lords, tourism means jobs. That was the title of a pamphlet I wrote as an MEP 20 years ago. Its driving thesis has changed little. If anything, its central point has intensified as unemployment, especially youth unemployment, now stalks a new generation of jobseekers in Britain and across the European Union.

I suggested then that, in the PM’s current favourite expression, politicians “don’t get” tourism. There is a complacent belief that as tourism is a successful industry it does not need help when, instead, we should have bold ambition to increase the UK’s market share, currently standing globally at 3.5%. Tourism is a diffuse industry, scattered over many venues, enterprises and activities, and it is assumed that it will look after itself. By contrast, the car industry for instance, which my noble friend Lord Mandelson helped a few years ago, has a higher profile than tourism although it supports many fewer jobs. The view that tourism is a low-skill industry with uninteresting, poorly paid jobs is misguided. The indolent attitude that no one goes to university to study tourism—and that if they do it is to Oxford Brookes rather than Oxford University—is the kind of a cultural snobbism that ill behoves us in the 21st century.

I have elsewhere debated the very real contribution that the UK’s arts and culture make to tourism but why, oh why, do we leave the tourism and hospitality industries to recline, repine and decline in DCMS, which does not even have the grace to reflect tourism’s concerns in its name? My first question to the Minister is: did his brief come solely from DCMS or did he consult widely with BIS, the Treasury and the numerous other departments which have a fat finger in the ever-growing pie of the tourism and hospitality industries? Will the department finally consider including tourism, its biggest industry, in its title? Many of these cobwebbed myths need to be blown away. I hope that this afternoon’s debate will provide an exhalation and an exhortation, because tourism indeed means jobs.

The UK tourism industry employs 3.1 million people. The sector is Britain’s third-largest employer, sustaining one in 10 jobs. It is Britain’s fastest-growing sector. One in three of all new jobs comes from tourism. It supports a quarter of a million businesses. Most are small businesses—indeed, many are microbusinesses. Seven out of 10 of them employ fewer than 10 employees. Disappointingly, the Government’s otherwise welcome Bill on small businesses fails to acknowledge the particular potential of tourism’s small firms. The Government might have had the wit and imagination to introduce a tourism Bill instead of sending us in this House on ever-extended holidays.

It is no surprise to learn that it was the 1964 Labour Government who pioneered the first tourism Act. Will the Government do anything specifically to help tourism in the small businesses Bill? Will the Minister be so bold as to introduce, 50 years on, a new tourism Bill to help the industry? The tourism and hospitality industries employ one in two part-timers, mainly women, 50% more young people under 30 than other industries, and significantly more employees from minority communities—all groups suffering from this Government’s careless decision to contract the economy.

What should be in any new tourism and hospitality Bill? First, VAT. The 2013 study by the World Economic Forum on international competitiveness shows that the United Kingdom now ranks 138th out of 140 countries on price competitiveness. The chief culprits are air passenger duty and VAT. We charge the full 20% VAT on accommodation, where the average charge of our competitors throughout the European Union is half that. We apply a full rate on restaurant meals and on admissions to cultural attractions and amusement parks. I am not amused—especially given that research done by Deloitte has shown that reducing VAT on those items to 5% would boost GDP by £4 billion per annum, create 80,000 new jobs over three years and deliver an extra £2.6 billion to the Exchequer over the next decade.

Why are Her Majesty's Government so deaf to the cost of living of tourists in the United Kingdom when a change in VAT would bring the returns that I have outlined using the Treasury’s computable general equilibrium model? Do the Government “get” that inward tourism should be understood as part of our export drive? Our faltering export drive badly needs help from the tourism industry. Why do the Government hesitate to pluck the low-hanging fruit of tourism and its offer of jobs?

The self-inflicted folly of air passenger duty means that a visiting family of four from China or India, flying economy class, are supercharged coming into this country by £340 as of April this year. Research by PwC has shown that abolishing APD would boost the UK’s GDP by 0.5% in the first year alone, create 60,000 jobs and generate a further £500 million of revenue from other consequential and related taxation. The recent decision to eliminate bands C and D of APD is a welcome but small relief to the industry. If the Government refuse to cancel air passenger duty, would they at least look at removing it for children under 16—the effect of which would be to encourage family travel into the UK? I repeat: why are this Government so reluctant to help inbound tourists and families with their cost of living?

Others will doubtless comment today on the Prime Minister’s lack of concern over the availability of UK passports for holidaymakers leaving these shores. However, this brings me to the vexed question that I wanted to ask about visas. A UK short-stay visa costs £83 compared to £50 for a Schengen visa, which permits visitors access to some 25 European Union or EEA countries—to their tourism industries’ complete and distinct competitive advantage. Visitors from visa-requiring nations account for some 10% of all the 3.2 million visitors to the UK annually and generate some £4 billion in revenue, due to their visitor spend being double the average. To give a positive example, since the 2009 decision to give Taiwanese visitors visa-free entry into the United Kingdom, their spend has grown by 62% from a 43% growth in their numbers. By contrast, visa requirements imposed on South African nationals have cut their numbers by 23%.

Most astonishing of all, the number of Chinese visitors to the United Kingdom has grown by a slender 36,000 out of 42 million outbound Chinese tourists as a whole. Why so few? The Government have made some cautious steps to deal with the difficulties of encouraging Chinese visitors, who are currently required to fill in two visas to visit Europe—one for the UK and the other for Schengen. However, can the Government confirm whether the Home Office will renew the trial of using approved tour operators based in China, which has helped reduce red tape? Can the Minister also address the discrepancy between the international passenger survey figures, which show a 13% increase in Chinese visitors to the UK, and those offered by the Home Office for the same period, which show an increase of some 40% in processed visa applications from China?

Can the Minister also assure us that Home Office figures will be released without the current nine-month delay that is, frustratingly, being experienced? We urgently need real-time border admissions data to help the tourism industry prepare and plan. Moreover, what is going wrong in Russia, where a change of service provider for visas has led to poor service, delays and cancelled trips? Can he also elaborate on the welcome decision to set up a tourism council, as announced at the BHA’s recent hospitality summit? What will that do and will it have any funds?

Many years ago, I was the first tourism chair for Cheshire County Council and a deputy chair of the North West Tourist Board. However, in recent years, the ability of local authorities to help their local tourism and hospitality industries has been ruthlessly cut, and the abolition of the RDAs has removed a further £60 million from the agents of regional tourism development. Can the Minister give any idea of how the LEPs are meant to fill this role and how they might develop local marketing campaigns with ever-reducing resources? What are HMG doing to spread the benefits of tourism throughout the nation and regions? As Hull, the capital of culture, has proved—as Liverpool did before it in 2008—tourism can spread its proven benefits of jobs and growth to the regions, thus complementing London.

Given the multifaceted nature of tourism, I would like to hear from the Government about how they plan to nurture changing forms of tourism such as agritourism and ecotourism, or hands-on tourism associated with, say, archaeological digs. As I learnt from the Tourism Society, the tourism trend is that one in 10 of us as grandparents will have responsibility for our grandchildren on holiday. This change needs to be reflected.

Had I but world enough, and time, I would also ask for updates on education and training for the many rewarding jobs and apprenticeships for our young people. I am also interested in the Government’s plans to reinforce minimum wage rates in these industries, and ask whether they will move to the living wage as standard.

I will say a few words about Britain’s engagement with the European Union and about Europe’s challenge to maintain its position as the world’s top visitor destination. Does the Minister accept that tourism and travel are the quintessential single-market industries? The ambition to sweep away the tiresome red tape of 28 countries is worthy ground on which we should participate to make ourselves much more competitive. Does the Minister agree that loose talk of leaving the European Union costs jobs? Given that we already stand outside Schengen and the euro, we simply cannot afford to absent ourselves from the fray of maintaining and sharpening our competitive edge, especially at a time when Lithuania is joining the euro and Lech Walesa in Poland has called for Poland to do the same.

It is partly our attitude to the European Union that will guide our future and the future of the tourism industries, but we will need to make an effort in that regard. It will be a folly beyond words if we try to have a referendum on the subject in the year 2017 when we will be assuming the British presidency of the European Union. With that, I conclude.

My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for introducing this debate on tourism. I thank him in particular for the way in which he has worded its title because it deals with tourism in the UK and the EU. For those of us who have interests in Scotland, to have a debate in this House where we can include Scotland is getting increasingly rare, and this is a good opportunity to do so.

The noble Lord spent the first part of his speech in what I call a heavyweight approach to tourism. I will conclude mine with such an approach, but I shall start on a more lightweight and parochial note and declare my interests. I am a trustee of the Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust; I am chief executive and trustee of the Clan Sinclair Trust, which is a heritage charity in the north of Scotland; and I have been and still am heavily involved in ancestral tourism.

I start with the Castle of Mey. The noble Lord said that tourism is all about employment, and of course it is. At the castle we employ 50 staff during the summer months and we have six full-time staff who are employed all year. We have had 250,000 visitors through our doors since we opened in 2002. One has only to think of the knock-on effects that were not there before on B&Bs, hotels and campsites from those visitors to realise their importance. In our shop we use local produce whenever we can, and by employing local people, even part-time, we are keeping money in the local area—in the local pot—which is one of the huge advantages of tourism.

Like other tourist attractions, we are seeking to diversify. We are introducing high-quality expensive stays at the Castle of Mey. This is an area that is hugely important in Britain. We are in an international competitive market and unless we can produce high-quality products that people want to come to, they will go to the rest of the world. We have no divine right that means they will automatically come here.

We are also having an annual exhibition at Mey. This year we, like many others, are commemorating the First World War. That is highly appropriate at Mey. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’s brother was killed at Loos in 1915, and she lost two of her cousins. Part of the exhibition is devoted to her family connections with the war.

The Castle of Mey is a five-star visitor attraction. In order to attain that, a mystery visitor comes to the castle unannounced, does his or her report and the stars are awarded. It is nothing to do with the Castle of Mey, but a friend of mine did a mystery visit to Historic Scotland in Inverness. VisitScotland has done very well under the Scottish Government, but it is very much oriented towards the central belt. My friend went into the tourist office in Inverness and asked for visitor attractions north of Inverness. There are two five-star visitor actions in Caithness: the Castle of Mey and Caithness Horizons, but the member of staff could not think of any visitor attraction north of Inverness. There is a two-and-a-half-hour drive up to the north coast, and there are lots of visitor attractions on the way, but the member of staff failed miserably. Historic Scotland has kindly given us five stars at Mey, but I would give VisitScotland no stars at all on a local basis. It makes life very much more difficult.

Part of the problem is that tourist attractions and hospitality tend to be on the small scale: 80% of tourism and hospitality businesses employ fewer than 10 people. That makes it very hard to get recognised. It also means that one tends to have poor cash flows. One tends to rely on volunteers and, in an increasingly digital age, that makes it harder to keep up to date. It also makes it hard to fill in the endless funding application forms, which are increasingly difficult to fill in, and puts smaller businesses at a disadvantage.

My research in Northumberland backed my view of that experience in Caithness: we do not have the right infrastructure for tourism on the ground. There is no overall group enthusing and co-ordinating these small businesses and making them fulfil their potential. We have VisitScotland, VisitEngland and local authorities but, as the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, said, politicians do not get tourism. They are not working together, and the present structure is not as good as it should be.

Let me give another example from Scotland. In the Year of Homecoming in 2009 I was involved with the Gathering in Edinburgh. It is true that the company was a private enterprise and lost money and some businesses in Scotland lost a little money. That was very sad, but when you think of the overall effect, the Gathering brought more than £10 million to the Scottish economy. The ROI on public funding was more than 20 to one. It was a tragedy that there was not a way between the private sector, the Scottish Government and Edinburgh City Council to make certain that local people who lost money were reimbursed because with another homecoming this year, we could have had a bigger and better gathering. The 2009 homecoming brought thousands of the diaspora to Scotland for the first time. We could have done more in a bigger and better way, but we could not get central and local government in Scotland to work together properly with the private sector in a manner that could be trusted and would work well.

My research in Northumberland reveals exactly the same problem. Why is this? Northumberland has a huge amount to offer, with lots of opportunities for future tourism. In 2016, Kirkhale is commemorating the 300th anniversary of the birth of Capability Brown. If Northumberland got its act together, that could be a wonderful way to bring more tourism, which has declined since the financial crash of 2008 and has not recovered to its previous levels. There is still a lot to be done.

I therefore ask my noble friend the Minister whether the Government think that the present system is working well. If it is not, what can they do to improve it? Or does the Minister think that the Government ought to step back from tourism and say, “Okay, we have one foot in tourism, but the other foot is hanging around outside. Would it not be a good idea to get rid of the Minister for Tourism and pass the whole thing over to the private sector with a little bit of funding? Yes, we will pump-prime certain organisations, which will be the umbrella organisations that you are all demanding. This will be the new system, which works, and we, as the Government, will get out of it and let you, the private sector, which knows about business, get on with it rather than being half in and half out”?

I now turn to a more heavyweight and less parochial view of tourism, and follow the lead given by the noble Lord, Lord Harrison. It is important that tourism is based on stability and safety. There is little tourism in Crimea and Iraq—but there is a lot of tourism in Europe. We are extremely fortunate that we are part of a union that has been relatively stable, except for the odd occasion, since 1945. That is the basis of a successful tourism industry. We must not jeopardise that.

The noble Lord, Lord Harrison, rightly mentioned the question of visas. If a visitor gets a visa for the Schengen area, they have the right to go to 25 different countries. However, there is a barrier in coming to the UK and we must not forget that that barrier could become much worse on 18 September if the Scots vote for independence. Barriers and borders are completely anathema to tourism. Tourists do not like borders. If we are to have a border across the middle of the mainland of the United Kingdom, it will jeopardise tourism both north and south of that line. Everybody in the north of England should be aware of the consequences of having a border. I saw an extremely good television programme recently about the “middle land” of Britain, and how this community was divided by Hadrian’s Wall once upon a time, and could now be divided again. That would not be good for tourism.

Does my noble friend consider that PricewaterhouseCoopers’s thoughts and recent research on air passenger duty are correct? If air passenger duty produces £2.8 billion per annum for the Government, is that a better way of getting money than getting rid of APD, which PWC says would boost the economy by £16 billion in the first three years? Not only that, it would create 60,000 new jobs in the UK and an additional £500 million in increased revenue from other taxation. Talking about taxation in the round—as a former Treasury Minister I understand that that is hugely important for central government—why have one tax that seems to raise a bit of money, whereas abolishing it could raise a whole lot more? It is less obvious, but that is surely to the benefit of the country, which is what we are talking about.

I also support the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, on the question of VAT. It is strange that France and Germany have VAT on tourism at 7%, while ours is at 20%. If you run a small tourist business, that 20% will be very damaging to the cash flow. Fortunately, the trust of which I am a member is a charity, but if it was a pure business—if it was a hotel—that would make a huge difference to its profitability, and to the future of tourism.

Surely we need more people to come to this country, so we need to make it as competitive as possible. Will my noble friend say what the Government’s thoughts are on getting rid of those barriers that both the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, and I have raised? I am sure that other noble Lords will raise it, too. How will we make the country more attractive, particularly for the high-end visitor? That kind of person will spend a vast amount of money, and he or she needs to be attracted. If that person has to pay more for a visa here, they will not come. Tourism is growth and the economy—let us back it.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, on securing this debate. He has been a great champion of the industry for many years here and, as he told us, he has had practical experience in Cheshire. If the noble Lord ever thinks about giving up politics, I suggest he would make a wonderful toast-master, as he has the right bearing and a marvellous voice as well.

I had the privilege of introducing the previous tourism debate in the Moses Room in April last year. On many occasions I have said in this House that I believe that tourism is the number one industry in more parliamentary constituencies than any other single industry. Just think about it: there are our coastal resorts, the Lake District, Yorkshire, the West Country, Scotland—where it is perhaps equal with whisky, but certainly very important, as we have heard from the noble Earl—our historic towns such as Stratford, York, Chester, and our big cities with increasing tourism industries, obviously not least London itself.

I declare an interest as chairman of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions—ALVA—all of whose 57 members get more than 1 million visitors a year. I am delighted that my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft is in her place and that we will hear from her a little later. She is a very distinguished trustee of the British Museum. Of those 57, most of the royal palaces are members, and we have our great cathedrals—Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s—great museums and national galleries. They are the icons. With the best will in the world, visitors do not come to this country for our hotels or restaurants, although they want good hotels and restaurants. They come because of our heritage. The members of ALVA also include the National Trust, with a magnificent 4 million members, and English Heritage, with wonderful sites such as Stonehenge. I am sure we will hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, a little later, who was recently such a distinguished chair of English Heritage. We also have as members Warner’s studio tour of the world of Harry Potter, Chester Zoo, the Eden Project and the Churches Conservation Trust, which is apposite to the previous debate, on parish churches. Treasure Houses of England is a member, and we have sister organisations such as the Historic Houses Association. Of course, those appeal much more to the domestic visitor.

The vital message overall is that we need continuous investment in our attractions, with continuous refurbishment and upgrading to maintain and improve the quality of our offering. While quite rightly we endeavour to obtain more charitable funding from individuals and the corporate sector, I suggest that at the end of the day the Government have a major responsibility—certainly for the national museums and galleries that they support.

Sadly, as has been said, Governments and politicians of all persuasions have not in the past taken tourism seriously. At the last election, there was no mention of tourism in any of the major party manifestos—none at all. That is why the tourist industry has come together in the campaign for tourism to make sure that, in the coming election of 2015, tourism at least gets a mention. We have had meetings with the Prime Minister and the leader of the Official Opposition, and I am seeing David Laws next week, who is leading on the Lib Dem manifesto. We have meetings with the Deputy First Minister in Scotland and soon, I hope, with the Welsh First Minister, to press the case of tourism.

In recent months, to be fair, there have been some welcome signs that the Government have been getting the message. We have had some improvements in visas—I acknowledge that—and some alleviation on air passenger duty. Of course, last week the new Tourism Council was announced, focusing on employment issues and bringing together BIS, DCMS and the industry. I welcome that council—it is a step in the right direction—but I have some caveats. First, we really need a council that goes much wider and involves many more government departments. The Treasury needs to be involved because of VAT and air passenger duty. Transport needs to be involved because of the infrastructure issue. The Home Office needs to be involved because of visas. Secondly, to succeed, the council needs to be chaired by a senior Minister—a big hitter—not one or more junior Minister. I speak from some experience, having been a junior Minister and having endeavoured to put together just that sort of body more than 25 years ago when I was Tourism Minister.

Thirdly, despite the focus of the council on employment, the industry’s sector skills council, People First, is apparently not represented on the council. Fourthly, also we have no representative from destination management organisations, which deliver tourism at local level. Fifthly, and very importantly, there is no real representation from the SMEs that make up 80% of the tourist industry. I very much welcome the council’s creation but it has to be built up and expanded. I hope that the Minister can respond to some of my individual concerns.

Tourism is a massive generator of new jobs—one-third of the new employment in the past two or three years. It is an industry that has the ability to take on employees at all levels, from the unskilled right the way through to the skilled. I am afraid that there are those who in this country drone on all the time about immigration. Without all those who come from the EEC to work in our tourism and hospitality industries, our hospitality industry would absolutely collapse. This morning, for example, I had breakfast in a small hotel; there were two waitresses, one from Italy and one from Romania. Almost all the staff who come to this country from the EEC are smart and keen and very pleasant. What are the Government doing to encourage our indigenous youth to really participate?

Too few people appreciate the relationship that exists between a service industry such as tourism and manufacturing. They too often denigrate tourism because it is a service industry. The reality is that they are complementary. Let us take our aerospace industry, where we have a major position in the world. How much of aerospace manufacture comes from travel and tourism? Or let us take the construction industry in this country, and the very considerable development in recent years of budget hotels. Another example is that of Merlin, one of our very successful entertainment groups, which has a £40 million annual investment programme this year, with developments at Chessington, Alton Towers and Sea Life in Birmingham. We should think also about all the food and drink consumed by domestic and overseas visitors.

When the noble Earl talked about Northumbria, I was reminded of my experience more than 25 years ago, when, as Tourism Minister, I visited the Northumbria Tourist Board, as it was then called. The very impressive chair of that tourist board told me that the only way she could get funding for tourism in Northumbria was to take money from the fire brigades’ budget because at that time tourism was not acknowledged as a serious industry, particularly in the north-east and Northumbria. Thankfully, there has been considerable improvement in that regard.

I conclude by suggesting two things that would give a huge boost to tourism, and at no cost. The first is to revisit the whole issue of double summer time. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, will appreciate this. The extra hours of daylight that would be gained by introducing double summer time would give a huge boost to the tourism industry and benefit sport and road safety as well. Therefore, I hope that we will revisit that issue. My second point has been mentioned. Given tourism’s importance and its potential, for heaven’s sake let us now include it in the title of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. That is a long overdue and well deserved measure.

I congratulate my noble friend on his remorseless determination to ensure that tourism is at the heart of our economic policy. Whenever he speaks about tourism, he brings to it even greater conviction than when noble Lords spoke in the previous debate. I am always very pleased to participate in debates that he leads. He will not be surprised when I say that I am bound to talk about heritage, as the noble Lord, Lord Lee, anticipated. However, I will also talk about Wales and the issues that it faces in relation to tourism; and, indeed, the issues faced by the regions in ensuring that the wealth generated by tourism spreads beyond London.

The whole world had a fireside view of Britain during the Olympics and of the spectacular heritage that we hold in trust. That is really paying off in that at present you can hardly cross the road outside the Palace of Westminster because of the crowds. At a time when the world is becoming so monolithic, not least because of social media, people are desperate to encounter something different. They come to the UK because we are definitely different in the density, quality and diversity of our heritage. As the noble Lord said, it is a question not simply of our great monuments but of our market towns, our parish churches, our landscapes and much more. It is about the spirit of place.

We have heard a lot of statistics, but I wish to give a few more. Tourism is expected to grow in the future by 3.8% a year between 2013 and 2018. That is faster than retail and, God knows, we in this country like retail. At the heart of this is what we call in shorthand heritage tourism. Thirty per cent of overseas tourists claim that heritage is the main reason for them visiting the UK. It is stronger than any other single factor. In fact, I was rather surprised to note that 48% of visitors holidaying in the UK visited a castle or historic house. That is more than went to museums, art galleries and theatres. The fact that 43% went to museums and art galleries, and 14% to the theatre, also shows the enormous pulling power of culture and the arts as a whole.

So much of what our visitors come for is, indeed, to do with the spirit of place, as will be appreciated by anyone who has tried to get into Sissinghurst recently to see the glory of the gardens there, the Bloomsbury house at Charleston, the Charleston festival or the Bronte parsonage. These small, very fragile places are full of enthusiasts who have come from across the world to see where their favourite writers, artists and, indeed, scientists lived, which is reflected in the great success of Down House.

Brand UK is about the things we cannot measure, sometimes the things we take for granted. Over the years, we have saved, protected and invested in our heritage. Investment pays off. After 25 years, during which Stonehenge was described, chillingly, as a national disgrace for the state it had fallen into, with dreadful provision for visitors and little interpretation, the situation is transformed thanks to English Heritage. The new visitor centre is open and the landscaping of the monument well on the way to completion. Even though it is not complete, visitor numbers are already running way ahead of budget, which shows the relationship between the quality of the offer and the enthusiasm of the visitor. The lesson here is that we need to take this seriously and invest in the care and protection of heritage. We need to support private owners as well as public monuments. We need to ensure that there is the right amount and type of interpretation to excite, animate and bring visitors back many times.

One area that is ripe for more exposure to visitors is our world heritage sites, of which there are 27 in this country. There is no connecting story because they are very different. They range from Blaenavon, the home of the industrial revolution in south Wales, to the great social experiment of Saltaire, and to Blenheim, which is one of the great houses. They are extraordinary in their beauty and diversity. We should be making more of them, and I hope that VisitBritain will do so.

We can quantify the value of heritage almost to decimal points. The latest survey that the Heritage Lottery Fund commissioned from Oxford Economics made it clear that since the last data were collected in 2007, tourism has reached over £14 billion in its contribution to GDP. In 2007 that figure was £12 billion. It also produces more jobs. In 2007 there were 270,000 jobs in heritage; now the figure is 393,000. These are jobs ranging from specialist curatorial staff to the fantastic people in the shops and those who serve walnut cake and tea. That is all part of the reason why people keep returning. Then of course there is the huge force of volunteers. We are talking about real skills, real opportunities and real jobs.

The important thing about this is that it does not stop at income coming in. It brings investment that is about sustainable development. It is hardly surprising that other countries are looking at our fabulous National Trust in order to set up their own national trust to take care of their national heritage.

Heritage is also powerful because it is about local economies, which is why getting people out of London and beyond Oxford and Cambridge is vital. On recent heritage open days there were more than 2 million visits to historic properties. Norwich alone, for example, raised £735,000 from those visitors. Considering that we have just come through the worst recession in our history, these are impressive figures.

I am overdosing on statistics because I want to emphasis in the concluding part of my speech the absolute necessity of getting some of this wealth out of London and into other parts of the UK—particularly into Wales, which desperately needs to rebalance its economy and put its enormous assets and skills to work in different ways. It has some of the highest levels of poverty, unemployment and child poverty anywhere in the UK. With those come poor health, poor aspiration and achievement, and cultural and social exclusion. Wales needs new national and local economies, hence the emphasis on apprenticeships and the digital economy, for example. Wales needs every penny that it can get out of tourism, domestic and international. That means investing in its natural, historic and cultural assets. This is only common sense because Wales is a small but smart country. It has everything going for it in terms of tourism, which is already its third most important industry.

The genius of tourism is that it could be Wales-wide. It can be everywhere for everyone. It touches every corner and provides local jobs for local people. This is evident on the ground because wherever you go in Wales you fall over or into a castle, an abbey, a prehistoric site, a magnificent industrial landscape or a fabulous National Trust property. We have the homes of poets, artists and musicians. Brilliantly, Wales is the nation of the book. This year we have the Dylan Thomas festival, which is drawing in lots of visitors, as is the RS Thomas centre in Bangor. So there is no limit to what we can use our cultural assets for. We have coming in Bangor a wonderful new cultural centre called Pontio, which will be an intellectual and cultural centre for north Wales. We also hope, in addition to the three world heritage sites that we have in north Wales, that we will have a fourth in the form of the fantastic slate landscapes of north Wales.

So why am I concerned? We have all these assets, so what is the problem? The fact is that international tourism is simply not doing as well in Wales as it is in other parts of the UK. In Wales, 92% of tourism is domestic; international tourism is only 8%. The problem is that international tourism accounts for 16% of spending. Given the disproportionate benefit it is therefore all the more serious that in the past few years Wales has lost a quarter of a million visitors from overseas. It is such a source of concern that the Welsh Affairs Committee is now looking at how Wales can present a more compelling picture of itself to the world. We know that we have a fantastic product; it is just a question of how that information gets out to the rest of the world. If we could only do what the Hay festival has done and go viral. Sadly Hay is over for another year, but it has gone global. It is now held in six or seven centres all over the globe. It is a model of what Wales needs to do. Our national museums are forever taking their collections abroad and welcoming international visitors.

Visit Wales is doing a brilliant job of branding Wales. The problem is that the consensus seems to be that VisitBritain could and needs to do more. It is not difficult to sell London: it sells itself. Wales needs extra help. The evidence is that VisitBritain needs to identify Wales’ appeal and sell it more energetically. The fact is that in the cutthroat competition that marks global tourism it takes a huge and concerted effort to break through into new markets. VisitBritain’s job is surely to help all the constituent parts of the UK to achieve that breakthrough. I hope that role will be reinforced in the course of the imminent triennial review of VisitBritain, and I hope in particular that it will be reflected in new formal key performance indicators and targets. That might help to drive some of that energy from London and into the regions.

It should not be difficult to do that. VisitBritain itself cited recently, in evidence to the Welsh Affairs Committee, a survey of European visitors who said that the thing they most wanted to do when they came to Britain was to go on a tour of Welsh castles—more than to go to Buckingham Palace or Anne Hathaway’s house. I am delighted to hear that. However, Wales needs more exposure to generate curiosity and appetite. The NATO summit at Celtic Manor in Newport in September is a great opportunity to showcase Wales, but we have to ensure that Wales maintains and increases its investment in tourism and the things that people come to see, and in the care and animation of our monuments. It is essential that it promotes museums and collections to throw their doors open wider, and connects the natural history and the historic landscapes. Above all, we need better infrastructure. We need far better local transport in Wales. The loss of some local buses is a very sad story. We certainly need a better hospitality offer.

Can the Minister tell me what VisitBritain is doing to promote Wales specifically, and what future plans it has to ensure that Wales can capitalise on its assets and draw in more of the benefits of overseas tourism? I would be very grateful for anything that he can say on that.

My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, since she talks about an area I wish to pay particular attention to. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, has given us this opportunity to raise these matters. The Minister might expect me to talk about music, the arts and their value to tourism. However, he has heard me talk on that subject many times. There is not a great deal I can add. What I would like to talk about—this follows on from the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, about Hay—is landscape. This also follows on a little bit from our debate on parish churches.

Aspects of life in the United Kingdom—and I deliberately mention the United Kingdom, including Scotland—have been an important part of our heritage: the fact that people can go to churches and concerts and to Hay, and they can walk in the mountains. There is one thing that I am most concerned about, and here I should declare an interest as president of the Offa’s Dyke Association. While I, like everyone else, have concerns about climate change and can see the need for renewable energy, I am worried that dealing with those issues is going to impinge on areas of tourism that we need to protect.

Recently, the Welsh Assembly Government—this affects Shropshire and Herefordshire as well—commissioned a policy study into the potential effects on tourism of wind farms and their associated infrastructure, particularly that for the transmission of energy. I do not want to overstate the case but I am talking about areas where people come to walk. The 2014 study showed quite clearly that the imposition not just of wind farms but of the associated infrastructure—roads have to be widened and pylons have to be built—has an effect on areas where people make repeated visits because of the tranquillity of the landscape. This is particularly applicable to Her Majesty’s Government because, as I said, this will affect not just the Welsh Marches, although that is where the energy will begin, but Shropshire and Herefordshire as the energy is taken across.

As noble Lords know, Knighton appears in my title. The town of Knighton is on the dyke—hence my being the president—and I am particularly concerned with that area, although a lot of the transmission will be north of there. However, even we are faced with a wind farm overlooking Offa’s Dyke and a grade 1 Repton landscape at Stanage Park, identified by Cadw as being of great significance.

I think the Government have begun to recognise that there are very strong feelings among the people who live in these areas and that their feelings should be taken into consideration. My concern is that, if we do not look at what we are doing to this countryside, it will be too late. Things will go through and we will find very important landscapes blighted.

Although farming provides the main form of income in mid-Wales, tourism is incredibly important. People who come regularly to walk the dyke stay at hotels and bedsits in Knighton. If any noble Lords have the energy and the desire, I can thoroughly recommend it. However, the owners of these establishments are all incredibly worried. When this matter was aired, more than 1,000 people wrote to say that they were worried about their livelihood, as opposed to about 300 who wanted wind farms there.

Therefore, I ask the Minister to look at this area in particular—the Welsh Marches and the Welsh landscape. The wind farm that I am talking about began life with Herefordshire County Council to avoid bringing in Powys, but in fact there has to be access through Powys. Therefore, it is a cross-border matter and a minefield in planning terms, as I completely recognise. There is a very strong feeling among local people that their views are not being heard, and they are worried about their future in terms of tourism. Therefore, I should be very grateful if the Minister could look at this matter more carefully.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, on alerting us to the importance of tourism, in a speech delivered with his usual passion.

My first involvement with tourism was when I was a member of the Heart of England tourist board. Until then, I had always marvelled at the way so many overseas visitors would do Europe in a week and then return home, exhausted and saturated with facts, hardly able to remember the country in which these riches were situated. It was while on the board that I realised what an unrivalled treasure trove of history and culture we enjoyed regionally and nationally. This was during a comparatively early stage of the development of the tourist sector in this country. At that time the challenge was to get visitors to visit not only London but our wonderful towns and countryside beyond. Since that time it has been truly exciting to witness the expansion and development of one of our major industries to visitors from overseas. At the same time, I remain hugely supportive of home tourism and, in particular, opening the eyes of young British people to the wonders around them that are taken for granted.

I wish to concentrate on the joy of seeing the expansion and development of this industry. It is such a joy to see so many people visiting our country. In recent times, it seems that London has become a magnet for tourists from all over the world and is now the most visited city in the world. People, young and old, flock to our magnificent city—a city which, under the excellent leadership of the mayor, deserves great credit for revitalising itself and now presenting itself as the place where everyone wants to be. You have only to be in a taxi, on a bus or on the Tube to be intoxicated by the sense of excitement. There is freshness and brightness all around and an impression of vitality and purpose in a city at ease with itself.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, that the Olympics of 2012 were the real trigger. They created an infectious energy and enthusiastic anticipation which spurred us all on to present our country in the very best light. The whole effect was magical and I am sure we all felt enormous pride in what we achieved. I loved every moment of it, particularly the time I spent at the Olympics and the magnificent Paralympics. As a consequence, my family and I are going to Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games. I wish the City of Glasgow every success and I hope that the spin off will result in a legacy which will serve the nation well.

All this activity, as well as many other government initiatives, has contributed to yesterday’s announcement of the employment figures. Tourism is now the fastest growing sector in the UK in employment terms. Two million new jobs have been created in the private sector since 2010, 345,000 being added in the three months to April 2014. This is the biggest quarterly rise since records began in 1971. Simply put, more tourism means more jobs. From January to March this year, overseas residents’ visits are up a staggering 10% and holiday visits are up 19%. It is now estimated that earnings from overseas residents will be up 14% for this year. That is real progress. We all think things can be improved—it will always be thus—but 14% is a great achievement.

Over the years I have come to appreciate how fortunate I am to live in the leafy lanes of Warwickshire and close to the thriving, bustling town of Stratford-upon-Avon, one of the most visited towns outside London. Wherever you go in the world, however remote, people will always have heard of Stratford. Of course the name is associated with that of William Shakespeare and, for me, there are few events as touching as his annual birthday celebrations, particularly this year, the 450th anniversary of his birth. The sheer number of people who come from all ends of the earth, carrying their country’s banner, all clutching simple bunches of flowers, never ceases to impress me. That special celebration takes place only once a year, but great numbers of people visit on a daily basis, and that requires delicate handling to ensure that inhabitants living in and around Stratford and the welcome visitors are able to enjoy all the amenities that the town has to offer.

Managing large numbers of visitors is a delicate matter. We now have a thriving tourism sector that is contributing much to our recovering economy. Does my noble friend agree that it behoves us all not only to welcome our visitors but also to ensure that their visits are for them, as well as for us, memorable experiences?

My Lords, I also thank my noble friend Lord Harrison for initiating this debate. When he rises to speak, I always feel like saying, “Speak up!”. He has a wonderful way of getting our attention.

I have to make an admission; as David Cameron might say, I have to fess up. I would really like to be two and a half miles down the road at the Queen’s Club, and I can see that one or two people have just arrived from Lord’s, but there we go. Such is my enthusiasm for this topic that I had no hesitation in signing up to the debate. It is another opportunity—we have discussed this issue in various forms two or three times—to listen to some powerful contributions. I shall be using all that material in our coming debates, and I hope to be able to make a small contribution myself. I am delighted to be here and I hope very much that I am not going to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Lee.

My noble friend Lord Harrison is right to focus on the contribution of both tourism and hospitality in the UK and across the EU. It is my view that governments of all kinds have been slow to realise the potential of tourism. As I have said, we have debated this issue a number of times, yet the political outcomes continue to be disappointing and progress is painfully slow. So while I take a negative view of what has been achieved so far, perhaps I may make some positive suggestions on how the contribution can and should be improved.

First, I should make two declarations of interest that are relevant to the debate. My long-term involvement in sport of all kinds is reflected in my chairmanship of the Lords and Commons Tennis Club, which is a very distinguished organisation. That is matched by my being the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Lighter Evenings. Let me begin with the latter.

The campaign for daylight saving has at its core a way of making better use of the daylight hours that we receive in the UK. It would mean moving the clocks two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time in the summer and one hour ahead in the winter. The effect on our lives would be profound. We would enjoy considerable environmental bonuses, better road safety, and health and leisure advantages, all of which would outweigh the disadvantages of darker mornings. The benefits are many. Carbon emissions would be greatly reduced. Road safety would be significantly improved as road deaths and serious injuries diminish. The organisation RoSPA is a powerful advocate and has provided some statistics that point out the enormous benefits to cyclists, motorcyclists, and a reduction in the number of children who are killed or injured on our roads because they would come home from school in daylight.

But most crucially in terms of this debate, daylight saving would contribute to the expansion of domestic tourism and would make more visitors come to the UK from overseas. It would boost the UK’s leisure and tourism earnings by up to £4 billion per annum and provide up to 100,000 jobs. Other Members have discussed this. These would be jobs for young people, in areas where they are probably most needed. With sensible foresight from the Government, we could see our economy boosted by at least 10%, at virtually no cost or detriment to our citizens. By not doing this, the Government demonstrate their short-sighted policies and lack of commitment. I call on the Government to bring legislation in to give the British people all the benefits that daylight saving would bring and, by doing so, to show more basic common sense.

My second plea, and criticism, of the Government is to utilise Britain’s unique heritage, which we are discussing this evening, not only in sport but the arts. At the Olympic Games, we showed our ability to draw worldwide approval for what was dubbed “the greatest show on earth”. The Government have been rightly criticised for not making the legacy of the Games more dynamic. We have the ability in the UK to draw a sporting map across the whole nation, at all times of the year, yet no attempt has been made to co-ordinate and promote our sporting events. It is now time, surely, that the DCMS is properly resourced and funded in order to do this.

Alongside our sporting excellence, what steps have been taken to promote British arts across the world? At best, the Government’s response is patchy and, at worst, I have to say it is amateur. The potential for tourism in all these areas is immense. Will the Minister assure us that the coalition, however doddery at this moment, will come together to support and promote our magnificent assets? Unless it does so, an amazing opportunity will be lost, which would be tragic. I hope that the Minister will be able to give some assurances and at least take back to the Government our misgivings about the future of tourism. I believe that we are looking a gift horse in the mouth—it is time we got on and saddled it.

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for initiating this debate. I have found the debate so far exceedingly helpful in identifying a range of issues that the Minister might be able to respond to. I am particularly pleased to have heard two references to the county of Northumberland, which is very close to where I live and which I know extremely well.

I thank the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, for posing a question which I think is likely to prove very instructive, about who is responsible for organising the celebrations of the 300th anniversary of the birth of Lancelot “Capability” Brown in 2016. As his birthplace was Kirkharle, it will presumably be the responsibility of Visit Northumberland, and Northumberland County Council may have a role in working with it.

However, there is a broader question, because Capability Brown worked on many gardens across the country. It will be very helpful to look at that co-ordination as a case study in whether all the different agencies are sufficiently integrated. I am clear in my mind about the role of VisitBritain and the roles of VisitScotland, VisitEngland, Discover Northern Ireland and Visit Wales. Those are pretty clear. Then there are all the destination agencies—there are a large number of them—which do an exceedingly good job in promoting their own local areas. As a tourist, I find that extremely helpful. So many private sector providers, transport organisations and voluntary and public bodies are involved in tourism and make a big success of it. As the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, rightly pointed out, it forms a key part of our economy. It is a success story. It is becoming even more successful, despite some of the doubts that have been raised—some of them understandably, but let us turn those into an opportunity.

I pay particular tribute to English Heritage and the National Trust for their major contribution to the experience that their visitors have. I am a member of both of them. I visited Osborne House on the Isle of Wight 10 days ago and I was really struck by the quality of the presentation of the history of the house and all the rooms, and the grounds, all of which were outstanding. The access arrangements, the signage, the knowledge of the staff and the catering were all of an exceptionally high standard. Those standards are replicated right across the UK. I think that they are very much higher than they used to be, which gives this country a competitive edge.

Does the system work well? I think it would help if the Minister could give an answer, either today or at a later date, about how all the different agencies work together. The importance of tourism’s economic contribution cannot be overstated. It is 9% of total UK GVA. It is 3.1 million jobs, almost 10% of the UK total. It is the third-largest employment sector, as we have heard. There are two key facts that we should not miss. First, 28% of those who are employed in tourism are aged between 16 and 24, compared with only 12% in the wider economy. Secondly, one-third of net new jobs in the UK economy between 2010 and 2012 were created by tourism. Those two statistics tell us that there is great potential in tourism and hospitality for entry-level training. Given the very high level of youth unemployment, it is important, as my noble friend Lord Lee pointed out, that the sector as a whole takes the opportunity to develop the skills of more of our young people.

Of course, to do that requires the growth in tourism to be closer to where the jobs are needed. There is an issue about the uneven growth across the UK, given the appeal of London to inbound tourists. We have to do more to persuade visitors to look beyond London so that tourism grows across the country as a whole. We should note that since 2008 the number of inbound trips to London has increased by 14%, while the number of inbound trips to other parts of England is still 4% lower than it was then. According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report, there are signs that numbers will return this year to where they were six years ago, but that is still well behind the growth being experienced by London.

I believe that the success of the Plan for Growth adopted by the Government in 2011 is the reason why London is currently doing so well. It seems a well executed plan. It is worth £100 million overall. It plans to get 4 million extra visitors to the UK and it has undoubtedly driven up visitors numbers in the past couple of years; otherwise, it would have been a failure. Of course, most people, particularly those who are new to the UK, want to come to London to sightsee, I understand that. Given that most international flights land in London, that is where they are brought to. The result is that 54% of all money spent by visitors to the UK is spent in London.

That is a good thing for the UK economy, not least because it creates jobs and tax revenue. Crucially, it gives an opportunity for people who are coming to London to go somewhere else in the United Kingdom. The question is how we persuade more of them to go elsewhere in the UK. One simple way of doing this is to encourage greater use of entry and exit at regional airports to make use of their spare capacity, which in many cases is very substantial; for example, I understand that Manchester Airport uses only 44% of its capacity; Newcastle has even greater spare capacity than that, and it should be utilised. The noble Lord, Lord Harrison, made a very important point on air passenger duty as well as VAT. Air passenger duty has been a problem for regional, non-London airports. The Government recently did something about that. My view is that they need to go even further to encourage more people to land in regional airports.

Research by VisitBritain which I have seen identified a lack of knowledge of British destinations other than London as one of the key reasons why relatively few overseas visitors travel any further. I see that as an opportunity for the rest of the UK. The Growing Tourism Locally campaign is an example of best practice and how to fund awareness-raising activity. I am the deputy chair of the independent advisory group on the regional growth fund—although I was not on the growth fund for round 2 allocations. There has been a three-year campaign, between 2012 and 2015, part-funded by the £19.8 million from the regional growth fund which is being delivered by VisitEngland in partnership with destination management organisations and private sector partners. The campaign intends to generate £365 million of additional tourism spending over those three years and create 9,000—or more, it hopes—new jobs in the sector. From the first year, it seems that the project is on track to do that. Obviously the growth fund is dependent on objectives being achieved. Certainly that dual-key system, in which the government RGF is matched with private sector funding, seems a very worthwhile way of proceeding.

In the remaining couple of minutes available to me I should say something about the barriers. I hope that we have covered the question of who is responsible for what and that we are being absolutely clear. However, the document from VisitBritain that I read talks about “British image” and the experience available. It is not that the rest of Britain has a bad image, but people are asking, “What can you do outside London?”. A second area of challenge is said to be the product: does the tourism offer meet co