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Lords Chamber

Volume 754: debated on Thursday 26 June 2014

House of Lords

Thursday, 26 June 2014.

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Birmingham.

Health: Secondary Care


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to help to remove barriers to access to secondary care for symptomatic patients so they are identified and can start treatment earlier.

My Lords, GPs act as the gateway to and co-ordinator of patient care. GPs hold patients’ medical records and understand their health history. The GP will be able to work with patients and their carers to make an informed decision about whether a specialist referral is necessary, and to recommend appropriate hospitals or clinics. Early diagnosis can improve outcomes and treatment. We are therefore raising awareness of key symptoms and supporting GPs to assess patients more effectively.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. Is he aware that some GPs are being penalised by CCGs for sending patients on for diagnosis? Is that not totally wrong and does it not cause late diagnosis, which is always more expensive in every way?

My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness that early diagnosis is vital for just about every condition one can think of, particularly cancer. I am not aware that GPs are being penalised. I am very concerned to hear that, and if I may I will take the point she has made back with me and write to her about it. I would be very concerned if that practice was taking place. Particularly on cancer, we are keen to see GPs referring more. Indeed, that is what they have been doing, quite markedly, over the past four years: there was a 51% increase in cancer referrals over that period.

My Lords, would the Minister agree that one of the essential elements for early diagnosis was time—time to spend with the patient and hear exactly what their symptoms are? How does that tie in with the current reports about pressure on GP surgeries and time?

The noble Baroness makes a very good point. We know that GPs in many areas of the country are under pressure and we know how hard they are working. It was with that knowledge that we agreed with the profession that we would remove from the GP contract for 2014-15 more than a third of the quality and outcomes framework’s indicators, which GPs told us were taking up too much time and resulting in a bureaucratic burden. The aim of that was to free up more time for GPs. On top of that we have the Prime Minister’s challenge fund of £50 million, which will test out new ways for GPs to give access to patients—for example, through innovative means such as Skype and e-mail.

My Lords, early treatment is key to improving our low cancer survival rates. Lung cancer remains the biggest cancer killer. It has a 5% 10-year survival rate and 33% of all cases are emergency presentations. What progress has been made on improving early diagnosis?

My noble friend is right. This is absolutely central to raising our performance as a country in successfully treating cancer. We are doing several things. We have piloted a tool to help GPs to identify patients whom they might not otherwise refer urgently for suspected cancer. The tool covered lung cancer, as well as others. Across England, 502 GP practices took part in the pilot. Initial indications are that the tool is extremely helpful. There is also an e-learning tool that offers accredited professional development for GPs. The Royal College of General Practitioners has also identified cancer as an enduring priority. It is working with Cancer Research UK and other partners in promoting models of best practice.

My Lords, I declare my interests as professor of surgery at University College, London, and chairman of UCLPartners. Better integrating primary and secondary care is crucial to ensuring patient safety, improved clinical outcomes and the most effective resource utilisation. What progress has been made in defining whole pathway metrics for integrated care to best inform rational commissioning of these services?

Several things are in train. One of those, as the noble Lord will know, was reflected in the legislative reform order that we debated in the Moses Room two days ago. It will cut down the administrative burden of joint commissioning by NHS England and CCGs, as well as the burden currently being experienced by CCGs in joint commissioning between themselves. More importantly, we need to incentivise the system for integrated care, and that is what the better care fund is designed to do. It will ensure that patients receive joined-up care, whether that is in acute settings, in the community or, indeed, from social care.

My Lords, the noble Earl will know that a number of trusts like my own, which is Barnet and Chase Farm, are trying to remove the barriers that still exist between providers of secondary care and of primary care. What help can the Government give to make sure that primary care is better funded and reinforced so that people do not have to come into hospital, and so that we have an absolutely seamless pathway of care?

We have said that preparations for the better care fund in 2015-16 should most definitely include a dialogue between commissioners and providers, and that there should be a whole system approach to incentivising the treatment of patients in the community. Of course, that will involve hospitals such as that of the noble Baroness, which I had the pleasure of visiting this week, informing themselves on how they can assist in the effort to do what we all want to do, which is to see patients treated in the best environment possible.

At a time when GPs seem to be very budget conscious and worried about everything, can the Minister assure me that there are no perverse incentives that would tend to deter them from making these secondary referrals early? That is very important.

I am not aware of any disincentives in that sense. Indeed, the rate of referrals has gone up dramatically, particularly for cancer, which seems to indicate that GPs are not afraid to refer when they feel that they need to.

My Lords, governance, early diagnosis and visits to the general practitioner are all very well but, as the noble Earl will understand, many cancers such as lung cancer, which has just been mentioned, and pancreatic cancer depend on relatively silent tumours that are not going to be diagnosed on a clinical basis anyway. Surely the need is for markers for these diseases. What are the Government planning to do to increase research in this area, to ensure that we have markers for these diseases?

Cancer research is a major priority for my department. Investment in cancer research by the National Institute for Health Research has risen from £101 million in 2010-11 to £133 million in 2012-13. However, that is only what my department is doing. As I am sure he is aware, a whole range of work is going on across many different types of cancer, which we regard as a priority.

European Union: United Kingdom MEPs


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the recent European Union election results, whether they have any plans to co-operate more closely with United Kingdom MEP representatives.

My Lords, the Government routinely engage with Members of the European Parliament, particularly with those Members who represent the UK regions. The Government are especially keen to work with those MEPs who recognise the need to respond to voters’ concerns and share our vision of a reformed EU, one that is about openness, competitiveness and fairness.

I thank the Minister for her reply. Perhaps I may point out that as a substitute member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, when I go to sessions, I am briefed by the ambassador. As a Member of the European Parliament for 25 years, I rarely if ever saw our ambassador. It seems that we pay very little attention to briefing our MEPs in situ on what British interests are. Perhaps I may also point out that MEPs are banned from the House of Commons and are not received in a friendly way here. Indeed, only eight of them have passes. Can we try to build a friendlier relationship between this House and our other elected representatives?

My Lords, we keep the Government’s engagement with the European Parliament under constant review and we consider all upcoming events. We engage with our MEPs in a number of ways. That may be by direct engagement with Ministers, through official engagement and, of course, through UKREP. In relation to access to Parliament, the decision not to extend pass access rights to UK MEPs was considered by the Administration Committee during the previous Parliament. As I understand it, the decision was made due to pressures on facilities and the absence of reciprocal arrangements. In March 2011, the Administration Committee decided that as these conditions had not changed, the policy of not extending access rights to MEPs should continue.

My Lords, Conservative Members of the European Parliament have recently allied themselves with the Danish People’s Party and the Finns Party, which are both by any standards extreme right-wing organisations that are shunned by mainstream centre-right parties in the European Parliament. David Cameron himself shunned them in 2009, but not in 2014. What has changed the Prime Minister’s mind and how does this new alliance strengthen Britain’s negotiating hand in Brussels?

My Lords, the noble Lord will understand that there are a number of political parties that form part of the alliances and blocs at European level. Indeed, he will also know the Conservative Party’s recent response, concerning that alliance, in relation to the parties in Germany. He will be aware that we take a very serious view of extremism, whether domestically or in relation to political parties with which we engage overseas.

My Lords, rather than co-operate more closely with comparatively powerless MEPs, should not the Government try to do so with the EU Commission? Given the current saga over Mr Juncker’s appointment as its boss, should not the Government tell the British people just how much more power the Commission has, with its monopoly to propose and execute all EU law? If the Government do not want to reveal this, could they encourage the BBC to do so? I regret to say that at the moment, in clear breach of its charter, it is adamantly refusing to do that.

The noble Lord makes the important point that the European Commission and the President of the Commission have an incredibly important role. That role has most autonomy and has the right of initiative, and the Commission itself plays a quasi-judicial role. It is important for those reasons that whoever leads the Commission is a candidate who commands respect and who understands—this was clear at the last European Parliament elections—that people need a change. All political parties in this House will agree that the process that has been adopted is not one with which any of us here agree.

My Lords, would the Minister perhaps agree that changes in policy should normally be evidence based? If so, could she perhaps list the advantages to either her party or this country of withdrawing from the EPP?

This matter has been reiterated on a number of occasions. In my previous job as party chairman, I had many dealings with the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists. I think that the noble Lord will have to accept that there is change across Europe and that there are many more political parties that are aligned with the view that reform is needed, and that reform goes beyond what some of the parties within the EPP think.

My Lords, coming back to my noble friend’s previous answer, is not the real issue that, while our Prime Minister is trying to negotiate critical issues for this country in the European Union, Conservative MEPs have signed up to a group with Alternative für Deutschland, which is a major irritant to Chancellor Merkel? Is that not clearly a national own goal in terms of our own interests and our present relationships?

My Lords, I think I made my position clear. The Conservative Party’s position on this matter is clear. We have only one sister party in Germany and that is on the record.

My Lords, in her initial Answer, the noble Baroness said that the Government are keen to talk to those MEPs who share our views on various issues, including, of course, reform of the EU. Will the noble Baroness perhaps consider that it is equally if not more important to talk to those MEPs who do not share our views on these issues, not just the converted, and to try to build those alliances, which have been perhaps rather lacking in some of the recent government activity in the EU?

I assure the noble Baroness that we engage with MEPs both on an issues basis—for example, we have had MEPs attending meetings with DECC and we have engagement through BIS on direct issues—and, of course, on broader issues of reform.

Drugs Policy


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to contribute to the work of the European Union to prepare for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drug Policy in 2016.

My Lords, the Government are committed to taking a leadership role in preparing for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs, including through our representations in the European Union. Of course, we must work with our international partners to share our expertise and indeed to promote a balanced and evidence-based approach to drugs that is within international drug control conventions.

I thank the Minister for his reply. On 26 June 2013, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, appealed to all member states to consider “all options” in drug policy in the lead-up to the 2016 UN special session. Yesterday the former UK ambassador to Afghanistan claimed that to put doctors and pharmacists in control of heroin supply in the UK—with tough regulation—will save lives, improve health and reduce crime. Will the Minister assure the House that the Government will extend their review of drug policy to include a rigorous, independent study of the costs and benefits of a regulatory regime as proposed by our former ambassador—and if not, why not?

First, I pay tribute to the work the noble Baroness has done in this field. She has brought to the fore on many occasions the importance of reviewing drugs policy. The Government have taken a broad view of this. If we look at the statistics, it is commendable that drug usage domestically is down and we have seen a greater emphasis being put on helping people overcome drugs issues. Nevertheless, she may well be aware that there is an international comparators report due within the next two to three months, and we will be reviewing what we find in terms of best practice across a range of countries, not just within the EU.

My Lords, will the Government support the modernisation of schedule 1 through an evidence-based review process so that the great advances in medical science in the UK and elsewhere can be reflected in the wider availability of drugs for medical use?

I have already said that we are constantly reviewing our drugs policy to ensure that what we do is based on prevention and cure but also on enforcement. Evidence has shown that our current balanced approach is paying dividends and we need to ensure that we do not have a knee-jerk reaction to what is being proposed. I have already mentioned the comparators report, and other reviews internally will ensure that we continue to have a balanced view of this particularly sensitive area.

My Lords, the 2014 report from the UN on drugs and crime stated very clearly that the UK has the largest problem—what it described as a hydra-headed problem—of legal highs in the whole of the EU. When one substance is banned, two others appear. This is an extremely difficult problem for the Government, but what action have they taken to tackle legal highs in this country?

The best way to answer the noble Lord is by saying that we make those legal highs illegal. As he has acknowledged, unfortunately, the way these drugs are introduced into the market is very clever. Something is a derivative of something which was banned. Then another derivative comes out. However, I can say to the noble Lord that we have banned 350 of what were legal highs and are no longer. We continue to review that process. Indeed, my honourable friend the Minister for Crime Prevention is leading a review and an expert panel to look at how the UK can continue to respond more effectively to new psychoactive substances and legal highs, and how this can be enhanced beyond existing measures.

My Lords, we are faced with evidence of the vast increase in drug use, in the scale of the associated criminal economy, and in the costs to society and to the public purse since the passing of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. We are also faced, as my noble friend has said, with appalling dangers from new psychoactive substances. There is evidence from Portugal and other European countries, some of which the Home Office has been studying, that treating misuse of drugs as a health issue and not as a criminal one yields significant beneficial effects on rates of drug use and health. Why are the Government not responding positively to the challenge which Ban Ki-moon has put to it to conduct a wide-ranging and open debate and consider all options?

I cannot agree with the noble Lord. On the contrary, the Government are doing just that: they are having a wide-ranging debate. I have alluded to the comparators study. Just to pick up his initial points, if we look at drug use in England and Wales, it is down—8.2% in 2012-13. If we look at those people who have to access treatment, he said that there was no focus. That is also down to only five days. The misuse of drugs, and the deaths associated with that, is down. Waiting time is down, and a record number of people are completing their treatment. The Government are emphasising, as I said, prevention, education and enforcement. This is a balanced approach, looking at international comparators, and if one looks at, for example, Sweden, it has zero tolerance, and drug use there is very low.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, if we treated drug users as patients rather than criminals, we would have more resources to ensure that every child in every school had a balanced PSHE course that warned them of the dangers of taking up drugs in the first place?

I regret that my noble friend does not recognise that that is exactly what the Government do. We do have a balanced approach, and those people who unfortunately fall under the influence of drugs are treated as patients. I have already quoted the statistics on this. We are seeing a growing number of individuals who go in for treatment completing their treatment. There is a focus on ensuring that we get people off drug use.

My Lords, the Minister has said that drug use has plateaued, drug deaths are going down, and all issues related to substance misuse in terms of crime have gone down. Does he recognise that the reason they have plateaued and gone down is the massive investment the previous Government made in the area of drug treatment? That is in real jeopardy because local authorities are cutting drug-misuse treatment services across the country. There is a great likelihood that all these issues will rise again—drug use and crime.

I say to the noble Lord, if he compares last year’s statistics to those of the year before, he will see that they have gone down again. I fully acknowledge the steps that were taken by the previous Government in tackling this issue. This is not about politicising it but about ensuring that we get cure and prevention. The balanced approach that we have taken builds on what has been done, and the statistics demonstrate that, yes, it is a real problem and we must tackle and attack it—but we are addressing it with a balanced approach and that is the right way to move forward.



Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they propose to announce details of plans to guarantee all retirees face-to-face pensions guidance from April 2015.

My Lords, the Government recently consulted on how best to deliver the guidance guarantee through their post-Budget consultation, Freedom and Choice in Pensions. They are now processing the responses and aim to respond before the Summer Recess of Parliament.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, but I am not reassured. We have a clear case here of a policy being announced and the Government now trying to work out when, how and whether it can be implemented. The Budget Statement was very clear: the guarantee was for “free, impartial, face-to-face” guidance, not the opportunity to attend a mass meeting or have some group therapy. I took the guarantee of face-to-face provision to be an opportunity for those who want or need it to interact individually and directly with another human being. Is that still the policy?

My Lords, that is the policy. The FCA is working closely with the Pensions Regulator and the DWP to co-ordinate standards to deliver it. In developing the guidance, it is working with consumer groups, the Pensions Advisory Service, the Money Advice Service and Citizens Advice to build on existing good practice. I think that it is fair to say that not everybody will want personal, face-to-face guidance, but to the extent that they do, it will be available.

My Lords, for these reforms and freedoms to work, the Government must try to remove some of the mythical mist which surrounds pensions. As the FCA draws up options for the guidance which is to be given, what reassurance has my noble friend had from the pensions and insurance industries that they will support and drive forward these reforms so that the consumer, the owner of the pension pot, is in the driving seat?

My Lords, the Association of British Insurers has produced a detailed response to the consultation that we are undertaking. Within that, it has underlined its commitment to help customers understand their options and enable them to make good decisions. I think that for many people, when the word “pension” is mentioned, a mist descends; so demystifying pensions is a big challenge already. That is why we are devoting £20 million over the next couple of years to getting the new guidance system up and running.

My Lords, the mist may not be entirely accidental. I remind the House of my interest as the independent director of the Financial Ombudsman Service. The Telegraph reported on 13 June that officials are getting ready to tell more than 1 million people in their late 50s and early 60s that they will not get the full amount of the single new “flat-rate” state pension. The Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, told the Telegraph:

“I think I may have been guilty of oversimplifying the new flat rate state pension ... But as soon as you caveat this type of thing people switch off”.

Will we have the opportunity to scrutinise the communication plan for this scheme to make sure that more mist does not descend in future?

My Lords, the provisions relating to the guidance will be in the pension scheme Bill when it comes before your Lordships’ House. I am sure that there will be plenty of opportunity to debate those provisions at great length, to which we on this side look forward.

The answer is that it may be or it may not be, depending on what people want to do. One can envisage there being cases at workplace level, where there is a workplace scheme, where it is sensible to start off, for example, by having a collective session followed up by individual guidance. The key thing which we want to underline is that individual guidance will be available. As I said earlier, however, not everybody will want to receive it in the same way.

My Lords, the Budget Red Book indicates a bonanza for the Treasury in the next few years as a result of this annuities treatment. This policy could have echoes of the pensions mis-selling scandal of the 1980s, which cost £12 billion. If the Government are not clear and unambiguous that this means individual advice, people will be left on their own and be mesmerised. It is a good thing for the Government, but a bad thing for individuals. The Government need to act very quickly on this.

My Lords, the Government are acting quickly on it, and we absolutely agree that this must be seen as a good thing for individuals. This scheme is not being introduced to make a short-term improvement in government finances. I remind noble Lords that a number of countries—for example, Australia, Denmark and the US—already have the kind of provision that we are proposing. The FT recently reported that, when the leading finance and pensions expert was asked about this, he said:

“There’s nothing to suggest that Poms are any more stupid than Australians”.

I agree with him.

Business of the House

Timing of Debates

Moved by

That the debate on the motion in the name of Baroness Scott of Needham Market set down for today shall be limited to three hours and that in the name of Baroness Walmsley to two hours.

Motion agreed.

Arrangement of Business


My Lords, perhaps I may remind those speaking in the debates this afternoon that they are all time limited. Therefore, when the clock reaches the number of minutes allocated in each noble Lord’s debate, noble Lords should finish their speech, as they have spoken for the allotted time. If a noble Lord is happy to take an intervention, that time will be taken out of their allocation.

Voluntary and Charitable Sectors

Motion to Take Note

Moved by

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to introduce today’s debate, and I am grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness and my noble friend Lord Newby for selecting this topic on one of two Liberal Democrat debate days. I declare an interest as chair of the National Volunteering Forum, as a trustee of the Industry and Parliament Trust, and as patron of Ace Anglia, which provides advocacy and support to people with learning disabilities in Suffolk, and of Wings of Hope, which is an educational charity focused on India and Malawi. I very much look forward to hearing from the other 20 noble Lords who will speak in the debate. With all due respect, between us we have many hundreds of years of experience in this sector, and I think the insights today will be very valuable.

What makes this sector so vibrant, so flexible, often challenging and occasionally frustrating is its very breadth. Charities such as the National Trust, the RSPB and Oxfam are household names. They have hundreds of thousands of members and significant incomes. There are thousands more tiny local charities set up to respond to particular circumstances, sometimes even the plight of one individual who needs help. There are around 161,000 registered charitable organisations, and an estimated 600,000 which are not registered. However, 90% of charitable income is made by the top 10%. I would not want this morning’s debate to go by without paying tribute to the millions of volunteers and family carers who, often under very trying circumstances, display a quiet daily heroism.

This sector provides both quality-of-life services, such as those of the National Trust, and lifesaving services, such as those of the RNLI and the Red Cross. The Society of Friends reminded me of the important role which charities play in the campaign for change, and how important that is at a time when people are increasingly disengaged from party politics. Of course, as we go into the general election next year, I reflect that most of the political activity which is undertaken in this country is done by unpaid volunteers. We should remember that contribution, too. In some cases, the volunteers provide the service, and in others they raise money so that professionals can do their jobs. Charity shops alone raise around £300 million every year for their organisations.

With this variation, finding the right policy framework for all of these circumstances is very difficult to get right, both for government and for regulators such as the Charity Commission. It also makes it quite difficult for the sector to speak with one voice. I will leave it to other noble Lords with more experience to talk in depth about the legal and financial framework for charities. However, I want to start with a few general comments on that aspect, before going on to talk about volunteering, which is the main thrust of what I want to say today.

The total yearly income of the charitable and voluntary sector is £39.2 billion. That is down £700 million on the previous year, largely as a result of reduced public funding. Despite the recession, NCVO says that charitable giving is holding up reasonably well, although anecdotal evidence suggests that organisations are having to work much harder to raise their money. Voluntary organisations are also reporting an increase in demand for their services, and there is now a real question about how long they can afford to do more with less.

The recent cross-party report, Creating an Age of Giving, referred to a civic core of givers, but it refers to the fact that that core is ageing and shrinking. Investment in schemes such as payroll giving and technology that enables text donations, for example, and the use of social media, have proved to be very worthwhile. I hope that the Minister will tell us whether the Government will continue to provide the seed corn money required to develop such schemes.

Gift aid is really important, but the new small donation scheme is looking significantly underspent. Anecdotally, it would appear that that is because it is just too complicated. Will the Government undertake to see whether that is the case and make changes quickly if they need to be made?

UKCF’s Shine a Light research of December last year found that people are nearly twice as likely to feel confident when they give money locally, as opposed to nationally, that it is actually going to help those who need it most. More than half of them would give more and give it locally if giving was easier and they could see the impact of their donation. That is emphasised by the publication, just this morning, of a report by the Charity Commission on public trust and confidence. It makes the same point about people wanting to see how their money is being spent and the impact.

One area where you can best see that at work is in the community foundation movement. Like most shire counties, Suffolk has a community foundation, which supports a wide variety of charity and community projects throughout Suffolk. By making endowment-giving easy, it has provided a sustainable way to support local organisations. Match-funded schemes such as Community First have been a real boost. I hope that the Government will keep that success in mind and work with the community foundations to see how the schemes might be expanded. Recent evidence is showing an increase in local giving and a more thoughtful model of giving, which is a really important part of building a strong civic society.

Of course, what makes the charity sector is the volunteers. The best estimate is that there are about 15.2 million people volunteering every month, so there is clearly an incredible capacity for volunteering in this country, but there are concerns that the volunteer workforce is ageing. People are working longer, caring for very elderly relatives themselves, perhaps even becoming less altruistic, and it is becoming difficult to recruit new volunteers. It takes money to resource organisations and projects specialising in helping people to access volunteering opportunities, but we need to do that to widen the pool from which our volunteers are drawn. For example, the Access to Volunteering fund, piloted in three areas, supported about 7,000 disabled volunteers to become involved. That brought with it reports of improved well-being and significantly reduced isolation.

A few years ago, I had a conversation with a researcher who was looking into something called micro-volunteering. Partway through, I realise that what she was actually talking about was what I would have called “doing someone a favour”. In today’s disconnected, slightly impersonal world, that sort of thing is dying out. It seems very odd to people of our generation, but there is a huge role for social media, for example, in making those connections between people, because the old community connections are lessening.

It is also important to recognise that the old model, where volunteers would commit a certain amount of time every week and would do so over a lengthy period, is very challenging for a lot of younger volunteers who have work and family commitments. They need more flexible volunteering opportunities. In Suffolk, the 2012 Olympic volunteers have formed a sort of permanent cohort of volunteers who come in and out for all the major events in the county; its success is in its flexibility. New technologies can be really important.

There was a time when the public, private and charity sector all had separate but very well understood roles. The picture is now much more complex and the lines between them are really quite blurred. Some of these developments have welcome aspects, but there are challenges. One of the most difficult issues facing the sector is the use by government of volunteering as part of unemployment policy. As I said before, we can all accept that volunteering can play a really important part in getting unemployed people out of the house, learning new skills and generally increasing their self-esteem. However, there is sometimes a question of compulsion. Someone who is made to volunteer in order to get their benefits is not a volunteer, and we should not call them one. These are work placements, and we have to understand that it makes life quite tricky for the existing volunteers to be working alongside people who are there only under duress.

Secondly, the Government need to remember that charities and voluntary organisations do not have an unlimited capacity to absorb volunteer labour wherever it comes from. There are too many reports of jobcentres simply sending people along to voluntary organisations with no thought as to how the organisation is actually going to use them. The voluntary organisations themselves need enough professional staff to be able to manage volunteers effectively, even when they are welcome.

All this is made very complicated by the increasing use of the third sector to deliver public services. Current estimates are that the contracts are worth just over £11 billion. I am in favour of this development, but we have to recognise that it limits the ability of the charity or voluntary organisation to set its own priorities. What happens then is that gaps in service begin to appear. It also compromises the perception of the public about the charity as independent of government. That has come out very clearly in the report published by the Charity Commission today: when a charity becomes dependent on public contracts for its survival, its independence can be jeopardised.

I shall make one or two points on the question of tendering for public services and the issues facing charities that wish to participate. First, the bidding process is often based on driving down price, which usually means labour costs. Most voluntary organisations do not pay their staff particularly well, but they do want to be fair. They want to pay the living wage and give their staff decent terms and conditions, but it is often difficult for them because they are competing with the private sector, which has no compunction about the use of zero-hours contracts or short-term contracts or with paying less than the living wage. Quite often the third sector is heavily disadvantaged when it comes to tendering. It is not just a moral question; evidence from the Living Wage Commission demonstrates that the Treasury could save more than £3.6 billion per year if everyone was paid the living wage. I wonder whether it is the business of the public sector to be discouraging the voluntary and charitable sector, which treats its workers well, by favouring the private sector.

Too often the relationship between the voluntary sector and the statutory commissioners is “us and them”. The commissioners are very controlling and do not really look at value or service delivery; it is really just about the money. Of course, when budgets are so pressed and when financial survival, territorial ambitions and all these things come into play, we can see why this might happen, but I think it is time for the Government to review it. Government and local government are major commissioners of services from the charity sector, so I support the NCVO call for a review of public sector markets to see whether they are still fit for purpose. A lot more training is needed for commissioners to ensure that when they say that service users’ needs must come first, it actually means something and is genuinely reflected in procedures. That means that we have to talk to the users. That is one reason I became patron of Ace Anglia in Suffolk: it provides advocacy for people with learning disabilities. It is really important to have a dialogue with people when tendering for the services that are going to affect them. Too often, it is either all about the money or it is about a superficial judgment of what people might like. You actually have to talk to people.

Sam Younger, just before he left the Charity Commission, said:

“There is too much duplication in the charity sector and too many charities are inefficient and poorly managed. Too many people set up a new charity without establishing whether there is a genuine need or whether another charity is doing similar work … the result is duplication and inefficiency … especially in an environment where charities are competing for resources”.

That is the dilemma. When you look at it like that, from a strategic point of view, what he says makes absolute sense: there is not enough money to go around so duplication is a luxury that we cannot afford. However, if you look at it from the bottom up, from the point of view of individuals, there are many examples of where, collectively, the private, public and even voluntary sectors are simply failing to meet their needs. When that happens, the obvious response is to set up a new charity. That is why something like 2,500 new charities are being set up every year.

As I said at the beginning, the picture is complex and in many ways is getting more so. However, and I think that we would all agree with this, everywhere across the country we see volunteers, charities and community groups of all sizes taking an active role in addressing the problems of their area, building communities and campaigning for change. They are building a stronger civil society and a new social economy, and we should do everything that we can to help them.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market for bringing to the House a debate of such significance. Its subject touches all our lives and communities. Imagine Britain without scouts and guides, youth clubs or sports clubs. Imagine our schools with no governors, our legal system without the magistracy and our coastline unpatrolled by the brave men and women of the RNLI. Britain without volunteers is not Britain.

When I started the bid for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2003, we knew that we had to get 70,000 volunteers to make our Games not just good but great. That number terrified many people: could we get them, could we get the quality and would they stick with us through the journey? Many of us knew, though, that there would be no difficulty. In fact, we would be heavily oversubscribed time and again. We had more than 250,000 applications, all from potentially great volunteers. We set up centres around the country to ensure that we would get the very best of the best. We thought, “Let’s not call them volunteers; let’s really emphasise the role that these people play”, so we came up with “Games makers”. These people would be the beating heart, the smiling face and the lifeblood of London 2012, and what a fantastic group of people we got together. If you came to the Games and wanted directions, wanted your ticket checked or wanted to know where to get food or how to find your seat, most likely it was a smiling, committed, trained, happy volunteer who gave you that information. They were what made London 2012 what it was, and they were mentioned by the media, the broadcasters and everyone who touched, experienced or witnessed 2012. It was all about the Games makers. Many people planned their retirement to start with a role as a Games maker. What a brilliant way to begin that next chapter of someone’s life, and how fantastic to have the Olympic and Paralympic Games as the first part of your retirement, that next stage of your career into the future. Many of them still cherish those shirts, those trainers and the lanyard. They became a very close family and showed Britain at its very best.

I should like to mention a charity that I am involved with. I am privileged to be one of the ambassadors of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, a charity established to mark Her Majesty’s 60 years on the throne and effectively to raise £100 million to spend across the Commonwealth to make a massive step towards eradicating avoidable blindness and to put into youth projects across the Commonwealth. Tens of millions of people across the Commonwealth are blind but 80% of that blindness is avoidable. The Diamond Jubilee Trust, under the excellent leadership of Sir John Major, is aiming over the next five years to make a massive impact on helping to make avoidable blindness a thing of the past.

Similarly, we are investing in youth programmes across the Commonwealth. A big scheme is going to be launched in two weeks’ time as so many people across the Commonwealth—some 60%—are under the age of 30. This heightens all the issues around education, employment and social inclusion, particularly in some of the African nations. We are looking to make a massive impact to ensure that the future for all those young people is brighter than it otherwise might be had we not got involved.

As set out in the register, I am also a trustee of the Nick Webber Trust in Malawi—a trust we established after a friend of mine was killed while in Malawi doing pro bono work. I started at my law firm on the same day as Nick. We set up a trust to get involved in legal aid and education. It really demonstrates what can be done with few resources but massive commitment from volunteers. We established the first law library in Malawi. We educate street kids who otherwise would have no education. We were asked whether we could build a new school. Again, initially this terrified us until we realised that the costs were relatively tiny compared with what they might be in this country. It is the effort and the commitment of the trustees and volunteers that has made so much possible in that country. That is the crucial point. Charitable giving, charitable work and volunteering should not, in any sense, be seen as purely altruistic or a one-way street. It is mutually enriching.

In conclusion, I cannot think of a better place to end than with the words of Mahatma Gandhi—we find ourselves when we lose ourselves in the service of others.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, for giving us the opportunity to debate a subject so close to the hearts of many of us. I have worked most of my life either in or closely with the voluntary sector, and my interests are declared in the register. I also chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Civil Society and Volunteering. As the noble Baroness has reminded us, the sector plays, and has always played, an extraordinarily important role in our society and that role has never been more important than now.

I want to focus on two aspects of that role, but first I want to remind the House that, when we speak of the voluntary sector, we often focus on the larger organisations—those that have a high public profile, are in receipt of government or local authority grants and provide services under contract or are funded by public donation. With these, we often have the debate about what constitutes a voluntary organisation. Should they always be distinct from, and additional to, what the state provides? My experience as a lottery distributor reminded me how very difficult it is to decide in these times what is actually additional to state funding, and the noble Baroness has reminded us about those blurred lines. The vast majority of charities do not recognise themselves as part of any sector. They are very tiny. They are run off a kitchen table—or in my local village hall—by dedicated volunteers who spend time and their own money for the good of their community and their fellow citizens.

The two aspects on which I want to concentrate my remarks are the role of the voluntary sector in preventive work and in campaigning. Much lip-service is paid to preventive work in many quarters, emphasising the importance of putting in help and support to those in need before their situation reaches crisis point. An example would be a friendship circle or community lunch facility to give the carers of an elderly person who is becoming frail a break, or a coffee morning for those with mental health problems. In each case, such events provide social opportunities, but they also give professionals a chance to see people with potential need, to check that they are taking their medication, to check that they are not going downhill and to ensure that they are making social contacts. In these days, when most local authorities are providing services only to those with substantial or even critical needs, these services are frequently provided by the voluntary sector at very local level.

These services are invaluable, but they are increasingly under threat, especially when contracts are being negotiated. It is difficult to prove their effectiveness, precisely because they delay greater need. When you are filling in all those forms which demand an exposition of proved outcomes, it is hard to be explicit. Customer surveys will show the effectiveness: “That lunch club was my lifeline”, says a user with mental health problems. However, that may not be enough for the commissioners, who are intent on this year’s budget rather than something which may—indeed, will—save money five years down the line. Yet if we do not give priority to these services, as well as funding the innovative services at which the sector so excels, we risk building up greater need for the future.

Turning to the campaigning role of the sector, I take the view that that is one of the most important, but I would say that—would I not?—as I had the privilege of leading the carers movement for some years as chief executive of Carers UK. I think that I can lay claim to the success of that campaigning, since no one had even heard of the word “carer” when we started, and now the 6 million people who provide most health and social care are recognised and acknowledged. Indeed, under the recent Care Bill, they were given rights to which we would not have dared to aspire in those early days of campaigning.

I know from my experience and that of others that campaigning activities not only bring about change but enable citizens to participate in the democratic process. As the briefing from the Quakers reminds us, there are many people who feel disengaged from party politics but who wish to engage in single-issue campaigns. The voluntary sector provides them with a way to be involved in political decisions, be that at local or national level. It is through the voluntary sector that politicians explore and understand key issues for citizens. That is also how many people become more engaged in their local communities.

Obviously, voluntary organisations also have a role in telling the rest of society about what they find with this campaigning work. It is often the case that the organisation seeking to end poverty is the organisation best placed to explain the intricacies of how poverty is caused. Indeed, in much of my experience of working as a campaigner, I have been tremendously aware that not only do people feel passionate about issues, but that the most important role of a campaigning voluntary organisation is to enable those voices to be heard, providing a means, for example, for the carers themselves to speak up and speak out about their needs. That has always been the most effective way of bringing about change.

Indeed, a very recent example of that happened during the passage of the Care Bill, where we changed the Government’s mind about particular issues. How did we bring about that change? By getting the users themselves—the young carers or parent carers—to speak directly to Ministers and to convince them and the Government of what their needs were. I give credit to the government Ministers who were willing to listen and to make changes as a result of that activity. I hope that we will always remember how significant the campaigning work of the voluntary sector is. That is important now and I hope that it always will be, and it behoves us all to remember that and not to try to restrict in any way the campaigning role of the voluntary and charitable sector.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market on securing this debate on such a wide-ranging subject, which offers many opportunities. I declare an interest as a trustee of two charitable organisations: Pennine Heritage and X-PERT Health.

However, I want to talk about a specific charitable endeavour that supports the voluntary sector, and that is the community foundation movement. What is a community foundation? In my view, it is an all-purpose charity, growing by endowment and spending its income but retaining its asset base, unless its income is enhanced by flow-through money that has been given specifically to that organisation to spend.

Let me share with noble Lords my experience. A mere 32 years ago, I served as mayor of Calderdale, based in Halifax and the Calder Valley towns, from 1982-83 onwards. I decided to start an all-purpose fund for my mayoral charity, but I did not do too well at it; with 600 other engagements as mayor it was difficult to get going. On standing down the first time as a councillor in 1990, I decided to do the job properly. Particularly during that period as mayor, I had seen the need for an independent source of money to support the voluntary sector in that community. In 1990, I felt that the important thing was to get a very sound trust board together and I put a lot of effort into getting a sound board in which people could have confidence. We managed to launch that in 1992. It was a huge task. I was able to pass that job on in 1999 and I am now a life vice-president. Happily, it is proceeding competently under different hands. I am delighted to say that, from nothing, there are now resources—endowed funds—of about £8 million and a grant spend of £800,000 a year. That is higher than one would expect because of flow-through moneys.

I did not know it at the time, but the first community foundation in the United Kingdom was founded in Swindon in 1975. By the time I was getting involved in launching in Calderdale, in the 1990-92 period, there were perhaps 10 or a dozen community foundations. Now there are 49, covering much of the UK. Those 49 now have an asset base of £350 million and the latest figures show that between them they have annual grant making of £50 million a year. It is interesting that now in 2014 we are celebrating the centenary of the movement, which was started in America in 1914 in Cleveland, Ohio. There are now 1,700 community foundations worldwide.

What, then, are the important features of a community foundation? Clearly, one is the specific geographical area. The foundations are dependent on donors. Of course donors can and do give for general purposes in their community, or they can highlight specific areas of work, such as the elimination of poverty, sport-related work or work on the environment. They may even have ideas of a restricted locality within their community or age restrictions. Indeed, donors may put on a temporary restriction in their lifetime and leave it to the trustees to decide how the income of their gift is dealt with when they are dead and buried.

A community foundation has the opportunity and ability to subsume other charities where trustees have had enough, got fed up or do not find that there is a cause anymore; they are able to hand over their money to that community foundation. Over the years, a community foundation gains expertise in grant making in that specific community.

Incidentally, I have been amazed at how many letters and sheets I have had suggesting what I might say for this take note debate. I am responding to one of those now. There are people who find administration, investment and regulation a difficulty. The community foundation can cover that, so if someone has some money but does not want all that administration investment regulation, they should hand it over to a community foundation, which can look after it. As I indicated earlier, a community foundation can act as a wonderful agent for flow-through moneys, whether that is through national government, regional bodies or whatever.

In my view, community foundations give a great opportunity for localism, community leadership and enhancing community life. I commend them and their enhancement.

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness and her party for securing this debate. We talk in a context in which certainly many of the charities and voluntary and faith groups that I am involved with are in crisis, with rising demand and costs and reduced funding. That context is the ending of the welfare state. I remind the House that when the welfare state was conceived, Sidney and Beatrice Webb saw it as having three charity and voluntary work purposes: to meet basic needs, to bring people into association with each other, and to create partnership and participation. Of course, the welfare state became totally focused on meeting basic needs rather than on the richer political ecology of dignifying people, associating with them and bringing them into partnership. Many of us in the charitable and voluntary sector have got drawn into that game of meeting basic needs through projects.

The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, said that there has perhaps been a blurring of roles. I will look at that briefly, because it might open up some possibilities for government, the statutory sector and the voluntary and charitable sector. From my experience of working in the charitable and voluntary sector, one basic problem that has caused a blurring of roles is the relentless, remorseless enforcement of the business model, right across the board. Of course charities needed a business model—we can all find caricatures of charities that were a synonym for inefficiency and muddle. However, that model has been so relentless and monochrome that it has blurred the boundaries and undermined where the energies of the charitable and voluntary sector ought to be, because of all the compliance. I hope noble Lords will not misunderstand me; I am not saying that we do not need the standards of business, but that we need more space and flexibility than the model allows us to have.

It is the same in this new post-welfare state world. In the voluntary and charitable sector we try to work with the statutory sector, for instance. That sector came out of a tradition of public service, where you treat people as citizens and neighbours. However, the people I try to work with are obsessed with targets and delivery of plans, and, again, they lack the spaciousness and flexibility to deal with what is on the ground because they are trapped in a very narrow business model. That makes it difficult for us to create the synergy and partnerships that a post-welfare state needs. We ourselves—the charitable and voluntary sector—have bought into that, and have run our projects and got our grants on the back of the welfare state, operating in that way as efficient businesses.

I remind noble Lords of what the charitable and voluntary sector can bring, which needs a certain freedom, allowing for basic business efficiency. I have the privilege of being a trustee of Christian Aid. Following the Webbs, we meet basic needs with local intelligence, because we are alongside people on the ground. We dignify people as people, not as clients or customers, and draw them into partnership and participation. However, the great thing about the faith is a faith in people that is not limited by economic efficiency. There is a desire to take risks for the sake of people beyond the economically efficient.

We do not look just to our neighbours but to strangers. We are not just interested in economic viability but in what is morally right. That is where the energy of the charity sector comes from, and why there is that great British tradition we have heard of—not because it is economically efficient but because it is morally right. When 150,000 of us from Christian Aid knock on doors over one week each year, we do not present people with a business plan to sign up to. We open their hearts and hopes for a better world and a better partnership with those who are less well off. We need space and permission to deliver that, and not to be crushed by compliance to a foreign model.

During the winter the cathedral in Derby, where I work, has had to give a lot of time and energy to making our space available for homeless people to sleep in the building overnight. That is not very economically efficient, or easy for us to manage. But people on the streets who are homeless are in desperate need, and we have to find a way of doing it.

I have been involved in the work on the Modern Slavery Bill, and I have come across an amazing Roman Catholic organisation called Rahab, which works here in Westminster and in Kensington, where there is the largest off-street sex market in the country. The Roman Catholic sisters provide care, support, hope and partnership with the most vulnerable. They work in partnership with the Metropolitan Police and with the EU, where they get funding—and they bring something unique and precious that those agencies cannot provide. The statutory authority and the police cannot provide it, and neither can the EU. We need that kind of partnership.

I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, is on the Front Bench, because he and I often debate such issues, and he has a sure touch for understanding where people like me are coming from. I ask him: what is the role of government, of course, in ensuring good practice and business standards, but also in trying to give the voluntary and charitable sector the freedom and flexibility to make our particular contributions? That is the germ of a new political ecology, a new inclusivity, a new appeal to hearts and hopes as well as to economic efficiency, and a new localism that people will buy into. I think that that is in the Government’s interests, and I would love the Minister to advise us how they can encourage that, and bless it in some way.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Scott for this debate, which is timely in so many ways. First, there is the nationwide remembrance of the world-shattering events of a century ago. When, on 4 August 1914, Britain declared war on Germany, the Army consisted of 730,000 men, many of whom were territorials. Three days later Kitchener urged all men between 19 and 30 to enlist. Shortly thereafter he promised that volunteers would be able to serve alongside their friends. Childhood friends, football teams and workmates responded to this call. In one week 1,600 City workers joined the Stockbrokers Battalion and 1,500 Liverpudlians joined the King’s Regiment. Within a month 50 new pals battalions were in training. Those men were all volunteers. Conscription for single men aged 18 to 41 was not introduced until March 1916.

It was not just men who volunteered. Those left behind—women, children and men who did not meet the criteria—had to make enormous contributions. There was no National Health Service, no social welfare organisation and no state financial aid. The wounded came home to be looked after by family, friends and neighbours. Today, hundreds of young people give service as cadets, while other individuals join the TA, giving valuable assistance to regular and armed service forces—and it is people and personal commitment that I want to touch on today.

State aid does not replace everything that volunteers can do in all aspects of living. As my noble friend said, the charitable sector includes over 160,000 registered charities, employs around 1 million people and has a turnover of some £38 billion each year. Some 42% of those charities have an income of less than £10,000, and only 25% have an annual income of more than £100,000. Today I do not intend to talk about the larger charities, but I do take the opportunity to register my concern about the six-figure sums that some are paying their chief executives.

I wish to focus on two Leicester charities, and here I should declare my interest as president of Young Leicestershire and as a canon of Leicester Cathedral, among other interests I have declared on the register. Young Leicestershire is an organisation that works with young people and youth groups. It has a lively website which is easy to access with lots of information about joining the clubs and good articles with news of events it is organising. Articles are posted, such as, “What my youth club means to me”, “What we do and why we do it” and “A helping hand”. As one volunteer who does tuck shop duties said, “I like working as a volunteer as it gives me the chance to train in youth work and gain experience. My children love it, too, as we can do it as a family”—her words, not mine.

Hundreds of individuals give freely of their time and energy. Without volunteers, clubs could not keep going. But life has become more complicated, as the right reverend Prelate has just touched on, when helping and encouraging youngsters. Today volunteers often have forms to complete, CRB checks to be taken and training to be given. I hope that in raising standards, the requirement of greater accountability—necessary though it is—does not put people off becoming involved in the first place. While volunteering in Leicestershire has grown with the clubs over many years, Leicester Cathedral faces an enormous problem that many places would be glad to have. The normal annual visitor headcount has been around 30,000 a year and the cathedral has been very grateful for the warm welcome and dedication given by its present volunteers. However, after a certain discovery in a city car park, our visitor numbers rose to 150,000 last year. It considers that the reburial of Richard III within the cathedral will see a further rise in visitor numbers, and more help is needed.

Leicester Cathedral is dedicated to the effective use of volunteers for the promotion of its mission as an Anglican cathedral and for the benefit of the volunteers themselves. Much thought has been given to the best way to attract greater numbers of volunteers. The cathedral needs more welcomers and guides. In its generic agreement it includes a description of what support a volunteer can expect from the cathedral—matters such as training, induction, safety, insurance cover and out-of-pocket expenses, to give just a few. Volunteers in our case have to be over 18 and have a DBS check, which is normal.

I have touched on only two organisations whose challenges are very different, but neither could operate without massive input from volunteers. I have not spoken about others involved in fundraising for charities who respond to special appeals, who work on committees or who give their time to supporting people within their homes and local communities. The traditional way of volunteering is alive and still busy, but the young access calls for help via the modern media, and more flexibility and thought should be given to ways of attracting the young.

Whether you are young at heart, or just young, volunteering is important today. It is not a one-way road. I believe that individual volunteering is most valuable as a foundation for friendship. Those who work together helping others are usually the first to help each other. Those who work to raise funds in all weathers, locations and neighbourhoods have crises to overcome and problems to surmount, and shared laughter carries them through difficult situations of their own. Today’s debate reflects this, and I am very grateful to my noble friend for making it possible.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for introducing this debate and I declare an interest. I work with two consultancies which work very substantially with charities and local authorities.

The key issue facing the Government, the private sector and the voluntary sector could be summarised as the need to ensure that there is economic growth that benefits all parts of society, that we have effective public services that are responsive to people’s needs and that we have strong, united, resilient communities. That is the task for all three sectors. The measure of any organisation that is doing its job is that it knows the unique difference that it makes and that it can prove the progress it is making towards its objectives. In the context of thinking about public services, I want to focus on the specific things that Government can do to help voluntary organisations and local authorities in the tasks they have ahead of them.

The first thing the Government need to do in their programme of work is recognise that the key role that charities can provide in public services is the prevention of problems that usually, at a subsequent stage, wind up at the door of statutory services. It is incredibly difficult to prove that one has prevented something from happening. Thanks to the work of people such as Norman Lamb and Paul Burstow, we are beginning to recognise the importance of that in the NHS and social care. The challenge for this Government and other Governments is to set out their own central policies and outcome targets for government services, which include prevention outcomes that can perhaps be delivered by central government or by state organisations, but perhaps more effectively by social enterprises and charities. When he comes to sum up, I wonder whether the Minister could talk about how central government might do that.

The second thing the Government should do is to highlight the issue of commissioning and procurement. The way in which public services are procured has a profound effect on communities. In many communities it is still the case that the public authority is one of the biggest employers and determinants of growth. It is therefore of extreme importance that commissioning of services is done in a way that is beneficial to the social, economic and environmental needs of the local community. I am sure the Minister will know that EU procurement rules are being changed to enable far greater concentration to be put on the social and economic value of services. Can he say what the Government are doing to ensure that all public authorities understand that they now have this new flexibility to get greater social value in their area? Can he undertake to ensure that all public authorities realise that the Public Services (Social Value) Act came into force in 2012? It could have a profound impact as it gives local authorities leeway to ensure that price is not the sole determinant of a contract. They can take into account other factors and in certain circumstances can favour local providers, charities and social enterprises. This is a politically important development and it has so far been woefully underestimated.

The next thing the Government should do is ensure that the current high level of trust of charities that exists in the minds of the general public is maintained. The Government can do that in two ways. First, they can ensure that the Charity Commission—the regulator of the sector—continues to be an effective organisation that enjoys the trust of the sector and the public. Can the Minister update us on the programme of digitisation of the Charity Commission, which I think was announced last year? Providing relevant and up-to-date data on what charities are doing is a key and fundamental part of that trust. Can the Minister also talk about enabling the whole sector, including small charities, to become digital by default? There is complicated legislation covering how charities ought to be accountable, but the greatest thing that could be done would be to require them to set up a simple website containing their governing documents, annual report and most recent set of accounts. If that was done, we would not need an army of staff at HMRC going over these accounts as any member of the public could tell what a charity was doing and whether it was living up to its ideals.

Charities remain one of the most transformative forces in society. The key role of a charity is to transform the world around it, both its community and the public authorities. I want to talk about just one campaign being run at the moment which I think is leading the way and having a tremendous effect. The Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friendly Communities programme is revolutionising the way we deal with people who have one of the most difficult conditions with which to live. I will just say this to noble Lords. In a couple of weeks’ time, I hope that they, like me, will be watching the Grand Départ 2014 of the Tour de France as it leaves Leeds. It is going to be a dementia-friendly event with lots of people with dementia who, on what I hope will be a sunny day in Yorkshire, will be remembering the happy times they had as cyclists in their youth, surrounded by those who feel confident to have them there as part of their day. That is what charities can do when they have the will.

My Lords, my interest in charities and my work with Christian Aid, Save the Children and Care International are recorded in the register. I thank the noble Baroness for this opportunity, and I have learnt a lot from what she said about charities today. I would like to speak about one particular aspect of charitable campaigning which was highlighted by a recent attack on Greenpeace in India. It raises issues for us both here in the UK and in Europe.

The Intelligence Bureau in India is perhaps the world’s oldest intelligence agency. It comes under the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi, but it also reports directly to the Prime Minister, rather like our own intelligence agencies. On 3 June, it published a report accusing Greenpeace and NGOs in general of subverting India’s economic development through their campaigning activities. Activists from Greenpeace and other NGOs had, the report said, targeted nuclear power plants, uranium mines, coal-fired power plants, farm biotechnology, mega-industrial projects, hydroelectric plants and extractive industries. This had amounted to a negative impact on GDP growth in India of 2% to 3% per annum. The report identified seven sectors or projects that had been stalled because of NGO activity.

More than that, the bureau said that NGOs receiving foreign donations from countries like the USA, the UK and Germany were “anti-development” and were opposed to national projects such as Gujarat’s special investment regions, the Narmada River interlinking project and the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor project. And it gets worse. Foreign donors, says the report,

“lead local NGOs ... to build a record against India and serve as tools for the strategic foreign policy interests of the Western governments”.

Greenpeace and other NGOs have already denied this and say that they have complied with all the regulations. They maintain that they campaign quite legitimately on issues of public interest. The Narmada Dam was a major issue some years ago, as noble Lords may remember, but such campaigning by civil society is the sign of a healthy democracy. The NGOs argue that they are already scrutinised via the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010, which requires prior notification and reporting of all foreign donations. Over the years there have been assaults on NGOs in different states. I can remember one in West Bengal where foreign funding was banned altogether under the then Chief Minister. These are serious charges from the Intelligence Bureau. If Greenpeace is taken to court, there could be consequences not just for that organisation but for any international organisation that is linked with the indigenous NGOs. There has been a flurry of reaction among NGOs and academics and in the media, some in protest, but some admitting that not all NGOs are perfect. It might be time for the new Government to look again at the Act and tighten up its implementation.

Inevitably there will be some who see the Intelligence Bureau report as a manifestation of the incoming BJP Government’s policy under the new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Modi’s election campaign was bitterly opposed by groups representing ethnic and religious minorities who fear that they may become a target for Hindu politicians. However, this is unlikely since the gestation of the report dates far back into the time of the previous Congress Administration under the previous Prime Minister.

Much of the concern behind the foreign contribution Act was about foreign funding of private NGOs that support individual election candidates. This is a subject that we have recently discussed at length here with regard to our own election spending thresholds. However, if the Modi Government come in behind their Intelligence Bureau, as a new broom among the NGOs, there could be a problem for other non-governmental development projects such as our own DfID has supported in the fields of environment, roads, water and sanitation, education and health, and poverty reduction. Admittedly DfID is winding down its programme in India, but the Intelligence Bureau could also turn its attention to the work of British NGOs engaged in legitimate partnerships with local campaigns on human rights issues such as the rights of Dalits and religious minorities, both of which could be regarded as foreign interference.

I am looking forward to the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, because like him, but on a more minor scale, I have some experience of local campaigns in India. I know for a fact that NGOs can and should sometimes fill a vacuum in the absence of government or any legal authority, or in any situation where government is inept or incapable of meeting humanitarian need. I sincerely hope that the work of NGOs, whether in India, Britain or anywhere else, will be stoutly defended, especially when they may be the only avenue of justice for a given community.

Perhaps the Government could help me to relieve these fears here and now, if their intelligence is good enough. Are the Government aware that India’s Intelligence Bureau is accusing Greenpeace and others of undermining India’s development? Does the Minister recognise that there could be consequences for international funding of development projects in India? What steps could the Government take to defend the interests of British and international NGOs such as Greenpeace, and will they reiterate their support for campaigning charities in general?

Finally, perhaps I may say a word about the value of networks of NGOs. Among aid agencies, one example, Bond, now brings together about 400 overseas aid organisations which are able to respond rapidly to humanitarian disasters as well as to support smaller development agencies. As Bond says, effectively tackling global poverty and inequality requires complex solutions, and it is critical that there is a spectrum of organisations active in this sector. This richness and joint expertise worldwide should be celebrated.

My Lords, I begin by adding my thanks to my noble friend for having given us the chance to debate this important topic. Some noble Lords will be aware that I was the official reviewer of the Charities Act 2006, which gave me the chance to see at first hand the fantastic work being done by the sector. I have no doubt about its value to our society.

I should like to underline two points that my noble friend made in her opening remarks. The first was on the dangers of the indiscriminate referral by jobcentres of individuals to charities. The reality is that too often it seems that the jobcentres are trying to fill a quota, with jobs being offered, and not thinking about what the charities need, important though charities can be in finding a way back to paid work. The second point she made was about tendering and contracting. I think she underestimated the risk-aversion among commissioners. Too often they are prepared to go to the large firms and not think about the more innovative small firms.

I want to focus my remarks on social investment. Noble Lords will be aware of the concept of social investment, whereby foundations and/or individuals do not give their money outright to a charitable endeavour but lend it or invest it, and they hope to get their capital back, maybe with a modest return. It has a very wide range of applications and obviously it is particularly relevant when considering proposals that contain an element of payment by results.

Social investment could be a game-changer in many ways; first, by encouraging big charities to use some of their investment assets. There is £126 billion-worth of investment assets among registered charities so a very small percentage of that diverted to this endeavour would be extraordinarily helpful. Secondly, and equally importantly, it gives wealthy individuals a chance to put something back, and we could easily see people who have an interest in a charity giving it not only money but effort, time and commitment and thereby improving its performance and work.

I hope the House will understand why I was very attracted to the possibility of developing the concept of social investment and why my report contained a number of recommendations as to how we might achieve it. Nevertheless, we have to recognise that the concept is in its early days so we need to be careful not to create too high expectations of what may be achieved. Importantly, the next stage is to facilitate social investment, not impose it.

However, facilitation will require a shift of approach by a number of bodies for which risk-aversion is the default option. These bodies include the accountancy profession, the actuarial profession, investment managers, charity advisers and the regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority. It will also require an entirely different approach from HMRC, which today has refused to give a clearance in advance to social investment schemes. That means that a charity has to go through the whole procedure of creating and setting up the scheme before it knows whether or not it will get the charitable breaks it requires. My noble friend on the Front Bench could act as Dyno-Rod in trying to deal with this problem, if only to follow the example of the Internal Revenue Service in the States, which offers blueprints where charitable permissions have been given so there are examples that charities can follow when they start to create their schemes.

All this will depend on us creating the right overarching legal framework. My report made a number of suggestions as to how this could be achieved. I am extremely grateful to the Government for having accepted most of them and having passed them to the Law Commission for consideration. I am equally grateful to the Law Commission for having written an exceptionally clear and concise consultation paper on social investment. The consultation period closed last week, on 18 June.

So far, so good—but there is one fundamental problem that, if not addressed now, could undermine all this good work, and that is the knotty legal definition that lies at the intersection of public and private benefit. Noble Lords will have seen in the briefing papers from the Library that charities must always act for the benefit of the public. So how does the concept of social investment fit into this, since it offers a financial return to lenders or investors, albeit at a modest level?

The law currently gets round this by permitting a level of private benefit where this is “necessary and incidental”. However, in my review I came to the conclusion that the word “incidental” did not offer sufficient protection for social investment proposals and recommended that it should be replaced by “proportionate”. I regret to say that the Government rejected this proposal. I quite understand the dangers of changing long-hallowed legal terminology and the potential unintended consequences that may follow. But if my noble friend on the Front Bench asks his officials to pass him a copy of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, he will find that the definition of incidental is:

“Occurring as something casual or of secondary importance; not directly relevant to”.

I do not see how this possibly fits with social investment returns. They are certainly not casual, nor to the investor or lender are they necessarily of secondary importance, and they are certainly directly relevant to. By contrast, proportionate is defined as:

“That is in (due) proportion (to); appropriate”.

As part of its consultation on social investment, I draw the Law Commission’s attention to this problem, but I fear that it will conclude that it is outside its terms of reference. I am, therefore, asking my noble friend to commit to taking this issue away and giving it a thorough re-examination.

To conclude, I have explained that the social investment movement has the capacity radically to improve funding flows to charities. It would be a tragedy—and I mean a tragedy—if it were to be stillborn because of an unduly narrow legal interpretation of the word “incidental”. I am not alone in this: I am supported by Bates Wells Braithwaite. My noble friend Lord Phillips, who was a senior partner, has given me permission to quote from its report to the Law Commission. It states:

“We believe that re-modelling the private benefit test solely in the case of social investment so that the private benefits can be reasonable and proportionate will be essential for English and Welsh charities to engage in this type of catalytic investments ... we are strongly of the view that a reform as proposed by Lord Hodgson would make a radical difference to the likelihood of the social investment market developing positively in the UK”.

I hope that my noble friend can help.

My Lords, like a considerable number of Members of this House, I have been privileged to spend a great deal of my life within the voluntary sector. I have worked as a professional and a volunteer and as a trustee. I am still very much involved in the trustee role. With that experience, I know that there will be literally—and this is no exaggeration—thousands of people in this country who would be very happy to know that we are debating this issue. For that reason, I think we should warmly congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, for having given us the opportunity.

I have become convinced that an essential pillar of a healthy society is a vibrant civil society, of which the voluntary sector is a crucial part. What has impressed me repeatedly, and has impressed me more and more, is the quality of people involved in the voluntary sector. I keep saying that I find that professionals are in many senses volunteers because countless professionals are working without calculating for a moment the number of hours they are putting in and are doing things which are way beyond the demands of any formal contract.

The volunteers increasingly want to be professionals. They want their work to be effective. For that reason, the importance of good administration and effective structures within the sector are crucial. We must not, however, allow ourselves to get—if I may put it absolutely bluntly—into the mindset that somehow the success of a charity or voluntary organisation depends upon its demonstrable business effectiveness. It must be effective, but it is about far more than being a business. A business has the basic discipline of profitability. Voluntary societies are not primarily about profitability. As the right reverend Prelate has put it so well, they are about a complex inter-relationship with society in a host of different ways.

There are two points which I want to emphasise. The first is that I am very glad that progressively over the years, under successive Governments, there has been much more co-operation between the voluntary sector and Government. That is very important. I think the enlightenment of successive Governments in seeing the importance of this and supporting it and putting more resources into it is to be wholly welcomed. But there is a danger. Voluntary societies must be alert to the process of co-option. They are not, and should not, be part of the formal state structure. Unless they are to betray their birthright, they are about being a catalyst in society and a challenge in society, all the time. If they allow themselves, consciously or unconsciously, to become dominated by anxiety about whether a government contract is going to be continued so that the organisation can continue, and organising their affairs in such a way that they do not threaten or undermine that contract, they will have lost it. Of course, co-operation is essential, but it must be on the terms of the charities. They are there to be a challenge and a catalyst.

I do not think that I am oversimplifying in saying—it was particularly during my time as director of Oxfam that this thought began to crystallise very clearly with me—that advocacy is not something that charities do in addition to their voluntary work; I became convinced that advocacy was an essential and inherent part of the voluntary service.

Let me finish, as I like to do, with an anecdote. I was in Latin and central America when horrible things were happening there. It was a very ugly, sinister time. I was talking with a very courageous bishop in Mexico, the Bishop of Chiapas, who was always in trouble with the Government because he kept standing up for the poor. He was a wonderful bloke. I asked him whether he had a message for me to take back to my colleagues and friends in Britain. He said, “Yes, I have. First of all, you are inclined in voluntary agencies to talk about equality. How far are the people with whom you’re working really your equals, or how far are they the indispensable objects for your institutional needs?” I still wrestle with that problem frequently; it is a very real issue. Secondly, he said, “In these sorts of situations, you can’t be neutral. You have to identify”. Thirdly, he said, “For me, solidarity is the real meaning of charity. What do I mean by solidarity? Be it within the family, the community, the nation or internationally, it is identifying with the people whom you claim to be serving”. He was so right, because so often in political life we talk about the poor and the excluded, and we talk to them. But how often do we talk with them and for them? That is the crucial role of charities in our society. From this House, we should send out a message of encouragement and good cheer for all that they are doing.

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, and all speakers for making this such an interesting and informative debate. I declare my interest as chairman of the charity, Near Neighbours, and as an ambassador of the Angelus Foundation, which deals with legal highs.

I begin by quoting Sir Stuart Etherington of the NCVO, whose words strongly reflect some of those that we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Judd. Sir Stuart wrote:

“A thriving and diverse civil society is a hallmark of effective democracy—where people can come together around the causes they care about and make a difference … an active … voluntary sector is a vital element of civil society”.

Since the 1960s, the number of charities has grown very steadily and, as we have heard, at least 2,500 organisations register every year. There are currently 2.5 voluntary organisations for every 1,000 people, or one voluntary organisation for every 395 people. When the statistics are expressed in that way, it really gives a sense of the enormity of the sector.

The New Philanthropy Capital report, Mind the Gap, which was published in March 2014, showed that over half of the respondents questioned about the role of charities felt that charities should be about helping communities. I was very pleased to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, and the noble Lord, Lord Judd, refer to the UK Community Foundations, which does such enormous work. I was going to mention some of the aspects of its work which have already been covered. It is very heartening that the UK Community Foundations has shown a renewed interest in community philanthropy, and through its work it has enabled local philanthropy and giving to increase by some 15% per annum through the recession.

Charities and the voluntary sector are dealing with increasing demands and reduced resources, but of course this is natural in an economy which has not been growing at the rate at which it did in the past. Charity and voluntary sector organisations are increasingly in the mainstream as providers of services, which again is not new. This was also very much the case before 1997. There is also a change of focus from large, publicly funded charities to many much smaller, locally based ones. This is creating massive organisational change in the sector, which I believe to be only in its early stages, with a long way to go.

During my time in local government, I saw massive change in the culture associated with the voluntary sector. I well remember many battles with the local CVS, which felt at the time that its sole purpose was to be the voice of political opposition. The sector was generously funded by my council, by many millions of pounds. However, when there was any suggestion of the need for efficiency or measurement of outcomes, the sector felt that those certainly should not have to be any of its consideration. Fortunately, such views are a thing of the past, and the sector now works very closely and productively with both local and national government.

The introduction of the commissioning of services from the voluntary and charitable sector has brought a huge cultural change. I learnt an awful lot from the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, about social investment, which is particularly interesting. The schemes he discussed would be very positive for the voluntary sector. At the moment we are seeing an increasing shift, whereby charities which are asked to provide services are being required to prove the results before they receive payments. This can often create a conflict with the way that charities currently work. Many charities do not feel that a target-driven culture is always the most effective. While I do not agree with everything said by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby, I suggest that there is a need for more sophisticated methods of deciding what good impacts are, and how they should be funded.

Charitable organisations working in deprived areas often struggle to recruit staff or volunteers, due to a lack of capacity in their local area. This lack of skills, knowledge and confidence hinders the very good work that often goes on. Investment in capacity building can make a very big difference in helping communities stand on their own feet. Rates of formal volunteering are said to have peaked in 2005, when 44% of the population indicated that they had volunteered once in the past year. That had declined to 39% in 2010-11. However, the Community Life Survey in 2012-13 suggested a rebound in volunteering to 2005 levels.

Research from the Church Urban Fund shows that half of all users of community-based charitable services come through local churches of all types, which is approximately 10 million people per year, or about one-fifth of the population of England. Churches are locally focused and locally networked. They make an enormous contribution to the flourishing of our neighbourhoods up and down the country. They rarely receive the recognition that they deserve. In their social action, churches often work with very difficult issues.

Here I must mention the charity I referred to earlier, Near Neighbours, which I have the privilege of chairing. It has supported the establishment of more than 500 local projects, working to bring people together across ethnic and religious differences, at a very local level in some places. The key objectives of Near Neighbours are social interaction to develop positive relationships in multifaith areas and social action to encourage people of different faiths or no faith to come together through initiatives that improve their local neighbourhood. Much of the work involves young people from our most diverse and deprived areas. The Feast in Birmingham is one such group supported by Near Neighbours. The charity promotes positive relationships between Christian and Muslim young people. The Feast is empowering young people to become peacemakers and spearhead social change.

As we have heard, it is difficult for charities to keep up to date with frequently changing policies, such as non-recoverable VAT, and so on. There is much we can do to simplify the system; simplification would be good for all of us.

Charities and voluntary organisations increasingly co-operate with each other, and that is a good thing. We should all thank them and commend the valuable work that they do in all our communities.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lady Scott on securing this vital debate and declare an interest as president of the National Children’s Bureau, vice-president of Relate and chair of the Making Every Adult Matter coalition of charities.

I share the view of other noble Lords that we are very fortunate in this country to have such an active and vibrant civil society, whose reach extends into nearly all aspects of British life. We are also fortunate to live in a very generous country—the sixth most generous in the world, we are told—and rightly pride ourselves on the public-spiritedness of our citizens. The examples of Britons rallying behind a good cause are too numerous to count, but the tremendous success in fundraising for the Teenage Cancer Trust by the late Stephen Sutton—a young man who died so tragically young but provided such inspiration—speaks volumes about that generosity of spirit.

My focus today is less on what the charitable and voluntary sectors do than on how they do it and, more specifically, what needs to be done to ensure that they have the means to carry on their vital roles. I particularly draw the attention of your Lordships’ House to the recommendations of the Growing Giving parliamentary inquiry, whose report, Creating an Age of Giving, was published two weeks ago. The inquiry benefited hugely from the excellent chairmanship of David Blunkett. Along with Andrew Percy MP, I had the privilege to co-chair the inquiry.

The inquiry was established following the publication of research commissioned by the Charities Aid Foundation showing that fewer households are participating in regular charitable giving—just 27% in 2010 compared to 32% in 1978. It also found some marked changes in the demographics of giving. The share of donations coming from the under-30s fell from 8% in 1980 to just 3% in 2010, while contributions made by the over-75s rose from 9% of all donations to 21% over the same period. The implications were clear: charities are relying on donations from an increasingly narrow and ageing segment of the population.

Of course, the recent recession has not helped. Young people in particular have seen their disposable income reduced, which makes it increasingly difficult for them to donate. However, that is not the full story. Crucially, the platforms that allow people to contribute have not kept pace with changes in daily life. Although digital donating is progressing, continual reform is needed to unleash the potential of digital giving. It is those and other structural factors that the report sets out to tackle.

The central conclusion of the Growing Giving report is that action must be taken to diversify our so-called civic core—the 9% of the population who are currently responsible for two-thirds of all donating and volunteering. For one thing, it is just unsustainable. Just a fortnight ago, newspapers were reporting on the National Trust asking too much of ageing volunteers, a concern that must apply more widely, given that one in three members of the civic core are over the age of 65.

It is obvious that people have different capacities to give time and money at different stages of their lives. The stand-out feature from our evidence sessions, which I want to underline, was the palpable desire of people of all ages to give more of both their time and their money. Our focus was on practical ways of creating a culture of giving, embedding charitable activity into everyday life, from school to retirement.

It is clear that a commitment to social action is still thriving among our young people. Nearly three-quarters of 16 to 24 year-olds report that they have volunteered in the previous year, and almost 80% of young people agreed that they should give up some of their time to help others—hence the recommendation of our inquiry that UCAS forms should provide a section in which university and college applicants can detail their charity work, volunteering and commitment to social action. The report also had a raft of recommendations on how schools, colleges, universities and charities could better work together.

We can all sympathise with the pressure that people come under when they are trying to balance work with family life, and it is understandable that volunteering and other charitable activities can be some way down the list of priorities of working people struggling to make ends meet and bring up a family. However, it became clear to us that employers are not yet creating enough opportunities for employees to connect with charities in the workplace.

One of the most straightforward ways of giving at work is via payroll, but 45% of PAYE employees are still unable to give through their pay. Moreover, many companies that offer payroll giving are failing to make their employees aware of that. In some cases, even the HR department was unable to say whether the company provided payroll giving. Clearly, employers have a key role in raising the availability and visibility of payroll giving, but the report also urges the Treasury to look into the incentives in place for employers to provide matched employee giving schemes, which tend to be highly valued by employees. I was personally struck by the fact that simply mentioning the matching of donations has been found to increase response rates by 71% and average donations by more than a half.

Finally, I turn to the older generation. For many, retirement provides an opportunity to give time to charitable causes. However, according to the Royal Voluntary Service, nearly one in five pensioners want to do voluntary work but have not found the opportunity to do so. It is for that reason that our report calls for post-careers advice for the newly retired, a service along the lines of the financial advice that the Government are already planning to provide to people once they reach state retirement age.

My overall point is that a thriving charitable and voluntary sector does not emerge spontaneously or sustain itself indefinitely. As I said at the start of my remarks, as a nation, we already have the social conscience and enthusiasm for giving; what is sometimes lacking is the practical mechanisms that allow us to do that on a regular basis, irrespective of our age or circumstances. The recommendations made in the report of the Growing Giving parliamentary inquiry are practical steps that have the potential to make a real difference. I therefore urge the Government to consider the report’s recommendations carefully and ask my noble friend in his summing up to indicate when we might expect to hear the Government’s response.

My Lords, I draw attention to my charitable interests as set out in the register, and also draw attention to the fact that I am not the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, who has kindly agreed to exchange our speaking slots so that I am free to take up my Woolsack duties later.

We should all acknowledge and celebrate the long-standing and unique contribution which the voluntary and charitable sector has made in this country. We would be incalculably poorer without it. However, debates such as this—and I, too, pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, for having secured it—provide us with an opportunity to go beyond gratitude and celebration and think about how the sector might be enabled to play an even greater and more significant part in our society in the future.

At their best, the voluntary and charitable organisations that I know have three qualities, which are even more valuable today than they have ever been before: first, they are trusted, and often very much more trusted than the statutory sector; secondly, they are innovative, at a time when we need innovation and new ideas more than ever; and, thirdly, they can help release the potential of individuals in our communities, a potential which exists and which we need but which so often can go unrealised. However, I believe that the role they play could be even further enhanced and their impact increased if the Government, the Civil Service and other parts of the statutory sector, which hold the real power and resource, worked harder to capitalise on those strengths.

The sector, for example, is still, in my view, too rarely involved early enough in the development of new policy and is still too often seen as a delivery vehicle, and one which can receive less resource than equivalent public sector agencies to do the same work. There is still too little evidence, as the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, pointed out, of social value commissioning, whereby commissioners take wider social benefits into account when making decisions about contracts. The statutory sector can still be slow to engage in genuine local partnerships to provide services for public good, as if somehow fearing a loss of hegemony. If the priority is to deliver quality, client-centred services with less resource, as I believe it is and should be, then we all need to be less concerned about protecting our power base and more concerned about sharing power for the benefit of clients.

If we say that the voluntary sector is a true partner then, at a very basic level, it would be good if we consulted the sector at an earlier stage when considering legislation or secondary legislation. I sit on the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and it is a concern of ours that government departments are not good enough at the moment at consulting those who really understand the issues.

Where might the voluntary sector therefore focus its efforts in the future? The answer, of course, is that the sector has proved very adept at identifying gaps in services in the past and I am sure that it will in the future. We should be careful not to be too directive, but I offer four thoughts for the future, none of which is particularly original.

First, I think that the sector could play a more significant part in regulating, inspecting and holding to account statutory services. I applaud the way in which the Care Quality Commission intends to involve what it calls “experts by experience” in its inspections. I say this because the danger is that regulation has become too introspective, too process driven and, most of all, too dominated by bureaucrats. The way we regulate and inspect our public services should put clients to the fore and I believe that our voluntary sector can help to ensure that that happens.

The second issue—I am certainly not the first and I will not be the last to say this—is that the sector needs to be adequately resourced to offer independent, reliable advice and information to ensure that the public can make the right decisions in the face of major changes to our benefits system, our pensions system and legal aid. I guess that I really need to declare an interest in that my wife runs Citizens Advice, as some noble Lords will know. Many vulnerable people find it increasingly difficult to understand and therefore to access services to which they are entitled. The legislation and secondary legislation is extremely complex and the forms, frankly, are often beyond me.

Thirdly, I would like to see the sector play a crucial role—it does; it could do more—in developing local communities so that they build the capacity to offer support to those who are suffering, for example, mental health breakdowns, relationship breakdowns, dementia and loneliness. We have become a society which is too dependent, in my view, on the state. I believe that we should be building the partnerships I referred to in order to ensure that communities themselves play a part in self-support.

Finally, the sector can provide alternatives to failing public services, with judicious investment. Of course, it is not a faultless sector. Others have referred to this. Some voluntary organisations could collaborate more effectively to use their scarce resources. Some, frankly, have come to the point where they have outlived their natural life. It is not a perfect sector, but the overwhelming majority of voluntary sector organisations are jewels in our crown and we just need to help them to shine a bit more brightly.

My Lords, what a difference 2,000 years can make, from when Jesus Christ enjoined the charitable not to let their left hand know what their right hand was up to in the matter of charity, to the contemporary world, where, in the West at least, charities and the voluntary sector are an integral, very public and almost institutionalised part of how we choose to live now. I shall concentrate both on the good that the charity and voluntary sector does and on the less than good that parts of it do. For, increasingly, once threats from poverty and violence are diminished in the most disadvantaged countries in the world, the way we live in the West, with the voluntary sector enhanced and enhallowed in the way we go on, is exactly the way they want to organise their lives as well, as soon as possible, developing civil society as they achieve peace, security and recovery.

Our Prime Minister and others on the United Nations high-level panel face what to do next in respect of developing post 2015 the millennium development goals, to which so many charities and voluntary organisations give so much. He, and we, can look for advice from many bodies. I shall concentrate on one; the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, which I warmly support. CAFOD, as it is known, is of high reputation; it is a member of Caritas International, a global network of more than 160 organisations working to enhance international development—for example, by educating many people in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as by helping in times and places of extreme need, as the organisation is doing this very day in South Sudan.

My take on CAFOD—not what it tells me, but my understanding as an outsider—is that it does this in a highly cost-effective, low cost-to-income ratio way, with none of the six-figure salaries for CEOs that some charities these days seem to permit or bestow. CAFOD, as a co-chair of the Beyond2015 coalition, will, I am sure, give most practical advice on what to do next, building on one of the central tenets of Roman Catholic social teaching, which is always and everywhere to be involved in partnerships and always and everywhere to promote subsidiarity; doing things that can be done closest to the people who wish them to be done and who will co-operate with organisations. This is because churches, all-faith groups and groups who have no faith at all are often best placed to reach the poorest in countries where civil society, government structures or social care are weak. The voices of people in this situation should inform the United Nations in its next steps, as research on individuals in need and listening to their voices in a report recently produced by CAFOD so clearly demonstrates.

This issue involves all-faith groups. Interfaith work is so important, as the recent trip to and work in the Central African Republic aimed at promoting peace and stability there shows. This involved the organisations Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid and the Muslim Charities Forum, and CAFOD worked with them. Such good work is something to applaud, but such manifest good is, indeed, unusual and, alas, not always universal. This theme brings me, with regret, to some less than good examples of charities and voluntary activities which can damage not only their reputation but the sector generally. Here I switch from developing countries to the United Kingdom.

My little list would include the following. First, there are those salaries for a few charitable and voluntary sector CEOs, which to some seem very high. Secondly, there are allegations of extravagance and excessive use of expenses in the charitable sector, as with the current furore over a senior Greenpeace executive regularly commuting by air over distances such as 250 miles, with the unfortunate subsequent reports of Greenpeace volunteers concerned about this, about expenses and about waste cancelling their own Greenpeace donations. Thirdly, too many organisations are tipping their campaigning activities over the edge from campaigning about poverty, say, into the politics of poverty pure and simple. I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Judd: one of the central roles for charitable and voluntary organisations is advocacy, but there is a clear difference between advocacy and campaigning.

Fourthly and lastly, some charities employ or incentivise, through a commission-on-money-raised basis, street workers in groups badged as charity workers stopping the general public. These are not the real volunteers that we know on poppy days and flag days. A lot of people do not like this, all the more so because such people in what I think of as the “stop and raise” trade are vigorous—trending abrasive—in their style towards collecting in the street. I think that they could learn from the average charming and smiling Big Issue sellers that we pass on the streets outside. In any event, a talented young full-time charity worker was telling me last night that not only does her own organisation refuse to use such people because of these reputational issues but such street workers do not promote the sustainable repeated long-term giving that is in the interests of charities themselves.

My noble friend Lady Needham—I beg her pardon; Needham Market has one of my favourite churches with its magnificent roof, and I often visit it when I am there. My noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market told us that there are some 2,500 new charities a year. When there are so many new charities, there is always the risk of wrongdoing, corruption and things going wrong; we must not deny that. If the Charity Commission needs extra powers to investigate, it should be given them. I strongly support the Charity Commission chairman, William Shawcross, in what he does to root out the dodgy, reinforced as he will be from next Monday, 30 June, by the commission’s brand new CEO Paula Sussex, with her impressive record.

The charitable world must realise that it is going to become more and more the focus of examination and demands for transparency, and rightly so in the interests of the poor and others in need of help. I also sometimes think that the voices of those in the charitable world about their own could and should be louder when things go wrong.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for introducing this debate. It is important to recognise the work done by these organisations. Work nowadays is more important than ever. Everyone knows that we have an ageing population. Often there are older people who are alone and isolated, and they need help. The excellent volunteers provide that necessary assistance. Not only that, the organisations and their volunteers bring to the attention of the Government issues affecting older and disabled people—things that they feel need to be put right.

A recent case concerns the change from the disability living allowance to the personal independence payment. Many disabled people are confused and worried about this change and the reassessment that is apparently required. The volunteers are there to help and reassure people who are troubled. Counsel and Care reports that it is receiving many requests for help from vulnerable people on those matters.

I myself have had reason to be grateful for the assistance provided, in particular by the Alzheimer’s Society. My sister has recently been diagnosed as suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. She is a retired teacher, a widow living by herself. The organisations have been so helpful, arranging for her to be seen regularly, checking that she does not feel alone and isolated and arranging for her to be taken out and to lead a fairly reasonable and civilised sort of life, despite her illness. I am very grateful to the Government for their recent statement to the effect that they understand that dementia sufferers have to have more support. I believe that they have reached that decision as a result of the excellent campaign run by the Alzheimer’s Society, which in fact is having a meeting in this building next Monday as part of its continuing campaign.

There are also voluntary organisations that do very good work for individual members, but their value is rarely acknowledged. I am referring to trade unions, which between them have 6 million members. A lot of the work is done by volunteers. Of course unions have the obligation to represent their members’ best interests but they also provide a range of individual benefits to members. In an era when employment rights have been disappearing as a result of government policies, it is necessary that legal assistance should be provided to individuals, and this is what many unions do. Under current legislation, such assistance is not available for employment issues as a result of the introduction of what we now know as LASPO, but unions provide that assistance to their individual members. They are involved in training and education, providing support to those who may have missed out earlier in training and educational chances. Ruskin College, Oxford, supported by the unions, has provided higher education to many, including some parliamentarians. The Government should be more willing than they appear to be to consult the unions. This happens in Germany, to the great benefit of productivity and industrial progress generally.

I have referred mainly to issues concerning older people and disability, which I know something about, but I have also been involved in the past with a number of excellent organisations concerned with children. For a number of years I was a trustee of Save the Children, an organisation that does magnificent work, particularly in Africa, for families living in terrible poverty. I am very proud of the work that I have been involved with in that respect and I am sure that many of us are aware of some of the work that that charity has done.

I thank my noble friend again for introducing the debate. It has revealed a fair amount of knowledge and experience on the part of Members of this House. I hope that the Government will listen very carefully to what we have all been saying as we continue to press for these organisations, which we all support, to receive the respect that we think they deserve.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, for calling this debate and for her excellent opening speech. I associate myself with everything that has been said about the variety of charities and the wonderful work that they do.

I shall concentrate on a single point in what I hope will be a brief contribution. I want to issue an invitation in the interests of clarity and understanding. I preface this invitation with two points. First, I declare an interest as the chairman of the Policy Exchange think tank, my involvement with other charities as in the register of interests and my history of working with charities and as a patron and trustee of them. My experience has made me fully aware of the scope and limits of political activity under charity law.

Secondly, I recently interviewed the author Anne Applebaum about her excellent book The Iron Curtain, and she explained that in the first months after the Second World War the Soviet-backed communists allowed some political liberty but made sure to control the institutions of civil society. They recognised these bodies as the most important guarantors of freedom and the strongest challengers to the hegemony of the state. The lesson taught, of course, is that we must jealously protect the political rights of the voluntary sector, but it is also that it is disproportionate to respond to every discussion of the regulation of charities and voluntary sector campaigning as if it involved the imposition of east European-style dictatorship, as I fear is sometimes the case.

This brings me to my invitation. When I joined this House, a measure was being considered that limited the expenditure of voluntary bodies on election campaigns. This modest proposal brings all campaigners in line, at least to a limited extent, with the restrictions on candidates themselves. It prevents someone setting up the Schmonservative Association and spending whatever they want defeating a Labour MP. Instantly this was called a “gagging clause” even though broadly the same provision for a political party was called “a sensible limit on election spending”. The provision has continued to be referred to in this way. I wish to demonstrate my respect for the concerns of voluntary organisations by attempting to establish how much truth there actually is in the gagging allegation, which would certainly be serious if proven. Since lots of public affairs people associated with the voluntary and charitable sector will be watching this debate, I invite any of them and any other charity or voluntary body which believes it is gagged because of the new law to write to me. To be clear, I want them to do so if in this election year they have specifically been prevented from an action that they can carefully describe—I am looking for actual and not hypothetical examples—as being gagged. I wish to establish whether any such gagging ever takes place, whether indeed the action being prevented is against the law, which I believe it rarely will be, and whether those few against the law are simply reasonable spending limits or unreasonable limits on free speech. I look forward to hearing over the coming months—or possibly not hearing—and I will let noble Lords know the outcome.

My Lords, it is a genuine pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein. I had the privilege of joining your Lordships’ House in the same intake as the noble Lord. His three-minute maiden speech was one of the best I have heard—in fact, it was the best I heard from that intake—and his contribution today was equally thought provoking.

I, like other noble Lords, congratulate my noble friend Lady Scott for very ably and very clearly outlining the breadth of this sector. She gave us examples of how charitable and voluntary endeavour enhances and saves lives, of how the economy has improved and of the impact from just doing someone a simple favour—or microvolunteering, as perhaps we are now supposed to call it. Other noble Lords have referred to charity legislation and the need for reform, or how the sector as a campaigning force has made an impact on the economy, on health and on social policy. My noble friend Lady Barker outlined brilliantly the much better legislative framework now being put in place and the opportunities that, if used correctly and properly, that can bring overall to society. You cannot play a role in public life, even a limited one as I have, without bearing witness to this opportunity.

I declare my interests as a director of a charitable theatre, the Eastgate Theatre and Arts Centre in Peebles, which adds great benefit to the creative and cultural life of Tweeddale. It is interesting that not too much has been raised in this debate about the creative and cultural sector, yet the volunteers and charities in those areas make a profound impact. I am patron of the Borders Carers Centre and, among many other activities, I am a guiding ambassador in Scotland. I was rather confused as to why I would be a guiding ambassador, given my lack of experience as a Brownie or a Guide, but nevertheless I recognise, as others have, the huge breadth that this sector provides.

However, I want to address a different part of the role played by volunteering, perhaps different from what other noble Lords have raised in today’s debate. I have not the eloquence to do it justice, but in essence I want to speak about something that is very special to me and others who have the great fortune of having an affinity with the borderland area, with those jewels of the crown in the hilly land of the Borders that inspired Scott, Wordsworth, Turner and Buchan. This summer, these jewels will be shining—the towns and communities of West Linton, Peebles, Innerleithen, Galashiels, Selkirk, Melrose and Lauder, all of which I had the privilege to represent. All follow the silvery thread of the Tweed and then up to the ancient and royal burgh of Lauderdale. Those towns have profoundly strong communities, forged through many hundreds of years through the border wars. Noble Lords who are aware of the common ridings can imagine those hundreds of riders crossing the Tweed, during those years of conflict, on the way to police their town boundary or imagine witnessing the 350 mounted horse men and women galloping up the common land of Lauder to make sure the burgh flag was returned unsullied and untarnished and peace was secured.

Now, these are not the ghosts of the past. The riders will bear witness today, this summer, in the festivals of the common ridings, which are Europe’s largest equestrian events, organised and funded not by the Government, the tourist board or the council but by local volunteers. With the utmost professionalism, young men and women will represent their communities and their towns, working with members of the community up to the most senior in age. With the highest professionalism, they will represent not only the community but also the life of the towns that they will celebrate—celebrating place, comradeship and identity.

On Saturday I will be proudly wearing this tie, which is of shepherd’s check, which was the very first tartan in Scotland—when you see some of these fake, made-up ones from Victorian times, they mean nothing. This comes from the wool from the black sheep, woven with the wool from the white sheep, as was the case 700 years ago. It was adopted because of the textile heritage of Galashiels, and those involved in the Braw Lad’s Gathering will be wearing this. In the textile, the warp of the land and history and the weft of the community and people are brought together—from the committee members, who will do all the necessary bureaucracy and paperwork to ensure the event runs properly, to the marshals, who ensure that the 350 riders galloping through the town, which many might think would contravene some health and safety regulations, happens without incident and with safety, through to those people who will offer support leading up to and beyond the festivals. The noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, mentioned the Games makers, but we have had games makers for many generations to make sure that these huge festivals are operated to the highest standard.

Those people know that volunteering makes their community a place not just where they live but where they feel alive. Their motive is not financial or political. They are not operating under a legislative edict or a political mandate, but they know that they have inherited rich traditions that they wish to keep alive for future generations. The impact on others is their motivation. I am proud to be able to use my place in this Parliament to thank them for that.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, for introducing this important debate. It is good that we take a good hard look at what is happening to the voluntary and charitable sectors in this country. It is difficult to get a full measure of this diverse and complex sector of the economy, but in my travels around the country you get an impression at least of what is going on.

Times are hard for the third sector, and sometimes it can all feel so relentlessly utilitarian nowadays. It can all feel so heavy as charities are drawn into the relentless struggle to raise funds, apply for bids and, of course, go for contracts with the state. Those of us who have danced with the dinosaur-like structures of the state for too many years to count have witnessed its effect upon virtually everything it touches—turning virtually everything it engages with into a pale reflection of itself.

I was involved in the early days of the housing association movement when it was being developed by leaders in local communities. At that time, these local leaders had real aspiration about the quality of design and radical ideas about the kinds of houses they wanted to build and the kinds of communities they were in business for. This energy and enthusiasm of course attracted the interest of the state, and many well meaning people were seduced by the lure of the state and its promise of large-scale and much needed investment in the movement. Slowly, step by step, with one piece of necessary legislation or red tape upon another, this lean, dynamic voluntary group of organisations was dumbed down, straitjacketed into well meaning policies and frameworks, and somehow in the process lost the sense of life and fun and risk-taking that were at the heart of their business. Somehow, these crucial human factors were lost in the drive for order, fairness and equality. It sounds a bit like the NHS—a similar story, I suggest.

For housing associations now to take up really imaginative and radical schemes—and there are some—it is often despite, rather than because of, the funding and regulatory regime they find themselves caught up in, so much so that many associations, I fear, increasingly look and operate as pale reflections of their past. This bureaucratisation, caused by the state and not by business, so often leads to a loss of the human touch. Yes, they do community development and are often sentimental about their relationships with residents, but they have lost the driven, entrepreneurial flair that brought them into being in the first place.

I am reminded of this because I gave out the community impact awards last week at the National Housing Federation, and here I must declare an interest. At this event, I saw some fantastic people and projects, but they were at the edges of the operation of these giant organisations, not at their centre. Residents and local people are not some addendum; they should be the core business. The £300 million housing company, a charity, we built in east London is radical. We created a resident-owned business and used our capital investment over the past two decades to trigger social and economic activity in some of the most challenging housing estates in east London. Twenty years later, the evidence is there for all to see in a £1.7 billion regeneration programme. Just look at the quality of the gardens we have built—they would be quite at home in Kensington and Chelsea. A deliberate strategic decision we made in Poplar 20 years ago was to stay and focus in this one area on relationships with residents and quality development, and not to try to expand across the country here, there and everywhere. We chose, in the words of the song, not to be “everywhere and nowhere, baby”, a policy too favoured by successive Governments.

In this bureaucratic, contract-driven world, a game which I have played many times, I worry that the cultures we are now creating in this sector, far from being free, adventurous and radical, innovating and challenging the logic of the systems of government, are instead in danger of losing their spark—in danger of being a bit too responsible and a bit too dour, certainly too public sector, and with a need to have more fun.

But what does fun look like? Well, at a project I am chairing in Blackheath at the moment—I declare the interest—last Friday we opened a beach with sand, an amazing picture of a Victorian pier as a backdrop, deck chairs, drinks and fairground music, 100 miles from the sea. This week it has been packed with children playing in the sand and parents sunbathing and chewing the fat with their neighbours. The project was brought together in a matter of weeks and I have, to date, seen no sight of a health and safety policy—oops! I am sure we have one.

I remember some years ago in Bromley-by-Bow having a bad day when a particular planning decision had not gone well. Instead of bemoaning our fate, two of us got into my politically incorrect yellow MGB sports car and set off to try and buy a castle in Kent. My colleague had heard it was on the market and we wondered why we should not try to reconnect the East End with its long association with this county through hop picking. Actually, we nearly did the deal until someone with rather more money than us stepped in at the last minute. This experience was followed a few years later with the offer of a manor house in the Cotswolds by the then dean of Westminster Abbey, which at that time housed a charity that had got into considerable difficulty. We had learnt something from the castle experience. We took Stanton Guildhouse on, and today it is a self-sustaining social enterprise used by business leaders, families and thousands of inner-city residents from across this country—here, again, I must declare an interest.

If, with the best will in the world, we lose this spirit of fun, innovation and enterprise in the third sector, what is the point of it? What difference is it bringing to our communities? Yes, we have to live with the world as it is, but how we do it and how we live within it really matters. What sort of charitable and voluntary sector organisations are we creating? Are we bringing new life and innovation to communities across this land, and a spirit of fun and energy, or are they in danger of becoming a pale reflection of the state and of what already exists?

I encouraged residents at the housing association awards evening to take more control, to remember where their association had come from, to take centre stage and build entrepreneurial cultures and not play at the edges—to live dangerously or not live at all. If we are to renew the life of this country, how we do it really matters and the spirit with which we come to the task will make or break us. Can the Minister tell the House what the Government plan to do in practice to ensure that charities do not simply become clones of the state?

My Lords, we are all indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, for raising an issue which is so important to the sustenance of a compassionate and generous society. I am a trustee of a number of charities and draw attention to my entry in the register of interests. However, I will talk specifically about a group of charities, and tens of thousands of volunteers, who care for one of the most vulnerable groups in our society: the animal welfare charities that do so much to help care for our nation’s animals.

I accordingly make a declaration of interest as a cat owner. I am with Charles Dickens, who said:

“What greater gift than the love of a cat?”.

It is a gift I can return today by speaking a little about the challenges faced by those charities such as Cats Protection, at whose selfless work I marvel, caring for abused, sick or stray animals.

We are of course a nation of animal lovers: 13 million households have pets, including 9 million dogs and at least 8 million cats. Aside from the pure joy of a loving relationship, pets play an important role in the development of our society. At the start of life, children taught properly to care for an animal—often by the animal charities and their volunteers—learn important life skills about the need to be compassionate to those who are vulnerable. As we grow older, pets, particularly dogs and horses, provide physical exercise which is important to general health—perhaps I should have got myself a dog rather than a cat. Later on in life, animals play an absolutely vital role in providing companionship to the elderly.

On the other side of the coin, deeply regrettably, so much of what is wrong in our society, whether it be bullying in schools, anti-social behaviour or social deprivation, is intimately bound up with instances of animal cruelty, one of the most despicable of all human acts. Concern for animals is one of the foundations of a civilised society.

Of course, most animals are loved and cosseted but, tragically, not all of them are. That is where the voluntary and charitable sector steps in, tackling cruelty, finding caring homes for unwanted animals and educating the public about animal care and welfare. The leading charities in the sector, household names such as the RSPCA, Cats Protection, the Dogs Trust, Blue Cross and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, have been playing a vital role in looking after vulnerable animals for many generations, and I take the opportunity of this welcome debate to pay tribute to them. Volunteer support is absolutely crucial to these great organisations, as we have heard from so many other noble Lords. Cats Protection, for example, has over 9,100 volunteers across the UK, working alongside around 500 full and part-time staff. The estimated value of that volunteering is around £60 million a year. Each year, those volunteers help care for 194,000 cats and kittens, rehoming and reuniting around 46,000 of them, and deal with 24,000 feral cats through trapping them, neutering them and returning or relocating them.

It is the same story across the board in this sector. Volunteers working for the Dogs Trust help to care for 16,000 dogs in a national network of rehoming centres, while last year the Blue Cross army of 2,600 volunteers put in 320,000 hours of hard work looking after more than 40,000 sick, injured and homeless pets. It is absolutely fitting in the debate today to honour all those volunteers, many of whom are in full-time jobs, with family commitments and animals of their own to care for, who work so hard to look after vulnerable animals. They are worth their weight in gold.

The scale of the challenges those charities and their volunteers face is enormous, as the economic downturn from which we are now emerging has taken its toll. The number of animals abandoned last year, according to the RSPCA, was up by nearly 60% since the start of the economic problems, while RSPCA inspectors had to investigate over 153,000 complaints of cruelty.

However, it need not be this way. In his introduction to the recent PDSA report in 2013, The State of our Pet Nation, its director Richard Hooker said:

“So many problems that are seen by animal welfare organisations across the UK are entirely preventable. People continue to make misinformed choices at every stage of their pet ownership journey, and consequently pet welfare is being compromised”.

Now for my tiny little bit of advocacy, led in this direction by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. Parliament and Government can do a lot to help these charities and their volunteers cope with what is a growing animal welfare crisis. I will highlight three things: education, regulation and funding.

First, over the long term the best way to tackle the problems animal charities and their volunteers face is for better education of young people. How much more optimistic the long-term prospects for animal welfare would be if all children understood the five welfare needs of animals. The charities themselves do a great deal in this area already. For instance, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home talked to 13,000 young people in 10 London boroughs last year. However, animal welfare needs to be a mainstream educational issue, and I urge the Government to look at making it part of the national curriculum in primary schools.

Secondly, we need to try to ensure that the statutory rules and regulations governing animal welfare, particularly relating to the breeding and sale of pets, are kept up to date. Legislation in this area is over 60 years old and is contributing to the animal welfare crisis by making commercial breeding and sale of pets too easy in a digital age. I hope that is another area that the Government will look at.

Finally, while animal welfare charities of course rely on voluntary donations, grants and legacies, there is a case for more seed-corn funding from Defra for community education projects of the sort piloted in inner London in 2012 to help the neutering and microchipping of dogs. As we have heard, the charitable sector itself can provide time, expertise and volunteers, but there is also a role for government, particularly in view of the wide range of public policy issues that are bound up with this area.

Shakespeare wrote:

“How far that little candle throws his beams!

So shines a good deed in a naughty world”.

Today has been our opportunity to applaud all those extraordinary volunteers and charities whose good deeds and selfless acts of generosity shine in a way that makes so many lives better.

My Lords, like everyone else I thank my noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market for instituting this debate. It is entirely my own incompetence that I am speaking in the gap, having failed to put my name down in time.

I have spent most of my professional life in the charity world. My firm, Bates Wells Braithwaite, spends most of its time in that world and it has been a privilege and a pleasure to have been so immersed in all that is charitable—large, small, all sorts, all conditions. I had the lucky chance last month to speak about charity to a senior Minister of the Chinese Government and her delegation. They were absolutely fascinated and, indeed, gobsmacked when I explained the range, depth, reach and historicity of our charity sector. I am hugely proud of it, as all of us are. In many ways it is our greatest achievement and gift.

However, it is in danger. It is in danger in terms of the values of our society, which has never been so commercialised, so self-centred, so—how shall one put it?—wholly immersed in pursuit of material things. Of course that is a huge generalisation, but I suspect all noble Lords will know what I mean. As to the values of today’s commercial world, we need only look at the shareholders—the ownership group—to see how totally divorced they are from the values of charity.

Compared with charity, the difference is striking. As we all know, charity exists—we just need to look at the law—for exclusive public benefit. That is not some idle phrase; it is the truth. Trustees of charities are unpaid. We must never underestimate the independence of charities. I say to the Minister, although I do not think he needs it said, that we must maintain that independence at all costs. We must also avoid pretending that actually we here in government can do much about the real, grass-roots health of charity.

As I have said, that health is not good. We have had indications today from different speakers that young people in particular are not taught to understand their place in this complex world of ours; to be citizens. There are some good recommendations in the CAF report. If we look at the examples that we set as leaders of our society, the rich—because they are glorified today—and the senior business and professional people are failing abysmally, compared with my years of growing up, to provide an example to young people and to our society about what our role as people of public spirit should be.

We are not walking our talk. We have only to look at the City now: I would be surprised if one in 10 main board players in the City or senior managers—including in my own profession of solicitors—was directly engaged in giving of their time. When it comes to example, time is more important than dosh. It is a tragedy, because not only does society lose but they lose. The joke about charity is that it is not charity at all: you get back far more than you give. Everybody would say that. The rewards of engaging with all sorts and conditions of men and women are simply incalculable.

Finally, I want to draw us back to caritas. Charity comes from caritas, which means love. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby and many others who have spoken have touched on that point. It is central. We need much more love in this society of ours.

My Lords, first, as other noble Lords have done, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, for putting down this Motion for debate today.

Secondly, as I intend to make reference to work taking place in Lewisham, I bring to the attention of the House that I am an elected councillor in Lewisham and that it grant funds a number of organisations in the borough. I also refer noble Lords to my declaration of interests in respect to the charitable and voluntary organisations I am a member of.

Also at the start of my contribution I pay tribute, as have other noble Lords, to work done all over the United Kingdom by the charitable and voluntary sectors. They provide an excellent example of how strong our civil society is and how valuable volunteering and charitable work is to life in the United Kingdom today, as my noble friend Lord Judd referred to.

It is no exaggeration to say that whole areas of policy development, practical delivery of solutions, work on community cohesion, the solving of problems on the ground and making things better could not happen without the charitable and voluntary sectors. It is true to say that they were doing that job long before the words “the big society” were ever mentioned.

We can trace the roots of the charitable and voluntary sector back to the Age of Enlightenment and the beginnings of charitable and philanthropic activity. Clubs, societies and mutual organisations began to flourish in England. In 1741 Captain Thomas Coram, appalled by the number of abandoned children living on the streets in London, set up the Foundling Hospital to look after these unwanted orphans in Lamb's Conduit Fields, Bloomsbury. This was the first such charity in the world and served as the precedent for incorporated associational charities everywhere.

I was pleased to see today that the Charity Commission released the independent research conducted on its behalf by Ipsos MORI, and that it showed that public confidence in charities remains at a high level and that only the police and doctors are trusted more. It was interesting to read that people wanted charities to explain exactly what they had achieved and 96% of respondents wanted charities to provide the public with information about how they spend their money, as the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, highlighted. It is certainly important for charities and the wider voluntary sector movement to be very transparent, clear how money is being spent, and to be able to demonstrate that they are providing good value for money.

The voluntary and charity sector movement is funded in a variety of different ways. It may be of interest to noble Lords to know that donations from the public to charitable causes was at 57% in 2012, which equates to 29.5 million adults donating on average £29 each. In recent years, donations have remained around that figure, with perhaps some divergence from it. In Lewisham, where I was recently elected to the council, the authority has managed to maintain a grants budget, which this year is £5.9 million, and work undertaken by the authority estimates that every £1 in grant funding brings in an additional £4 of external investment and earned income to the borough. In 2012-13 the authority commissioned £32 million-worth of services from the voluntary and charity sector. Other noble Lords, in particular the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, and my noble friends Lady Pitkeathley and Lord Judd, explained exactly the added value that the charity sector brings to its local community. The sector receives funding from a variety of sources, which include individual donations, grant aid, tax and other reliefs where eligible, legacies, targeted campaigns and donations for businesses, in addition to being commissioned to do work.

You cannot always quantify the value and work of the charity sector in money terms alone, and in some cases it may be impossible to do so. That was illustrated for me a couple of years ago, when I attended a reception in your Lordships’ House that was hosted by my noble friend Lady Smith of Basildon for the then WRVS—now the RVS—where we heard from some of its volunteers. One man told us that he had a great volunteering job. He took his elderly friend shopping twice a week, and they always stopped off in the pub for a pint on the way home. It is hard to quantify what he was doing in pure monetary terms, but he was helping his elderly friend to live independently in the community he had lived in for many years, to maintain his contact with the outside world, to go to his local pub and meet his friends. That volunteer was able to check that his elderly friend was looking after himself, and if necessary he could alert the relevant authorities if he thought there were issues that needed attention.

Many other organisations and people provide a similar function in keeping people connected with their local community. I have seen for myself excellent examples of this from faith groups such as the Overend Methodist Mission in Cradley and the wonderful Ackroyd Community Centre in Crofton Park, with its Elder People’s Support Project. That is a linchpin of the local community there and does just the sort of things that my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley highlighted in her contribution. The devastation caused by loneliness and isolation is difficult at any age but is particularly difficult when you are elderly, as my noble friend Lady Turner of Camden highlighted. Although I said that it is hard to quantify in monetary terms some of the work the charity sector does, you could come up with an estimate of the additional cost to the state if the voluntary and charity sector did not undertake those vital tasks that I have just outlined.

I have also seen at first hand the detailed policy work that is undertaken and how that informs government thinking. There are the grants some charities make to enable cutting-edge medical and other research to take place, and the work the sector can do to bring about changes to government policy by mounting effective campaigns and producing evidence-based research. Diabetes UK, along with other charities, did that very effectively with the campaign it ran to ensure that children with long-term conditions can expect to get an agreed minimum level of support at school. That enables children to remain at school and learn with their friends, and not find themselves excluded through no fault of their own. The noble Lord, Lord Storey, on the Lib Dem Benches, along with many other noble Lords, will recall the debates we had on that during the passage of the Education Act in the previous Session.

When charities and the wider voluntary sector run campaigns they can be very effective, and sometimes irritating to other interest groups, politicians and Governments. However, all noble Lords will be aware that charity campaigning has changed lives for the better. For example, a coalition of 200 UK charities and faith communities came together and formed the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign, which secured commitments from the G8 leaders to provide funding for global initiatives to tackle child malnutrition and clamp down on tax avoidance.

However, I caution the Government to be very careful; just because they do not like something that an organisation is saying, it does not follow that it is running a political campaign. They should not get themselves into that position. If there are problems with recently passed laws, I hope that charities will write to the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, and take up his invitation. Local government in general has a very strong commitment to the voluntary and charity sector. In Lewisham we have found it important to maintain a strong independent sector that can act as a critical friend to challenge public sector policy and delivery. We recognise the key role the sector plays in building civic participation, providing a voice for seldom heard residents and providing community intelligence to the authority, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby highlighted in his contribution. There is also a recognition of the great diversity of the sector and the need always to ensure that you are engaging with small and emerging groups as well as large and established ones. In addition, there is a recognition of the sector’s potential to take risks and innovate and of the fact that the voluntary and charitable sectors have been key delivery partners for a wide range of targeted initiatives.

As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby highlighted, in these times of austerity and cut-backs the voluntary and charitable sector has seen increased demands for its services and has had to deliver more with less, absorbing costs and meeting the challenges it has been presented with. The social sector tracker published by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations highlights the perfect storm that the sector faces. It also identified that 61% of charities argued that central government policy had a damaging impact on their work, as opposed to the 15% who cited a positive impact.

In responding to this debate, can the noble Lord tell the House what has happened to the big society? It was a big theme in the Conservative manifesto and is in the coalition’s programme for government. The Prime Minister told us in February 2011 that it was “his absolute passion”, but today it has vanished, swept under the carpet, never to be mentioned again—except by opposition spokespersons who ask, “What happened to that once-key initiative?”. Can the noble Lord confirm that the Government are willing to listen to suggestions about how we can further support the sector?

Yesterday, when I saw the reports of Wonga’s disgusting behaviour and how it treated some of its customers, I wondered whether there was a way that any fines imposed on it or other financial institutions that broke the law or regulations could be ring-fenced and invested in supporting the credit union movement or charity sector work on debt relief. I hope that the noble Lord will take that away and respond to it as well. In conclusion, I again pay tribute to the work of the voluntary and charity sectors in the UK and thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, for enabling this debate to take place today.

My Lords, as I expected, this has been an excellent debate. As I came here I thought that it would be very difficult to respond to comments from noble Lords, many of whom know a huge amount more about this sector than I do. I have learnt a huge amount from the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, in particular. I remembering him taking me through the evolution of regulation and charities law from 1601 onwards. I hope that he noted the recent remark made by an eminent lawyer, that charities law had been asinine since 1601. As we all know, charities law has evolved to cope with charities changing their view of what they should do, which remains a contested issue. I speak on behalf of the Government when I say how grateful we are for the work that the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, has done, both in his statutory review of the Charities Act 2006 and in his contribution to the Civil Society Red Tape Taskforce. The Government hope that he will continue to play an extremely valuable role in that area.

When I went to east London to look at the work which a local Baptist minister, Mr Mawson—the noble Lord, Lord Mawson—had done, I also learnt a huge amount about local initiatives and local activity. When I first learnt about community foundations I went to Calderdale with the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, and was enormously enthused by the work which the community foundation there is doing and the way in which it is able to galvanise local philanthropy. I repeat what I said the previous time we debated this issue. Oversight of the voluntary sector is the sort of role which the House of Lords in its current composition plays very well. We ought to have regular debates on aspects of that area, because it is one on which the Commons does not focus very well. As the voluntary sector begins to deal with different challenges, we should look at how well it copes.

I start with some very broad issues about the importance of this area. We are now reaching a point where there is a degree of consensus across all the political parties in this country about the importance of striking the right balance between an open society, a free but regulated market, and a strong but limited state. We can all argue—and that is the place for democratic politics—about exactly how that balance should be struck: how large the state should be, how large a proportion of the economy it should control, and how large a proportion of national income it should take. Those are all difficult issues that we must grasp, but we all now understand that the state cannot do everything, that the welfare state cannot provide everything, and that a state that is too strong impoverishes its citizens. In an open society, we need active citizens who are not too dependent on the state.

I have done most of my politics in Huddersfield, Manchester and Bradford. I remember particularly, when I was a candidate for a central Manchester constituency, arguing with local authority officials who were quite sure that they knew what was good for the people of Hulme better than the people of Hulme did. The people of Hulme sat around and had things done to them, and played very little part in managing their own affairs. Many of us have spent time in those big inner-city estates, and know the problems that that has led to. Part of what the Government have been doing with community organisers and the National Citizen Service has been getting back into those communities the idea that people are better off if they do some things for themselves. We all now know from all sorts of psychological studies that people who feel they have some control over their own lives, and play some active part in their local community, are happier and more fulfilled in their lives.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby talks about the end of the welfare state, but I simply do not recognise that concept. Indeed, in some ways the welfare state is expanding. Health reform in the United States is becoming embedded, and I suspect that that will not be reformed. The biggest democracy that has resisted that element of the welfare state is now embedding it. However, we recognise that the welfare state, if simply left, would expand to crowd out all other elements of public expenditure, and would then crowd out the private aspect of the economy as well.

To be maintained in its current state, the National Health Service needs an income that grows larger and larger each year. I am particularly conscious of that at the moment, having just had a new hip, and having discovered how many other people in my generation have also had a new hip. That makes me realise to what extent that sort of thing, as we all get older, is leading to the strains on the welfare state as publicly funded. I hope to make 97 at least, and the strain on the state from my state pension, my travel pass and various other things will also contribute to the problems of the welfare state.

Yes, we are all committed to the continuation of the welfare state, but we recognise that it has limits, that it is bad for us to be too dependent on the state, and that the voluntary sector alongside it has a great deal to contribute—including, of course, to the National Health Service. Just think about how much money is raised for medical research and other dimensions from the voluntary sector, and the excellent initiatives such as those that the Government have been supporting—the growth of dementia volunteers and King’s College Hospital volunteers to relieve the pressures on local hospitals. That is all part of what we must do to ensure that the welfare state continues to maintain its functions.

I follow the debates of such bodies as Policy Network and Policy Exchange, and I recognise that they are all discussing these questions. We cannot depend entirely on the state. Twenty years ago, when I was working for the University of Oxford, I was helping to raise funds for a range of international initiatives. Someone from a Dutch university said to me, “It’s actually very difficult to raise money for universities from the private sector in the Netherlands, because when you approach a possible donor he thinks, ‘If this were a good idea, the state would already have paid for it,’ so the fact that you are asking for a private donation makes people think that it’s not a very good idea.” But when we went to the Swiss, they understood. With a more limited attitude towards their state, they understood that it was a good idea to have both voluntary funding and state funding for higher education. One of the reasons why British universities are better than those in a number of other European countries is that they have both state and private funding.

We have heard a lot of comments on central state funding and local activity. I think that there is a consensus that we have become too centralised, in the UK as a whole but above all in England, and that decentralisation—both from Whitehall to local authorities and, as far as possible, from a relationship between large national charities and the state to one in which local authorities and other local bodies relate to local charities—is healthier. The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, talked about the relationship between big charities and central government. Having stronger local authorities dealing with local voluntary organisations is a desirable state of affairs. I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, who talked about the role of Near Neighbours within a number of local communities. There are many examples like that. Local giving, as the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, said, is easier to make a case for—local actions and local campaigns. In Saltaire we are just embarking on local horticulture, imitating Todmorden and others. That means growing local food in spare ground and making it available to people who do not have their own gardens. There are all sorts of local activities that we should be helping to support.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, asked what had happened to the big society. My answer to him is that a great deal is happening. I regret that the Prime Minister uses it less than he did, but I am extremely happy that the Labour Party is now accepting many of the Government’s initiatives into its own campaigns. I was a sceptic about the National Citizen Service myself when it started. It was a Conservative scheme that I was not entirely convinced about—but I became a convert as soon as I visited my first National Citizen Service scheme. I am happy to see that the Labour Party now proposes that that service should be extended. That means that all parties now accept that it is a highly desirable development.

I was equally sceptical about the Conservative proposals for community organisers when they were first made. But now that I have seen community organisers working in Bradford and Leeds, I am persuaded that that is a way of helping to energise shared local action within local communities that all of us, from all parties and perspectives, should be happy to support. That is what is happening on the ground, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, is as impressed with it as I have been.

We have talked about the problems of youth engagement, but there is quite a lot of encouraging evidence that young people are becoming more engaged in local volunteering. The National Citizen Service has certainly helped, and it appears that young people are keen to get engaged where they are given the opportunity to do so. I recognise that, as one or two noble Lords have said, community work placements can muddy the water, but part of the philosophy behind such placements is to give people some experience of working with others and for others, which in itself is a self-motivating experience.

There has also been much talk about elderly volunteers. We are all aware of that aspect. I have promised my wife that when I retire, in a few years’ time, I will go into voluntary service. I am very proud that when my mother finally stepped down from her last voluntary role, as chair of an old people’s home, she was herself older than a substantial number of the people living in the home. This is not an entirely new idea. The elderly fit are now very much part of those who hold voluntary action of different sorts together.

We have talked a lot about fundraising and funding, state contracting, and provision of public services. Of course, there is a problem with state funding of the voluntary sector, because public funds have to be publicly accountable. That carries with it a level of bureaucracy that does not exist in the same way with private donations. There must be accountability for public funding. The Government are, however, carrying through a number of useful experiments. There are social investment targets to fulfil, and so on, as well as social action proposals and Community First funding, which help to encourage the sector to innovate.

As I have come to terms with different elements in this sector, I worry about the parts of the voluntary sector that are over-dependent on public funding. If a voluntary organisation is dependent on the state for most of its funding, it ceases in some ways to be an entirely voluntary organisation. That seems to me a large issue for the future.

I am extremely grateful to my noble friend and shall be very brief. He said some very nice things about me and I am very grateful to him for that. I do not want to bite the hand that feeds me, but before he leaves the issue of social investment, will he give a commitment to look at the wording of “necessary and incidental” and “necessary and proportionate”? Without that change there is a real danger that this important movement may be stifled.

My Lords, I am happy to give that assurance and I will be in touch with the noble Lord later in terms of what precisely the answer is. We have asked the Law Commission to look at the content of social investment by charities within the confines of charities law, and I will come back to the noble Lord on that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, asked about the JustGiving report, to which I trust the Government will respond in good time. Payroll giving has developed a good deal. I am well aware from one or two members of my family who work in the City that payroll giving has spread across the City. It is a useful contribution from those who can afford to pay. We all also need to focus on philanthropy in our unequal society. That is the sort of thing that I hope archbishops and bishops will be saying loud and clear. When I think of those within the community I particularly recall the contribution that the Sainsbury family has made in all sorts of ways to medical research, the University of East Anglia, the National Portrait Gallery, et cetera, with the money it inherited. I regret that we have not seen from the City and the financial sector as much in the way of philanthropy from those who have been lucky and successful enough to give back to society what they have gained economically. I hope that we will hear from others on that theme.

A large number of other issues were raised. In terms of campaigning and advocacy, there should be a natural tension between society, the voluntary sector and the state. That is unavoidable. The last thing we would like is a voluntary sector that always said the state was good. I grew up in the Church of England, and it seemed to me that it was far too close to the powers that be. As a boy I would sing:

“The rich man in his castle,

The poor man at his gate”—

not something that I assume the Church of England sets as a hymn very often these days. Thankfully, Churches now see themselves as unavoidably criticising the status quo. Voluntary organisations, of course, should be doing advocacy and campaigning. I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Patten, that I am not sure that I do see a clear difference between campaigning and advocacy.

When I was doing the consultation on the Transparency of Lobbying Bill, I met the Alzheimer’s Society, which told me about its dementia campaign—an absolute classic of a campaign—to raise public awareness on an issue to which society, the state and the media had not been paying sufficient attention. The noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, talked about the carers campaign that had very much the same effect. That is precisely one of the many roles that the voluntary sector should have.

However, we all understand also that there is a point at which campaigning and advocacy becomes political in a partisan way, and therefore approaches a boundary over which campaigners should not step. I know Charity Commission paper CC9 almost off by heart now. CC9 is relatively clear and therefore the challenge made by the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, is one that is unlikely to be offered.

I am extremely grateful to my noble friend. Is he satisfied that the Charity Commission has all the necessary and relevant powers to deal with the issues of political campaigning to which he is referring?

I am satisfied that it has all the powers that it needs. The Charity Commission is now very stretched. Its budget and therefore its staff were cut. Digitisation would help a great deal to make it easier for the Charity Commission to do its job, but the role of the Charity Commission is an issue that I know the new chairman and the new chief executive wish very much to take up with Members of both Houses of Parliament, and I encourage others to take that further.

On the question of regulation, I have been the trustee of two musical charities which dealt extensively with children, particularly primary school children. I am conscious that a certain degree of regulation is useful and necessary for charities. That is another argument that we will continue to have in this respect. On the international role of charities, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, touched on the problem of Greenpeace in India. It is not only a problem for India or for Greenpeace. Those of us who follow what happens in Russia, Sudan, Nigeria or Saudi Arabia know that the foreignness of some non-governmental organisations is something that those concerned with sovereignty have great concerns about. We do our utmost to support both those working for voluntary organisations and those working for civil society organisations in more authoritarian countries. I am not suggesting that India in any way is authoritarian but there are many other countries in which this becomes more difficult. That is one of the issues with which the Government are concerned and with which Foreign Office embassies are much concerned.

I am conscious that it would be impossible to cover everything in this debate. I merely want to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, for introducing it, and all those who have contributed. I say yet again that this is the sort of debate that this Chamber does well. The future development of the voluntary sector is an extraordinarily important part of maintaining an open society and an open democracy. It is an issue to which this House should return regularly.

I made some remarks about the disgusting activities of Wonga and suggested that maybe the fines levied on it and other companies could be used for charitable activity in the credit union movement or the financial sector. Will he confirm that he will write to me on those matters?

I would be happy to write to the noble Lord. I should, of course, have said that the whole credit union movement, with which I know the noble Lord is much concerned, and the role of the churches in supporting the credit union movement are classic examples of how valuable our voluntary sector can be.

My Lords, I thank each one of the 20 contributors to the debate whose contributions have been thoughtful, wise and, above all, rooted in experience. What has come out is that, despite all the challenges there is still an essential optimism for the future of the sector and its importance. We have given the Government much to think about and I hope that they will reflect seriously on the points that have been made.

They say that charity begins at home. I wonder whether collectively, as an institution and organisation, we are doing enough here. Parliament is one of the largest employers in London and I have tried for two years to set up a volunteer system for our own employees, and have had no traction with that. Perhaps other noble Lords might like to help me. I am not sure that we do payroll giving. I do not know whether we are collectively setting the example that we should, despite all the good work that I know we all do individually.

Motion agreed.

Education: British Values

Question for Short Debate

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to promote British values in all educational establishments in the United Kingdom in the next year.

My Lords, I remind those speaking in the next debate that it is time limited. When the clock reaches three minutes, noble Lords should finish their speech as they have spoken for their allotted time. If a noble Lord is happy to take an intervention, I am afraid that the time taken up has to come out of their allocation.

My Lords, first I thank all noble Lords who are taking part in this debate. Following the so-called Trojan horse scandal in Birmingham and the subsequent Ofsted inspection and reports, our Education Secretary of State commanded that every primary and secondary school should promote British values. The Prime Minister went on to say that we should be “more muscular” and less “bashful” about asserting our national identity. The Prime Minister said that every child in Britain should be taught about Magna Carta, the foundation of all our laws and liberties. I hope the teaching of Magna Carta will be better than that which the Prime Minister himself received. Noble Lords will recall that he had a bit of difficulty recalling Magna Carta on American television. I am sure an understanding of baronial rights and regulation of fish weirs and moneylenders can be made as relevant today as it was then.

As a direct result of the Ofsted reports into Birmingham, new clauses have been added to the model funding agreement for academies. It now stipulates that governors should demonstrate “fundamental British values” and gives the Secretary of State powers to close schools if they do not comply. These British values include respect for the law, for democracy and for equality, and tolerance of different beliefs. Of course, we have to be a little bit careful and not think we are the best in the world in our values. We have only to look through our own history to see recently how discrimination ripped through our country, how it affected gay people, how there was slavery and even the burning of people for their religious belief. Values are not set in concrete or stone; they change.

Both the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998 prohibit discrimination on the grounds of disability, sex, race and religion, and today in Great Britain these liberal principles have never been in doubt. British individuals may identify themselves in different ways, but the notion of British identity is multifaceted and inclusive. British values reflect the pride we feel as a nation when we see a multicultural and ethnically diverse population working together to protect our democratic ideals and ensure that every child has access to the best possible education, regardless of their background. We cannot deny that the elements of Britishness stated by the Secretary of State are complex and open to interpretation. However, these intentions should not be written off as a pipe dream. We must not assume that such values lie out of our reach.

My previous experience as a teacher in a large inner-city primary school has highlighted to me the importance of citizenship education and its role in helping to shape future generations of young people and young adults. Citizenship education and improved political and social awareness are crucial to help youngsters understand one another. Education should be about not prescribing values or abiding by arbitrary morals and customs but being part of a respectful community of discourse on topics that affect us all. It is my firm belief that citizenship education is no different.

The Prime Minister expressed his desire for the Government to start inculcating British values in the curriculum. Having considered that, I find myself slightly bemused to see that academies and free schools—roughly half our secondary schools—can choose not to teach the subject at all and that routine Ofsted inspections do not review it. As a consequence, its omission goes overlooked in a majority of our schools. That needs to be reconsidered urgently. Our schools need clarity that citizenship must be delivered effectively under the national curriculum and will be inspected routinely—perhaps even with no notice, if that proves an effective tool to ensuring accountability—as part of the broad and balanced curriculum that every child deserves.

What happened among a few Birmingham schools does indeed raise a number of educational issues, which we have debated on many occasions in your Lordships’ House. Does it really make sense for some schools to be given the power to choose what they teach? Is not the curriculum too important to be solely in the hands of individual schools? Our inspection regimes must be universal and up to the mark. The Office for Standards in Education has to be the guarantor of quality; Ofsted’s reports must be the key to understanding how schools have performed. The suggestion that grade 1 schools might be exempt from inspection is dangerous. No school, however good, comes with a guarantee of permanent success. Standards can and do slip. Some 31% of schools graded “outstanding” in an inspection do not maintain that standard in the next inspection. Indeed, as we know, one of the Birmingham schools received an “outstanding” Ofsted inspection.

I was interested to read in an article written by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, in the Guardian:

“In truth, both the old model of local authority control and the new model of autonomy are flawed – and events in Birmingham should make us face up to it. Three organisations had the responsibility to spot and prevent failure in the Trojan horse schools – the Department for Education, the local authority and Ofsted. They all failed”.

I do not feel that being British or respecting British values is something that can be prescribed. The best way to unite Britons is to gain a mutual understanding and respect for each other.

On that point of the people of Britain’s mutual understanding and respect, can the noble Lord explain why the wording of the Motion calls on Her Majesty’s Government to promote British values in all education institutions—presumably including colleges and universities—throughout the country, when Her Majesty’s Government have no control over education in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, as a result of devolution?

I am glad the noble Lord raised that point, because it is something I have said on a number of occasions. In actuality, when we debate education issues in this House, we talk only of the education service in England; we do not talk about Wales or Scotland. It would be nice to have a debate where we learn from some of the examples of the Scottish and Welsh education systems. For example, Wales, which is often derided in this House for some of its failings in education, is up to the mark on careers education and counselling. I am sure there are such issues in Scotland. I very much support and agree with what the noble Lord has said.

As I was saying, children should at a young age achieve an understanding of each other through citizenship lessons. The idea of citizenship is based on mutual respect, which the Government have vehemently championed in recent weeks. These sentiments are based on tolerant, helpful and liberal values. In your Lordships’ House we engage in respectful and meaningful discussions. That is why we must encourage our young scholars, whether in England, Scotland or Wales, to do exactly the same.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Storey on obtaining this debate and thank him for what he has said. Last week I suggested to my noble friend the Minister that it would be a good idea, in the year of Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary, to have a charter of British values to which all schools should be invited to subscribe. What are those values? They are of course based on the rule of law, of which Magna Carta is itself the foundation: freedom of thought; freedom of belief; freedom of speech; mutual respect and tolerance. One could add to that. Above all, they should teach all young people that everyone has responsibilities as well as rights.

I am very glad that my noble friend Lord Storey talked about citizenship education. As my noble friend the Minister knows only too well, I have spoken about this for quite a long time and I have seen him about it on a number of occasions. I would like all our young people to go through a citizenship ceremony when they leave school, having performed some community service in their area, whether it be dealing with the old or the young, or working for the National Trust—the list is endless. I would like all our young people to leave school with a sense of being part of a community and having a sense of community obligation and belonging. I would like that to be signified in a ceremony they all go through. If the Minister says, as he has hinted to me in the past, that it is difficult to do that right across the country, at the very least we should encourage it and consider having pilot projects. I believe the inculcation of a sense of real belonging is something so many of our young people lack.

It has often been said that the real poor of the present century are those without hope. What we must seek to do is give them hope, and one of the best ways of giving hope is by providing a sense of having roots, of knowing where they belong and what they can do.

In the final seconds I have left in which to speak, let me also suggest something I raised last week but which my noble friend slightly dismissed. While one could not make it obligatory, I would encourage all schools to fly the flag. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland they should fly two flags, and in some of our counties—my own county of Lincolnshire has a flag—they should also fly that flag. The flag or flags should be outside the school as a symbol of pride and belonging, of being part of a thing greater than oneself; that is, part of the community of which one is a part.

My Lords,

“There is something rather unBritish about seeking to define Britishness”.

Not my words, but those of the Secretary of State for Education when he was merely Michael Gove MP in 2007. But that was then. Now academies have to demonstrate fundamental values which the Department for Education has helpfully defined for them. I welcome that change of heart.

I was part of the previous Government, who sought to encourage a vibrant sense of national identity through promoting British values in exactly the sort of way that I was delighted to see the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, just espouse. The profound changes we are living through—great global migrations of people and capital; social, cultural and economic flux—inevitably create pressures on identity, our sense of ourselves and our sense of belonging. We thought it was important to encourage a dialogue about our national identity primarily because it is so important to many people. If there was no national process to discuss it in ways that included everyone on these islands, it would leave a vacuum, and into that vacuum could well flood sectarian and even poisonous views. We believed it was important to do everything we could to encourage cohesion and assert what binds us together rather than what divides us, and we believed that a cohesive and inclusive national identity is rooted in the values we hold dear.

But values on their own are abstract. Every modern democracy will espouse the values articulated by the Department for Education’s recent ruling: democracy, respect for the rule of law, equality and tolerance. What roots our identity in these values is the way they are mediated through our institutions and history, and their expression in this way can be contested. Different people will interpret that history and what it says about our values differently. Our institutions evolve and how they evolve reflects the way those values inform a changing society. So we believed that the articulation of British values had to be driven by the British people themselves. We started a deliberative process involving representative groups of people across Britain to discuss the issues of values, identity and belonging. This process was paused in 2010 and I regret that it has not been recommenced by the coalition Government.

They have now discovered the merits of fostering British values, but they have adopted what I think is a mistaken way of doing so. Instead of an evolving, inclusive discussion that is driven by the British people, the Government have suddenly produced the sort of top-down formulation that the Prime Minister used to oppose when he was in opposition. In 2009 he said:

“Britishness ... grows and evolves from the bottom up. It can never be defined by one motto or one politician”.

I agreed then and I agree now, but instead of such a bottom-up formulation of Britishness, there has been a panicky fiat from the top which has been rushed out apparently to deflect attention from an emotionally incontinent spat between the Department for Education and the Home Office.

What consultation has there been about these values? Are these fundamental British values as set out in the model funding agreement meant to be exclusive of others or can others such as justice, fair play and freedom of expression be added in? The Whip is looking anxious, so I will come to an end very shortly. What is going to be the test for whether the stipulated British values are being promoted effectively? What are the Government going to do to ensure that this initiative is an inclusive one and does not alienate and exclude sections of our society? I hope that the Minister can reassure your Lordships’ House that his department can answer these basic questions.

This has been a sadly inadequate way to approach an issue of such importance in our national life. I hope that this debate, on which the noble Lord, Lord Storey, is to be congratulated, might prompt the Government to do better in the months ahead to promote a constructive and inclusive debate about the values that bind our country together.

My Lords, unlike the previous speaker, I am deeply sceptical about teaching “British values”. Some that have been suggested are the rule of law, human rights and parliamentary government. But these are no longer special British values. We largely drafted the European Convention on Human Rights, but the Conservatives are now trying to get rid of it. We championed parliamentary democracy, but now it is the referendum which is trumpeted as the ultimate expression of democracy. That, of course, is the doctrine of Rousseau, the hero of dictators and autocrats. I prefer the British tradition of Locke and Burke.

We were once praised for our courtesy and readiness to listen to others, but in many respects Rule Britannia has been replaced by Rude Britannia, such as at Prime Minister’s Question Time, for example. The organised shouting and jeering makes Millwall fans look by comparison like a convention of bishops in Lambeth Palace. Nothing could do more to destroy respect for Parliament.

The invocation of national values is part of our current obsession with national identity. That is a very elusive concept. Tony Judt, the last of the social democratic philosophers, asked what it meant to be a Jew if you were not religious and detested the policies of the Israeli Government. He decided that he was a non-Jewish Jew. Jonathan Miller famously observed that he was not a Jew; he was just Jew-ish. As for being English, and the same could be said for being British, this was summed up long ago by Daniel Defoe as quoted in that splendid book by Robert Winder entitled Bloody Foreigners:

“Thus from a mixture of all kinds began

That heterogeneous thing, an Englishman …

A true-born Englishman’s a contradiction

In speech an irony, in fact a fiction”.

A nation at ease with itself does not have to search for an identity or assert it. Let us teach “civilised values” instead.

My Lords, I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Storey for securing this timely debate. Education is extremely important to me. My personal coat of arms reflects this. It contains the motto “iqra”, which means “read”. It also shows a peacock holding two quill pens with a row of books. I should add that I have a business as well as an academic background, and for many years I was a visiting lecturer. I chair the Conservative Muslim Forum and we look at issues that relate to Muslim communities in this country. I have held meetings with Muslim leaders and associations on the subject of education and I have spoken at events. I have also written on this subject.

We are taking positive steps to deal with the education of Muslim children. The Muslim faith and British values are not two separate things; in fact, for most British Muslims, they are the same. I believe it is vital that these values are at the heart of our education system and indeed of the way of life of all those living in this country. The importance of education for the betterment of society is something that is also highlighted by both the Holy Koran and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who asserted that for Muslims to fulfil their role of serving humanity, they must acquire knowledge for the common good.

Education is a tool that should be used to assist with integration and social cohesion. Going to school gives children the opportunity to create and develop bonds of friendship across different racial and religious groups that will help them to flourish in the future and thus become valuable members of British society. We should be grateful for the religious freedom that we all have as British citizens. The Muslim community cannot operate in a bubble, away from the rest of society. That spreads ill feeling and stops Muslims from flourishing here. This great country is a land of opportunity and one that I am proud to be a part of, but it is only through integration that we can make the most of the opportunities of this land.

As well as high grades and good qualifications, our children should come out of school as good citizens and well-rounded human beings who are a benefit to society as a whole. We must prepare teachers, imams and parents so that there is a clear understanding of how to promote both Muslim and British values. With this in mind I am totally supporting the establishment of courses at the University of East London for the training of Muslim teachers and imams. Our educational practices should follow moderate lines. We must not allow extremists to hijack our beliefs and pass them off as something that they are not. We must prepare our children for successful careers that will benefit them, their communities and the country at large.

My Lords, in peacemaking projects, interfaith dialogues and multinational businesses with which I have been involved, when people adopt universal values rather than exclusive ones, and respect others, better outcomes are achieved for all.

For me, mindfulness practice is helpful in working across varying and sometimes conflicting cultures with different values. This practice connects me with something greater than my habitual self, puts me into a place where compassion and empathy come to the fore, values come before self, and I am better able to see and understand other peoples’ points of view. I am not saying that I am always successful in this. Mindfulness is complex to define. It is essentially an experience. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts simply puts it that:

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”.

The successful Mindfulness in Schools Project is a collaboration between psychologists at Oxford, Cambridge, Exeter and Bangor universities. They have developed a curriculum and a classroom-based introduction to mindfulness for teenagers that adapts mindfulness-based stress reduction and cognitive therapy into PHSE lessons. This is called dot-be, which stands for “stop, breathe and be”. It is an eight-week course written by teachers for teachers. This curriculum has been translated into eight languages and is now being taught in 38 countries—and not only in traditional school settings, but also in pupil-referral units, young offenders’ institutions and even to gang members. Nearly 1,000 teachers internationally have been trained, 800 of them in this country. Evidence shows that even short periods of mindfulness practice reshape the neural pathways and increase the areas associated with kindness, compassion and rationality, and decrease those involved with anxiety, worry and impulsiveness.

Similarly, the Inspire-Aspire values programme has worked with 75,000 10 to 15-year olds around the London Olympics to enable them to reflect on and apply the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect, and the Paralympic values of courage, determination, equality and inspiration. They believe that whatever we define as British values, these values should be more universal and shared among different cultures. Inspire-Aspire is now working with global citizenship, focusing on the Commonwealth Games, and has engaged 52,000 young people this year in over 30 Commonwealth countries.

Both these programmes are greatly loved by pupils, teachers and parents. A systematic review found that when these types of programme are completed with sufficient intensity, using properly evaluated material and to a high enough standard, they increase children’s emotional well-being, behaviour and academic achievement, all by more than 10%. The programmes also have a huge database on youth and values with thousands of young people across the UK. Can the Minister ensure that Her Majesty’s Government support these important independent education programmes that champion universal values?

Noble Lords may also wish to know that we now have an active and vibrant All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mindfulness. Every Tuesday on the Estate, Chris Cullen, the cofounder of the Mindfulness in Schools project, runs mindfulness classes. Peers, MPs and Staff—96 of them already—have taken part, and enjoyed and benefited from them. There are a few places left for our course that is starting in October.

My Lords, time is short and I will run through the thoughts that I have.

From the beginning to the middle of the 1980s, an inquiry into the education of children from ethnic minorities was set up. It was called the Swann Committee. Its report had some quite startling conclusions, although I am sorry to say that it has not been much used. First, there was the question of faith schools. At the time we had only Catholic, Anglican and Jewish schools. The Swann Committee suggested that even these should be phased out. The reason for Anglican schools was that they were the only ones that provided education for poor children. The reason for Jewish and Catholic schools was that many schools did not take Jews or Catholics. All that had changed and there was no longer a particular need for faith schools, so they should be phased out.

Learning from the example of Northern Ireland, everybody felt that it was not a good idea to separate children. But what are we doing now? We are separating them ad infinitum: between this faith and that faith. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, says that children should be taught faith values. They can be taught faith values, but at home. They should be taught faith values in their churches, temples and synagogues. This is not the schools’ job to teach faith. It is the schools’ job to teach non-faith values: values that are universal. That has been mentioned and it is the way forward.

For me, some of the things that the faiths have done are completely unacceptable. People might say that this is not written in the Koran or that something else is not written in the Bible, but you are doing it, either because you do not know it or because you do not care about it. Discrimination against women is rife in Muslim culture. This is not written in the Koran, but everyone is doing it. If that is going to happen in a faith school, girls and boys are going to be taught separately, which is already a negation of British values.

As for gays, are we going to “string them up”? That is also a total negation of British values. Many Muslim countries have brought in the death penalty against gays. We have to be extremely careful about faith-based teaching, and whether it is or can be acceptable. I am sorry to say that for me it is not.

Catholics do not believe in contraception. What kind of world are we living in? This is the 21st century, and girls cannot have contraception? In Africa, the Bishop of Kampala has told everybody that there cannot be contraception, that it is a sin and if you use it you will go to hell. All right, they are going to hell—but what about those children who are being born and have nothing to eat?

I am sorry. My time is up. I have a lot more to tell your Lordships, but I cannot.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a trustee of the think tank, British Future.

I could not agree more with the commitment by the Secretary of State for Education,

“to ensure that all schools—faith and non-faith—make sure that children are integrated into modern Britain”.—[Official Report, Commons, 9/6/2014; col. 269.]

I am grateful that my noble friend Lord Storey’s debate explicitly states that this should be for all educational establishments, universities as well as schools, private as well as state-funded. But I regret that this discussion is against the backdrop of the issues in Birmingham and so soon after the often acrimonious debate around whether Britain is a Christian country.

British values have been left for too long in the “too difficult” box and we stir only when there are headlines about gender segregation in universities and have a feeling that that is not quite right. The increase over the past 15 years in the messages and ideas from all over the world that we can receive via our smartphones means that this debate is long overdue. Of course, it is difficult to pin down British values, but failing to agree on everything does not mean that we will not agree on some things. Whether others share our values does not dilute their Britishness.

I have two quick examples. Women are equal citizens in our country, exhibited by equal pay; voting rights; being on the board of a FTSE company—for the first time in our history there are no all-male FTSE company boards; staying at home with your children, or working, or doing both; and having equal access to our courts. Some girls grow up within rural or religious communities where women’s roles are assumed. The role of British values in education, practically, is to show girls that there are other options for them—then, they choose. I am not naive about the community or cultural barriers that there are to exercising such a choice, but unless these girls are shown those other roles, we know that the choice that they make to stay in assumed roles is no choice at all.

Secondly, there is the issue of choice in religious identity. As chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom I have accidentally picked up evidence that the freedom to change your religious beliefs is not as widely embedded in our society as I had assumed. A report from a lady within a black Pentecostal Church community, who wants to become a humanist but is not at liberty to convert, broke all my stereotypical thinking on that issue. The United Kingdom promotes freedom to convert in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and broadcasts such values via the BBC World Service. So why do we not do the same in our education system? We must stop assuming that values are somehow picked up by osmosis. They need to be taught, promoted and defended. Two world wars won us the freedom to have this very debate on British values and it is time that we used it.

My Lords, I fear that the attempts to define and perhaps codify British values will be as difficult, and ultimately as successful, as trying to nail jelly to a wall. If we are looking for a definition of values, it is important that it is inclusive and cohesive. I regret that the noble Lord, Lord Storey, did not seem to quite get the point that I was making earlier about the very title of this debate, which suggests that due consideration has not been given to the various constituent parts of what is currently the United Kingdom, and which I fervently hope will remain the United Kingdom on 19 September this year. I refer to the casual approach, which almost says that England is Britain and Britain is England, that antagonises a lot of people in other parts of the UK.

I will give an example that will perhaps seem rather trite to noble Lords: the World Cup. I am a Scot domiciled in England, married to an Englishwoman, with a son who is therefore half-English. I bear the English football team absolutely no ill will and indeed I hoped that they would do well in the World Cup. But then I sit down and watch the game. Just before the game, the players line up and what happens? I hear “God Save the Queen”. I am sorry, but “God Save the Queen” is not the national anthem of England. It is the national anthem of the UK—play it at a ceremony at the Olympic Games. But at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next month, English athletes, who will probably win more medals than anybody else, will have their medals put round their necks after “Land of Hope and Glory” has been played, not “God Save the Queen”. There is an English national anthem. Whatever the English people want as a national anthem is up to them but I am sorry, it is not “God Save the Queen”, and that shows that greater thought has to be given, in this example and indeed others, to the inclusivity of the United Kingdom if we are really going to put together British values.

I am very interested in the national anthem. I am not sure that it relates exactly to the values in schools. If Scotland wants its own national anthem to be played on Scottish occasions, it is for Scotland to work for that, but it is not about values. Values in schools concern all of us, not just this country or that country.

I always listen to the noble Baroness very carefully and I enjoyed her recent contribution but I am not talking particularly about schools. We are talking about British values; it does not relate just to what is or is not said in schools. The point I am making is that, if we are going to have British values, it has to be much wider than that.

In closing, I will comment about Magna Carta apparently being mentioned as the centrepiece of any attempt to put together British values. I think that is strange, not least because, to come back to my original point, Magna Carta was a very English—not British—document. I will simply quote from the commentator Owen Jones, who wrote very recently about Magna Carta, highlighting the fact that the values of many people in Britain are diverse, quite apart from whichever part of the country they originate from. Mr Jones said:

“Here was a charter imposed by powerful barons—hardly nascent democrats—on the weak King John to prevent him trampling on their rights: it didn't satisfy them, and they rose in revolt anyway. It meant diddly squat to average English subjects, most of whom were serfs”.

Yet this is on what we are proposing to base a discussion around fundamental British values. I end where I began: I think it will prove to be a fool’s errand.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Storey, for putting this debate on the agenda and for his excellent introduction.

As a lifelong educator, I am at a loss to know what British values are. I would very much like to teach them but I have not found them yet and I have lived in this country for 40 years. No doubt I will come across them at some point. It seems to me that the values that have emerged from today’s discussions are actually very much to do with toleration. Perhaps we should move on from toleration. It is the fact that we are being tolerated that undermines many of us who are otherised by this label of toleration.

I was educated in Iran by Catholic nuns at a Catholic school—although, like my noble friend, I do not approve of religious schools. What actually happened was that in our school we had Jews, Christians, Muslims and Baha’is—girls of all religions and none—and none of our religions ever defined who we were. We were all Iranians together. To this day, in spite of the Islamic Government, Iranians celebrate the new year, which is pre-Islamic, going back to the Zoroastrian days. Our calendar is not Islamic because it is solar and not lunar. In my childhood we also celebrated Christmas. We celebrated every religious occasion we could find. Christmas was held at my uncle’s house, with my German aunt and her Russian mother presiding over the events.

It seems to me that the way forward is not by insisting on defining what British values are or are not. However Britishness is defined, it may well otherise people, and that includes those young men who were very good, who got all the A-levels, who were doing good studies, but who felt excluded. I suggest that this House should vote for us to celebrate differences. There are so many wonderful ways of doing things and we could all be part of it. So let us please abandon Britishness and accept that differences are wonderful and it is nice to have curries as well as roast beef.

My Lords, I support the view that modern British values should be promoted in educational institutions. In our times, one traditional British value—namely, tolerance—has perhaps been given particular prominence, tending to cast others into the shadow. As a result, different lifestyles, beliefs and cultures have developed and expanded in our country to an extent that would have astonished previous generations.

Enriching though diversity can be, it has flourished at the expense of social unity and cohesion. This is especially risky at a time of historically unprecedented levels of immigration. It is late in the day to seek to redress the balance but not, I hope, too late. The rebuilding of social unity and cohesion—what old-fashioned Tories like me call one nation—can proceed satisfactorily only if a firmer understanding of the other British values that complement tolerance is resolutely fostered. That requires action in our schools along the lines that the Government are wisely, if belatedly, proposing.

I declare an interest as president of the Independent Schools Association, which represents some 320 smaller, less well known but extremely successful schools. Like the 900 or so other schools that belong to associations that form the Independent Schools Council, of which I am a former general secretary, they are now subject to regulations which require them to encourage pupils to respect the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law and individual liberty, and show mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.

The government requirements place tolerance exactly where it should be: within a set of values that are demonstrably British and give due emphasis to other vital aspects of our historic traditions. They are useful to ISC associations, whose member schools in England account for a higher proportion of minority ethnic pupils than state schools: 28.7% compared with 26.6%—a telling statistic and an indication of the significant contribution that those schools are making to social mobility. The enforcement of the regulations in question at ISC schools is the responsibility of the Independent Schools Inspectorate, which is wholly independent of the schools it inspects and has hitherto enjoyed the full support of Ofsted, by which it is monitored. Again, I declare an interest, having helped establish the inspectorate under the previous Government. I am informed by the inspectorate that every school that has been inspected since the new regulations came into force in January last year has been found to be in compliance with them. The inspectorate is in possession of useful evidence as a result of its pioneering work in this area, which could prove helpful to the maintained sector.

I hope that the spirit of partnership will prevail. As a result of his chairmanship of the Independent/State School Partnership Forum, my noble friend the Minister knows all too well how seriously so many ISC schools take it. I hope, too, that the Independent Schools Inspectorate will be able to continue its work in a spirit of partnership and not have change forced upon it, which some say is now the Government’s intention. The inspectorate as presently constituted can be relied upon to play a major part in helping to encourage and promote British values.

It gives me great pleasure to rise to the Dispatch Box for the first time to discuss an issue as important as this. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Storey, on securing this debate, and I completely concur with his views on citizenship education.

Everyone in this House agrees that British values around the rule of law, individual liberty and tolerance have helped create one of the oldest and most successful democracies in the world. I think what we are a bit less agreed on is the tacit implication that if we had a better understanding of British history and, say, Magna Carta, we would sort out poor school governance in Birmingham. That is a little bit of a caricature, but not much, because shared British values should be instilled by example, not diktat. In sending out that diktat, it seems distinctly un-British, even Orwellian, to tar an entire community—in this case, the Muslim community—with language taken from counterterrorism strategies. This is what happened recently.

Underlying this debate is an extraordinary turn of events. I find it truly extraordinary that a self-confessed neoconservative like our Education Secretary, Mr Gove—who rails against the tyranny of centrally planned economies—is the man who has devised the most centralised schools bureaucracy this country has ever seen. The absolute nonsense of the Secretary of State thinking he can run thousands and thousands of British schools from his desk in Whitehall has been a shambolic failure. The people it has failed most have been children, parents and also the teachers in this small minority of schools which have none the less displayed appalling governance, overt gender discrimination and financial irregularities, and were unduly influenced by a conservative religious minority.

What is the answer? It is a combination of the following four areas. The first is to end centralisation and introduce local oversight. Does the Minister agree with Labour’s proposals for the introduction of school standards commissioners? I am going to scrub that question—obviously the Minister is not going to say that he agrees. However, does he agree that the Conservative proposal to bring in eight regional commissioners will not actually provide that local oversight and therefore does not remedy the problem?

Secondly, where discrimination is found towards girls, gay people or religious groups, let us turn to that trusty British value: the rule of law. Don’t start talking about terrorism prevention, just enforce the Equality Act 2010.

Thirdly, we need schools to offer a broad and balanced curriculum. Does the Minister support Ofsted’s proposal on this? Fourthly, should we not reflect on the wisdom of removing the responsibility for schools to promote community cohesion?

So, yes, let us learn from our past, but the relevant history is not Magna Carta. It is fantastic that our baronial forefathers slapped King John about a bit and put him in his place, which became less divine and more democratic. Well done, House of Lords. But today the relevant history is not from 1215; it is from 2001 and the publication of the Cantle report.

What happened recently in Birmingham was that state schools became de facto faith schools; and faith schools, while often delivering excellent academic results, have sometimes unintentionally become places that increase de facto religious and racial segregation. This is all far too sensitive, and well above my pay grade, especially given that it is the first time I am rising to the Dispatch Box—but we need to deal with this problem. I hope the Government will do their homework, get it right, become less ideologically driven, reintroduce local oversight and put the needs of children first.

My Lords, I would like to thank my noble friend Lord Storey for securing this important debate. I would also like to thank other noble Lords for their valuable contributions.

On 15 June, to mark the anniversary of Magna Carta, the Prime Minister wrote about these values. He described their roots in our most vital institutions: our parliamentary democracy, our free press, our justice system and our many church and faith groups. The Prime Minister highlighted the important role these institutions play in helping to enforce British values.

Another great British institution is our school system. We have a long and proud commitment to provide access to schooling, regardless of one’s background. Our schools have always recognised that promoting and embedding good values is essential to delivering high-quality education. We should celebrate the excellent work done by many of our schools. We must also recognise and respond to the public’s demand for greater assurance and higher standards in every school, whether independent or academy, free school or maintained. The Government are determined to put the promotion of British values at the core of what every school has to deliver for its pupils. I welcome the opportunity to close this debate and to set out how we intend to achieve this.

I will also describe the requirements and accountability measures already in place. It is important to recognise that these are not measures invented anew but are relevant to the work started in 2011, when the Prevent programme introduced our description of British values. Independent schools and academies and free schools must adhere to the independent school standards. Critically, the standards refer to the expected values and ethos of the school as assessed according to its offer of spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.

On Monday, 23 June, we launched a consultation on the wording of the independent school standards that will actively require schools to promote principles that encourage fundamental British values. I hope that all noble Lords who are interested, including the noble Lord, Lord Wills, will respond to this consultation. We are also proposing a new requirement that teaching and curriculum practice must not undermine these values, and we will be consulting on this.

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, but I think the question of consultation is fundamental, and I wonder whether he could tell your Lordships’ House what consideration the Government have given to deliberative processes involving the British people themselves in this consultation rather than waiting for the usual sources to send in the usual things to a government consultation.

The whole principle of consultation is that it is deliberative and that people will respond. I hope they do. As I said, it is not being rushed out, as the noble Lord implied. British values have been part of the policy framework since 2011, when they were introduced as part of the Prevent strategy. Since 2013 standards have required schools to encourage pupils to respect the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. The words are “mutual respect and tolerance”, not just “tolerance”. The noble Baroness, Lady Afshar, made this point and I will certainly take it back. It is important that our advice to schools is clear. To promote ideas or systems of thought at odds with these values would be failing to meet the standard.

These requirements provide a sufficient lever for action in cases where an attempt is made to undermine British values. The new title wording suggested in the consultation will do more to challenge rigorously those schools paying lip service to these duties. We will expect these changes to come into effect from September this year. They will apply to all independent schools, academies and free schools. We must secure the same standards in maintained schools. As with the independent sector, we are building on responsibilities schools already have to fulfil. Maintained schools must promote the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of their pupils so that they are able to participate positively in society. They cannot promote partisan political activities and must present balanced views to pupils. Importantly, they must promote community cohesion.

Under the citizenship curriculum, maintained schools are also required to teach pupils about a range of subjects, including democracy, human rights, diversity, and the need for mutual respect and understanding. I heard what my noble friend Lord Storey said about the vital importance of citizenship. As important, if not more important, for getting a real grasp of British values is to study history, in order to understand what Daniel Defoe was on about in the quote that was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, and to understand, for instance, that we are an island made up of a number of countries with a long history stretching back over several millennia of immigration.

While academies and free schools are not, as my noble friend Lord Storey said, subject to the same curriculum requirements as maintained schools, the trust running the school must deliver a broad and balanced curriculum and will be bound by the legal requirement to actively promote fundamental British values. As I trust noble Lords will acknowledge from the published coverage of the Birmingham academies placed into special measures, the Secretary of State will not hesitate to use his powers to consider terminating a funding agreement with an academy trust that cannot secure the required improvements.

Inspection is the primary means by which individual schools are held to account. Noble Lords will note that academies and free schools are inspected under the same section 5 framework as maintained schools. I know that noble Lords will be pleased to hear that 24% of free schools inspected have been adjudged to be outstanding—which, contrary to what reports suggested, represents a remarkable success, particularly as those schools were inspected after only four or five terms.

Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is already part of section 5, but it allows inspectors to challenge only the most serious failures. Inspectors are already advised to look for evidence of pupils having the skills to participate in modern Britain, to understand and appreciate a range of different cultures, and to respect diversity. We will look to improve the consistency with which this is applied.

Now is the time to raise the bar so that all maintained schools, academies and free schools share the same goal of promoting British values. That is why, as the Secretary of State confirmed on 9 June, the department will review its own guidance to schools so that they are clear about our expectations. We are already talking to Ofsted to ensure that those same expectations are reflected in section 5 arrangements.

On what my noble friend Lord Storey said about grade 1 schools being exempt from inspection, they are not exempt and will be inspected if there are areas of concern; for example, if their results suffer or if there are particular complaints.

My noble friend Lord Cormack talked about a citizenship ceremony. I am sure that the events of Birmingham will enable us all to reflect on what more we can do to produce a more coherent and integrated society. On flying flags on schools, I am always pleased to see the flag so prominent when I visit America. It is sad that, if I were to put a union jack outside my own house, people would think that I was a member of the British National Party, and that the only time one sees flags is when a football match is on. It is also sad that very few students in our primary schools could describe the make-up of the union jack beyond the cross of St George.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Sheikh that education should be a tool of integration. We will not be able to call ourselves a truly successful society until we have a much more integrated society—and, sadly, we are some way short of that.

The noble Lord, Lord Stone, talked about mindfulness. I thank him for his insightful and interesting comments, and for his commercial for the mindfulness classes. The values that we are asking all schools to actively promote are not exclusive. As I understand it, mindfulness chimes a very loud chord with me. I believe that children and young people should be taught about concepts such as mindfulness. Such concepts can be very powerful, particularly for children from scattered home lives. We use a similar approach with a number of our more challenged pupils at my own secondary academy.

The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, made some powerful points. Of course, it is for all schools to ensure that the sort of beliefs to which she referred have no place in our society.

My noble friend Lord Lexden made some supportive comments, for which I am grateful. He knows how highly I value co-operation between the independent and state sectors.

I welcome the noble Baroness, Lady King, to the Dispatch Box for the first time. I agree with her on the importance of sharing by example, but she should not underestimate the seriousness of the events in Birmingham, about which I obviously know a great deal more than other noble Lords, and their wider implications. She should also be aware that both the free schools programme and the academies programme are proving great successes. Academies are performing much more strongly than other maintained schools.

The noble Baroness referred to Labour’s proposals for 50 regional bureaucracies. We believe that breaking the country into eight regional schools commissioner areas is appropriate. I note that there seems now to be a consensus that we should not go back to local authority control—even Ed Miliband said that in the other place only a few days ago—but creating 50 bureaucracies, each with its own staff, would effectively take us back to a local authority-controlled system.

Will the Minister care to confirm that there has no been local education authority control of schools since the 1980s? They have had responsibilities and all sorts of things to do, but the use of the term “local authority control” negates the work done by predecessors of the Minister such as the noble Lord, Lord Baker, and Lord Joseph. Local authority control is non-existent and has been for decades.

The noble Baroness is quite right. I shall seek to ameliorate my language in future on that point.

The noble Baroness, Lady King, also made a point about the rule of law. The rule of law is already among the British values that all schools have to enforce, and all schools must teach a broad and balanced curriculum. None of the 21 schools inspected in Birmingham was a faith school.

I hope that all noble Lords will see the sense of what we are proposing. The changes that I have described will for the first time create a consistent expectation that all schools will promote British values. It will no longer be possible to avoid challenge if a school is only paying lip service to the requirements. The planned inspection arrangements will ensure that those who fail to meet their responsibilities will be held to account and, as we have shown in Birmingham, we will take swift and decisive action where necessary.

I hope that noble Lords will agree that our proposed measures are vital. As my noble friend Lady Berridge said—I am grateful for her support—just because we may not agree on everything does not mean that we cannot agree about a basic set of British values for which all schools should be held to account. Without an understanding and respect for our shared values, we cannot expect any young person to play a full part in British society.

Children and Vulnerable Adults: Abuse

Motion to Take Note

Moved by

To move that this House takes note of the measures being taken by Her Majesty’s Government to prevent and address the abuse of children and vulnerable adults.

My Lords, I remind those speaking in the next debate that it is time limited. When the clock reaches seven minutes, noble Lords should finish their speech, as they will have spoken for their allotted time. If a noble Lord is happy to take an intervention, I am afraid that the time taken up will have to come out of their allocation.

My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to lead this very topical debate today and look forward to hearing what all noble Lords have to say about this important matter.

I believe that this is basically a humane country, and public tolerance of any kind of abuse of vulnerable people has diminished enormously over the past few decades. But I am afraid that we have a problem and it could be growing. Today, we have heard evidence in the Lampard report of the failings of the system to protect children and vulnerable people within the NHS from the foul predations of Jimmy Savile. I trust that, when we have had time to digest the report and the other reports that are under way, we will be able to give due time in this House to discuss the lessons learnt. In the mean time, we know we have a problem with sexual and physical abuse of children, older people and disabled people. We hear of new cases every week. Of course, the law forbids this sort of behaviour, but, sadly, it does not prevent it happening, and the effects on victims last a lifetime.

The figures are disturbing. The UK’s latest report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child admitted:

“The number of children in England who were subject to a child protection plan increased by 47% between 2008 and 2012”.

This is the same percentage increase as that recently reported by the NSPCC in cases of emotional abuse being reported to the police. I welcome the Government’s plans to clarify the law on that in the Serious Crime Bill.

Last year, the Children’s Rights Director consulted children in England receiving care services and found that 10% felt that they were not enjoying their right to be kept safe from all sorts of harm. Last May, the National Crime Agency reported that a new threat has emerged on the internet. While the number of static images of child abuse remains stable, there is a sharp rise in live streaming of videoed child abuse and paedophiles’ use of the “hidden” or “dark” web. These sites do not emerge when one is using normal search engines and are therefore not easily detected. These people are unscrupulous and clever and we need more resources to catch them. I was pleased to note that, following government initiatives, the Internet Watch Foundation is now able proactively to seek out criminal content and, thanks to funding from a number of UK ISPs, has tripled the number of staff engaged in finding and destroying such imagery.

Recent high-profile cases, as well as that of Jimmy Savile, have shown that there are others who have got away for years with abusing children or vulnerable adults. In some cases, nobody knew about it apart from the victims. They did not have confidence that they would be believed or that anything would be done, and therefore did not report it. In some cases of elder abuse, the family has resorted to placing hidden cameras in the room, in order to prove the unacceptable treatment of their elderly relative by those charged with caring for them.

However, in most of these cases there were suspicions. Indeed, in some cases professionals looked into the issue and wrote reports, which were then ignored. This tells me that we need a massive culture change. Many serious case reviews indicate failures to protect, failures to report abuse or act upon reports, and failures of professionals to communicate with each other and with the authorities. I suppose that it is inevitable that we focus on failures, but while we lament those we must remember and applaud all those who care for children and vulnerable adults in a professional and compassionate way. I do believe that attitudes are changing, and it is hard to believe that the reports from Rochdale, which at the time were not acted upon, would be ignored today. The culture has changed, but my question today is whether it has changed enough. I do not believe that it has.

So I now pose three questions. Are we doing enough to prevent abuse happening? Do we know enough about how and why it happens, and what works in other places? Are we doing enough to deal with the perpetrators, and bring justice and support to the victims?

Perhaps I could deal first with prevention. Prevention involves providing training and qualifications, screening staff and volunteers—in the way that Jimmy Savile was not screened—and ensuring that children and vulnerable people know their rights, and know where to go for help if they are attacked. Prevention also involves decent child protection services, and proper therapeutic treatment for perpetrators, so that they do not do it again.

I have always felt that a child is his or her own best protector. We can do what we can to protect a child, but we cannot sit on her shoulder all the time. This is why it is so important that children are taught in every school, through a balanced PSHE course, how to protect their own personal integrity and how to keep safe, including in their use of the internet. They also need to be taught what a healthy, non-abusive relationship looks and feels like, and who to turn to in case of fear or of actual abuse. I believe that this is every child’s right.

Schools need proper oversight from Ofsted of their safeguarding policies and practice. Indeed, Ofsted is the only statutory body given specific responsibility for ensuring that schools keep children safe. Unfortunately, the methods and infrequency of Ofsted inspections make that difficult to do—my noble friend Lady Sharp will speak in more detail about the shortcomings of the inspection system. Then we need to provide decent children’s services. I have every sympathy for cash-strapped local authorities and social workers with large caseloads, and I support the policy of giving freedoms to local authorities to spend the money locally in the best possible way for them. However, I am very relieved that, after careful consideration, the Government have announced that they will not allow authorities to delegate children’s safeguarding services to profit-making organisations. It is vital that there is no chance of the profit motive being put before the welfare of a child.

We must then minimise the opportunity for perpetrators to reach vulnerable children. Here, the DBS checks, formerly called CRB checks, and training for organisations in safe recruitment practices are vitally important. Many organisations have found to their cost that DBS checks alone are not enough, as they only identify those who have offended before, and are no use against first-time offenders or those who are clever enough to avoid detection. There has recently been some streamlining of the system, and the numbers being barred have fallen. I would like to ask my noble friend the Minister how that new system is working. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, will have more to say about this.

Many serious case reviews have highlighted failures of professionals to communicate. I believe that there is a very strong case for some common training elements for those working with children, so that the professionals understand each other’s perspectives, and are more likely to communicate with each other during their career. The Lucy Faithfull Foundation has an excellent programme called Stop it Now! to raise awareness about the dangers of child abuse, and to help those who are concerned about their own sexual proclivities to avoid offending. Such preventive work is to be applauded, and we need more of it.

In the case of care of older people, it is training, qualifications and proper oversight that is needed. Families need to know what quality of care is being offered to their elderly relatives. I was therefore delighted to read in a Parliamentary Answer last week that regulations will soon be introduced to allow the CQC to take robust action against providers that do not offer an acceptable quality of care, and will produce ratings of care quality to provide users with a fuller picture than they now get. Will my noble friend the Minister comment on these plans? I would also like to ask why a Law Commission recommendation to streamline disciplinary codes covering more than 30 health and care professions has been shelved by the Government. It seems to me that such arrangements could act both as a deterrent and as an effective measure for dealing with wrong-doing.

I turn now to knowledge of abuse. Knowledge means doing research about causes and about what works, bringing information together and disseminating knowledge of best practice. Knowledge also means ensuring that those who know what is going on report the facts to the authorities. I have been informed by lawyers who acted for dozens of Jimmy Savile’s victims that the most shocking revelation of all was the number of victims who had reported what had happened at the time to someone in their institution, only to be ignored and their claims covered up. One girl in Stoke Mandeville told a nurse what Jimmy Savile had done, only to be told, “You’re making a mountain, you silly girl. Do you know what he does for our hospital?”. That is why I believe that we need mandatory reporting, which would make it a new offence for those in a position of caring to fail to report knowledge or reasonable suspicion of abuse in a regulated activity. By “regulated activity” I mean schools, hospitals and so on, as defined in Schedule 4 to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, although the definitions would need amending to exclude such confidential helplines as ChildLine and Stop It Now!. This has been done successfully in Australia, so I do not believe that it would be a problem here.

We would also need to deal with patient confidentiality, such as when a child discloses information to a doctor. The fact is that many of Savile’s offences took place in schools, hospitals and prison institutions, where vulnerable people and children should have been able to rely on being safe. Fortunately, we now believe children better than we used to. However, in many cases, in order to secure a conviction we need the corroboration of adults who know what has happened. Keir Starmer, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, knows this well, which is why he supports this change in the law. Victims universally support such a change, and tell us that it would not prevent them from reporting the abuse themselves. Indeed, they would be encouraged to do so if they knew that the person to whom they confided was obliged by law to do something to make it stop.

Often ChildLine advisers will encourage children to report the abuse to a trusted adult. In that situation, the child must be able to have confidence that, if they do so, their disclosure will be properly dealt with, and no concern about reputational damage would get in the way of that adult doing the right thing by that child. The only way they can have that confidence is to make failure to report abuse an offence. The intention is not to put people in prison but to change the culture, and I believe that it would help workers to report abuse if they saw it as a public duty and not as telling tales. There is also considerable public support for this. In a recent independent poll of the public, 96% of people supported it.

We also need more research about how mandatory reporting is working in Australia, and I call on the Government to support a current application to the Nuffield Foundation to fund such a research project. Its aim is to identify barriers to identification and reporting by teachers of suspected child sexual and physical abuse and serious neglect, and to identify effective practice. This would fill a declared gap in the DfE’s research portfolio.

Of course, mandatory reporting would apply not just to teachers. I also support the call from 88 MPs, led by Tim Loughton MP, to ask the Home Secretary to set up a Hillsborough-style inquiry into organised sexual exploitation of children. We need to restore trust in the system by learning the lessons of all the cases that have come to light, rather than just having the present drip-feed of information.

Finally, I come to my third question. Justice involves encouraging victims and witnesses to come forward and ensuring that they are treated properly, so that they can give their evidence clearly and consistently. Justice for potential victims also means that perpetrators are given programmes to tackle their perversion and ensure that they do not commit more crimes. Without those programmes, those imprisoned may well go on to reoffend after release. We are not protecting children if we allow that to happen.

I was recently privileged to sit on a commission of inquiry into child sexual abuse, facilitated by Barnardo’s. It became clear from the evidence that we heard that there was a lot of good practice, but a great deal more needs to be done. I support all the recommendations in our report, which would help the police and the justice system to support young witnesses and enable them to help to bring their torturers to justice. My noble kinsman Lord Thomas of Gresford and my noble friend Lord Paddick will deal with those issues in more detail.

Finally, as an honorary fellow of UNICEF, I must support its calls for improvements to the Modern Slavery Bill in relation to trafficked children, child pornography and child prostitution—although I abhor the use of the latter term and would like it removed from the legislation. There is no such thing as a child prostitute.

On this day of shocking revelations of how we have let victims down in the past, I look forward to hearing from my noble friend about how the Government plan to improve their protection of vulnerable people, young and old.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Walmsley for securing and introducing this debate. I congratulate her on her constructive and knowledgeable speech, which has once again shown how much she knows about this subject, how much she has studied it and the leadership that she has given in trying to cure some of the evils she has highlighted.

She talked a lot about the abuse of children. I want to focus today on vulnerable adults, the other party to this compendium debate. Noble Lords will be aware that on 14 May, earlier this year, my noble friend Lady Cumberlege introduced an important short debate entitled, “Elderly People: Abuse”. All the speeches in that debate should be read again, and they are wholly relevant to the context of our debate this afternoon. I want to highlight some of the points made in a number of those speeches.

I start with the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, in which he highlighted the importance of avoiding turning a safeguarding policy into a mechanistic exercise. Each person who is vulnerable or the subject of care should be treated as a unique individual, and the carer should be alert and have developed powers of observation. Although the pressure on the person concerned is undoubtedly great, they should appear to be unrushed. Above all, those who look after elderly, vulnerable people should not be on autopilot. I also agree with what the noble Lord said: that the human qualities of care and sharing should never be forgotten or lost from view.

In that same debate, the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, warned against institutions with what he called a tick-box culture, which can be very inhumane and impersonal. In this context, I ask the Minister whether she can indicate any progress with care certification of the individual carers. I would also like some system for evaluating the quality of individual care homes. We do that regularly with restaurants, and we all know the star system. Why cannot we have something similar with care homes, so that we know the degree of quality of each home?

In that same debate, the speeches that really resonated with me were those made by the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford. As the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, said, caring for vulnerable adults is not a simple easy matter. As we all know, the old can be very obstinate and difficult. I especially think of people such as me, who cannot hear very easily. Hearing loss often leads to frustration, and that frustration can so readily become aggression. I hope that people will learn that if the person who is slightly deaf cannot hear something, they should not start shouting, because that really makes it worse. The noble Lord, Lord Turnberg was right when he said how,

“difficult and taxing, both physically and mentally, the job of caring for elderly people really is”.—[Official Report, 14/5/14; col. 1910.]

What we hope to see, I think all would agree, is that, whenever possible, people should be able to stay in their own home. That requires regular visits when help is needed. An emergency call button is a useful form of assistance. Support needs to be given to family members, who often give dedicated and—I emphasise—voluntary work. I am aware of a 102 year-old lady who lives on her own and is looked after by regular visits throughout the week by two of her nieces, one of whom is over 80 and the other over 90. Both have to travel quite a distance to get to her and they do it selflessly, week in and week out.

Lastly, and most important of all in ending what is really unthinking abuse of vulnerable people, is education, particularly of the younger generation. Other cultures are more fortunate, in many ways, than our own. We have lost the cohesion of completeness of family circle. This was highlighted in the speech by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford. I am lucky: I have 12 grandchildren; they are all young, all loving, all patient and all tolerant. They all communicate and are all great fun and they are all over the world. However, for many people, for those older than my grandchildren, grandparents can be tiresome, irritating and irrelevant. They are often regarded as oddball curiosities who do not understand texting, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and the like. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford had a message for us: he said that we should become more conscious of our common humanity. He drew on his experience of Africa to refer to the word “ubuntu”. We must learn afresh the quality of belonging together and do so with understanding and patience.

My Lords, it gives me very great pleasure to thank my noble friend Lady Walmsley for initiating this very topical debate. I declare an interest as a primary school governor responsible for special educational needs. Until last year—I confess that this is a role that I have now “rolled off”—I was also a governor of my local college, where I had responsibility for child protection functions.

I was interested to read in the Guardian this Tuesday about the experiences of a number of secondary school heads who claimed that, although Ofsted is nominally responsible for checking on school protection procedures, in practice this amounted to little more than checking that people had had their Criminal Records Bureau or Disclosure and Barring Service checks appropriately undertaken, and that the school or college had up-to-date child protection policy and procedures, rather than checking on the impact of the policy on the actions of the school. The Guardian spoke to 11 secondary school head teachers who, between them, had had a total of 47 inspections but,

“only twice did the inspectors ask if any safeguarding referrals had been made to the local authority”.

I was interested in this because my experience as a governor with responsibility on the governing board for child protection issues was that when we had an inspection, I was questioned at some length about my knowledge of the policies and procedures that were pursued and how I kept track of what was going on in the college. This led me to think more widely about the role of Ofsted, which is quite topical, given the issues in Birmingham over the Trojan horse issue. It also goes back to one of the central questions in child protection; namely, the role of different agencies and the co-ordination between those agencies. In the Daniel Pelka case in Coventry, for example, his school was concerned about the child’s physical state and his obvious hunger, but did not see fit to follow this up either with social services or with the police. Similarly, it is amazing that in Rochdale, the care homes with which many of these young women were attached asked no questions about the activities of the young people.

Ofsted describes itself as follows:

“The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children’s social care and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection”.

As one senior inspector remarked in recent evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee:

“Ofsted is not primarily a child protection agency, but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that safeguarding is our core business”.

Ofsted, of course, is not just about schools. As the list I just read out indicates, it is pretty unique in cutting across all the other agencies involved in children and being the one thread that links them all together.

This brings me to the nub of what I want to say. Successive issues in child protection have hinged upon early intervention and the need for the various agencies with responsibilities in this area to work together to recognise the early signs of all forms of neglect and abuse and take appropriate action. Within the college, our biggest problem was the difficulty, first, in persuading local social services to inform the college about the young adults and other vulnerable persons who attended the college but who needed help and support, such as 16 year-olds who were or had been on child protection registers; and, secondly, with those same social services departments taking an interest when the college felt that young people might need more help and support.

It is for this reason that I welcome very much the announcement earlier this week that Ofsted had taken the lead in suggesting that various inspections of these agencies that are responsible for children’s services should come together for an integrated programme of inspections. I gather that this will bring together the Care Quality Commission, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, the Inspectorate of Probation and, where appropriate, the Inspectorate of Prisons. Their focus will be on the effectiveness of local authorities’ health, police, probation and other services in helping to protect and care for children and young people. These are real moves towards bringing the services together and encouraging them to work co-operatively.

Yet we are left with the fact that such moves encourage them to work together but do not make them do so, when we know that to be effective they have to co-operate and work together really closely. In the Children and Families Act that we passed in the previous Session we wished upon these services a duty to co-operate, yet we also know that this comes at a time when those same services are under great pressure to cut costs and suffer considerably from the churn in their personnel. Last year, for example, one in three local authorities saw a change in their children’s services director. We also know that many social workers are carrying a case load of well over 30 cases, whereas the optimum is between 10 and 12.

With the establishment of the academies and free schools, many local authorities now have only minimal education departments and are looking to schools to provide the lead in safeguarding cases. In the local primary school where I am the governor, we have used our pupil premium money to recruit a family liaison worker, but we are in no position to take the lead role in co-ordinating supportive activities for children in need of such support.

To sum up, in issuing new statutory guidance last year in the form of Working Together to Safeguard Children, we are clear that early intervention and integrated services are what we need. We all will these ends, but I am not yet confident that we have willed the means to achieve them.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on initiating this very important debate. I will focus on some of the measures needed to prevent and address the abuse of children and adults with learning disabilities. I do this as a family carer of a vulnerable adult and from my perspective as a psychiatrist working in learning disabilities for more than 30 years. The House will also wish to know that I am a member of the recently established papal commission for the protection of minors.

Why is it important to focus on people with learning disabilities, or “intellectual disabilities” as they are known around the world? There are 1.5 million of them in the United Kingdom. They are one of the most vulnerable groups in our society yet they are also one of the most marginalised, underserved and least able to protect themselves. The appalling abuse at Winterbourne View that was uncovered in 2011 focused policymakers’ attention on the abuse of adults with learning disabilities, adults who are more at risk of all forms of abuse. Similarly, compared with their non-disabled peers, children with learning disabilities are three times more likely to experience neglect, bullying and abuse. There are long-term consequences of abuse for well-being, psychological well-being and mental health, with a strong link to depression and harm. The National Association for People Abused in Childhood provides support for adult survivors of childhood abuse and it reports that the demand for its services, including a telephone support line, is currently at an all-time high.

The Serious Crime Bill makes it explicit that under the Children and Young Persons Act emotional cruelty likely to cause psychological harm to a child is an offence. I suggest that that should also include witnessing domestic abuse. Given the increased risk of abuse and neglect, it is vital that we consider whether these measures taken by the Government will adequately protect children and adults with learning disabilities. The Care Act, which received Royal Assent in May, provides a clear legal framework for how the health and care system should work together with the safeguarding adult boards. The Act requires local authorities to make inquiries when they think that an adult with care and support needs may be at risk, and to take action if needed. To tackle problems quickly and prevent them happening again, it is vital that organisations share information with the SABs. The Act makes it clear that if an SAB requests relevant information from an organisation or an individual, they must provide it. Clearly, for local authorities to perform their duties, they need to identify that someone is at risk.

Since 2010, there has been a mandatory requirement to submit abuse of vulnerable adults returns to the NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre. In February, the centre’s report on safeguarding adults referrals revealed that of the nearly 42,000 men who received safeguarding referrals in 2012-13 nearly 11,000 had a learning disability, as did nearly 10,000 of the 65,000 women who were reported. Worryingly, these figures may be the tip of the iceberg as we know that the abuse of both adults and children with learning disabilities is under reported. We know that the families of those at Winterbourne View who raised concerns were not listened to and that a member of staff who acted as a whistleblower went unheard. It is shocking that it took a TV documentary for that abuse to come to light. What steps are the Government taking to ensure early identification and prompt reporting?

Those working with adults and children with learning disabilities must receive training on signs of abuse and neglect. When people with learning disabilities speak up, we need to ensure that those listening, whether professionals in health, education, social care or the police, have the skills to communicate in a way that that person understands. We know that these people are often unable to speak out for themselves so we need to ensure that families and carers are listened to when they have concerns.

I am encouraged that the Department of Health has commissioned a whistleblowing helpline, to be provided by Mencap, for staff and organisations working within health and social care and I commend the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for her amendment to the Serious Crime Bill that will make it a duty for people who work in regulated activities with children or vulnerable adults and who suspect abuse to report it to the local authority. I too support mandatory reporting.

Reporting a suspicion that turns out to be inaccurate must not become a disciplinary matter for health and social care professionals—the needs of the child or vulnerable adult are paramount, however distressing false suspicion may be for others involved. Where suspicions are found to be correct, taking immediate action to protect the victim and others from further abuse and neglect is imperative but we must also ensure that appropriate treatment is available for the perpetrators of abuse.

What about prevention? People with learning disabilities have the same human rights as everyone else—the same rights to freedom from abuse and neglect, the same rights to be treated with dignity and respect. However, they also need to be empowered with education. They need to know their rights, what abuse and neglect are and what to do if this is happening to them. This is difficult. Some people may find it easier to understand pictures rather than words. Books Beyond Words uses pictures to tell stories about difficult topics, including abuse, to engage and empower people with learning disabilities and to facilitate their discussion with those who are supporting them. I declare an interest as chair of the charitable organisation that develops these pictures and this method of communicating.

The Government must take measures to prevent abuse or neglect of children and adults with learning disabilities happening in the first place. We need interventions to be offered before there is a need to resort to criminal prosecution. Parents and carers sometimes feel isolated, overwhelmed and unable to cope with their responsibilities and they need specialist support to be available when they need it.

As the scandal at Winterbourne View highlighted so starkly, we need to ensure as well that those meant to be providing care to children and adults with learning disabilities as paid care workers are fit to do so. Many of these care workers are underqualified and poorly paid. We need to ensure that care workers receive a better wage for the important work they do. Can the Government ensure that the use of zero-hours contracts among employers of care workers comes to an end? Let us consider those children and adults living with the effects of abuse. They may carry the pain and trauma with them for the rest of their lives. Their GPs need to know where to refer them. For disabled people the availability of trauma-based therapies is even more limited than for other people. This is discriminatory. I end by asking that the abuse of vulnerable children and adults should be at the forefront of our minds—it is everyone’s business.

My Lords, I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, very warmly for raising this matter. In my role as co-chair of the Church of England and Methodist Church Joint Safeguarding Liaison Group and the lead bishop for safeguarding, I daily have issues regarding the abuse of children and adults at risk brought to my attention. Clergy and other church leaders across the nation lead churches in which those who have been abused seek comfort, strength and healing. The staff of church schools daily hear from the children whom they serve stories of abuse of all kinds. In my maiden speech during the debate on the gracious Speech, I welcomed the Government’s courageous decision to strengthen the law on psychological and emotional abuse in the Serious Crime Bill. This adds to other areas where the law has been improved over recent years. The Care Act 2014 has moved us from “vulnerable adults” to “adults at risk”, helping to recognise that while some adults are permanently vulnerable—because of, for instance, age, illness or disability—others become at risk for a period of time. This recognition is undoubtedly helpful. So, too, will be the statutory duty to have local safeguarding adult boards.

Improvements have therefore already been made. The Private Member’s Bill of the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, on online safety offers a further opportunity to help tackle the extremely serious issue of online abuse. I hope that the Government will support that Bill. Indeed, the extension of the offence of extreme pornography to include possession of pornographic images of rape and assault by penetration in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill will continue to send a message to the public that such abuse is unacceptable. The situation becomes ever more concerning with the use of the dark net, too. CEOP must be supported adequately to stay ahead of the game, so that it can discover innovative ways to unmask the users of paedophile sites and not be allowed continually to fall further behind.

I will focus particularly on the voice of survivors. This has been the deepest lesson for me, and for the church as a whole, over recent years. We have previously failed to listen adequately to the survivor’s voice. We must do so if we are to continue to improve the prevention of abuse of both children and adults at risk. Survivors have been calling for some years for the introduction of mandatory reporting by professionals. Far too many cases of abuse could have been prevented if professional people who had serious suspicions of abuse were required to report it to a relevant authority. There remains too much fear of whistleblowing or of being thought of as interfering. Mandatory reporting for professional staff would alleviate any doubts and prevent people from asking themselves, “Should I or shouldn’t I?”. Suspicions should not be brushed aside or left unheeded. The time for mandatory reporting has arrived.

Survivors also note the need for really good safe spaces, where those who have been abused can go to report their case and find the kind of support that they need. The Church of England and the Methodist Church are currently exploring how we might create such safe spaces. We are working with projects such as the Lantern Project on the Wirral and small, locally based survivor groups in Sussex, which have developed outstanding work. Work like this for survivors of abuse needs to be encouraged and supported more openly.

A further matter survivors have been calling for is the extension of the definition of “positions of trust” in the Sexual Offences Act 2003; the current definition is too limited in scope. Continued work is also required within the operation of the criminal justice system so that survivors and victims are enabled to share their stories in a supportive environment. There have been many good advances, but vigilance and continued improvement is required.

Finally, in listening to the voice of survivors one very strong message keeps being shared: “You can do all you like to improve your legislation, your procedures and practices to ensure the present and the future are better at prevention and in dealing with both survivors and abusers than in the past; but unless and until you face up to the reality of what has previously happened, you will never really change the culture of abuse within which we live”. In short, if we do not face up to past failures, we will never really improve the future. This is a lesson we in the church are slowly learning and seeking to tackle. We have a very long way to go.

The lessons of cases like Savile and Rochdale have highlighted that, in our nation, we have a long history of abuse within institutions. Schools, residential care homes, hospitals, the police force, churches and local and national political institutions have all been used by abusers to hide their wicked activities. Powerful people have engaged in serious abuse and have worked with each other to create opportunities and share their vices and victims. As a nation we have to face up to the seriousness of institutionally based abuse against the most vulnerable in our society, both children and adults, which has gone on in the past and, sadly, continues today.

The survivors are right when they say that if we want the future to be truly different and better we have to confront the past. I believe, as do many of my colleagues, that we need a fully independent inquiry that will fully examine the reality of institutionally based abuse in our nation over the past possibly as much as 50 years. This is needed so that we can understand why this happens, where responsibilities lie and what cultural, societal and institutional discourses and dynamics lie at the heart of these ongoing failings.

I know it will take time and will be costly to undertake, and I know that for both those reasons it will be argued against. However, I firmly believe that the true cost of child abuse and the abuse of adults at risk is far higher than any of us have ever been prepared to acknowledge in terms of the mental, emotional, social and physical health and well-being of very large numbers of our population. Justice, fairness and the very health of our society demands that we no longer hide away from this dark part of our story. We need an independent public inquiry and we need it very soon.

My Lords, I also want to thank my noble friend Lady Walmsley for this debate. I particularly welcome the comments we have just heard from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, in relation to survivors, which is a theme that I hope to continue.

I speak as a police officer of over 30 years’ experience and someone who for a time was the national lead for the police on mental health issues. I also conducted a review of rape investigation for the Metropolitan Police in 2005. For me, there is a serious issue of concern about the police and the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to this area. Understandably for the CPS but, arguably, less so for the police, there is a focus on criminal prosecution. This can be problematic in relation to victims of abuse, particularly children and vulnerable adults. The problem becomes more acute when the alleged offence is conducted in private, where only the perpetrator and the victim are present, and there is no forensic or other evidence to substantiate the allegation. The problems become even more acute in cases of vulnerable adults in rape cases where consent is an issue.

Clearly, everything should be done to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice for abuse of the vulnerable, but the conclusion we came to in the Metropolitan Police rape investigation review was that the needs of the victim should be primary and the need for a prosecution should be secondary. Even if, because of the vulnerability of the victim, a jury might be unlikely to believe the victim or the victim might be unable to accurately recall the event, if at all, the importance of those reporting abuse being believed by the police cannot be overstated.

As my noble friend Baroness Walmsley has said, we saw in the recent case of Jimmy Savile how vulnerable victims were either not believed or did not feel able to report the abuse until after the perpetrator was dead. Clearly, as a prosecuting authority, the CPS has a legal obligation to apply a test of how likely it is that the case will be proved; but the police have other and, I believe, overriding obligations to the victim and to society as a whole to ensure that vulnerable people and children are safeguarded.

In the past, police performance indicators, particularly in relation to clear-up rates, the proportion of crimes solved compared with the total number of offences recorded, has encouraged the police to concentrate on the most solvable cases and even to look for reasons not to record offences at all. It is much easier to influence the clear-up rate by not recording an offence than it is to try to solve very difficult and serious cases. Indeed, in the first draft of my review into rape investigations, we identified wide differences across London in the total number of offences recorded, the proportion that was classified as “no crime” or “not a crime”, and the proportion of successful prosecutions. We not only identified differences in leadership, the amount of resources and the expertise that was applied to those cases, but we also identified differences in how the vulnerability of the victim impacted on how seriously the police appeared to take the alleged offences.

In some areas of London prostitution was an issue, while in others there was a problem with those addicted to drugs, or a higher proportion of those who suffered from mental illness, and in those areas there appeared to be a higher incidence of crimes being written off as never having happened. While one can see the dilemma for the police in some of these cases, when the prospect of securing sufficient evidence to mount a successful prosecution may have been small and they were in effect presented with an unsolvable crime, that was no excuse for writing off such offences as simply never having happened.

The most important starting point in any police investigation—and one that appears not to have been followed, certainly in the era of Jimmy Savile—is that the child or vulnerable adult who complains of abuse must be believed unless there is compelling evidence to the contrary. Even if a prosecution does not prove possible, it is essential that at the very least the matter is recorded as a crime for police intelligence purposes and that steps are taken to ensure that the child or vulnerable adult is supported and protected from future harm.

There is also a need to act with fairness and balance towards the accused in these cases. We have seen other cases where serious allegations have been made against well known individuals, and in some of those cases the press appear to have assumed their guilt, even when those individuals have subsequently been acquitted or no further action has been taken against them by the police. I am not in favour of anonymity for those accused of sexual offences, but there needs to be a sea change in people’s attitudes towards police investigations in such cases.

The police may arrest someone if they have “reasonable cause to suspect” that a person has committed an offence, not because they have evidence that they can put before a court. The CPS may charge someone on the basis that it believes there to be a more than 51% chance of conviction before a jury, not because it is certain that the person is guilty. It seems that in the minds of the public in this country at the moment, rather than a presumption of innocence there is a presumption of “no smoke without fire”, which is very often planted by the media. In particular, there needs to be a balance between the need for a thorough police investigation and the innocent accused being bailed, rebailed, and bailed again.

The police appear to have to perform a very difficult balancing act, but I will try to simplify things. Children and vulnerable adults who have suffered abuse must be believed, cared for and protected at all costs. Whenever possible, perpetrators must be brought to justice—but not at any cost. Above, all inability to prosecute must never be an excuse for failing victims of abuse.

My Lords, the awful history of Savile is truly terrible, and we all need to extend concern and care to the victims, particularly today, when their memories are again being revived. However, we should not let celebrity cases focus our thinking on issues of abuse in one direction. Let us remind ourselves that most abuse takes place—is taking place at this moment—in the home, by the neighbour, in the sports centre, and in the local church congregation, and is usually perpetrated by a known and trusted adult. What we need from government—this is about what the Government are doing in this area—is a joined-up strategy that looks at all the areas. Perhaps it can look separately at adults and children, but certainly those two areas need joined-up strategies. I will talk in particular about child sexual abuse in relation to that.

Before I begin to talk about that, I pay tribute to the people who work in this field, because normally we hear only about the failings. I was at a conference this morning where we were told about the case loads of social workers; the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, has already mentioned this. Those case loads are twice what they should be, and solicitors are undertaking work free, because the fees are now so low that they could not otherwise spend more than about three hours in consultation with families. Because those workers are usually condemned, I think that we should recognise the thousands of cases that, day in and day out, are carried through successfully by all the statutory services—the police, health workers, and particularly social workers.

I cannot agree with the call for a national inquiry. I know how expensive that would be. There are two reasons why I do not support an inquiry. The first is that if there is any money going in these years of austerity, when the answer is usually, “Deficit, deficit, deficit,” please let us plough it into the front line. Let us get the money to the preventive work, where we can really do good. The second reason is that we already have a plethora of reports. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, will tell us his thoughts about how we follow through on the reports, and the analysis of those reports, that we already have. That is crucial to take us forward. Producing yet another report would, I fear, just take us to the same place. The work is already done.

I shall now talk about child sexual abuse and the other connected issues that I want to raise. I am vice-chair, and a trustee, of the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley—whom I congratulate on securing this debate—has already generously mentioned. Dealing with child sexual abuse tends to reflect two strands of activity, child protection and offender management. The Lucy Faithfull Foundation takes a slightly different view, which might be called a public health view. It says that all adults, everywhere, are responsible for all abuse, particularly child sexual abuse. So we have to increase the understanding of parents, and of local groups such as schools and churches. I commend the work that the right reverend Prelate is doing at the moment; I confess to being on his committee. I think that the church is now trying to undertake some of the education work through its parishes.

Because child sexual abuse is such an emotive subject, providing the proper treatment and preventive strategies for abusers has brought particular challenges. It is easy to talk about the victims and get help for them; it is extraordinarily difficult to get a focus on abusers.

As many people will know, the Lucy Faithfull Foundation has developed a helpline. I thank the Government for their support for the helpline, especially recently, to ensure that all the men—it is mostly men—who might be abusing can get through, as well as families, often wives, and young people, who are sometimes referred from ChildLine with their problems involving abuse. More than 31,000 calls were taken between 2002 and 2013, but many were missed, and for every call missed there may be a child who is being abused, or a family life lost because the husband was not able to get help fast enough. The Government are playing their part in working with that helpline.

In the time that I have left I want to talk about a couple of other areas. The first is the work of the courts. In the NSPCC’s presentation of its recent work on the courts, I was shocked to discover that many of the procedures that we thought had already been implemented in the courts are still not there. What distresses me most is to discover that children are still being aggressively cross-examined by barristers, and that most of those who could be heard outside court, on off-site premises, do not do so because the provision is not there. Only 1% of the children get that opportunity. I commend the work of the NSPCC in that area.

Finally, the Lucy Faithfull Foundation works with young people who are sexually offending. We had a contract with the Youth Justice Board, which was successful until 2012. It was then given up to the health service. NHS England decided that it would take it in-house, but it has not taken the staff, so there is no specialist support for these children. Will the Minister look at what is happening to young people who now need extremely specialist programmes in young offender institutions, now that the one group that knows about this has been removed?

I want to say a word about mandatory reporting before I finish. I do not think that I could do better than to quote Donald Findlater, one of the most experienced workers in this field, both here and internationally. Again, I am taking a different position from those who have spoken before. I agree with him when he says:

“In other parts of the world I see police and child protection agencies swamped by demand following mandatory reporting. It leaves little time to invest in prevention, especially as most cases are unsubstantiated. I want staff to intervene when they have concerns, not just when abuse has happened. And I don’t want the criminal law to be an obstacle to such decent, responsible behaviour”.

I hope that the Government agree.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Walmsley on bringing this important debate to the Floor of the House this afternoon, and I refer Members to my interests in the register, in addition to which I am patron of Action on Elder Abuse and the main carer of an adult with autism.

A report by Action on Elder Abuse states that abuse is often by more than one person—something that we sometimes overlook. There is often collusion in abuse between adults—23% of cases are by members of a family and 62% by paid staff. In respect of that, there are three things that I would like my noble friend on the Front Bench to take away from this debate. The first is training, which has already been raised. The Action on Elder Abuse helpline identified that the greatest number of problems it receives have at their heart poor training, so I hope that the Government will concentrate on training, particularly for care workers and those with professional qualifications.

The other is whistleblowing. I support the moves that the Government are about to take in forthcoming legislation to tighten up on whistleblowing. In that context it is also important to state that it is not just about whistleblowing on something that is evidently what we would all recognise as criminal abuse; it needs attention much further down the track than that. Before things get to the level of criminal abuse, people need to feel that they can report it, and do so safely, particularly regarding their own position.

The other thing that I have mentioned before, but which would be remiss of me not to press again, is that we need a proper register for care workers. They do not work just in organised homes; they work greatly in the community and do invaluable work. When we look at the people who are accused of and found guilty of a range of abuses, we still have that rather unquiet feeling that for many, if they have not received a custodial sentence, they can go back into the ether and re-emerge somewhere else to obtain a post caring for another vulnerable person.

My noble friend Lady Hollins raised the shocking case of Winterbourne View, and I take this opportunity to say that we have seen the government report Winterbourne View: 1 Year On, but I still have concerns about report-backs that I hear from the medical profession and others that far too many people with learning disabilities and who present as mental health patients are being detained for far too long and a long way away from their natural home and community. Much as I know that the Government have taken Winterbourne View very seriously, we cannot, as has rightly been said, just accept a tick-list on a well written report. This House needs to be reported to with evidence that change has happened and is happening for these vulnerable people.

Winterbourne View involved adults with learning disability and autistic spectrum disorders. I know the House would expect me to devote some of my contribution to people with autism. While I appreciate that the new Care Act does a lot to make improvements, there is one aspect of it that is going to cause a real problem for people on the autistic spectrum. It commits the Government to introduce a new national eligibility threshold for care and support, which will tell local authorities when they must provide adults with support. Until now, local authorities have had the power to set eligibility for support against one of the eligibility bandings—low, moderate, substantial and critical—which reflect different levels of care need. The new national eligibility criteria are intended to be comparable, but the banding is different. It should be a fairer system, but I suspect that many people on the autistic spectrum will fall through the net.

I would like to share with the House the case of Adrian, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when he was 14. Social services assessed his need for support at the age of 18. His parents were concerned that he was putting himself at risk because of the people he was spending time with, and they thought he needed help with the transition to adulthood. The assessment found that Adrian had difficulty interpreting other people’s motives and actions—something that is very common with people on the autistic spectrum—and that he was easily led, which could place him at risk in the community. However, the local authority decided the risks were not sufficient for him to receive support.

Adrian was later bullied and intimidated. His parents continued to contact social services, as well as the police, asking for a reassessment and support for him. After Adrian reported being raped by one of the people who had befriended him, his parents again appealed to the police and social services. Eventually, a small package of evening support was approved. However, five days later, Adrian was murdered by the same person he had accused of rape. Under the Government’s new proposed criteria, Adrian would not have been eligible for support.

I draw my noble friend’s attention to the very first word of the debate we have before us today: “preventing”. With many people on the autistic spectrum, the right package of support—not necessarily a hugely costly package at that—can prevent abuse and neglect. I hope my noble friend will ensure that the Front Bench team from the Department of Health are aware of our concerns about the safety and security of people on the autistic spectrum, and about the change in the Care Act.

My Lords, I, too, would like to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on securing this important debate. In particular, I would like to congratulate her on her excellent speech.

I intend to confine my comments to the abuse of children. Evidence from a range of sources in recent years has underlined that children are being increasingly exposed to harmful and damaging content online. A parliamentary inquiry in 2012 found that one in three children aged 10 or under has seen sexual images online, and four out of five children aged 14 to 16 access online pornography at home. The inquiry went on to say, somewhat chillingly, that,

“the whole history of human sexual perversion”,

is available on the internet and only two clicks away. It goes on to say that,

“unfortunately, our children, with their natural curiosity and superior technological skills, are finding and viewing these images”.

The inquiry also noted that the rise of internet pornography is leaving teenagers with an inability to develop normal relationships and is even increasing their susceptibility to grooming by sexual abusers.

Last year, the Deputy Children’s Commissioner for England suggested that the scale of access to adult pornography among children was now so widespread that it should trigger “moral panic” among parents, schools and the Government about what should be done. Her research also revealed that in one large local authority area, 100% of boys in year 9 classes—14 year-olds—accessed pornography. The damaging consequences of all this are plain. Children do not simply view these images and move on. They can produce real trauma for weeks, months and even years to come.

In a 2010 Home Office report into the sexualisation of children, leading psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos found that there is a striking link among young males between the consumption of sexualised images and a tendency to view women as objects, along with an acceptance of aggressive attitudes and behaviour as the norm. According to research by Ybarra and Mitchell, children who are exposed to pornography are three and a half times more likely to be depressed and two and a half times more likely to be less bonded to their carers.

Given the effect on children, I am very clear that the provision of this kind of material online without robust age verification to protect children constitutes a form of abuse, about which something must be done. So, what have the Government done? They have persuaded 90% of the ISP market to provide what is in effect a form of default filtering, which I welcome, although the self-regulatory nature of the current arrangements—missing out 10% of the market and therein many homes with children—is deeply problematic for reasons I have explained on previous occasions.

However, I want to focus particularly on the ATVOD call on the Government to make the law clearer that R18 material should be put behind robust age verification mechanisms that it would be ATVOD’s responsibility to monitor. I am pleased to say that the Government have responded favourably to this request, although they have not yet produced any legislation. That is of concern, given the importance of the issue.

In the light of this, my Online Safety Bill, which had its First Reading in your Lordships’ House on 11 June, would save the Government time by providing them in Clause 7 with a provision that rises to the challenge. However, it goes further. If we as a society decide that children aged under 18 should not see 18 or R18 material, it would be wholly inappropriate for the Government to require the provision of age verification for R18-rated material but not 18-rated material. If we are serious about child protection, age verification must by definition apply to both 18 and R18-rated video on demand material. Since the Gambling Act 2005, we have required all online gambling sites to be set behind robust age-verification processes based on credit referencing, the electoral roll and so on. We must now do so in relation to 18 and R18 video on demand material.

ATVOD has also rightly drawn attention to the fact that the majority of R18 material that is accessed in the UK comes from beyond this country where the authority has no jurisdiction. Simply to make the Communications Act 2003 clearer on the point that all 18 and R18 material should be placed behind robust age-verification systems, while essential, is by no means the whole solution. I am not aware that the Government have done anything specifically to address the problem. It is for this reason that Clause 8 of my Bill would introduce a financial transaction blocking provision.

Clause 8 provides a mechanism for requiring financial transaction providers not to process transactions between internet users in the UK and websites based outside the UK that provide 18 or R18 content without a system of robust age verification. This is a vital measure. It will cut the flow of money to such websites, challenging them to act responsibly and introduce a system of age verification.

There is no doubt in my mind that given the damaging implications of all this material for adults, making it available to children constitutes a form of abuse. Moreover, if as legislators we have the capacity to require people who engage in the provision of this material to do so behind robust age verification, as with online gambling, but cannot be bothered, there is—I say this gently—a sense in which we are all complicit in that abuse.

I welcome the steps that the Government have taken in relation to filtering—subject of course to the problems associated with its self-regulatory basis—but there is so much more to be done. To this end I hope that they will carefully consider and adopt my Online Safety Bill, as suggested by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham.

My Lords, I was a member of the panel under the chairmanship of Sarah Champion MP, sponsored by Barnardo’s, inquiring into the effectiveness of current legislation for tackling child sexual exploitation and trafficking. My particular concern was the way in which the judicial system dealt with complaints. We heard evidence from members of the Bar who were highly experienced in prosecuting and defending charges brought under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. They identified a number of issues.

One was training and specialisation of the judiciary. A judge plays a crucial role in setting out ground rules at the start of a trial. He determines what special measures should be employed for putting a complainant at his or her ease; for example, by the use of remote television. An experienced judge will decide whether a registered intermediary would be helpful. In particular, he may set a time limit for cross-examination. In the course of the trial he will intervene if he feels that cross-examination is too aggressive or strays too far. He should prevent different defence barristers asking the same questions over and over again. I noted what the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, said and I think that this is not a course that is followed in all cases.

The powers of control are not generally exercised in most criminal trials before a jury because when a judge “steps down into the arena”, as we say, a jury may react badly and think that he is taking sides. The trial process may be distorted. It is also the case that in the past many judges may have had no courtroom experience of sex cases, or at least recent experience, since such cases have over the past 30 or 40 years in my experience tended to be left to junior barristers and to women, who are unhappily under-represented on the Bench. In my 35 years as a Queen’s Counsel, I can recall being involved in only three cases in which rape alone was alleged. These have usually involved the most unusual circumstances, such as the alleged rape of an 82 year-old lady suffering from Alzheimer’s. She had died before the hearing and the evidence was confined to a video of her interview.

In nearly 30 years sitting as a recorder, I tried only one case of rape and that was probably a mistake in the listing. Sensitive training of the judiciary is essential. There is such training on sexual offences cases for judges, although it has been reduced quite recently from a three-day course to a two-day one. It is now necessary for any judge who is ticketed to try these cases to undergo a refresher course every three years and there are supplemental courses on vulnerable witnesses. The Barnardo’s report concluded that,

“no judge should be assigned to try a complex child sexual exploitation case without having received such training”,

and that thought should be given to limiting those authorised to preside over sexual exploitation cases unless they had previous relevant experience of working on ordinary sexual offences cases.

With regard to the training and specialisation of advocates, Nazir Afzal QC of the CPS told us that there has been a change of mindset. The CPS has produced revised guidelines on prosecuting cases of child sexual abuse and has introduced specialist rape and serious sexual offences units embedded into the Crown Court team. Patricia Lynch QC, who both prosecutes and defends and is a tutor judge at the Judicial College, told us that her Chambers used to have a self-imposed rule that,

“you didn’t conduct a sex case until you were seven years call and 10 years for rape. Only Silks and very senior juniors did rape and serious sex cases and they were tried by High Court and Senior Circuit Judges. Now anyone can take on a sex case; Silks are deemed too expensive and there are not enough practitioners trained to do the specialist cases”.

There lies the problem. The fact is that no one wants to spend their whole career at the Bar doing this type of case. They are not well paid, are more than usually distressing and rarely of high profile. It is only in the high-profile celebrity cases that you will see Silks of standing stepping forward to do them. They generally have no experience of doing sexual offence cases generally. We called for specialist training for both prosecutors and defence counsel and recommended that,

“legally aided defendants should be restricted in their choice of representation to a panel of solicitors and counsel who have undergone specific training in CSE issues. The professional bodies should have the power on complaint to remove an individual from such a panel”,

if it were appropriate by reason of the conduct of the advocate in court.

Finally, with regard to jurors’ perceptions, all those who appeared before our panel were concerned that a jury consists of,

“people who are unfamiliar with child abuse and how it manifests itself”.

Jurors tend not to understand,

“the levels of coercion and manipulation used to control and exploit young people”.

I hope that abuse is not so widespread that it does come within their life experience. Young people tend not to present themselves as victims and become defensive, aggressive or even laugh as they give their evidence. Eleanor Laws QC told us:

“Trafficked victims don’t behave the way a jury thinks they should behave. There is a danger that the jury sits in judgement”,

not on the abuser but on the victim.

Myths and stereotypes do exist. Judges may warn the jury against making assumptions about the possible effects of sexual offences on victims and increasingly do so at the outset of a case. I proposed that members of a jury panel, before the actual jury is selected out of it, should be shown a standard and agreed video about common myths and stereotypes, just as they now see a video explaining their role as jurors. The report recommended that the Ministry of Justice should explore,

“the development of materials, either written or filmed, to better inform jurors”,

about those continuing myths and stereotypes that undermine our judicial system.

The report contains much more guidance on special measures and the possibility of pre-recorded evidence closer to the time of the offence. There are pilots under way. But the essential thing is that justice is done, for victims certainly, but for the health of society as a whole as well.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for securing the debate. I congratulate her, genuinely, on her wide-ranging opening speech. I will focus my comments primarily on children, although I think that some of the lessons to be learnt are common.

It is now 40 years since the death of Maria Colwell. Since then there have been seemingly countless similar tragedies. Each has resulted in an inquiry or a serious case review, and many of those inquiries and case reviews have produced similar findings. Very often communication is a real problem. More recently we have seen the sexual abuse in the Savile and Hall cases, which, frankly, beggars belief, not least because of the failure of the institutions involved to prevent it.

There is no simple answer to the question, “Why does this keep happening?”, but we have to continue the search for answers rather than accept these things as inevitable. By “we” I do not mean just professional social workers, who, as many have said today, are under the most intense pressure because of their case loads. Indeed, when I use the term “we” I refer to many of us here, because I think that those of us who are involved in leading or chairing major institutions of any kind have a particular responsibility to carry.

We should be asking ourselves some very difficult questions rather than passing those questions over to the HR department, which is what too often happens. We should be asking ourselves in our institution, whether it is a diocese or a school or whatever: “Do people realise that there is a climate of zero tolerance where child abuse is concerned? Do we have in place clear, detailed policies to minimise the risk of abuse? Do those systems enable—no, encourage—those with concerns to share those concerns? Do we have in place effective training for staff, even during a period of austerity? Do we ensure that the voice of young people, of children, is heard and treated with respect? Do we, wherever possible, share information with other agencies? When allegations are made against our institution, do we respond by seeking the facts, or do we respond by trying primarily to defend our institution?”. These are searching questions which I do not believe many leaders of institutions are yet asking themselves.

The Government, to their credit, have accepted their own responsibilities—their responsibilities to protect children, not least by having in place systems for prior checking of people who work with them. I have always taken the view that those arrangements need to be proportionate. However, I have to say that safeguarding will always require some bureaucracy. Protecting vulnerable people in our society always requires some bureaucracy. Attempts to reduce that bureaucracy should never be made at the expense of children’s safety.

I remain concerned that some of the recent changes contained in the Protection of Freedoms Act could have a negative impact. I remind noble Lords that the Act redefined regulated activities so that 4 million posts are no longer covered, many on the grounds that their work is supervised. As a result of not being covered, not being a regulated activity, access to the barred lists is denied to employers when considering appointments.

I said at the time, and I have not changed my view, that I do not believe it is possible to supervise employees in a way that avoids them developing a bond of trust with young people with whom they are having regular contact. That is a bond of trust that can then be exploited outside the workplace, not least through social media. Nor do I yet understand why we are denying employers access to the barred lists. I am not alone in thinking that the current arrangements are as confusing as ever. That worries me because I fear that some inappropriate people will slip through the net yet again.

In the context of all that, I have been somewhat shocked this week to read—the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has referred to this—the statistics which show that the number of people stopped from working with children due to having committed sexual offences, which stood at some 12,500 in 2011, has now dropped to 2,800. I ask this genuinely, because I have been under some pressure this week to go on various programmes and comment on it. I have refused to do so because I do not understand what is behind this reduction in figures, but I know that I am worried about it. So far, the explanations from the department have not been reassuring or convincing. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some explanation of why the figures have changed so dramatically.

I conclude by making two suggestions. The first is that the Government should commission a proper review of mandatory reporting. There are people who I respect who have very different views on this. We should have a close look at the arguments for and against mandatory reporting, and look at international experience before we come to a decision.

My second suggestion is that we should establish a very small—I underline that—centre of excellence for child protection. My fear is that we do not do enough to learn the lessons of child abuse tragedies and to make sure that they lead to real change in the way in which we design and manage the various safeguarding systems, the way in which we manage and share information and the way in which professionals are trained. I apologise if this seems a simplistic comparison, but the way in which the aviation industry ensures that the lessons of accidents and near misses are learnt and lead to real changes in the system is exemplary. I do not think that the ways in which we deal with some of the tragedies to which I have referred are, by comparison, good. A centre for child protection excellence would be tasked with ensuring that the recommendations of reviews and inquiries are actioned where necessary to change the systems, the procedures and the training programmes. It would be a small investment—yes, it would be an investment—but one which was justified.

The abuse of children and vulnerable adults is not historical. There is a growing view that these are things that happened in the past. It is not historical; it is not reducing; it is widespread. It is, let us not forget, a blot on our claim to be a civilised society.

My Lords, I apologise to the House for my earlier attempt to speak. It was purely because of my interest in the subject and my wish to engage in the debate that we have been having. The debate has been a very good one, and our thanks are due to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and other speakers for making it so. I should declare an interest as a deputy chair of a special school, the Chiltern Way school, and have had some responsibility for child protection matters in that.

The noble Baroness asked whether we knew enough and whether we were doing enough prevention work. Those are important issues which I want to position next to that raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, who also posed the question of whether the Government have willed the ends of policy but not yet the means. Although it is a very old and hoary saw which is often used in matters affecting government policy and action, it seems particularly relevant today.

This debate is timely as it comes on the day of the first tranche of reports on the predatory actions of Jimmy Savile, which will, as the Secretary of State said in another place, shake our country to its very core. The debate comes also during the week when a major new report from the Centre for Social Justice, entitled Enough is Enough, reminds us once again of how we are failing so many vulnerable young people. Some of the case studies are shocking and distressing, and they have been reinforced by many other examples which have been raised today. They include the seven year-old boy feeling forced by his mother to steal milk from his baby sibling and then abandoned by social care following his arrest, and a young girl who was severely neglected and physically abused by her mother and repeatedly seen with her siblings searching for food in rubbish bins. As the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, said, these are things that we should not be seeing in a civilised society.

The report is a wake-up call to those, including me, who thought that these crucial child protection issues, identified in the Munro report of 2011—to which I want to return at the end of my remarks—were finally being understood and addressed by the Government. Sadly, we have heard recurrent themes emerge from the comments made today: countless examples of abused, neglected and traumatised children being failed by statutory services; social workers being overwhelmed by the scale of the task and a lack of resources to intervene; a failure to grasp the necessity of early intervention; professionals lacking the skills, training or experience to deal with complex cases; the lessons that were clearly set out in Every Child Matters being lost in short-term expediency and sticking-plaster solutions; an ability of statutory bodies to share information and collaborate effectively being lost; and a disconnect between the valuable work carried out by voluntary agencies and their interfaces with statutory services.

The result is that we are confronted by too many shocking cases hitting the headlines, but also with the knowledge—graphically illustrated by the Savile reports today—that these cases are just a tiny fraction of the abuse and neglect taking place day by day. Arguably, the role of Ofsted in inspecting children’s services is a significant part of the problem. Unlike with schools, the inspections are not routine and rigorous, but rather crisis-driven. Similar arguments can be made for the inspection of adult care services. In 2010, the Government announced the cessation of annual performance assessments, which has resulted in the Care Quality Commission no longer inspecting the commissioning practices of local authorities. Parallel to this move to lighter-touch regulation, we have seen an increasing number of care home scandals.

We should surely all agree that it is essential to have a strong and effective regulator to protect vulnerable adults. This should be a precondition to enable patients to have confidence in the services they receive, and to allow them to exercise informed choice when choosing services. This is why we think it is essential for the CQC to be allowed to proactively inspect and review the commissioning of adult social care services in local authorities.

One issue which has been picked up during this debate, and highlighted by numerous reports, is that reports are not investigated or charges are not brought because victims are often thought to be “not credible”. It is surely the job of all of us, across government, to try to tackle a culture which consistently fails to give victims—especially child victims—of abuse the status they deserve in the criminal justice system. One way this could be, in some senses, remedied is to improve sex and relationship education in schools. This week the Prime Minister announced that he would allow the guidance given to schools to be updated to reflect the new pressures resulting from the internet, but this still fails to acknowledge that too few schools are teaching proper sex and relationship education.

Sex and relationship education is not just about challenging the attitudes among victims. It is also about changing attitudes among perpetrators. As the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, reminded us, we need to remember that most child sexual exploitation is done either by a child’s peer or by a young adult. The NSPCC study already mentioned found that 65% of sexual abuse was conducted by the under-18s, while a Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre sample of 1,200 known perpetrators found that, where the age was known, over half were under 24. Sex education can also be particularly useful in combating new forms of abuse, such as sexting.

As the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, said, the key to protecting children is accurate data sharing between agencies. However, there is concern about the Disclosure and Barring Service, whose job is to stop people who pose a danger to children from working with children. The operation of the DBS has been dramatically changed by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, which means that the DBS is barring fewer people. The number of people placed on the barred list in 2009 was over 17,000, and so far this year it is 1,400. Like the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, when the Minister comes to respond I would like to hear from her what the explanation is for this. Perhaps more importantly, the Act dramatically reduced the number of agencies with which the DBS is able to share information. Indeed, in many cases the DBS will be forbidden from sharing intelligence with a school or youth club, even after a DBS check has been requested.

Child protection is an incredibly broad subject, as reflected in today’s contributions. A number of inquiries have taken place, and there are many ongoing. There is an inquiry into Jimmy Savile’s conduct and why action had not been taken by various institutions with which he had a relationship. There is also the Waterhouse inquiry into the North Wales abuse scandal, and the Deputy Children’s Commissioner is in the process of holding an inquiry into the culture of grooming. The NSPCC has conducted a number of excellent pieces of research, as have Barnardo’s and the Children’s Society.

There are so many reports, but all seem to be brought forward in a way which allows those who have commissioned them, or those who have received them, just to leave them and move on to the next one. What we need from these reports is an action plan. As mentioned by other noble Lords, we need either a serious case review which brings together the various inquiries and brings forward clearer recommendations or, as suggested, the sort of qualitative and very narrow investigation prompted by accidents. This type of investigation was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, in relation to civil aviation. Whatever the type, there is enough information and evidence around to require us to ensure that we have action plans and for them to be implemented.

At the beginning of my remarks, I mentioned the Munro report. The Munro recommendations were, by general accord, an excellent blueprint for action. When the Government responded, the then Children’s Minister, Tim Loughton, wrote:

“There is now a significant opportunity to build a child-centred system that: values professional expertise; shares responsibility for the provision of early help; develops social work expertise and supports effective social work practice; and strengthens accountabilities and promotes learning”.

What happened to those aspirations? All the evidence seems to be that the situation has got worse, not better, under this Government’s watch, and very few operating in the sector have seen a positive drive for change.

We do not need Jimmy Savile and the reports that have come out today and will be coming out over the next few months to remind us that we need to do more, discover more and work harder at prevention. I hope that we can use this useful debate to make progress on all those points.

My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend for tabling this important topic for debate today. As other noble Lords have said, the fact that the reports on Jimmy Savile’s reign of abuse have been published today shows how extremely timely it is and how we must all be vigilant to ensure that everyone, however old, young or vulnerable, can live free from abuse and neglect. The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, explained that that often happens in the home or in familiar places with familiar people.

In all respects, we must counter abuse, as my noble friend Lady Walmsley said, through culture change, or legislation, regulation and training. We need to support professionals in this difficult and complex work—I pay tribute to them, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth—but we also need to challenge them and agencies to do the right thing and act quickly when things go wrong. That also means holding people and organisations to account. We also need to be aware of the cultural shifts, such as those manifested and driven by the expansion of the internet, as the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and others mentioned.

There is a well established legislative framework for social care and support for children set out in the Children Act 1989, including the duties of local authorities in relation to children in need in their area, as well as their child protection duties, but we know that child protection does not always work as effectively as we would want. As the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, noted, continued and repeated serious case reviews and other investigations provide stark reminders that there is much more to be done. He is right about ensuring that we learn from them.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham noted the long history of abuse in our institutions, whether schools, hospitals, the police or even churches. My honourable friend the Minister of State for Crime Prevention, Norman Baker, is leading a national group of experts urgently to address missed opportunities to protect children and vulnerable people. He is assisted by members of the NSPCC, Barnardo’s and Rape Crisis. The group is looking at lessons that could be learnt from recent and current inquiries to see what should be taken forward.

There were noble Lords on either side of the question of holding a public inquiry. I note what the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, and the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, said, about following through on the reports that we already have, but I also noted what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham said. What it comes down to is that nobody is satisfied with where we have got to; we have to ensure that we do better.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, mentioned Professor Eileen Munro’s review of the child protection system in England and her report in 2011, with all her recommendations. Most of them have been implemented. In the Working Together to Safeguard Children statutory guidance, we have focused more clearly on the core legal requirements that all professionals should follow so that children are kept safe. We have also sought to put the needs of individual children back at the heart of the assessment process by removing the requirement to have separate initial and core assessments.

As noble Lords are clearly well aware, changes to the overarching framework on their own are not sufficient to ensure real improvement on the ground. That is why improvements to social work practice are crucial. For the first time, a Chief Social Worker for Children and Families has been appointed in England to provide independent, expert advice to Ministers on social reform and act as a leader for the profession.

Following Sir Martin Narey’s review, we are taking forward a number of reforms to improve the calibre and confidence of the workforce by improving social work training and developing further the skills of existing social workers via programmes such as Step Up to Social Work and Frontline. The new Ofsted single inspection framework looks at the child’s experience from the point of needing help and protection right through the system. In addition, CQC has also introduced a new programme to inspect local health service arrangements for these groups, and we are planning further improvements, with multiagency inspections due in 2015. By ensuring that serious case reviews are published we are seeking to improve public accountability where there have been failures to keep children safe.

The new children’s social care innovation programme should help us to support the development, testing and sharing of new and effective ways of supporting children who need help from children’s social care services. My noble friend Lady Walmsley rightly emphasised the need for research and practice to be evidence-based, a point that the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, echoed. My noble friend Lady Walmsley commented on the Government’s consultation on the outsourcing of children’s social care functions. Following that consultation, as she noted, we announced last Friday that profit-making organisations would not be able to take on outsourced functions, including those relating to child protection, and draft regulations have been amended accordingly.

The issue of mandatory reporting was raised by my noble friend Lady Walmsley, the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and others. This is one of a number of possible future approaches that the Government are considering. The Government are reviewing the specific case for mandatory reporting in regulated activity and the Home Office is looking across government at options to strengthen the system. I note the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, and the noble Lord, Lord Bichard. I hope that the noble Lord will be reassured that we will continue to examine the evidence on this, both nationally and internationally.

My noble friend Lady Walmsley mentioned PSHE and how it could help to protect individuals. We believe that all schools should teach PSHE, drawing on good practice. My noble friend Lord Paddick spoke about victims and survivors and the need to believe them. The Crown Prosecution Service published final guidelines on prosecuting cases of child sex abuse in October 2013, setting out a new approach to dealing with the particular issues that differentiate these cases. Focusing on the credibility of the allegation rather than the credibility of the individual is a significant cultural shift which recognises and addresses the particular vulnerability of some of these potential victims. We published the new victims’ code in December 2013. I hope that my noble friend Lord Paddick has seen it and feels that it is a positive move.

On health services, the Government’s mandate to NHS England sets it an objective of continuing to improve safeguarding of both adults and children in the NHS. One issue that has come up here is making sure that information sharing is done early and systematically. This was emphasised by my noble friends Lady Walmsley and Lady Sharp, the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and others. We know that early information is the key to providing effective early help where there are emerging problems. No professional should assume that someone else will pass on information which they think may be critical to keeping someone safe. We have recently rolled out the first wave of sites on the child protection information sharing project. This aims to help health professionals to make clear, timely judgments on potential safeguarding concerns and enable more rapid contact with children’s social care. We have emphasised in statutory guidance, Working Together to Safeguard Children, that effective sharing of information between professionals and local agencies is essential.

For adults at risk of abuse and neglect there needs to be a keen focus on the quality as well as the length of life. I note what my noble friend Lady Browning said about the quality and valuing of staff and about training them so as to ensure that they are looking after people with empathy. We need radical reform of how health and social care are experienced and delivered. The Care Act 2014 starts this process by providing a legal framework placing the well-being principle, prevention and early intervention at its heart. However, we are under no illusion that legislation alone will eradicate the type of behaviour that leaves people feeling distressed, frightened and humiliated. This can be realised only through a change in culture that leaves no tolerance of abuse, supports individual and collective responsibility for detecting abuse and challenges corrosive practices.

With services, people must be held to account for the quality of care that they provide. We are taking measures to ensure that company directors who are complicit in, or turn a blind eye to, poor care will be liable to prosecution. In future, they and provider organisations could face unlimited fines if found guilty. This could provide additional incentives for the effective management and support of staff—and those staff must be properly valued, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and others have argued.

Systems and processes are already in place to provide public assurance, including the Care Quality Commission registration requirements and the Disclosure and Barring Service. I note what my noble friend Lady Walmsley and the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, have said about the falling numbers of people barred from working with children. We note that, and the Government are currently reviewing the position. When we conclude, I am sure that noble Lords will be interested in what we have found. However, those processes alone do not go far enough. That is why, following the publication of the Francis report into the failings of Mid Staffordshire, we asked Camilla Cavendish to review how healthcare assistants and support workers in health and care settings were valued and supported. We are also considering the proposals in the Law Commission’s review very carefully.

My noble friend Lord Eden and others will be interested to know that the introduction of a certificate of fundamental care, the care certificate, will, we hope, give clear evidence to employers, patients and service users that the person in front of them has been trained to a specific set of standards and knows how to act with compassion and respect. Health Education England, working alongside key partners, has already begun piloting this across England. Subject to evaluation, there will soon be a standard national approach to training on the skills and values needed to be an effective healthcare assistant or social care support worker. It is planned to roll this out in March 2015.

As with children’s social care, we recognise that the system of regulation and inspection for adults needs to improve; I hear what my noble friend Lady Sharp said. The CQC is currently introducing a new system of inspection of social care providers, based on much tougher fundamental standards of care, which places the individual at its heart. It will be structured around five key questions that matter most to people: are services safe, caring, effective, well led and responsive to people’s needs?

New measures in the Care Act make clear the responsibilities of local authorities and key partners, such as clinical commissioning groups and local police, in safeguarding adults. This is vital in ensuring clear accountability, roles and responsibilities for helping and protecting adults who are experiencing, or at risk of, abuse and neglect. The Department of Health is working with the College of Social Work, the Social Care Institute for Excellence, the College of Policing, Health Education England, Skills for Care and others to ensure an integrated approach to adult safeguarding that is reflected in the training that different staff receive.

In response to my noble friend Lord Eden, who made an important point about the contribution that carers make, the Care Act 2014 gives carers parity with those using services. I also mention to the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, and my noble friend Lord Thomas that a review was recently conducted looking at ways in which to reduce the distress to victims of sexual violence in trials. The Crown Prosecution Service has set up a network of specialist prosecutors, and only advocates from that panel can be used to prosecute child sexual abuse cases. All judges receive training that includes the treatment of vulnerable witnesses, and no judge involved in a serious sexual offence case, whether the child is a victim or a witness, can do so without being specially authorised to do so by the senior judge. I listened with care to what my noble friend Lord Thomas said about sexual offences right across the age range.

Finally, on the point of child sexual exploitation, we have established a national group that seeks ways to prevent sexual abuse happening in the first place. In relation to the report from Barnardo’s, we remain committed to ensuring that all necessary legislation is in place to tackle child sexual abuse. We welcome the recent inquiry and we are reassured by the conclusion that there is no evidence to show that justice could not be served due to a lack of a specific child sexual exploitation offence. We are considering its findings and wider recommendations and deciding how they can inform the national group’s ongoing work.

There have been many important contributions in this very thoughtful debate and I will make sure that this debate is flagged to my colleagues both in the Department of Health and the Department for Education. I will also write to noble Lords on specific points that I have not covered here. These are very important and interlinked issues but, in essence, it is indeed, as was mentioned before, about how civilised we are. It is about how even the most vulnerable in our society should feel safe and cared for and, as my noble friend Lord Eden put it, we must be more aware of our common humanity.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister and all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. It has been wide-ranging, interesting and thoughtful. I thank noble Lords who have supported the things that I have been calling for. I also thank noble Lords who have disagreed with me. When you have experienced and thoughtful people who all want to achieve the same end disagreeing about the correct means to achieve it, that supports the call that the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, and I have been making for more research on specific ways of addressing these issues. I hope these things will be taken forward.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 5.22 pm.