House of Lords
Thursday, 27 November 2014.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Birmingham.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to promote the teaching of classics in schools.
My Lords, we believe that classics can form a key part of a well rounded education or, to put it in words that I am sure my noble friend will understand, fundamentum disciplinae universae. We are providing £0.5 million to fund training for non-specialist teachers of classics in state secondary schools, led by Professor Pelling of Oxford University. From this September, maintained primary schools must teach a modern or ancient language to seven to 11 year-olds. In secondaries, achievement of an A to C grade in an ancient language GCSE counts towards the English baccalaureate.
Floreant literae humaniores. Is my noble friend absolutely confident that enough is being done to increase the number of classics teachers in response to the very welcome surge in interest in state schools? Does he agree that partnership in classics teaching between independent and state schools is already flourishing and that the right way to increase it is by voluntary agreement, supported and encouraged by government, and not by government compulsion, as the party opposite now proposes?
My Lords, ITT places for classics are up 25% and we have increased the bursaryship for classics and modern foreign languages. I fully agree with my noble friend that the classics are a fruitful subject for partnership. I am sure that he will be pleased to hear that we announced a fortnight ago a number of independent/state school partnerships, including one for Latin involving Thomas’s Kensington in collaboration with three state primary schools, with a further three language partnerships. I wholeheartedly agree that such partnerships should grow from voluntary initiatives, such as these ISSP programmes, and not be forced by government.
My Lords, in view of the popularity of television programmes on classical civilisation, would it not be good to encourage state schools to put on more courses in the area of classical studies, relating language to history, philosophy, architecture and other aspects of the classical world? Would this not give a more rounded and attractive possibility for students in state school and perhaps give the classics an equality with modern subjects, ceteris paribus?
Classical civilisation is a very valuable subject in its own right and can stimulate children’s interest in Latin and classical Greek. Indeed, classical civilisation at GCSE has been up 12% in the last five years. Primary schools must teach pupils about the Roman Empire and its impact on Britain and about ancient Greece. They may also, of course, teach about other ancient civilisations, such as those in Mesopotamia and Egypt.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the very best things that the Mayor of London has done was to support Classics for All, which has already promoted 100 new classics courses in schools and hopes to double that in 2015?
I entirely agree with the noble Lord. We have funded Classics for All substantially for this. My own school uses it and it is an excellent programme.
Is the Minister aware that the teaching of classics is supplemented by private provision, such as the excellent week-long residential courses in Latin conducted, very appropriately, at Gladstone’s Library? Will he consider supplementing or assisting pupils from the state sector who are currently missing out with bursaries to attend such courses?
My noble friend refers to an excellent programme, which I would like to hear more about. I hope that, after the election, there will be a further round of independent/state school partnerships, which have been promoted by this Government. I would welcome an application in that regard.
My Lords, I declare an interest as having spent a disproportionate amount of my childhood studying Latin and Greek. Is it not obvious that learning to decline the pluperfect subjunctive and to tell the difference between a gerund and a gerundive is a good preparation for modern life and that study of the classics may indeed enable citizens to know what the plural is of “referendum”—whether it is “referendums” or “referenda” or neither?
Is the Minister aware that Latin always has some friends and supporters, of which I am one? A little Latin in life gives a bit of intermittent pleasure from time to time. What is more to the point, I welcome what the Government have done in restoring modern foreign languages to the 16 year-old GCSE EBacc. That is a really significant move. I did it many years ago. It was dropped. I welcome its return.
I am grateful for the noble Lord’s comments. It is true that under the previous Government the number of core academic subjects slumped, but they are now reviving. Spanish GCSE particularly is up by 50% and, of course, these subjects qualify for both EBacc and the Progress 8 measure, which is coming in in 2016.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that some decades ago there was an authoritative study into some 2,000 words in ordinary parlance in the English language? Of those, about 75% were directly derived from Latin. A similar study in Wales in relation to the Welsh language found the figure to be of the order of 85%. I congratulate the Minister, therefore, on the approach that the Government are taking in looking at Latin not just as something belonging to a classical and distinguished past but as a building block from which so many modern languages are derived.
I agree entirely with the noble Lord. I could not have put it better myself.
Only 5% of private schools lend specialist teaching staff to state schools. If a local private school teaches classics, but the state school next door does not, does the Minister agree that private schools should make their classics teacher available? If the private schools will not help, why does the Minister think that they should continue to receive tax breaks?
I entirely agree with the direction of travel in relation to the statements made recently by the Shadow Secretary of State for Education. It would be nice to see the independent and state sectors collaborating more. However, many private schools are very small—we all think about the very large, substantial private schools—and such arrangements would be extremely difficult. We are trying to encourage them as much as possible, particularly in subject-specific teaching, which is why we have just had this round of independent/state school partnerships.
Is the Minister aware that there are several Members of your Lordships’ House who studied in a grammar school in the Gorbals of Glasgow, where the emphasis was very much on classics? Furthermore, it has now been discovered by studying the choruses in Aristophanes that the pronunciation that we were taught in Glasgow was much more akin to what the ancient Greeks spoke than the pronunciation taught in England?
I was not aware of that, but I very much look forward to hearing more about it.
Calais: Illegal Immigrants
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assistance they are giving to British lorry drivers at Calais to deter illegal immigrants from attempting to board their lorries.
My Lords, the Home Office publishes guidance advising hauliers on vehicle security and what they should do if they believe that somebody is hiding in their vehicle. The guidance is available on the GOV.UK website and includes contact details for the Border Force’s clandestine entrant civil penalty team, from which hauliers are also receiving direct advice.
I thank my noble friend for that reply. I am pleased that the Government have now made arrangements for new fencing, paid for by the Government, and for rearranging the border controls, which should help in a modest way, because lorry drivers are having a very difficult time at the moment. With, apparently, more than 2,000 people trying to come in as illegal immigrants at the moment, what discussions are we having with the French Government to try to find a long-term solution to this problem?
In many ways, the juxtaposed operation which takes place in Calais and Dunkirk and at the tunnel entrance is part of that ongoing discussion. That has been a huge success in providing a triple-layered level of security for vehicles to go through, and it has already seen 18,000 clandestine migrants identified on the French side of the channel in the past year.
Is the Minister satisfied with the manner in which the French police and other authorities are carrying out their job? Does he feel that they are really interested in the problem? My experience of dealing with the French in the commercial world, with the greatest respect, is that they think, “It is not our problem”. One wonders whether they want to get rid of these people as quickly as possible. Is there a case for putting some of our people there to invigilate?
The noble Lord is absolutely right in the sense that that is exactly what the juxtaposed operation in Calais and Dunkirk is doing. We have Border Force people on the ground augmenting the work done by the port-side authorities. In addition, we have sniffer dogs on the port side, as well as the fencing which we are introducing. That co-operation is there; we should like it to be extended.
My Lords, does the Minister understand and perhaps share the concern felt by many interested observers who have followed the situation for many years and believe that it is capable of much better resolution? If he shares that concern, what does he think is the major impediment preventing a lesser threat to drivers and greater safety for these tragic migrants?
I acknowledge the noble Lord’s great experience in this area. From my preparation for this Question, I think that if the simple task of securing the vehicle—ensuring that it is covered and padlocked—happened, the problem would be reduced dramatically. Basic security measures and education of drivers are critical, as is maintaining the maximum £2,000 civil penalty fine if they fail to do that and migrants come into this country.
My Lords, these are desperate people looking for a better life, but clearly we have to maintain the integrity of our immigration policy. When people arrive, how much time is taken to sift those who have a proper claim for refugee status and those who are simply economic refugees?
If they are stopped at the French border, that is an issue for the French. If they arrive in the UK, they have the opportunity to apply for asylum. The asylum regime is there and advice is available to them. I must say that in a lot of these cases—this backs up the claim made by the noble Lord—they actually want to be put back in France so that they can try again, because they want to get into this country to work illegally.
My Lords, the Minister will know that at the port of Calais there is very sophisticated X-ray equipment that can see whether there are people hiding inside containers. Can he tell us what proportion of lorries are monitored with that equipment, or is it just a random selection, with only a small proportion being vetted in that way?
All vehicles have to go through that level of vetting, which is carried out by the Border Force using the latest technology for sensing whether there are people in the vehicle. That is a strong safeguard.
My Lords, the noble Lord is talking about lorries but is he aware that desperate migrants will get access to any vehicle in order to seek a better life? Many people travelling to France in their cars for the weekend to do some shopping are being advised in Calais not to leave their cars empty, even to go into a shop or to have lunch. What advice has the Minister given to domestic travellers to Calais, and does he think that we have enough border staff, given the cuts imposed by the Government?
The Border Force has been reformed. We now have a stronger border agency and the toughest border regime in the world. We have 200 million people crossing into the country. The reality is that domestic tourists and other travellers there should be aware that this is a major problem and that it is only going to get worse. They have to use the same level of security to protect their vehicles.
Can the Minister explain why these people arrive here? Surely they have been in France. Are they fleeing from persecution in France? What is wrong with the French state that it does not accept its obligation to look after such people?
My noble friend raises a profound issue, which is that there is a difference in economic performance among countries across Europe. The fact that unemployment in this country is falling dramatically and the economy is growing, and that the opposite is so in France, is acting as a pull factor into this country.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to develop the economy of Greater Manchester.
My Lords, this Government are committed to rebalancing the economy and to supporting growth in Greater Manchester through a growth deal, city deal and enterprise zone. Earlier this month the Government and councils in Greater Manchester agreed to create a directly elected mayor for Greater Manchester with wide powers over economic development, housing, policing and planning.
My Lords, I welcome the decision to establish a Greater Manchester Combined Authority, but does my noble friend agree that there must be effective scrutiny of the decision-making of such a body, so that local people and businesses know who is deciding what and how? Will the Government, therefore, encourage these councils to make sure that that happens, so that there is transparency and clear accountability?
My Lords, I absolutely agree that clear accountability is vital. That is why the Government and councils have agreed that there will be a democratically elected mayor to oversee the new powers and funding. Indeed, beyond 2016-17 these new powers will be conditional on the elected mayor being in place.
Does the Minister not recall that—rather alarmingly, I thought—at the beginning of this Parliament there seemed to be complete agreement between the leadership of the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party that the people of the big cities in England would relish the prospect of establishing a system of directly elected mayors? Rather unwisely, from their perspective, they put that proposal to 10 cities in Britain in the form of rather expensive referendums, and the people of these great cities—very wisely, in my view—decided that they did not want this expensive innovation, which had not worked nearly so well in London as some people were suggesting. At the very least, can the Minister assure us that the views of the people in these cities will in future be respected, and that should there be any change in the structure of local government in the direction of directly elected mayors it would be put to the people in a referendum?
My Lords, some cities—notably Bristol—have decided to have an elected mayor, and the elected mayor in London, of whatever colour, has proved an effective spokesperson and advocate for London. There are no plans for a referendum for a directly elected mayor for Greater Manchester.
My Lords, the prime driver of the success story that is Manchester has been the growth of the airport. It now sustains 40,000 jobs and has flights to more than 200 destinations, which is actually rather more than Heathrow. With the onward development of Airport City and, in the longer term, the siting of the HS2 terminal adjacent to the airport, is my noble friend satisfied that the road network in that area will be able to cope with the increased traffic, particularly the A538 which at present, frankly, is in places rather quaint?
My Lords, I absolutely agree with my noble friend that the airport has been a huge success. Transport links to the airport have been greatly enhanced and it now has one of the best intermodal hubs of any airport in the UK. Further funding is going in for roads—the A6 Manchester Airport relief road is being funded by the Department for Transport via the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. Any funding of the kind that my noble friend seeks for the A538 would most likely come from the growth deal process, which is now under way.
My Lords, I declare an interest as I used to represent a part of Greater Manchester, namely Oldham, a town of which I am inordinately proud and eager to assist. However, how does the Minister think that the Chancellor can sustain the pretence of being a champion of the north when he has cut local government funding for northern cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool more than he has the wealthier areas of southern England?
My Lords, we have to look at what has been happening to the Greater Manchester economy and the north-west more generally, where there has been a massive increase in the number of apprenticeships, for example, and a dramatic fall in unemployment. There is specific funding in terms of hundreds of millions of pounds of additional funding for rail developments and to innovative new world-leading developments in the Manchester area, such as the National Graphene Institute.
My Lords, in continuing this process of development in Greater Manchester, does the Minister not agree that it is the training and development of the people that are so important? In that regard, will he draw the attention of the leadership of Manchester to the report of my noble friend Lady Howarth on family learning, which was supported by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education? It highlights the effectiveness of family learning for developing skills in the workforce.
My Lords, one of the key things about the devolution of powers to Manchester is that it covers some of these areas. For example, services in terms of targeted employment support for vulnerable people have already been devolved to Manchester, and there are others. The “Working Well” pilot is also doing extremely well in that area and other plans on integrating health and social care have been devolved down to Manchester, so what the noble Earl is seeking is all part of that process.
My Lords, a key part of the Greater Manchester deal is public bus franchising, which is a good Labour Party policy. Can the Minister confirm that this has been a huge success in London, where it has led to a doubling in bus passenger numbers over the last 10 years? We confidently expect that it will do the same in Manchester, so will he confirm that the same offer will be available to other cities that request it of the Government?
My Lords, I can, certainly in terms of franchised bus services and for integrated smart ticketing across all modes of transport in Greater Manchester, which has been a success in London. The Government have made it clear that if other cities wish to follow the Manchester model, requests to do so will be sympathetically received.
My Lords, first, I declare an interest in that I am chair of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. While I welcome the deal that we have with the Government on devolution, can the Minister confirm that the mayoral offer in Manchester is not like the Mayor of London? It is a Manchester model built on working with the combined authority, which has been successful in the past.
My Lords, I can, and the key difference between the Manchester and London models is the very tight integration between this proposed new post and the local council, so that they will all work together to deliver policy that will result from the new mayor being put in place.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their policy on the rehabilitation of offenders who have served their sentences and wish to resume their careers.
My Lords, most convictions become spent after a specified period and the person is then treated as though they had not committed the offence. The Government have reduced rehabilitation periods and allowed more convictions to become spent. However, to maintain public protection, certain spent convictions are disclosed for sensitive occupations.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his Answer, but would he not accept that sending someone to prison is the punishment and that the purpose of prison, wherever possible, should be to rehabilitate so that that person can return to normal life and live a normal life? I accept that that is not always possible, but in most cases it should be. It is grievous to think of young people, in particular, who have had a successful career but who have made a mess, not being allowed to do that and almost being encouraged to reoffend.
I entirely accept that at least a significant part of imprisonment should be concerned with rehabilitation. I also accept what my noble friend says about the importance of encouraging ex-offenders to resume their life in so far as possible. We do, however, expect employers to be sensitive to re-employing offenders, depending on the particular nature of the employment.
My Lords, while acknowledging the importance of the opportunity to resume career and noting that many men who come out of prison have a family home to which they can return, is the Minister aware that for the overwhelming majority of women coming out of prison, accommodation is their priority, not employment? They want somewhere to live with their children. Is he aware that women who are remanded for 28 days and who are not then charged lose their home and their children, with little chance of getting either back?
That is clearly a matter of concern. The Government are aware that that can be an issue and are anxious to ensure, so far as possible, that when offenders leave prison they are given as much support as possible. The noble Baroness will be aware of the transforming rehabilitation steps that have been taken by this Government. We wish to ensure, so far as possible, that the return to the community is as satisfactory as it can be.
My Lords, will my noble friend agree with me that the provision in my Private Member’s Bill, which is now incorporated in the LASPO Act, has benefited a large number of young people and a large number of offenders leaving prison? Will he therefore now look at the international dimension, in particular at what is going on in Sweden, and at how such provisions can help to reduce the prison population in this country?
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for acknowledging that we have made progress. We hope to continue to make progress. Of course, he is quite right: we must learn from experience elsewhere, in Sweden or wherever else there is good practice.
My Lords, will the Minister explain how the crucial process of rehabilitation is assisted by the present state of our prisons, suffering as they do from overcrowding, staff shortages and a rising tide of self-harm and suicide?
The noble Lord makes a number of allegations about the unsatisfactory nature of our prisons. There are different reports for different prisons. I cannot possibly deal with all prisons at the Dispatch Box. I do not share his gloomy view of the state of our prisons, having visited a number of them. The work done in our prisons is of a very high standard and we have a dedicated body of prison officers who take great satisfaction in their work. I do not accept his description.
My Lords, will the Minister agree that the size of the prison population has reached an almost all-time record and that that is a cause for concern, particularly given the difficulties there are now for courts in finding alternatives to prison for relatively minor offenders and those who have serious problems, such as drug or alcohol abuse? Would it not be worth while thinking again about the status of the probation service in this country?
The number of offenders who are in prison depends, of course, on what judges decide is appropriate and on the number of offences committed. I accept that the prison population is high at the moment; I do not accept that there is overcrowding within conventional definitions. However, I entirely accept what the noble Lord—who has great experience in this field—says: we should be looking, in so far as possible, for alternatives to prison, particularly to combat difficulties with drugs, alcohol or other matters that predispose people towards offending.
More broadly, what are the Government doing to encourage employers to employ ex-offenders, even if it is not the original occupation that they held before they entered prison?
My Lords, we have an employers’ forum for reducing reoffending, which is there to recruit employers who are willing to take on offenders. This is a success story; 200 offenders have been employed in the last 12 months. The story that we receive from employers is that, on the whole, ex-offenders are extremely good employees. They are grateful for the job and have a very high retention rate in employment.
My Lords, will the Minister place on record that he and the Government are satisfied with the health services provided for people in custody? Will he give the figures for prison officers and those working with prisoners in care and education? Have the numbers gone up, or have they gone down at the same time as the number of prisoners has gone up?
As the noble Baroness will know, responsibility for health in prisons is for NHS England. I am afraid that I cannot give the figures she seeks at the Dispatch Box but will write to her with them.
Railways: East Coast Main Line
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat in the form of a Statement the Answer to an Urgent Question given earlier today by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport on the franchise competition for the east coast main line. The Statement is as follows:
“Mr Speaker, first, I welcome the honourable gentleman to his post.
This morning I announced the intention to award the intercity east coast franchise to Stagecoach Virgin, exactly on the schedule we promised two years ago. It is great for passengers. It will bring more trains, faster trains, new trains, better services and better-value fares. It is good for towns and cities up and down the east coast. It is good for our economy and jobs. It is proof that the right route forward for our railways is the private sector and the public sector working together. This deal will make the route of the Flying Scotsman a world-beater once again.
Now, I have heard different advice from the Opposition, led of course by the unions. They told us to leave this route in the hands of its emergency public sector operator. They do not understand that this would deny the east coast line new ideas and investment. They do not understand that it was set up as a short-term measure by the last Labour Transport Secretary, which is why at the time the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said:
“I do not believe that it would be in the public interest for us to have a nationalised train operating company indefinitely”,—[Official Report, 1/7/09; col. 232.]
and the Minister of State, the Member for Tooting, said,
“one reason we are able to invest record sums in our railway service is the revenues that the franchises bring in and the premiums that they pay”.—[Official Report, Commons, 1/7/09; col. 430.]
Right then—wrong now.
It is this Government who are powering ahead with a better plan for our railways. First, this new franchise will be good for people who use the line. This deal will strengthen the vital links from London to Scotland all the way along the route as far as Aberdeen and Inverness. Passengers will benefit from regular, faster, more frequent services to places like Falkirk, Stirling and Edinburgh. Journeys between London and Edinburgh will be regularly down to just four hours by May 2020. Leeds will see regular journey times down to just two hours. Places like Leeds, Bradford, Shipley and Harrogate will see more direct services each day. Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Huddersfield and Dewsbury will all get new direct east coast services, the first from Huddersfield to London since the 1960s. Lincoln, which gets one train a day to London under the current operator, will get one every two hours with the new one. And we have protected service levels to every current main line station.
All these destinations will be served by the new intercity express trains by May 2020. They will be built in the heart of the north-east at the new plant in Newton Aycliffe. So I ask the honourable Member sitting opposite, why does he want to deny the north all these benefits? The new operator will provide 50% more capacity across the east coast network and a 40% increase in morning peak seats to and from Kings Cross, and refurbish the existing fleet. It will cut some of the most expensive fares by 10% from May next year.
But this franchise is not just good for passengers. It is also good for staff. It offers investment in skills, a graduate programme, new apprenticeships and a national academy for rail professional education based in London, York and Derby. This will also be good for taxpayers. The franchise will run for eight years with an option to extend for a further year. In that time, it will return £3.3 billion in premium payments to the taxpayer. These figures are robust; they have been subject to rigorous scrutiny, including by independent auditors. So this deal will bring more services, more passengers and a growing return.
That is why, Mr Speaker, the Government’s franchising programme is creating the railway that this country needs. Passengers in Essex, London and the south-east are already benefiting from the improved services that the partnership of public and private sectors on our railway can provide. This award is further proof that private competition is good for passengers, staff, communities and taxpayers. The quality of the new operator’s plan will benefit the whole country”.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement, although I think that she should be ashamed to do so. It is an appalling Statement. It is a political act to present this Statement five months before a general election. There is no urgency for it, because everyone knows that the east coast main line is doing well under the existing publicly operated system. The Government know that my party is totally opposed to the strategy that they are presenting, and we will legislate to permit a public transport operator to challenge the private sector on a level playing field.
The Minister’s promises were of course the promises that applied to the private sector before it collapsed five years ago and required the state company to move in. Our own publicly operated company has an excellent record for service to passengers and for direct returns to the Treasury. It now finds itself, as a result of this Statement, potentially the only state-owned rail company in the world that has been banned from challenging the running of its own services.
It is not too late for the Government to accept a sense of fair play with the electorate, the travelling public and the public company by delaying action on the Statement until after the general election. If the Government refuse, so much for their appeal for long-term commitments on both sides of the House to the development of the railways. This is a shoddy act, a shoddy Statement, and we reject it.
My Lords, the Secretary of State set out his schedule for franchising for the east coast in March 2013. It is exactly on schedule. There is nothing artificial about the timing; it is entirely appropriate. On the demand for a public operator, we have always said that we do not have an ideological barrier, but why would you use one when we have excellent private trained operators? This is an absolutely excellent franchise. The argument is often made that the DOR returned £1 billion in revenue. Noble Lords will note that that was over five years, although there are differences in the timetable. We will be getting £3.3 billion from this eight-year franchise.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement. I have to say that it is no surprise—I would have thought to anyone—that the winner of the franchise is one of the three applicants. That seems quite a sensible way for things to go. If there are three applicants, the winner will be one of them.
I have a concern about monopoly. The winner of the franchise is the firm that operates on the west coast. There can be opportunity with monopoly. If we are to have a monopoly, can we have some benefits from it? I am delighted that the tentacles of the east coast will go to Dewsbury and Huddersfield, and that there will be more trains to Bradford and more in the West Riding. Those of us in the Pennines are in a position from which we can look east and west. Will there be opportunity under this franchise, particularly on fares and opportunities to choose routes? Bearing in mind that the operator is to be the same, will there also be fair play on fares for people in the middle of the country?
My Lords, this is certainly not a monopoly situation. Quite a number of companies bid on these franchises across the UK. They all start from a level playing field and we consider them completely impartially. With regard to fares, I note that the new franchise operator proposes a 10% reduction of standard anytime fares on longer distances in May 2015.
My Lords, as the Minister who created the East Coast company, I ask the Minister to join me in congratulating Karen Boswell and her fantastic staff at East Coast on providing a first-class public service since National Express left the public without any service on the east coast line five years ago. Can the Minister also confirm that, at 91%, East Coast has a record customer satisfaction rating for that franchise since its creation, and that the East Coast is also the most popular franchise long-distance operator in the country at present? Would she regard it as a failure if the new private operator did not equal or exceed those performance ratings in a year’s time?
My Lords, I am absolutely delighted to join in the accolades for the staff at the door—they have done an outstanding job and we have always applauded them for it. As they transfer to the new company, I am sure that they will continue to do an outstanding job. They will be offered new training opportunities and new opportunities to develop professionally, which will be extremely exciting. Therefore I am delighted to congratulate them. I am also delighted that the new franchise offers the kind of investment that we want to see, improving service in so many ways, improving the existing rolling stock and bringing on new rolling stock, additional seats and new services—all those kinds of things. We absolutely need improvements in ticketing as well, which is important because of the many people who use the east coast line.
My Lords, I echo my noble friend’s thanks to the current operators. However, the people of Lincoln will be delighted to have a reasonable service. I will take this opportunity to invite all Members of this House to visit Lincoln during 2015 when we celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, and when Britain’s least-known great historic city will be available for a day trip from London.
My Lords, I was very sure that my noble friend Lord Cormack would be delighted with this announcement.
Since the Minister puts emphasis on excellence of service, absolutely rightly, and since there has been acknowledgement of the great success of the publicly owned service on the east coast, which rose from the ashes of the failure in the private sector, can she tell us why that excellent service and company was not allowed to bid on the fair and equal basis of all other bidders for this franchise? Is it not conceivable that against the background of that success, it, too, could have made the commitment to investment and to the enlargement and improvement of services that is now on offer from the company that has been successful? What ideological barrier—because it could not have been a practical one—could have prevented it making a bid?
My Lords, there are enormous practical barriers relating to the basis on which funding is provided to the public service operator differing from that available to the private operators in the bid. It is crucial to ensure that we get the best ideas, innovation and investment in the service for the people who are going to use the east coast and that is exactly what this franchise delivers.
My Lords, I welcome the Minister’s announcement. It is the right decision. It delivers more services, greater investment, more trains and new routes. In addition, the trains for destinations on the east coast main line will be built in the north-east at Newton Aycliffe. The staff of East Coast do a magnificent job. Can the Minister confirm that they will all be guaranteed their jobs on current terms and conditions of service?
The way in which this franchise has been set up is a sale of shares. All staff will remain on their existing contracts. They will continue effectively to be employed by the same employer. Whatever those terms are will continue. It is important to notice the ambitions in this franchise to improve training and opportunities for staff. Virgin has been clear that, with new services, it is going to need to train and hire new drivers and new on-board staff. There are no plans to close ticketing, although much friendlier services will be opened up.
My Lords, I return to the question from my noble friend Lord Adonis about performance. What will be done to examine the performance of the new franchisee against that of the previous holder over the coming 12 months and the next five years?
My Lords, we hold all our companies to a very high standard of performance. They continue to be rigorously observed. Virgin will take on great challenges, bringing on new services and rolling stock. These will offer a great deal to passengers and we will expect a high performance from them. The noble Lord will be aware that, under the new franchising regime, the quality of output is a very important part of deciding where to award the franchise. It is no longer just on the cheapest.
Business of the House
Motion on Standing Orders
That Standing Order 40 (Arrangement of the Order Paper) be dispensed with on Thursday 4 December to enable the Motion standing in the name of Viscount Younger of Leckie to be taken before that in the name of Lord Moynihan.
Business of the House
Timing of Debates
That the debates on the Motions in the names of Lord Harries of Pentregarth and the Earl of Clancarty set down for today shall each be limited to two and a half hours.
Insurance Bill [HL]
That Lord Tomlinson be appointed a member of the Special Public Bill Committee.
European Union Committee
That Baroness Henig be appointed a member of the Select Committee in place of Baroness Corston, resigned.
Religion and Belief: British Public Life
Motion to Take Note
That this House takes note of the role of religion and belief in British public life.
My Lords, since World War II there have been huge social changes in our country, not least as they impact on the presence and role of religion in society. In the 2011 census there was a voluntary question about religion. This revealed the presence of 33.2 million Christians—59% of the country, down from 72% in 2001. At the same time, the Muslim presence was revealed as 2.7 million—4.8% of the population, up from 3% in 2001. Other religions also showed an increase. Hindus were up to 1.5% of the population and Sikhs up to 0.8%—the same figure as for a combination of all other religions, except for Judaism, which remained static on 0.5%
No less significant was the number of people who said that they had no religion—14.1 million or 25.1% of the population, up from 14.8% in 2001, making it the second largest category after Christianity. To this might be added the large number of people who prefer to define themselves as spiritual, rather than religious.
In addition to this, it is important to note post-World War II immigration, which brought people from the Caribbean and, later, from west Africa, resulting in thousands of lively black-led churches and a major black presence, for example, in the Anglican diocese of London. Between 2005 and 2012, 700 new Pentecostal churches were started, of which 400 were black majority led. In a similar way, immigration from eastern Europe has significantly boosted Roman Catholic and Orthodox congregations.
Therefore, the religious landscape is variegated and in many respects very lively. It is certainly very different from what it was in 1945. If we had to contrast clergymen in two brilliant TV series in which the clergy star to illustrate this difference, they would be the Reverend Sidney Chambers, Vicar of Grantchester, in the 1950s, and the Reverend Adam Smallbone as “Rev” in an inner-city London parish.
However, it is not just the presence of non-Christian religions and those who profess no religion that has made the difference. It is that religion is visible and agitative in a way that it was not before. It has a voice, or rather a variety of voices that want to be heard in the public sphere. They are not content to have religion confined to the inward and personal dimension. So it is, for example, that issues concerning the wearing of the cross and employment practices have found their way to the European Court of Human Rights, and there have been major issues concerning religion in schools, as we know.
In short, whether one likes it or not, religion is now a major player on the public stage in a way that could not have been envisaged perhaps even 30 years ago. There are of course a number of reasons for this in addition to the varied religious landscape. One is globalisation, which has taken people from societies in which they may have had a settled social identity to another where they have been in a minority and have developed a religious identity. This has had the effect of making religion a badge of identity at a time when the politics of identity have come very much to the fore. For all these reasons, it is therefore an area that Governments have to think about seriously, coherently and consistently across a whole range of policy areas.
It is also the reason that the Woolf Institute in Cambridge convened the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life, of which I am a member, chaired by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. The commission has existed for a year, is now in the process of consulting widely and is intending to present a report to the new Government next year. In our consultation booklet we set out five major areas where we are looking for views—the law, education, dialogue and engagement, the media and social action. I am therefore delighted to have been able to obtain this debate and I very much look forward to hearing what your Lordships will say under any of those headings or any other.
A number of your Lordships who wished to speak in the debate today were, sadly, engaged elsewhere, but I quote one of them, the former Chief Rabbi, the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, who wrote to me to send his apologies. He said:
“Please, though, accept my deep commitment to the vital role of religion and belief in public life. It remains the most powerful shaper of civil society, a much needed source of altruism in a culture that seems otherwise to celebrate the self, and an unrivalled heritage of wisdom on the great questions of ethics and society that we will never cease asking as we strive to be true to our faith and a blessing to others regardless of their faith”.
That said, I should stress that the phrase “religion and belief”, which is now the correct designation for policy in this area, has belief in it as well as religion, and that includes those who take a robustly secular view of life.
I wish to begin by simply setting out some basic principles on the basis of which I believe any Government should approach the formulation of public policy in this area. First and foremost, there should be equal respect and concern for all people, whatever their faith or belief, which includes respect and concern for the religious communities to which they belong. We are not isolated individuals but persons in a community, and those communities, which Edmund Burke called the “little platoons”, are integral to the make-up of our society. This equal respect and concern, which is asked of us all in our dealings with one another, is a particular obligation on the state in a society which is now as diverse as ours. This equality is not just tolerance; it means accepting and celebrating people in their difference. It is equality understood in an inclusive sense.
This equality is one of the marks of a secular society, but we need to be very careful about the use of that word secular. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Williams of Oystermouth, draws a helpful distinction between programmatic and procedural secularism. The latter is what we must all accept, for it refers to a set of procedures, arrangements and rules of discourse that enable rational debate to take place and decisions to be made with everyone participating on an equal basis. Programmatic secularism, however, has been perceived as an attempt to drive the religious voices out of the public square altogether, and this must be resisted, for the public square is quite rightly a crowded place where all voices need to be heard, including religious ones. As often as not, those religious voices will be translated into the shared assumptions of public reasoning, but this should not be mandatory.
Secondly, in the sphere of religion it is desirable that fellow citizens should try both to understand and to make themselves intelligible to their fellow citizens. This is a particular duty on public officials and educational establishments in a multifaith society: they must foster that and enable it to happen. This may have particular implications for policies in areas such as the training of imams from abroad, and it certainly has huge implications for education in our society, where there is such widespread religious illiteracy, together with many concerns about what is being taught, and—no less—how it is being taught.
Thirdly, public authorities should beware of privileging only certain forms of authority or religious representation. There are often groups, such as women, who need to be heard and who lack access to power. Public authorities should not replicate and reinforce oppressive practices that might be present in a particular faith community.
Fourthly, in a society in which we all have multiple identities, our identity as UK citizens imposes a duty to the state. While both Christians and Muslims, for example, will claim a higher loyalty, according to the tenets of their religion, this must not be interpreted as loyalty to a foreign power structure, as it was, for example, by some Roman Catholics in the 16th century.
Fifthly, in devising public policy we need to take into account where we are as a result of our history and culture. There is no neutral realm, and what we have now is a quite specific achievement that has been worked out over many centuries. It is a fantasy to think that there is some neutral secular blueprint existing somewhere else, which can simply be plonked down. Clearly, one feature of where we are now is the existence of an established church, and here of course I have to declare an interest as someone who has had the privilege and fulfilment of being a bishop in that church, serving society for my lifetime.
Many years ago, Professor Owen Chadwick pointed out that the relationship of church and state was a cord with a number of different threads. In recent years, some of those threads have been cut. To take just two examples, the church now has the freedom to order its own forms of worship and, in practice, to nominate those it wants as bishops. The point is that the relationship of the Church of England to the state has changed, is changing and could change further. It could change further in an inclusive direction that reflects our diverse society.
One feature of the Church of England that I would want to affirm is the way in which, in recent decades, it has taken the lead not only in building up good relationships with other faith communities but in exercising its historic position in a hospitable way. In the autumn of 2013, I had to preach at the service marking the beginning of the legal year for the western division in Bristol Cathedral. A similar service for judges, lawyers, magistrates and civic authorities takes place in every part of the country at that time of the year. In Bristol that year, both the high sheriff and the mayor were Muslims, the woman high sheriff being very devout. She asked that a passage from the Koran be read, including the key opening passage. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol acceded to her request, and it was arranged that the Koran be read in the cathedral when everyone had been seated and welcomed but before the actual Christian service began. It was a brilliant creative act of accommodation that made the Muslim high sheriff feel, as she said, warmly embraced but did not alienate the core congregation, or indeed Muslims or Christians, by a blurring of boundaries.
That principle of hospitality can and should be reflected in many public ceremonies, including the next coronation service. In a speech on 15 February 2012, Her Majesty the Queen said about the Church of England:
“Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country. It certainly provides an identity and spiritual dimension for its own many adherents. But also, gently and assuredly, the Church of England has created an environment for other faith communities and indeed people of no faith to live freely”.
That puts so well what the Church of England has tried to do in recent years and what I know it will continue to do in an increasingly inclusive way, while not assuming that it should always take the lead.
Lastly, the European Convention on Human Rights is now rightly a benchmark for our society. As we know from recent legal cases, there are occasions when some people feel that this clashes with a fundamental religious belief or right. My own view is that human rights should prevail in areas of dispute but that the law should be formulated and enforced with what the Equality and Human Rights Commission once termed “reasonable accommodation”. That seems to be in the spirit of the culture of the United Kingdom as, for example, compared with France. In other words, we accept so far as possible expressions of religious difference. There are certain fundamentals, of course, on which there can be no compromise so that any religiously based view in conflict with them must be overridden by that human right. However, on some issues there ought to be some scope for latitude.
As I said, religion is now a major player on the public stage that our parents would have had difficulty in imagining, and religion impinges on a number of key areas in our society, not least the law and education. For that reason, it is vital that any Government think clearly and consistently about their approach. What I have tried to do is to set out a few general principles that I believe should guide policy-making. I look forward to hearing what noble Lords have to say and in due course to the response of the Government. I beg to move.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble and right reverend Lord on his speech. I agree with him about the importance of religion in our public life and I agree that religions have a variety of voices in the public and political debate and make an enormous contribution. I have never believed, as was once suggested, that, for example, the Bishops should be excluded from the most important political debates that we have in this country. But I suggest that there is a quid pro quo: politicians like me should not be excluded from giving their advice to the churches, particularly if it has the effect of making those churches more accessible to more people. As we approach World AIDS Day on Monday, I am thinking particularly of the position of gay people, which appears to present all kinds of problems and challenges to the churches.
The public have flooded to see the film about the life and death of Alan Turing, and rightly so. It is a powerful denunciation of the intolerance and bigotry that held sway 60 years ago when men were imprisoned for no more than being different. Doubtless, some come away with the comforting assumption that that was then and everything has changed, and that discrimination and prejudice have been banished—if only that were the case. The fact is that in almost 80 countries of the world, homosexuality remains a criminal offence. In cities from Moscow to Kampala, the criminal law applies. The only difference between the countries is the extent to which the law is enforced—imprisonment or even execution at one end of the scale and persecution and police corruption at the other. Let us be clear: even when the law is not enforced or when there is not a law at all, there are powerful social and community forces at play. Young gay men, for example, are forced to leave their homes because of the ostracism that their families would otherwise suffer.
What of Britain? Things in Britain have changed. Men are not prosecuted or imprisoned in the way that they once were. But if you ask any gay man whether prejudice still exists he will tell you that it does, in the workplace, in sport and in schools. There is absolutely no reason to be complacent. If there is one thing that we can do in this country to make amends for the Turing legacy, it is to take a lead and show an example in fighting discrimination and prejudice, not only in this country but around the world.
Not all the nations which discriminate will take note of our example, let alone change, but some might. Even more might—here I come to my point on religion—if we could persuade the churches to take a more courageous stand, frankly, than they do at the moment. In Britain, the best, I think, that can be said about the position is that churches are equivocal, cautious and not prepared, really, to go out in front. Overseas, the position is much clearer, but much more dire, as it happens, because the churches, the Anglican Church, and the Catholic Church—in Uganda, for example—actually support the repression there. The same is true, in Russia, of the Orthodox Church.
I shall relate this, very briefly, to World AIDS Day. The fact is that, at the moment, as should be remembered in the context of the Ebola crisis, 35 million people have died from AIDS. The annual death toll is 1.5 million and more than 35 million men, women and children live with HIV. The worst part of that statistic is that half those who are living with HIV do not know, because they have not been diagnosed. A major reason for that is that the barrier to testing is the discrimination and prejudice that take place around the world, not least in this country, I fear, where a quarter of those living with HIV do not know and have not been tested.
These are very important points which the churches in the world and in this country could do much to help and it would be infinitely to the advantage of the public here and overseas if the churches would now take a lead, proclaim the equality of all people and take that into every aspect of their own policies and conduct. I congratulate the noble and right reverend Lord on everything that he has said.
My Lords, I thank the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for introducing this debate with such care and wisdom, typical of his work in this House, in the media and as a member of the clergy. I am delighted that the commission he mentioned has belief as part of its considerations.
I begin, as my pivot for the debate, with a quotation from an essay by EM Forster, What I Believe, written in 1938.
“What is good in people—and consequently in the world—is their insistence on creation, their belief in friendship and loyalty for their own sakes”.
As I say, that is my starting point. I do not have a religion, but I have beliefs. I am a humanist and, as such, I believe that we, as humans, are held together by mutual human support, kindness, tolerance and creativity.
The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, mentioned respect and concern. I fully agree. All these things are important in public life. The debate is set in the context of public life and I find that interesting. I suggest that behaviour in private life is a profound indicator of behaviour in public life. I would not trust someone who behaves badly in private life to behave well in public life. There may be exceptions. Institutions may express uplifting mission statements or mottos, but institutions are made up of people who think and feel. I guess that while institutions may attract loyalty, that loyalty is secondary to loyalty to family and friends.
The great poet, Dante, in his Inferno, condemned Brutus to the ninth circle of hell, not because of disloyalty to the state but to his friend, Julius Caesar. My point is that the quality of trust and love between human beings indicates what kind of institution, society or state we can expect.
I believe that what holds a society together is human qualities and acts of kindness and respect that contribute to a moral code not necessarily based on religion. Religion has sadly too often divided individuals and societies, with tragic consequences and a mistaken confusion of education and indoctrination. I think the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, who is sitting opposite me, would be on the same side in maintaining that education should develop personal and social skills, good citizens and thinking skills based on dialogue and discussion rather than on one-dimensional doctrine. It should include consideration of all faiths, religions and beliefs. Regrettably, the Government do not seem to think so, and I wonder why.
I believe that, as well as those qualities, we are inspired by creativity—art, theatre, music and literature—which is sometimes founded on religious faith and sometimes is not. They too have a role in private and public life.
We live in turbulent times. Institutions are being questioned: politics, religion, financial structures and so on. A glance at any day’s newspaper will show depressing headlines about child abuse, racism, fraud, relationship breakdown or violence, which are often described in lurid terms by the media. So what are we to do? Where do we turn for calm and stability? EM Forster said:
“One must be fond of people and trust them if one is not to make a mess of life”.
People sometimes let us down, which is all the more reason for us to behave with loyalty, sensitivity and dignity. For me, that is the core of public and private behaviour. I respect that, for some, religion will provide that compass.
In September, the British Humanist Association launched the “Thought for the Commute” poster campaign across London as part of an attempt to get humanist views on Radio 4’s “Thought for the Day”. There were four posters which used quotations from George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Bertrand Russell and AC Grayling, and the campaign attracted a great of attention. The quotation from George Eliot was:
“Wear a smile and make friends; wear a scowl and make wrinkles. What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other?”.
It seems to me that “What is it all for?” applies to public and private life and is what the noble and right reverend Lord is asking us to explore today.
My Lords, I, too, welcome the initiative of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, in bringing this debate to the House. I shall pull back from the question of the role of the churches and look more broadly at the question of religion and belief because some mistakes have been made in our understanding of these matters.
At the time of the Enlightenment and afterwards, many liberal intellectuals thought that a few generations of education would mean that religion would effectively disappear. They also thought that we would all begin to get on together and aggression and violence would be managed and controlled by education. It is quite clear that although people of that disposition thought they were informing themselves through rational thought, it was much more about romantic wish fulfilment because the truth is that religion has not gone away and nor has violence and aggression. Indeed, even in countries where religion was effectively banned for a period, once that ban disappeared, we saw an enormous growth. In Russia, the development of the Orthodox Church is not only a question of numbers; it is massively affecting Mr Putin’s politics. The Financial Times recently reported that the factory that has produced more Bibles than any other in the history of the world is not in the United States of America as you might have guessed, or even—less likely—in Europe, but in China, a country where religion was not available to many people for a long time.
It therefore seems clear that religion is an essential component of the human condition and a group phenomenon. It is not something that is simply a matter of what individuals believe. A community may have a religious identity, while quite a large number of individuals may not have a particular religious proclivity, because it is part of the identity of the community. Once that identity starts getting shaken up in various ways, it can become very unpleasant indeed.
It seems also that this business of religion is not just a question of belief and here I point up and quibble with the wording of the Motion. Religion is, of course, about belief and faith but it is also about the way people behave—about rituals and structures. All these things grow and develop. Many social scientists now talk about the evolution of religion as part of the evolution of society. We know that these matters do develop: we move from simple, concrete ways of thinking about these things to more metaphorical ones. We do this in our ordinary lives as well. We move from rather simple, black and white thinking as children to more metaphorical thinking when we are older. If you do not appreciate that, you get into terrible trouble. For example, if I ask a nice young lady out for dinner I do not do so because I think she looks thin, underfed and famished: I want to spend time in her company. The food is, of course, still real and an important part of it but there is a metaphorical component as well. When individuals regress through illness they sometimes go back to more simplistic ways of thinking and cannot see the metaphorical. This happens in society as well so that as people developed a different way of thinking about religion—a broader, more thoughtful, more tolerant, more metaphorical one—it became possible to see different religious approaches as not being entirely antagonistic.
We have a problem here which impinges on society. When an individual or society comes under existential threat—when it believes that its group identity or future is under threat—it regresses to simplistic, black and white, dangerous, threatening ways of functioning in which the complexity of a society, with all its different components, disappears. This is true for the individual and for society. Amartya Sen talked about reducing back to a singularity. This is a very serious problem for a multicultural and multi-identity society such as ours. One of the difficulties about a Government who see all issues of religion merely as matters of private faith and belief, and who famously said they did not “do God”, is that they do not tend to give enough attention to the importance and complexity of these things, which are becoming more important to ordinary people, to thoughtful people and to societies as a whole.
We are finding an appearance of increasing fundamentalism, which is becoming radicalised into dangerous action as well. I welcome this debate, because I hope it also represents an increasing focus by the Government on the need to understand the complexities of religion, both in its more advanced forms and those of regression and dangerous fundamentalism.
My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble and right reverend friend for introducing this debate and for the way he did so. I share some of the doubts about the use of “belief” in the wording. Humanism is not a kind of religion, though it may be a kind of belief. The terms of reference of the consultation are quite difficult to comprehend, but I shall not go on about that. However, the debate is timely because we are absolutely surrounded by the most appalling images of the horrors of fundamentalist religion. It is very useful to stand back and see the real benefits, to society and this country, of religion that is not of this kind. I will confine myself to one religion—Christianity—and to a relatively small aspect of that, namely the Church of England. We are extremely fortunate in this country to have the Church of England as our established church. The history of the Church of England has always, necessarily, involved finding a middle way. That makes it an extremely unlikely hotbed for extremism of any kind, which is one great advantage that we have.
I want to concentrate on the fact that it is the established church. As other noble Lords have said, religion—whether you call it religion or spirituality—revives when it is depressed. It comes back again, as we have certainly seen in Russia. One of the most depressing things I remember about visiting Russia and Moscow for the first time in the 1970s was the existence of wonderful churches that were full of icons and atmosphere but were not used for their proper purpose. I was taken around some of them by a deeply religious woman who spent hours in prayer in every church, rather to the discomfort of my son and me. The fact that these wonderful churches were being misused was incredibly depressing.
There are two ways in which I deeply value the established church. First, the Church of England is, as I have said, a tolerant church. It does not probe too deeply into whether we are thinking literally or metaphorically. Secondly, it is woven into our culture, not just by aesthetic objects but by the law. We are part of a community that is headed by the head of the Church of England. That is a valuable and not likely to be forgotten aspect of our society.
One reason for that is that religion is not just a matter of belief; it is a matter of ceremony and ritual. The Church of England provides the means for the whole of this country to make use of the ceremonies and rituals which it so tremendously provides at times of grief, thanksgiving and remembrance, as well as at the passing of the seasons which are also celebrated. Those are all ways in which our country can come together as one. Of course, I am rather echoing the words of the Prime Minister, although I rather deplore his use of the word “evangelical”. I believe that this way of coming together to celebrate, or to mark grief and thanksgiving, is something that we would not have if we did not have an established church.
Part of the same thought is that the Church of England maintains—and has a duty to maintain—the most marvellous buildings, cathedrals, abbeys and parish churches all over the country, and they are used for their proper purpose. That may be less used now, but I do not think that that goes for cathedrals. Without the Church of England we would not have that continuing heritage, which includes within it the most incomparable heritage of choral church music.
My Lords, I am grateful to my colleague, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for shaping this debate and for the remarks just offered by the noble Baroness. It may be a great surprise to many of our fellow citizens that public religious figures should be asked to play a part at all in 21st century society. However, the least surprised in the city of Birmingham are my interfaith colleagues. They expect the leaders and members at a local parish level and at a national level in what they regard as the indigenous national religion to play a full part in society and to articulate the needs, values and beliefs of those who have faith on things that are a matter of importance to the whole of society, whether they are faithful or not.
We have already referred to the great civic occasions and the local ones that are framed by public religious bodies, mainly the church. We have also noticed that members of religious organisations or bodies are outspoken in their views and can articulate particular things from an independent point of view. In public, it is a surprise these days that public figures such as bishops are still asked to say grace at institutional dinners. However, a certain amount of education is needed when asked for a grace that is secular, in the wrong use of the word. When asked about this grace, my young Muslim friend said, “Well, who are you going to be speaking to, Bishop, when you are saying it?”. These are matters of fact and I want in my remaining remarks to illustrate the liveliness and the practice of lived religion in ordinary communities across the country.
Beneath the surface of these public expressions of acts of worship in times of need and moments of outspokenness—by people like the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, who has already been mentioned, or engagement in public debate with, for example, the mining industry, where the ethos of that industry has been engaging with people of religion for its future—lies the obvious observation that human beings are seen to have a spiritual, other dimension to their lives, other than just the physical and practically measureable. David Bentley Hart, in his The Experience of God, has a very good articulation that, adding to our natural way of life, there are other dimensions: being, by which he refers to God; bliss, by which he refers to our emotions and experience; and, of course, consciousness, that distinctive fact of human awareness and being. Perhaps that is why 700 lay Anglicans—only one small part of the religious life of Birmingham—chose to come together for a whole day to speak about how to tell their story of faith to one another and to others in their communities.
People of faith also have a very strong motivation simply to serve humanity and to care for the wonderful planet in which we are placed. Of course that is true of all walks of professional and public life, but it is particularly of interest when people put their faith into practice in the local communities, in their own spheres of influence. As ordinary people rise to the challenge of our current economic and social conditions, we see that, in our social inclusion process in Birmingham, which happens to be led by the Bishop—by myself—as a public independent figure, all sorts of things flowed out as a response to human need in the local communities. For example, a whole range of places of welcome were set up, as required by the local authority. Night shelters during this winter season sprang up locally because volunteers, particularly led by people of all faiths, wanted to serve in that way. Well-known street pastors serve across the city at night. Food banks are familiar to your Lordships, and it is notable that my noble and right reverend friend the Bishop of Truro was asked to chair that commission. Money advice is being offered in all sorts of communities, particularly from places of religion.
Your Lordships are well aware that there has been a particular focus on Islam in Birmingham in the last 12 months. Now statutory bodies—as well as the Trojan horse review group, on which I serve with Muslims—are making attempts to identify and act in proper ways to respond. It is in fact the local people of faith who are gathering informally—gathering in particular ways—to develop a way of being that is going to make the most fundamental difference in changing our society.
My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for securing this debate and introducing it so well. I want to concentrate on two major points.
When we talk about religion, there is a danger of homogenising it, assuming that religion more or less takes the same form in all societies or that all religions are basically the same. In the United Kingdom, there are three crucial facts which we cannot afford to ignore. First, there is diversity between religions. That is not just plurality of religions—more religions than one—but diversity. They are differently structured. Some are community-based; some are individual-based. Some stress conduct; some are not terribly interested in conduct but stress belief. Some are globally connected; some are largely nationally confined. That is the first thing.
Secondly, there is diversity within religions. There is no religion that does not contain sects or diversity of interpretation. I do not have time to elaborate on this point, but it is also striking that for some, religion is a matter of faith, a taken-for-granted fact of life. For the younger generation, which has grown up in it, especially immigrants, it is a matter of identity: something that you wear as a badge of who you are and announce to the world, but you select bits and pieces of your religion. For yet others, religion is an ideology. In any religious community, you will have groups which appropriate their religion very differently.
There is also a third kind of diversity: different approaches to religion. Some people turn to religion because they are looking for an explanation of the nature of human existence and the place of human beings in the universe. For them, religion is primarily theology. For others, religion is primarily a matter of principles of conduct: how should one behave; what are the ideals of excellence which one should try to emulate? For them, religion is a matter of ethics. There are yet others for whom religion is neither a matter of metaphysics nor theology, nor of ethics, but largely a question of belonging: which is the tradition and community to which I belong? No beliefs or metaphysics are involved, simply a question of being at home within a particular community.
Those are the different kinds of diversity that obtain within our society. What follows? Two things follow. First, we should not make the mistake of thinking that all religions must be treated in the same way. If we do, given their differences, sameness can mean inequality. Secondly, we should not talk about religion in the abstract. Some religions in some modes can be terribly beastly. Some religions in some modes can be profoundly elevating. We need to be careful before we talk about the place of religion in public life or the fact that religions are doing valuable work.
It is also worth bearing in mind, as the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, pointed out, that when we talk about the great work that religions do, we always think of charitable activities, which look after the victims of our society. I have long waited to hear the radical voice of religion. If one considers Christianity, there is the driving of the money-changers from the temple. You find the same sort of thing in Judaism and Buddhism. The radical religious voice which tries to transform the economy and the social structure is rarely heard.
It is striking how, in a liberal democratic society such as ours, religion can easily be co-opted into an ameliorative function, looking after the victims of society but not challenging society itself. We need to be very careful when we talk about faith-based action. We tolerate faith-based action as long as it looks after the victims of society, but if it takes the form of radical challenge, such as occupying Wall Street, or whatever, we begin to think very differently.
My next point, which I shall make quickly, has to do with the way in which religion has to come to terms with certain fundamental principles of human morality. Religious beliefs should be respected, but what if they violate racial equality? What if a belief says that blacks should not be treated equally? We will say no, we will not respect that belief. What about gender equality? We will say no, it must be respected, no matter what your beliefs. It is striking that when it comes to sexual orientation, we seem to vacillate. Should gay couples be allowed to marry in churches? Should they be allowed to adopt? We say yes, but, at the same time, no.
That is where a crucial dilemma faces any liberal democratic society. We can insist on equality and say that, just as we want racial equality and gender equality respected, we want sexual orientation equality to be respected, but at the same time, we recognise that it has a different history and comes from a different tradition, and we try to accommodate it. That is precisely the point. The whole idea of accommodation is patronising. It is also administrative. It presupposes that there is one way of doing the right thing, but seeing that some chaps in our society complain, we try to accommodate them. I see that as a fundamental conflict of values. The question is how do we reconcile—not accommodate—those parties and create a society in which people holding basically different beliefs nevertheless feel respected?
I am very grateful to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for introducing this vital debate. This has been a difficult week, in which we had the report on the activities of Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo, and the radicalism, as the Home Secretary referred to it, of their lives, which brought about the tragic and evil death of Lee Rigby.
In the few minutes available to me, I want to do two things. First, I want to recapture the word radical—and radicalism—from being seen as negative. It enters the lexicon of common understanding as something we despise. As a follower of Jesus, I am convinced that the lifestyle he promoted and spoke of was radical. People criticised him for being associated with those who society despised. He made it clear that if you want to find life you must choose to give it away. He made it clear that the obsession of our day, which is the relentless pursuit of materialism, ought to be focused on the pursuit of the kingdom of God. These are radical truths, and if radicalism is to be seen as a negative and religion is to become known—and, if I dare say so, particularly Church of England Christianity, of which I am very grateful to be at times a member—for its tolerance and its mediocrity, then we have lost something profoundly essential. The very nature of faith allegiance, belief, and the love relationship that followers have with the one they follow requires radical living.
Radicalism, in our modern society, is seen as extreme. If you hold strong views—if you believe distinctly in certain values—that puts you on the edge of unreasonableness. However, that is exactly what would have been said of Jesus, and many of us are happy to line up with him. That radicalism is the pursuit of justice, the sharing of the commitment of one’s life, and the giving away of oneself. That is the radicalism that we need to discover in our century.
When I think of radical people I am delighted to mention two people who live in the noble and right reverend Lord’s own area of Oxford: two very dear friends of mine, Tom and Jane Benyon. In the last three years, these two people—one in their 60s, one in their mid-70s—have walked 1,500 miles to raise £2 million for the poorest people of the broken communities of Zimbabwe. Why does a former Conservative MP from another place choose to commit himself to the task of walking around England when he needs a hip replacement, in order to raise money for the people of Zimbabwe, for which he gets no gratitude from the British Government, let alone the Zimbabwean Government? It is because of his radical pursuit of the conviction that he says Jesus has placed on him and on his wife—the founder of the first food bank in Oxford, now a network of food banks; it is because the radical pursuit of Jesus, of belief, of conviction, leads you to defined and distinct actions.
The embrace of people on the outside is not about a tolerant place in which we can all feel easily comfortable, it has to be about a radical place in which we make distinct decisions to help those on the margins, to choose to act with justice, to receive those who have little and to give to them, even from our little. The Economist, just a few weeks ago, had an amazing report on the growth of the church in China—fascinating: 300 million committed believers, followers of Jesus, in China. It is amazing—almost more people than the population of the United States. However, the Economist concluded with a very interesting reflection: what, it asked, would kill this church dead? The answer was: if it becomes institutionalised, if it becomes a state-accepted church. In that case it will accept the tolerance required by the state and the system; it will lose its edge; it will give way to being simply an accepted mediocrity. It will no longer challenge its society. And so it will die. Let us get radicalism back into the agenda of our faith.
My Lords, I start by thanking the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, for securing this debate and articulating it in such a timely and profound fashion. In the little time I have today I want to concentrate on the role of religion in education—in schools in both the maintained and independent sectors—and to talk specifically about minority faiths in this context.
We probably have broad agreement that the civic purpose of education should be to prepare children for their role as equal citizens of an ethnically and religiously diverse liberal democracy and to encourage the development of their autonomy in order that they can grow to fulfil their potential as adults. However, too many schools are not delivering that kind of education. In these schools, we often see the rights of individual students subsumed into the forced homogeneity of “community” and “cultural” identities. When taken to its extreme, as we have seen in some minority faith schools, an emphasis on group culture has allowed communities to enforce their own values and traditions upon the children. We have had the Jewish Yesodey Hatorah girls’ school in east London being rebuked by the exam regulator, Ofqual, for redacting questions relating to human reproduction and evolution on exam papers. Nevertheless, the school defiantly continues to shield young girls from vital scientific knowledge, and now simply “advises” students not to answer exam questions which conflict with the school’s strict Orthodox religious beliefs. This school’s attitude is, I am afraid, indicative of a wider problem of faith-based schools narrowing the curriculum to suit their own particular religious ethos.
The recent Ofsted inspections of independent Islamic schools in Tower Hamlets also highlighted how students are left vulnerable to extremist influences focusing on conservative interpretations of Islam, at the expense of other important areas of the curriculum. At Mazahirul Uloom School, inspectors found that pupils were unable to tell the difference between Sharia law and British law—in particular, English law. All six of the independent Muslim schools inspected in that area were judged to be failing to provide pupils with,
“an appropriately broad and balanced curriculum”.
In one school, the curriculum was focused entirely on Islamic themes.
Of course we must ensure that parents’ religious and philosophical convictions are respected in the educational provision that the state offers. Article 2 in the Human Rights Act secures that but the demand for a religious education, wholly on parents’ terms, is an unreasonable and potentially divisive demand which must be resisted. It is also important to point out that Article 2 does not provide an absolute right. However outward-looking we may hope that all minority faith schools are, the fact is that they are one of the main points of contact for a child outside the home. When society allows them to be the vehicle for propagating and promoting segregation and closed-mindedness to mainstream values, it is surely right for the state to step in and correct that imbalance. It has been less robust in that integrating function than it should have been.
In short, if future generations are to live together, they must learn together so, rather than facilitating the segregation of pupils along religious lines, we should be doing everything we can to ensure that children of all faiths and none are educated together in a respectful and inclusive environment. For Liberal Democrats, that means an end to the outdated law requiring all maintained schools to hold a daily act of “broadly Christian” worship. Such a law is unevenly applied and can reduce a broad and balanced approach, seriously undermining parents’ abilities to raise their children in accordance with their own beliefs.
It is important to recognise that organised religion has played a positive role in the development of state education in Britain. However, Britain’s religious landscape has changed radically since the Butler Education Act of 1944. We are both one of the most religiously diverse and least religious countries in the world. The time has come to look again at the role of religion in our nation’s schools and to be radical about that. Parents who want to give their child a religious upbringing are at liberty to do so, at home and wherever they worship, but it is not a reasonable demand of a national curriculum, where children’s independent interests and society’s longer-term cohesion should always be the priority.
My Lords, religion has been a powerful force for good and ill down the ages, both inside and outside its institutions. Perversions of faith have led its believers to sacrifice its own in the most terrifying ways, and so it continues today through the jihads. However, I want to begin by celebrating some of the good and, as a Christian, considering some of the forces that led to the huge reforms in our society. Within that, I congratulate my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries on getting this debate and thank him for his constant care and capacity to put up with lesser mortals and help them with their thinking.
Who is to say whether the great reformers would have undertaken the work that they did, had they not been driven by a spiritual belief that it was what God expected and, knowing that service is perfect freedom, they expected themselves to achieve great things? I am a trustee and the vice president of Livability, an organisation formed from the merger of two great charities, the Shaftesbury Society and John Grooms. John Groom and Lord Shaftesbury were contemporaries, both men of huge faith, who used their wealth and influence to care for the poor and the disabled. Their work from 100 years ago continues through Livability, the largest Christian-based caring charity, where hundreds of disabled and elderly people are accommodated or looked after in their own communities. One of the roles that I undertake for the charity is chairing the safeguarding committee, ensuring an added layer of protection for the children and adults in our care.
All large organisations need to be particularly watchful and, where there are possibilities of harm, they must have systems that underpin the positive principles of their mission. We know that the expression of any kind of belief does not necessarily ensure that individuals will not harm others; indeed, in some cultures it does ensure harm. The long list of scandals that have shaken the Christian churches, as well as practices such as branding children as witches in some cultures and the justification of female genital mutilation by some clerics, are all negative testimony to what can go wrong with belief. Even if in nowhere else in our society, however, people of faith should ensure in all their institutions the protection and development of children and adults in need of care. That should include the promotion of equality between genders and in education, ensuring that children are able to develop their own freedom to think and consider all ideas.
Most Christian churches, if not all, are hierarchical, and hierarchies are about power relationships. Sexual abuse, which I want to mention, is also about hierarchical power. There are often other social phenomena that add to the dangers. Church life is intense, with combinations of faction and loving co-operation; no one ever thinks it is going to happen in their church, mosque or temple, so there is denial. Or there is the mistaken belief that the abuse was a mistake, that it will not happen again and that the perpetrator must be given another chance. Let us remember that Christians have forgiveness as one of the most important tenets of their belief system, and sometimes it clouds judgment. There is confusion between forgiveness, pastoral care and protection, both among individuals and in the institution itself. No one wants another scandal. So the perpetrator is given another chance, offends again and again, and the lives of children are again blighted.
The Church of England, however, is working hard to ensure that there is greater vigilance. Each community has a safeguarding officer with an expert at diocesan level to provide support and, where needed, intervention. The archbishops in the Church of England have set in place a whole new structure, both to listen to those affected by historical abuse and to ensure greater vigilance and better responses in the here and now. There remains much to be done but it is an excellent start. I declare an interest, as I sit on the safeguarding committee.
Jesus Christ championed children, women, the disabled and the poor, so it is down to those who profess to follow his example that we do the same—probably, radically. The positive role of religion and belief drives some of our highest aspirations and greatest achievements. It also must make us face the darkness where we find it and challenge and change it for the better.
My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, and congratulating him on introducing this debate and the manner in which he did so. I should also like to say how moved I was by the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, who spoke particularly tellingly of the role of the established church, which I, like she, am glad to belong to. I feel strongly that the greatest strength of the established church is that everyone in England lives in a parish and is entitled to the services and ministrations of that church, whatever the individual belief. That places a particular obligation upon the Anglican Church.
I should like to make a specific suggestion in the brief time that I have available. I hesitate to bore your Lordships by referring to Magna Carta yet again, but we have its great anniversary to celebrate next year. The charter that said,
“To no one will we sell … deny or delay … justice”,
also gave a specific place for the church in England at that time. I said a moment ago that there is an obligation upon the Church of England to give leadership. In spite of all the things that divide us, certain things unite the great faiths that are represented in this country and, indeed, in this House. They include a sense of civic right and responsibility, a belief in the centrality of family life, a belief in the duty to help the weak and to give incentive and encouragement to the young—without destroying their innocence, which we debated in this House last night.
It would be a marvellous thing if next year the noble and right reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and his fellow bishops could seek to bring together in a national forum the leaders of all faiths in this country, to work out a great charter for 2015 underlining the things that I have just mentioned, thereby helping to give to all our young people in particular a preparation for adult life and becoming full citizens—all acknowledging their rights and responsibilities. When I was a young boy, everyone accepted —whether or not that acceptance was accompanied by religious belief—the basic tenets of the Christian faith: certain things were right and acceptable and others were not. Since those days this country has developed into a pluralistic society, but one in which the Church of England still has a fundamental role—as does the Church of Scotland in that other part of the United Kingdom, although cast in a different mould.
It would be absolutely splendid if next year there could be an underlining of these things that we loosely called in a debate earlier this year “British values”. The adherents of virtually all faiths—be they Muslim, Sikh, Hindu or Jewish—can identify with those core values. If religion is indeed to continue to play a constructive and fundamental part in our national life, we need to focus attention on those things which are,
“true … honest … lovely … of good report”,
to quote the prayer book. I therefore take this opportunity to appeal to noble Prelates on that Bench, and through them the hierarchy of the Church of England, to try to take a real initiative and give leadership that is not based on superiority but on equality, and that reaches out especially to our young people, but also to the old and vulnerable, at a time when we will have the opportunity to commemorate the foundation of the rule of law and civil liberty in this great country of ours.
My Lords I, too, am grateful to my near neighbour, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for securing this debate and for his excellent introduction. On a personal level, I am also grateful for his continuing tolerance of my robust secularism. I declare my interests as the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group and my appointment as Commissioner for Children’s Services in Birmingham. Following the excellent speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, I want to focus on some of the issues of public policy raised by recent experiences of the practices in some extreme faith-based schools.
At a recent meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, we heard from the original Trojan horse whistleblower at Park View School in Birmingham, from a former Haredi Jew who grew up and was educated in Stamford Hill in Hackney, and from a young man who attended an Accelerated Christian Education school and is now doing a PhD studying experiences of ACE schools. I have to tell your Lordships that “ace” is a bit misleading as a description of those schools. The parliamentarians at the meeting, from all political parties, were truly shocked to learn what was going on in some of our schools in 21st-century Britain in the name of religious beliefs, and by the apparent inability of our legal and regulatory systems to safeguard our children from what can only be described as indoctrination and abuse.
I will say a little about what we heard about the ACE and Haredi school experiences. There is a network of 30 to 40 private ACE schools in the UK. The curriculum is a fundamentalist Christian one that originated in the United States. It is widely considered to be creationist, homophobic and misogynistic. The teaching materials used in these schools that were presented to us certainly supported this view. Much of the material is in a comic strip format with characters that could only be described as risible if they were not being used to brainwash and indoctrinate young minds. It was very scary that the so-called science teaching was leading to certification that was being used to progress children to further education.
The insularity of children in the ACE schools was repeated by the descriptions of education in a Haredi Jewish school. Here was a young man who literally had to escape from his community at the age of 18, having had no education in this country apart from religious study and despite speaking no English, because his so-called education had been conducted in Yiddish. This young man, now in his 20s, is a smart, articulate campaigner trying to expose the fact that more than 2,000 boys from this sect are being educated today in illegal unregistered schools. He struggles to understand why we collectively seem unable to safeguard children from his experience.
These young men and many others have had appalling educational experiences, all in the name of the religious beliefs of their parents. They are our fellow citizens for whom our legal and regulatory processes are failing to deliver the “balanced and broadly based” education—that is the wording of the statute—that they are entitled to under our current education legislation. Parliament has made clear what sort of education children in this country are entitled to expect and that is likely to fit them for the world they are living in. That entitlement is not the narrow indoctrination of their parents’ beliefs enforced through closed communities.
The children receiving such a narrow education are, in my view, being abused and deserve better protection than we currently afford them. It is arguable that this abuse is on a par with the kind of emotional child abuse in which the state has always intervened with parents in order to protect children from their parents’ excesses. This is a public policy issue that we need to debate and not shelter behind a screen of liberal tolerance of personal freedom of religious belief. That tolerance rightly extends from adult to adult but does not, in my book, extend to abusing vulnerable children trapped in households that deny them access to the balanced and broadly based education that the law entitles them to. We need to address some of these issues and not run away from them in the interests of the children who are vulnerable to these excesses and living in our society, some not many miles from this House.
My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for securing this important debate. As a Sikh, I see religion—I include beliefs such as humanism—as commonsense guidance on how to meet the many challenges of trying to lead a responsible and meaningful life.
Unfortunately, not everyone sees religion in that way. A year ago in a debate in this Chamber, religion was blamed as being “out of step” with society. To me, that is a bit like someone complaining that his sat-nav was not following his directions. The argument for banishing religions to the margins of society would carry some weight if secular society was seen to be leading to a fairer and more contented and peaceful society. But all the evidence is that it is not. Every day in this House, we have Oral Questions on the lines of, “What are the Government doing about this or that concern?” The general response, couched in elegant terms, is, “We are doing a lot more than the previous lot when they were in power”. This is not a criticism of government. The truth is that Governments can, at best, only put legal boundaries around unacceptable behaviour; they cannot make us better people.
I will give some examples. Monday was International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The need to have a day to remind us that women often suffer violence and gross abuse itself shows that all is not well with society. It was also mentioned that 77 women in the UK had been killed in domestic violence. There was reference to a Troubled Families programme—another reminder that all is not well. A report in the Times this week revealed that a staggering 230,000 people in England and Wales are going through divorce each year, with a devastating effect on children. Two-thirds of children whose parents separate, often in acrimonious circumstances, are driven to drugs and alcohol abuse, eating disorders and poor performance in schools. Our current obsession with “me, my rights and my happiness” can have a devastating effect on those around us in this and other areas.
Religious teachings are essentially preventive. Without such teachings we tend to look to sticking-plaster solutions. Today, the response to domestic violence is to build more refuges. The response to drunken and loutish behaviour is, “Let’s extend licensing hours”; to rising drugs problems, “Let’s legalise the use of drugs”; and, to an increasing number of people in prisons, “Let’s build more prisons”. Let us extend this line of thinking to the behaviour of little junior who greets visitors to the house by kicking them in the shins. Solution: issue said visitors with shin pads as they enter the front door.
Whenever I am asked to do a “do-it-yourself assembly”, I throw the instructions to one side and quickly put the pieces together with nuts and bolts to spare. I then stand back to admire my handiwork and see it all skewed and ready to fall apart. Then, and only then, I turn to the book of instructions. We have become a bit of a do-it-yourself society in the way in which we have thrown our religious instructions to one side in constructing remedies to social problems that ignore deeper issues of right, wrong and responsibility—the essence of religious teachings. Jesus Christ taught that, “Man does not live by bread alone”. Bread, the material side of life is important, but there is much more to living than mere material existence.
The Sikh gurus taught that we must live in three dimensions at the same time: reflecting on and living core ethical teachings; earning by our own honest effort; and, thirdly and most importantly, that we have a responsibility to look to the needs of those around us and the well-being of wider society. That putting of others before self is something that we need constantly to be reminded about, rather than living our current obsession with “me, my rights and my happiness”. Yes, religion is an important ethical sat-nav, but we must remember to keep it switched on and to follow its sometimes demanding directions towards a fairer and more peaceful society.
My Lords, like other noble Lords I am very grateful to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for securing this debate. I notice that the commission of which he is part is considering how religion may contribute to,
“greater levels of mutual trust and collective action, and to a more harmonious society”.
I will address the reference to mutual trust, especially with regard to our public life, which is far from well. The level of cynicism about our political structures and politicians finds reflection in an all too common assumption that many people in public life are not to be trusted. That is true for religious leaders, too, and for almost anyone in the public eye, and it generates cynicism about the state itself.
In the United Kingdom we need a much more elevated understanding of what the state is called to be—and here, religion has its part to play. Too often, for want of that, we are reduced to sterile discussions about British values, which seem largely to consist of tolerance and queuing, although I have certainly been in queues which were not the least bit tolerant.
In this House the Throne is the symbol of the one person in public life who is called to embody the nation. William Temple, who thought and wrote much about the place of religion in public life before his untimely death during the Second World War, said in 1928, intriguingly, that the public at the time did not regard King George V as head of state. He wrote that the King was,
“the impersonation of the Community—a greater thing. When the King opens Parliament, we see the Community, in his person, calling on its servant, the State, to discharge its functions”.
Therefore William Temple spoke of the state as the servant of the community of the nation.
Service, in the Christian tradition, is a vocation. When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples he reversed the power relationship between the teacher and his followers. Two thousand years ago, service never made you great; it was a sign of your enslavement. These days, by contrast, everyone wants to do us a service. The so-called service industries are often thought to be one of the strongest parts of our economies. The supermarkets fall over themselves in wanting to be of service to us, yet we know that they are very powerful organisations. When businesses, politicians or even bishops say that they want to be of service to the people, they do not always convince.
The state is seen by many people as powerful, heavy and inert, and not on their side. Many people in our society see religion in much the same way. Yet in many faiths, the image of a journey or a pilgrimage is the metaphor for life, and for Christians the journey is towards the kingdom of God. The Prayers in this Chamber may be unchanging every day, but every day we also pray that God’s kingdom will come. Even in Parliament, we have no abiding city.
That is a crucial perspective on all political institutions and social constructions, too: they are all penultimate at best. The quest, as always, is for a better society. We should not be satisfied with what we have constructed—not through cynicism, though, but through aspiration. One of the roles of religion in public life is to witness to that quest for a better world and to recover a spirit of trusted service and intergenerational solidarity. Edmund Burke, whom the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, referred to earlier, defined the state as a partnership between,
“those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born”.
As I look at the long lists of rectors and vicars in so many medieval churches in Norfolk, I am reminded of the inheritance and continuities of faith. Then I look at the children and families who come to Messy Church within them—I suspect that that has never been mentioned in this Chamber before—and I see novelty in religious practice. We need places with a visible continuity between past and present that have hope for the future.
When people gather together for worship, they form moral communities as they acknowledge their weakness and seek forgiveness. They serve each other and the wider community, and seek to build trust between each other and beyond. There are tens of thousands of such churches and other groups that build such cultures of trust in our country. They are not all religious, not by any means, but religion is significant within them.
When we speak of broken states in our world, what has broken down is trust. No state can fulfil its vocation to build a culture of trust between its citizens if they do not build cultures of trust among themselves. Therefore the role of religion is to build cultures of trust. There will be no trust in any state or in public life if we do not first build it among ourselves.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for making this debate possible, and I am delighted to follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich. I agree with a lot of what he said, but I think he would be dismayed if I agreed with everything—he knows that I will not.
Without wishing to add an element of levity, if I had to set a pub quiz question it would be: apart from the House of Lords, in which legislature in the world is a block of seats reserved for members of a religion? Any takers?
Right. Most people do not get that. I will come back to that issue in a moment.
I speak as a humanist and an agnostic, but not as a person who is anti-religion. Indeed, there is a lot of good—without wishing to sound patronising—in many religious beliefs and teachings. Of course, Pope Francis has raised the level by saying some very important things with which I am certainly in agreement. However, I have also met bigots in the world of religion, especially when I was in Northern Ireland.
I will talk about two things: the role of religion in the House of Lords, and education. I believe in an elected second Chamber, but that is some way ahead. I would be much happier if Bishops, who all make an enormous contribution to the work of this House, were here as Members of this House in their own right rather than as a block vote, a block of people, put in by one religion only. For example, the noble and right reverend Lords, Lord Harries and Lord Eames, and the former Chief Rabbi all make an important contribution to our debates but do so in their own right, not because they have been put in as part of a trade-union-style block vote. I am not suggesting that the Bishops all speak with one voice; indeed, it is sometimes very interesting to see them differ a little. However, there is a point of principle here as to whether only one religion should have a formal membership in this House. If Bishops were appointed differently, that would not affect the basis of the Church being established. Actually, it would be of benefit to the Church of England if it were not an established church, but, that is perhaps a debate for another day.
I will say something about education, and I very much endorse the views of my noble friend Lord Warner. I came across this issue in Northern Ireland in particular, where the division of society is reflected in the way that children are educated. Even today, over 90% of children are in schools that are defined by one religion or the other. Integration would not solve all the problems in Northern Ireland, but the current system has had a very divisive effect. If children from one religion are there together, they do not meet children from the other religion and they tend to demonise them. That has had a very divisive effect on Northern Ireland. When asked, 70% to 80% of parents say that they would like the choice to send their children to either an integrated school or one of the other schools. That does not mean that they will all do so. Where there are integrated schools—I am still talking about Northern Ireland, of course—they tend to be oversubscribed and they provide a wonderful education. This is not to deny religion, but to say that we are going to be educated together as members of one community. I actively support the campaign for integrated education in Northern Ireland and hope that there will be more integrated schools there as time moves forward.
I turn to education in this country. I understand that some religious establishments are very good and popular with parents. This is partly because they have a selective element within them; that is to say, they do well because they select rather than taking from across the catchment area as whole. However, I fear that the more religious-based schools we have, the more divisive will be the consequences. We only have to read what is said in the newspapers about schools—the noble Lord, Lord Warner, gave some examples—to see that they are having a damaging effect on our society and on the religions themselves. We should at least be able to stop the progress towards more religious-based education. I wish that we could turn the clock back, although that would be difficult at this stage. Many religious schools have an adverse effect on this country and on their local communities. At the very least they should be encouraged, as some do, to take in children of other faiths and other religions.
My Lords, I, too, thank my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries of Pentregarth for initiating this debate on such an important range of topics.
I want to say something about the importance of the ways in which we think about and approach differences in religion and belief in public life. An obvious starting point is to turn to the relevant rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and to consider how these differ from the much more frequently discussed rights to freedom of expression. I declare an interest as chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is doing detailed work on these rights and their implementation in law and in institutional life, but nothing that I shall say here draws on that work. What I shall try to say will be more elementary.
Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights is very closely modelled on Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance”.
As with most other rights proclaimed in the European Convention and in other fundamental documents, Article 9 is not an unqualified right. The second part of the article lists ways in which this right may legitimately be limited specifically in order to respect other rights and matters of public interest. It runs:
“Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.
Nevertheless, Article 9 articulates a profoundly important and distinctive right that matters for addressing religion and belief in public life.
I want to make three points. First, this right is the successor to the great traditions that established the importance of religious toleration in north-western Europe, above all in Britain and the Low Countries in and following the Reformation. Today, toleration is often interpreted in a tepid way as no more than a matter of putting up with something, so as to demand no more than mere indifference. Unlike my noble friend Lord Hastings I take a more radical and classical view of toleration. Nothing could have been further from the view of the early protagonists of religious toleration than the thought that it was something tepid or mere indifference. They thought of it as a profoundly, excruciatingly difficult virtue—a duty not to repress belief or to persecute others, even when their beliefs were taken to be profoundly wrong and subversive.
When Oliver Cromwell famously wrote in 1650 to the Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland with the words:
“I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken”,
he was acknowledging that tolerating others’ beliefs can be enormously hard because we may find it impossible to imagine that our own beliefs could be mistaken. Toleration became central to the history of Europe and, subsequently, of human rights, not because it was a matter of indifference but because it was profoundly difficult and yet a duty.
I suggest that this is something that we forget at our peril. When we need to engage with others, whether their beliefs are religious or secularist, it is not enough to refrain from persecuting them or to be indifferent to them. Toleration demands more. It is incompatible with dismissing or deriding others’ beliefs or treating them with condescension. Genuine toleration requires respect for others and the effort of intellect and imagination to grasp what they say.
Article 9 is important for two further reasons. It is not merely a right of self-expression. That is Article 10—a right to freedom of expression that includes the freedom to hold and impart opinions, which is a familiar part of our public culture and protects individual and press freedoms. However, it does not address the right to protect and manifest religion or belief,
“alone or in community with others and in public or private”.
Such manifestations, both shared and private acts of worship and ceremonies, are central to religious observance. So Article 9 is not a right that protects the expression of just any belief or opinion that a person may happen to hold and want to express. For that, Article 10 would be enough. Article 9 is narrower in its scope. It is intended to protect life-orienting systems of belief rather than mere opinion, however idiosyncratic or objectionable. Those who hold highly controversial views on matters such as sexual activity with children, or the desirability of various sorts of revolution, may appeal to Article 10. Their mere holding of those views will not in itself be prohibited, but manifestation alone or with others often is criminalised.
Article 9 is demanding in a final way. It protects the freedom of each person to change his or her religion, a right that is far from secure in many parts of the world where apostasy is still treated as a crime and barbarous treatment is inflicted in the name of religious orthodoxy. We think of the persecution and suffering of Christians in parts of the Middle East and elsewhere. Much blood was shed to achieve toleration, and we should not forget that.
My Lords, there is a vital role and a need in public life for those principles of compassion, understanding and spiritual enlightenment that are at the heart of religions and their associated beliefs. Yet, particularly as I work in the Middle East, I often find a disastrous disconnect of religion and belief from the feelings of heart, mind and soul that they should engender. As the noble Lord, Lord Singh, said, in public life we have a choice. We can either act selfishly, thinking first of me and my family and my tribe and what I want now and for the next week or the next year, or, with a little more open heart and mindfully, we can proceed with a higher level of consciousness, thinking of the impact of our actions on all beings for all times.
This mindfulness and higher consciousness is at the heart of most religions and the great traditions of the East. Although one does not need to have a religious belief, many of the sustained religions and philosophies have methods, rites and ceremonies that are designed to enable one, through contemplative practice, to engender in oneself such mindfulness. Mindfulness is complexly defined because it is an experience and not a theory. In Judaism, Taoism, Buddhism and other traditions, one cannot speak of it. It is known to be ineffable.
When he spoke on the Parliamentary Estate last year, Jon Kabat-Zinn put it simply as: “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose and non-judgmentally, to the unfolding experience moment by moment”. Evidence shows that even short periods of mindfulness practice reshape neural pathways, increase the areas associated with kindness, compassion and rationality and decrease those involved with anxiety, worry and impulsiveness.
A religion and belief in one’s private life may help one in public life; it is not easy to maintain this mindful state in public life, but those who have these beliefs, by adhering to certain practices and communal ceremonies, can experience a heightened state of consciousness to connect with something greater than their habitual selves, which puts them in a state where compassion and empathy come to a fore, values come before self and one is better able to see and understand other people’s points of view. However, there is a danger here, as articulated by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill. Believing that your particular religion or belief is the only path is an illusion. These rituals and rites are not ends in themselves; only when you use them skilfully does mindfulness arise.
I cite some examples in public life, starting with my own field of business and philanthropy. In Oxford this month, wealthy American investors, foundations and philanthropists, under the umbrella of the Cavendish Global Forum, with the help of an enlightened international “connectress”, Amber Nystrom, met some great people who were developing various social enterprises aiming to do the most good across the world. The US impact investors wanted to ensure that their money could flow into good things that would benefit all beings for all time yet still have a commercial return. They know that a belief in a higher purpose can help to make enterprises grow faster and prosper.
In education, I have spoken before about the successful Mindfulness in Schools project, a collaboration with psychologists at Oxford, Cambridge, Exeter and Bangor universities. It is an eight-week course written by teachers for teachers; the curriculum has been translated into eight languages and is being taught effectively in 38 countries. In health, mindfulness has been verified by NICE to be more effective than drugs and other therapies for many mental and physical illnesses. In the criminal justice system, mindfulness is used effectively for criminals, victims and police.
Finally, pulling this all together, we have here an active, vibrant All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mindfulness, which has been asked to present its work to the German and Dutch Parliaments as well as to the Knesset and other Parliaments. The APPG is currently writing a report to be ready in January for a strategy in the UK for mindfulness in education and health—we will give this evidence to the new mental health taskforce—the criminal justice system, business and government.
Religion and belief have important roles to play in public life as long as they are being used to engender mindfulness. On the flipside, mindfulness in the absence of some of these rich, centuries-old traditions and religions can be limiting. I ask the whole House to take note of the report on mindfulness strategy in the UK, which will be completed next year. Perhaps we might have an interesting debate here on that subject in your Lordships’ House.
Noble Lords might want to try mindfulness for themselves. The APPG has arranged that on every Tuesday on the estate, Chris Cullen from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre runs classes that take an hour and a half once a week for eight weeks. There are separate classes for Lords and MPs in one session and for staff in another. Some 115 Lords, MPs and staff have taken part and have enjoyed and benefited from these sessions in the past 18 months, and we are about to start session in the spring.
My Lords, I need to declare an interest in that I am a trustee of the Woolf Institute for the study of relations between the Abrahamic faiths, and I gave evidence to the commission chaired by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss.
In the few minutes that I have, I want to talk about ignorance, starting with ignorance of the Christian heritage in the UK. Last week that was reinforced for me by a recent commentary by an education correspondent in a very reputable newspaper, which I shall not name, about government proposals for the religious studies GCSE that it must include the study of two faiths. The example given by the journalist was that schools would now have to teach Judaism and Islam and another school would now have to teach Christianity, including Catholicism. Until recently, my concerns about this have been about the loss of civic identity and education. I read English literature at university and I just do not understand how anybody could read Milton, Herbert, Hopkins or Eliot without an understanding of Christian history or theology. That does not seem to me to be really the point.
Since 9/11 and all that has followed, that ignorance has become much more dangerous. While the kind of exclusively narrow religious education described by the noble Lord, Lord Warner, is shocking and needs action to stop it, we should also be concerned with the basic lack of knowledge about not only Christianity but so many religions in many mainstream schools. Many children appear to be brought up in a world in which religion equates with danger, with Islam equalling mad-eyed bearded men acting with great cruelty, Christianity being something taught by Koran-burners in Florida, and Judaism being synonymous with the actions of the Jewish state.
As we all know, great evil has been done in the name of religion, but worse has been done in the name of the secularist creeds of left and right. We need to recapture and re-emphasise the essential compassion that lies at the heart of all great religions. If—and as a number of noble Lords have said, I think that it is an if—faith schools are to continue to exist, we should insist on all faith schools teaching comparative religion and emphasising their common compassion.
Imam Monawar Hussain recently addressed the Oxford diocesan synod. He pointed to extremist Muslim sects as having three characteristics: literalism of interpretation; the use of so-called “proof texts” without context; and the stated desire to set themselves apart by being more holy, faithful and certain than other coreligionists. Those of us from other faith traditions will recognise that analysis.
Tom Holland, the historian, wrote this August in the Sunday Times that the success of the Islamic State on the battlefield must be counterbalanced by defeat in the mosques, in churches and in seminars in schools of theology by emphasising commonality and compassion between religions. For the UK and much of Europe, that much is now urgent, and I hope that the work of the Woolf Institute in producing this report will be helpful to that end. I commend it to the House.
My Lords, I thank the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for his debate. He may remember a debate about faith and public life many years ago. Then the debate was about economics, and how to divide up the cake, what faith told us about dividing up the cake and how it should be done. How times have changed. Now faith in public life asks us who we are, how we live together while celebrating our diversity, and how compatible our diverse faith is with Britishness—or is diversity a threat? Economics has given way to identity, and this is complicated by the possibility of individuals holding multiple identities; the change in family circumstances brought about by increasing physical mobility; the rise of “blended” families; and the rapid renewal through generational change.
The Institute for Jewish Policy Research, of which I am the honorary president, did a survey about Jewish identity and found how identity mainly begins at home and then at school. I join my noble friends Lady Massey and Lord Dubs in their concern about how we have allowed faith schools to celebrate diversity, which has in fact caused division by enabling communities to close in on themselves. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, and the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, showed how different faiths and schools set about curtailing contact with other faiths and the rest of the world outside their community. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Blair. Intolerance arises from genuine ignorance and a lack of experience of the other. With identity playing such a crucial part in our lives, schools will have to reflect society. I think that the Woolf consultation will find that public opinion is moving towards reduced autonomy and faith schools will have to become a lot more mixed.
Digital faith communities are now an established part of public life. Religious leaders have their own active social media sites, with thousands, and in some cases millions, of followers. The Bible has its own Facebook page, and there are sites encouraging people in Britain to come together and pray for those less fortunate. Yet, because of perceived threats, public opinion on a free and open internet is changing. Tuesday’s proposed quick-passage Bill shows a hardening of attitudes here in Parliament.
That has happened because there are also extremist faith sites—I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, will note that I am careful not to use the word “radical”. Those sites preach intolerance and hatred. Their owners are difficult to trace, and may well be outside this country. Again, liberal values are under threat.
I support liberal values. Indeed, I belong to the liberal Jewish community—so I spoke to Rabbi Danny Rich, the senior rabbi and chief executive of Liberal Judaism. He agreed that faith-based organisations ought to be involved in social and political action, in accordance with adherent interpretations of their faith. Sensibly, he told me that he hoped that disagreements between and within faiths would be handled in accordance with Britain’s democratic values. Rabbinic decision-making is traditionally based on the view of a majority, after reasoned debate—but with the minority view being recorded, which means that we do not impose our views on others. Indeed, we try to be a blessing on others, as the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, has said.
Rabbi Danny Rich and I both felt that the current system of civil and criminal law in the UK is satisfactory in relation to issues of religion and belief. We would prefer that religious courts did not involve themselves in the civil law, and that religious communities did not seek to use the civil law to solve issues that their own religious authorities do not have the courage or the will to resolve. For example, Liberal Judaism accepts civil divorce, in the sense of not requiring people to undergo any further religious divorce procedure. In the same way it accepts same-sex marriage, because it is the law of the land—and that is the way it should be.
My Lords, I draw the attention of the House to my interests in the register: I am a former commissioner of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. I am also a former chair of the Chapel Street Schools trust and a current chair of Chapel Street Community Fund, a community interest company. I am also a practising Anglican, but just a lowly back-bencher; I have no responsibility at all for anything the church may do.
I add my thanks to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, for giving us the chance to debate this issue. I also pay tribute to his work in this area, and his scholarship, for which I have been very grateful over the years. His speech was a wonderful opening to the debate. I was interested to hear about the work of the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life. I commend the Woolf Institute for its interest, and I wish all the commissioners well in their deliberations. I hope we will have the opportunity to debate their findings in this House when they emerge in due course.
I shall try to address some of the areas of challenge that the noble and right reverend Lord set out for us as I go along, but it will be a challenge in itself to respond to the extraordinary range of speeches that we have heard. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, who observed that it is interesting that we are debating this issue at all. Fifty years ago, the idea that in 2014 Parliament would still be discussing the importance of religion and belief in public life would have seemed improbable at best. Then, it was assumed that by now religion would have withdrawn quietly from the public stage, and certainly from any involvement with the state. Believers would have dwindled in number and any religion that remained would be essentially a personal and private activity.
I remember that in 1968 the acclaimed sociologist Peter Berger said that by the 21st century,
“religious believers are likely to be found only in small sects, huddled together to resist a worldwide secular culture”.
Thirty years later, he said that,
“the assumption that we live in a secularised world is false: The world today, with some exceptions ... is as furiously religious as it ever was, and in some places more so than ever”.
Futurology is a difficult game, and one should not laugh. I am still waiting for my personal jetpack, as promised in the “Tomorrow’s World” of my childhood, and it has yet to materialise. So I understand and I sympathise with Peter Berger. It is a real lesson to all of us that if we think that today is a lesson in what tomorrow will look like, that is simply a challenge to our own concerns and our inability to look into the future.
If secularisation is no longer the certain shape of the future, that leaves some significant questions about the role of religion and belief in our public life, including how we respond to the growing importance of identity as a marker—a point made by my noble friends Lord Haskel and Lord Parekh, as well as the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries. I do not have answers to all these questions, but they are incredibly important. I shall be very interested in the degree to which the Minister can help us along and the commission can lead us in the future. I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Blair of Boughton, for highlighting the key issue of ignorance of religion as one of the drivers of our inability to know how to respond to the new importance of religion in our public life. I hope we can come back to discuss that again.
So what should be our attitude to the role of religion in public life? I think that we should start by honouring our heritage. Earlier this year, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury noted that our systems of ethics and justice, the protection of the poor, and most of how we look at society have been shaped by, and founded on, Christianity. As he pointed out, however, that view was shared by other faith groups. He quoted Farooq Murad of the Muslim Council of Britain, who said:
“No one can deny that Britain remains largely a Christian country”.
It is important to recognise that heritage.
The role that the established church still plays has been highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock. But of course, the relationship between religion and public life has altered a lot over time. The most reverend Primate himself acknowledged that, in terms of regular churchgoing, this is not a Christian country as it used to be not that many years ago—but, as he put it,
“the language of what we are, what we care for and how we act is earthed in Christianity, and would remain so for many years even if the number of believers dropped out of sight (which they won’t, in my opinion)”.
So I hope we can all accept that the Christian religion has played a formative role in the development of our life and identity as a country. That is not, of course, to say that acceptance of the dominant British values presupposes an acceptance of the beliefs and practices that helped to form them. I will be interested to see the Minister’s reaction to the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, that a new Magna Carta for the future might be a way to take this debate forward.
The history of Christianity in Britain also underpins some of our public institutions and services, particularly the history of schools—a subject that has been raised by a number of noble Lords. I shall have to contain myself here, because, as I should also declare, I am doing my PhD, incredibly slowly, on church and state through the medium of church schools. The result is that I probably know more about the history of church schools than is strictly socially acceptable, so I shall try to stop myself going on too much about the subject.
I first went into that area because I wanted to know why we had all these faith schools in our state education system. Then, of course, I discovered, as one so often does, that it was the other way round. Britain entered the 19th century with no mass education at all, and a couple of voluntary bodies created a very large number of schools. The National Society, which set out to create a church school in every parish, set up 12,000 schools in 40 years, many of which are still going nowadays. They were paid for by individual subscriptions. So essentially, the basis of our mass education was set up by the churches and the state system grew around that. That organic process that underlies so much of British life is something we need to recognise and understand to make decisions about going forward.
A legitimate question was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, as well as by my noble friends Lord Warner and Lord Dubs and others: what is the ongoing role of faith schools now, in modern life, especially in the state sector? There is always a variety of interests to be balanced. How much does one want educational homogeneity or heterogeneity? How important is parental choice? What is the impact of faith schools on community cohesion? What are the limits of what can be taught in a school? If faith schools were all private, how might that affect cohesion and the state’s ability to regulate and inspect them, compared with what it does at the moment?
On that last point, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Williams of Oystermouth, made an interesting point, which I think it is worth quoting in full:
“If the choice appears to be between systematically secular schools in the public sector and explicitly sectarian schools privately resourced, the dangers should be obvious … Religious conviction becomes something fiercely guarded from the light of public discussion or scrutiny; the way in which it relates to other areas of life and thought can only be looked at in ways that are not publicly accountable”.
That is food for thought, but it also presupposes well run faith schools with high-quality social, moral, spiritual and cultural education. Will the Minister tell the House what steps the Government are taking to support the ongoing development of that? Labour remains supportive of the continuing presence of faith schools within our state system, but it is of course essential that they, like all schools, teach a broad and balanced curriculum and equip their students to live alongside students of all faiths and none in our society.
I will touch briefly on the role of religion in social action. Some noble Lords may have seen the report from Demos last year looking at the contribution that believers and faith-based organisations make to our national life. It found that religious people in the UK are more likely to volunteer locally, to be civically engaged and engaged in charity, which has been established before. But, interestingly, they were also more likely to have higher levels of trust in other people and institutions and to believe that they could influence decisions nationally and locally, which is curious. I stress at this point that some of my best friends are atheists and humanists; indeed, some of my most respected colleagues on the Benches behind me fall into those categories. They are shining examples of people who give selflessly and sacrifice themselves in both service and giving to the cause. I mention that not to privilege faith but to counter some of the fears that can be expressed that faith can cause people to look inwards, whereas the opposite can be true.
The report highlighted some interesting cases studies. My noble friend Lord Stone of Blackheath may be interested to know about the London Buddhist Centre. He may already know about Breathing Space, which uses mindfulness to tackle mental health problems and addiction. The Near Neighbours programme, run by the Church of England, is effective in bringing neighbours in diverse areas together to work for the common good. Birdwell’s conclusions in this pamphlet were interesting: faith provides a unique underpinning to the commitment and motivation required to provide services, particularly to some of the hardest to help; faith-based services can be particularly effective in some areas; and faith groups and institutions provide valuable and important permanent structures in the local community, which can be used to aid social problems.
There is real food for thought there for policymakers and service designers. We need to learn from the strength of faith-based work but recognise that there are risks, both to the state and to the groups, of drawing faith-based groups into delivery. In the past, the state has sometimes sought to bank the advantages and mitigate the risks by somehow trying to separate the activities from the faith community, and that simply does not work. The research shows that.
On community, if Britain is not secular, it is also clearly not solely a Christian country any more and the relations between the various communities are crucial. However, I see some encouraging signs here. I see increasing evidence of religious communities tending to facilitate community-wide dialogue of the kind that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham described. When I went with the riots panel to Birmingham in the wake of the 2011 riots, I was hugely impressed to see the group that he chairs bringing together people from right across the community—from different faith, ethnic and local groups—to work together to tackle their problems. We were all hugely impressed by what we saw there.
Another example would be community organising, which brings together the members of mainstream churches with other religions but also with trade unions, parent bodies, homeless charities and a wide range of organisations. London Citizens is the most notable example, but it was the experience of its members that brought together ideas such as the living wage, which have gone on to be so successful. However, one of the things that citizen organising taught us was to recognise that talking about difference is not necessarily a problem and ignoring it does not necessarily work. When it comes to religion, particularity is everything. It is by talking about our own individual experiences and differences that we get to understand one another and go on to make a difference. At a time when, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich reminded us, politicians are struggling so hard to engage with people, finding faith-based organisations and talking to a wide range of communities might give us a lesson that we can all learn.
My Lords, I join all other noble Lords in thanking the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, for bringing this debate to the House today. It is an important issue. In doing so, I pay tribute to his enduring contribution to promoting our national heritage and his work, particularly with the Woolf Institute—a point also acknowledged by other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Blair. I warmly welcome the Woolf Institute’s consultation and look forward to the report next year. I thank the noble and right reverend Lord for his hard work in ensuring that this consultation is shared widely among those of all faiths and none. I also welcome his reference to the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, who could not join us today and I particularly welcome the contribution that he has made to the promotion of understanding faiths across the board.
We should never lose sight of the most significant element of any faith—what it means to each person of any faith. Faith touches on matters of great, fundamental importance to the individual—questions of eternal significance. I assure noble Lords that the role of government is not to intrude on those questions, but rather to assert boldly the right of each person to hold his or her own beliefs. Therefore, religion and belief are topics that governments should always approach with great sensitivity—a point well made by the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, and my noble friend Lord Alderdice in their contributions. However, governments have a profound responsibility to provide a just and tolerant framework of laws that enable people of different faiths or of no faith to live side by side. That is a great strength of our nation. Too often, diversity is thought of as a weakness; nay, it is indeed a strength of our great country
Many noble Lords, including the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, reflected on our Christian heritage—a heritage that has been built over 14 centuries. Earlier this year, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister used his Easter address to speak about the importance of Christianity and Britain’s status as a Christian country. Speaking from personal experience of our country, my foundation in education was at a Church of England school. That did not make me less of a Muslim or more of a Christian, but it taught me a profound respect for beliefs, religions and traditions. It is a tradition that we should continue with. I feel strongly in that regard.
I believe that faith is a force for good. As the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, reminded us, many a prophet of yesteryear would be regarded today as radical as they were then. Let us not forget that they set the ball rolling in terms of teaching greater compassion and wrestling with the things that we are still wrestling with today such as the abolition of slavery, which was very much their pretext. I agree that people of faith sometimes need to wrestle back certain terms to ensure their true meaning.
An article in the Telegraph recently, written by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, warned of secularism, while it has a place, becoming so aggressive that it attacks religion in all respects and encourages intolerance towards others. I reinforce the Secretary of State’s words that the best response is to champion values that define our country, many of which are founded in faith. At heart, we are a Christian nation—from the established church in England to the language of the King James Bible, deeply woven into the fabric of our culture. But most importantly, we are, as several noble Lords mentioned, a place of justice and tolerance towards others. My noble friend Lord Alderdice mentioned that. Our defence of freedom, the rule of law and the evolution of our democracy have all grown from the seedbed of faith.
It has been interesting to see the role that faith has played in helping our immigrant communities to integrate into British society. As Minister for communities, including faith and integration, I wrestle with the challenges that communities pose. Since time immemorial and even in the past 100 years, communities of different cultures and faiths have settled here. Yes, we have had a few challenges and we have had ups and downs, but we have determined together to emerge and we have done so as a more resilient, stronger and more diverse nation, and we shall continue to do so. We need only look at the Christian community, with the migration of the Irish and Polish communities, which have seen a strengthening of practice at Catholic mass.
Turning to this Government’s record of engagement, my noble friend Lord Singh of Wimbledon—I call him my noble friend because we share Wimbledon in our titles—mentioned one Government saying that they had done more than another. I think that we can agree across the Chamber that this is about recognising what others have done and building positively on those foundations for our future. But I am mindful of the fact that this Government have taken certain actions in recognising minority communities—and, indeed, minority communities within minority communities. I was delighted to join the Secretary of State at the Hounslow Big Iftar with the Ismaili Muslim community, which is a great example of what is best about being British and proud of your faith—great company, food and music and concern for humanity, which is what we find across many faiths.
My department also has a strong record of engagement with the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, a community that has provided a beacon of hope, perseverance and charitable giving in our country. In addition to the Secretary of State’s visit to their Tower of London event marking the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, I recently took part in their annual peace symposium. The event brought together more than 800 people and amplified the Ahmadiyya community’s resounding and heart-warming maxim, “Love for all, hatred for none”.
It was an honour also recently to meet Dr Rajesh Parmar, of the International Siddhashram Shakti Centre, and Satya Minhas, of the Hindu Council UK and the Metropolitan Police Hindu Association, at the International Siddhashram Shakti Centre in Harrow earlier this month, an occasion to mark the sterling and often forgotten contribution of soldiers of minority faiths who served so gallantly in the First World War. It has also been a great pleasure, in my first few months in this role, to meet some of the key people in British faith circles today. Prominent among those were the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal Nichols the Archbishop of Westminster. I look forward to my meeting in early December with the Chief Rabbi. These people are at the apex of their respective faiths and I look forward to working with them as we look at some of our challenges, building on how faiths can work together.
My noble friend Lord Cormack talked about the church and its ideas for a new charter in celebration of the anniversary of Magna Carta. The noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, alluded to this as well. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, that perhaps a sign of the importance of the role that the Bishops play is the fact that my noble friend directed his question not to the Minister on the Front Bench but to the Bishops on the spiritual Benches. I look forward to working with them as an extension of my work in this area. Again, that underlines the importance of faith communities and, as many noble Lord recognised, the diversity of faith representation in this House.
I turn to the church communities and their role. Let us not forget that the heartbeat of many communities up and down the country is the parish church, where people go not just to worship but to raise money for charity, take part in recreational activities and, indeed, socialise.
Let me assure all noble Lords—I shall come on to the challenging issue of extremism in a moment—that I recognise the importance of education, a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, my noble friend Lady Falkner and the noble Lord, Lord Blair. I am sure that noble Lords are aware that the Government have opened a consultation on the teaching of faith at GCSE and A-level. I encourage all noble Lords to contribute to the consultation, which I believe closes on 29 December. I feel a bit like the noble Lord, Lord Stone, plugging the mindfulness course—I am sure that that was also noted by many a noble Lord and that they will be lining up to sign up after this debate.
Parish churches are joined by many places of worship and faith communities in weaving the moral fabric, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, said, of what Britain is today, providing comfort to those who feel isolated, responding in times of trouble to relieve hardship and building communities of trust. Ultimately, the crucial element in building a society which is cohesive is that of respect. The Government actively celebrate the vital role of faith in our national life, guiding the moral outlook of many, inspiring great numbers of people to do public service and providing help to those in need, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham reminded us.
This has been most apparent through some of the work this Government have been directly supporting. Our integration policy and projects aim to break down barriers, emphasise local action and bring people together—celebrating what we have in common rather than what divides us, as my noble friend Lord Cormack said so eloquently. Recognising the catalyst of building on the hard work that happens not just in countless churches but in mosques, temples, gurdwaras and synagogues, as well as in many church and community halls, the Government are working together with communities locally to set in motion successful projects for further developing effective, friendly, working and respectful relationships between people of different faiths and none, so as to tackle social challenges.
We have therefore invested, for example, £8 million in the Church Urban Fund’s Near Neighbours programme. I notice that my noble friend Lady Eaton, who is involved in that project, is in her place. That programme is using the Church of England parish system to build productive local relationships between people of different faiths in areas of high deprivation. Only last month I was fortunate enough to visit the city of Bradford, a diverse city of many faiths, where I saw several social action projects on the ground, including one of the 721 Near Neighbours projects happening in England and Wales. The “Thank U Bradford” project, led by the energetic Pastor Ben Ayesu, is taking asylum seekers around Bradford to clean up the town in terms of graffiti, changing perceptions in people’s minds. Such projects encourage cross-cultural and cross-faith friendships while enabling participants to make a positive contribution to the local area.
I also had the opportunity to meet representatives of Bradford’s Muslim community, including the very dynamic Imam Asim, as well as representatives of various Sikh communities in the area. In addition, the Government are supporting the Together in Service programme, launched last year, to further strengthen faith-based social action throughout the country. We are investing more than £300,000 in this programme over two years. There are 43 projects now running, from Nottingham to Blackburn and Ealing. The list is quite extensive.
Perhaps nowhere is this reflected more than in our recently celebrated national Inter Faith Week. I am pleased to say there were more than 200 organised events across the country during Inter Faith Week in 2014, with more events still being reported. The noble Lord, Lord Singh, talked about interfaith matters with great compassion and great presence, as he always does. He talked of the satnav of religion. I say to him, and I am sure that many of all faiths would agree, that we may have satnavs of different models, which probably tell us to take different directions, but we hope that the starting point and the end point are always the same.
Poignantly, at this time of year, we remember those who gave their lives on foreign battlefields. We must not forget those from the Commonwealth who fought so bravely for our country. I was pleased to have been part of We Remember Too, a project to acknowledge and commemorate the role of soldiers of minority faiths, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Zoroastrians and others, who answered the call to arms. We remember and commemorate the bravery of the likes of Frank Alexander de Pass, Darwan Singh Negi and Khudadad Khan, the first soldiers of the Jewish, Hindu and Muslim faiths to receive the Victoria Cross as a result of brave activity during the First World War.
Highlighting the part played by the 400,000 Muslims —it is pertinent in the modern age to reflect on that—who fought for Britain in the First World War, for example, is one of the ways this Government are committed to showing that you can be proudly British and proud of your faith. I am testament to this; I am not self-conflicted and, in my case, I am proud of my faith in Islam. We recognise that people of all faiths are crucial to Britain’s history and British life today, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, mentioned.
The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, talked about the reading of the Koran in the cathedral. Let me share with noble Lords that during the recent Big Iftar, the month-long celebration of Ramadan, we saw Jewish synagogues open their doors to the community for the opening of the fast. That is the strength of our country. Our many faith groups live and breathe alongside each other; indeed, they give oxygen to each other, showing the extent of diversity in our great country. Together we are one family and that is where we reveal our greatest strength. As we build a strong nation, united in our belief in the primacy of our shared values, while celebrating the fact that our differences enrich us, as the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, said, we challenge those who have no wish to contribute to our society or, worse still, to disrupt and attack our very way of life.
I turn to the issue of extremism. Let me make it absolutely clear—I am sure that it is a sentiment shared by all—that extremism has no place in Britain and will not be tolerated. It creates environments conducive to violence and terrorism; it encourages segregation, disrespect for other cultures and restricted rights for women and for minorities. As my noble friend Lord Fowler said so passionately, differences, not just on gender or religion but on sexual orientation, cannot be allowed to destroy what Britain is today.
Turning to some specific questions, the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, and the noble Lord, Lord Singh, talked about the international day of non-violence—perhaps it is apt that I answered a Question on that a few days ago. I commend my right honourable friends the Home Secretary and the Education Secretary for their work in this area. We are working across government to ensure this issue is given full focus.
The noble Lord, Lord Warner, talked about indoctrination and abuse in schools, including elements of extremism. I agree with his assertion about the value of a broad-based education and commend the work he does. I remember answering a debate on the contribution of humanists to our great country.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham and the noble Lord, Lord Warner, raised the Trojan horse issues arising in Birmingham. I assure noble Lords that the Government are supporting institutions to identify and confront extremist influences. For example, we are improving inspection regimes, strengthening the rules for schools and demanding more from universities to prevent radicalisation on campus.
My noble friend Lord Alderdice talked about not oversimplifying interpretations of religion which can contribute to the risk of radicalisation and extremism. I assure my noble friend that the Government are developing a strategy for tackling extremism. We know that an important part of that strategy will be engaging with faith leaders of all denominations to ensure that the right voices, the voices of tolerance, moderation and respect, gain greater influence.
My noble friend Lady Falkner of Margravine spoke passionately about faith schools and education. It is essential that all schools prepare children for modern life. The recent Ofsted reports highlighted important failings in some Tower Hamlets schools. The Government are working with local school leaders and governors to ensure that children are not put at risk by the rise of extremism.
The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, also talked about faith schools, divisions and extremism. I recognise the serious points he made in this regard. The counterterrorism Bill announced by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary this week includes important measures to tackle internet radicalisation by extremists and terrorists. We acknowledge the value and challenges of online. That is where faith communities have a role. The right voices, the moderate voices, the voices of respect, should come forward and beat that challenge on the internet.
In my last few minutes, I shall turn to a few other points that were raised. My noble friend Lord Fowler spoke passionately about extending what we do internationally. It is important that the Government play their role. The noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill, also spoke with great expertise and insight. The right to equality of belief must be afforded to all. It is deeply regrettable that religious minorities, including Christians, are suffering great persecution around the world. The Government are committed to supporting the fundamental human right to freedom of religion or belief abroad, and we stress to Governments around the world the importance of respecting universal human rights, including religious rights, and the rights of all minorities, as the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, pointed out. The Government have taken a strong lead in promoting equality and challenging prejudices abroad.
Recently, I had the honour and the emotional experience of going to Auschwitz-Birkenau. As I stood on that barren land, it reminded me of some of the challenges that confronted faith communities from someone who sought to eradicate a particular faith at a particular time. Britain has stood strong against such tyranny and will continue to do so. In the process of countering extremism, whether tackling anti-Semitism or anti-Muslim hatred, projects such as Tell MAMA, Remembering Srebrenica and the £2.1 million we allocate to Auschwitz-Birkenau ensure that these issues are not taken off the agenda. Strength in the face of adversity is something that all faiths give us as well as the strength to overcome tyranny. Standing in the barren grounds of Auschwitz just two weeks ago reminded me how far we have come and also of how important it is to continue to eradicate bigotry in all its forms.
In this ever-changing world we live in, one thing remains constant, and that is faith. It has survived the test of time and continues to breathe life into communities up and down the UK. We should be proud of how many faiths contribute to our national life today. What faith provides is unique, pure and, for many, irreplaceable. For millions, the faith they hold, whether based on the Torah, the Koran or some other source, is not only a personal, internal matter but a great motivator towards social action and a powerful impetus to change the world for the better.
Let us not forget those of no faith who feel equally as passionate about their position in society and who are equally passionate in serving humanity and their country. Those who expound a more secularist view also have deep respect and compassion and wish to make the world a better place.
This is a view we all treasure to help build the Britain we all treasure. This is what the Government support and will continue to support because it is a key element of the kind of society we want to build. I have no doubt whatever that the world of faith and those who follow the true teaching and the true meanings of a peaceful faith will continue to do good, as has been the case for centuries, and will rise to the challenges of today in providing hope to millions, in particular in ensuring unstinting service to humanity.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. There was a wide range of contributions, some very analytical and thoughtful and others which were very deeply felt about particular issues. I shall not mention noble Lords by name, but I thank the Minister for his clear personal commitment to this area.
A few noble Lords were worried about the words “religion and belief” in the title. I understand that, but the commission was advised that all the most authoritative documents in this field now use that phrase, which is why it was chosen.
A number of noble Lords mentioned the positive role religion plays in our society at both local and national level. That was good to hear. Equally, there was a wide range of criticisms of the role of religion in education and, in particular from the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, about its attitude to same-sex relationships. Justified criticism of religion should be encouraged for the sake of religion itself. It is quite unequivocally in the interests of religion that justifiable criticism be encouraged.
I do not believe that humanism—many noble Lords are humanists—should be seen purely in negative terms as a criticism of religion. The word “humanist” goes back to renaissance times when all those who designated themselves humanists were Christians. For them, it meant not just a revival of classical learning but a belief in human flourishing. I suggest that the great national gathering recommended by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, which no doubt he would like to take place in Lincoln next year, should be a gathering not just of people with religious views but should include people from the British Humanist Society, as 25.1% of people in the country now define themselves as having no religion and many of those define themselves as humanists.
We have talked a lot about trying to build common ground between religions, but there is a need in our society to build common ground between religious believers and those who have no religion but regard themselves as humanists. This is particularly important at the moment because, as Michael Sandel has pointed out, for the past 30 years, our society has been dominated by a combination of social and market liberalism. In other words, people have believed only in one value: unfettered individual choice. This is because we lack any proper concept of the common good and what it is to be a good society. As he said, if as liberals we are frightened of getting into that debate because we disagree about it,
“Fundamentalists rush in where liberals fear to tread”.
I very much hope that this great national gathering will invite humanists and that we will be able to work at getting a much stronger, thicker understanding of what it is to live in a good society.
Scotland: Smith Commission
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in the other place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. The Statement is as follows.
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a Statement to the House about the further devolution process in Scotland and the publication of the heads of agreement resulting from Lord Smith’s five-party talks. As the Prime Minister has already said this morning, we back the agreement and its recommendations and will produce draft legislation in January. The referendum on independence held on 18 September 2014 saw Scotland vote decisively to remain within our UK family of nations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, backed by the strength, security and stability of the United Kingdom. The turnout across Scotland was nearly 85% and more than 2 million people made a positive choice for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom.
During the referendum campaign, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition made a joint commitment to deliver more powers to the Scottish Parliament. The Smith commission, chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin, was up and running on 19 September. Lord Smith convened cross-party talks to reach agreement on the proposals for further devolution to Scotland. This process has been thorough and extensive. The party representatives were drawn from the five main political parties in Scotland; the first time ever that all five have participated in a devolution process. I would echo the comments of Lord Smith himself in the foreword to his report. He said:
‘This agreement is, in itself, an unprecedented achievement. It demanded compromise from all of the parties. In some cases that meant moving to devolve greater powers than they had previously committed to, while for other parties it meant accepting the outcome would fall short of their ultimate ambitions. It shows that, however difficult, our political leaders can come together, work together, and reach agreement with one another’.
In preparing the report, Lord Smith heard from a wide range of Scottish civic institutions and members of the public. Over 400 submissions were received from organisations and groups and over 18,000 submissions, including e-mails, letters and signatures to petitions, from people right across Scotland. The Smith commission has today produced a comprehensive heads of agreement ahead of the St Andrew’s Day deadline contained in the timetable set out. This is a significant achievement and is an historic moment for Scotland. I would like to thank Lord Smith and the party representatives for their work. They have worked hard against a challenging timetable covering an enormous area of ground. This work will deliver a substantial package of new powers to the Scottish Parliament. The heads of agreement provides for a durable but responsive constitutional settlement for Scotland within the United Kingdom. It gives greater financial responsibility to the Scottish Parliament with an updated fiscal framework for Scotland, consistent with the overall UK fiscal framework.
For the first time, over 50% of the money spent by the Scottish Government will be funded by the Scottish Government. This is an important step which builds on the measures brought forward by this Government in the Scotland Act 2012 and further increases the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament to the people of Scotland. The recommendations provide for key welfare measures to be designed by and delivered in Scotland. This will give the Scottish Parliament the tools—and the responsibility—to tackle a range of issues with specific consideration of local circumstances, including those related to social care, long-term unemployment and housing, while continuing to benefit from the strength and stability of the UK-wide system. The recommendations build on the already significant powers of the Scottish Parliament in social justice and a range of other policy areas. Together, these recommendations give greater responsibility for more decisions affecting Scotland to be made in the Scottish Parliament and paid for by revenue raised by the Scottish Parliament.
Further devolution is just one part of this story. People in Scotland were unequivocally clear on 18 September that Scotland should retain the security of being part of our United Kingdom. The Smith commission’s remit was clear—to set out proposals for further devolution within the United Kingdom—and this remit was signed up to by all parties participating in the process, including the Scottish Government. The conclusions reached by the parties ensure a set of proposals that do not cause detriment to the United Kingdom as a whole or any of its constituent parts. The Government are committed to ensuring that Scotland and the whole of the United Kingdom continue to prosper from our single domestic market, our social union and the strength that comes from the pooling and sharing of risks. People in Scotland voted on 18 September for the jobs and opportunities that are created by being part of a larger United Kingdom with one currency, no borders and more money to spend on public services in Scotland. People in Scotland want to keep the advantages of a UK pound, UK pensions, UK Armed Forces and a strong UK voice in the world. The package that has been announced today allows that to happen.
As the Prime Minister has already made clear, the Government back the heads of agreement and its recommendations and we will get on with producing draft legislation. The draft clauses will be produced by Burns Night, 25 January, meeting the next phase in our commitment to the people of Scotland. That work begins today. A team has been set up to bring together lead officials in the Scotland Office, HM Treasury, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Cabinet Office. This team will work closely with all lead policy departments within the United Kingdom Government and the team will remain in place ready to deliver a Bill in the UK Parliament following the UK General Election. To support the preparation of the draft legislation I have invited key Scottish stakeholders representing a wide range of different sectors to form a stakeholder group. I will provide further details of the membership and terms of reference of the group in due course, but it is my intention that it will support the Government’s work translating the heads of agreement into the draft legislation that we will publish by 25 January.
As Lord Smith said in the foreword to his report:
‘Through this process I have worked closely with people who can argue passionately with one another while sharing an equal concern and love for their country. I would like to thank them all for their input, challenge and support. I hope that, in the end, they can work together, maintain their energy and use it to create a Scotland which is even stronger and even better’.
Having a more powerful Scottish Parliament inside a strong United Kingdom is the best outcome for the people of Scotland. This is what we voted for on 18 September. Today’s report is an affirmation of the vow that was made in September. It is an historic moment for Scotland. The cause of home rule has been at the heart of Scottish politics since the days of Gladstone. This agreement provides a modern blueprint for Scottish home rule within our strong United Kingdom. Home rule for Scotland can open the door to constitutional reform for the whole of the UK. We can deliver home rule all round”.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for advance sight of the Statement and join him and the Secretary of State in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Kelvin, for his work and for this report. I pay tribute to the right honourable member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, whose proposals during the referendum set us on the way to delivering this historic agreement. Anyone who witnessed the towering statement by Gordon Brown that day will always remember it.
As the Secretary of State said in the other place, this is an historic day for Scotland. Ten weeks ago the people of Scotland, in overwhelming numbers, confirmed Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom. That mandate was received from the people of Scotland, but it is not to say that we should not take into account the people who voted yes. However, it should always be remembered that the people voted for Scotland’s place in the UK. It was also a decision made on the highest turnout ever seen in this country. It was a vote for change: a change in the way Scotland is governed; a change that will see more decisions taken closer to people; but safer, faster and better change as part of the UK. This is a promise kept and an agreement delivered. The Labour Party was very clear that it would honour the promises made during the referendum. This has been achieved in a co-operative and constructive process, working in the spirit of consensus that people across Scotland had the right to expect. That is why we wholly endorse the recommendations of the Smith commission and we give our guarantee to the people of Scotland that, if we are in government after May, we will legislate for these powers in our first Queen’s Speech.
This agreement will see more powers over tax, welfare and jobs transferred to the Scottish Parliament. We have secured guarantees over the voting rights of Scottish MPs on the Budget and on the continuation of the Barnett formula. We believe this provides the best deal for the people of Scotland. The agreement also means £3 billion of welfare spending at Holyrood. This is an extensive package of powers, which many people said could not and would not be delivered. Today’s deal is in fact more radical and goes further than many had anticipated. Very importantly, it also respects the outcome of the referendum in ensuring that Scotland still benefits from pooling and sharing across the UK.
On this side of the House, we believe that the principle we have worked to today—pushing power closer to people—should be followed for the rest of the country. That is why we will continue to call for a constitutional convention to be established to consider how this can be achieved, working with all the nations and regions of the UK.
Now that agreement has been reached, will the Minister tell the House how the recommendations of the Smith commission will be implemented, what the timetable will be and how noble Lords will be involved in the next stage of the process as the draft clauses are produced? We want to know how the timetable will be put through both Houses. Given the success of cross-party working, will he tell the House how the parties involved in the Smith commission process will be involved in this next stage?
As the noble Lord, Lord Smith, pointed out in his statement this morning, these additional powers will also mean that the Scottish Parliament’s own processes will need to be strengthened to enable it to hold that Government to account. What consultation will there now be with the Scottish Parliament to ensure that it is well prepared for this transfer of powers? Lastly, the noble Lord, Lord Smith, also recommended closer working between the Scottish Parliament and Government and this Parliament and the UK Government. How do the Government intend to take forward this recommendation?
For the past two years our country has divided along yes and no lines. As Scotland’s five political parties come together, today marks an important moment for us to look forward. I am confident that Labour will deliver these new powers in our first Queen’s Speech next May. More power is now in Scotland’s hands, and it is for all of us to work together to create the better country we want.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, for his remarks, his welcome of this and the commitment of the Labour Party to the implementation of the heads of agreement and recommendations. I pick up what he said about this having been a co-operative and constructive process; that is very much to be welcomed, and I know that there are those in your Lordships’ House today who have the T-shirt from the Scottish constitutional convention and took part in the Calman commission. What was missing from both of those was the engagement of all the political parties in Scotland. It is therefore significant that this is an agreement in which all five parties represented in the Scottish Parliament were involved.
The noble Lord asked me about the timetable for implementation. As has been made clear, there is a commitment that the draft clauses will be available by 25 January, Burns night. The Prime Minister indicated today, and the Secretary of State indicated in the other place, that that is a timetable we intend to stick by. The Secretary of State also indicated that he intends to set up a stakeholder group, which presumably would include political parties but go beyond the political parties for involvement. He said that that group should support the Government’s work in translating the heads of agreement, which I hope again will involve the parties.
I certainly share the view of closer working between Governments and between Parliaments. The Calman commission did a bit of work on that, so some thought has already been given to it. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Smith, also recommended that the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament should meet to address some of the issues, not least regarding an explanation of what the powers of the respective Parliaments are. Public education and information is required on that. I think I am right in saying that the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament has already set in train a report or some mechanism to look at the way in which the Scottish Executive—the Scottish Government— can be more accountable to the Scottish Parliament. It is also worth noting that, whatever seems to play out on the public stage day in and day out, there is very good co-operation between officials in the Scottish Government and the UK Government, and between Ministers, over a whole range of issues. There is a lot of good work to build on.
My Lords, this important report brings forward further proposals implementing the three commitments made by the three main party leaders in the final days—some may think that they were somewhat chaotic or even rather panicky days—of the referendum campaign. Does my noble friend agree, though, that the crucial sentence in this report states that,
“rules will ensure that neither the Scottish nor UK Governments will lose or gain financially from the act of transferring a power”?
That is very important but, if that is so, where is the point in transferring some of the VAT revenue to Scotland if it will then be offset by a change in the block grant, which is the obvious implication of that sentence? The other important sentence states:
“The Barnett Formula will continue to be used to determine the remaining block grant”.
Lord Barnett himself said that that formula was defective. Indeed, if it continues in the way in which the report suggests, that will effectively solidify the situation embodied in the Barnett formula, which I believe is unfair for UK taxpayers. We ought not simply to solidify that position.
The Scots Parliament would be given power over income tax rates and allowances. Why should that be any different in Scotland from the UK if it has no implication for the allocation of resources? There is no real reason to believe that.
My Lords, my noble friend raises a number of important issues regarding the tax proposals in the heads of agreement. He is right to draw attention to the fact that there should be no detriment as a result of the decision to devolve further power. What is intended is that at the point of transfer, the value of the tax receipts that have been transferred will be deducted from the block grant. Thereafter, it is a matter for the Scottish Parliament to determine the tax rates and how the books are balanced. Under the Azores judgment in the European Court of Justice we cannot do anything other than that. With regard to VAT, it is obviously in the interest of the Scottish Government to propose policies that will raise the buoyancy of the Scottish economy so that VAT receipts would be greater. Likewise—depending on how well their policies go—the more economic activity, the greater the income tax receipts that they will receive. Of course, the counter is also the same: if they screw it up, the tax receipts are liable to be less and there will be consequences for that, which is an important point of accountability.
My Lords, as we make progress with Scottish devolution, as we consider the clauses and as these meetings take place, do we not all agree that it will be understandable if resentment grows in England because of the English democratic deficit? If we can agree the vow effectively overnight, and if the Smith commission can be set up so quickly, why is it that the parties—the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives and the Labour Party—cannot get together and get the UK constitutional convention up and running as quickly as possible so that we can look at the situation in the whole of the UK in a comprehensive and holistic way?
My Lords, I know that the noble Lord has regularly put forward the case for a UK-wide constitutional convention. As I said when your Lordships’ House debated these issues on 29 October, the Government will consider proposals for the establishment of such a convention. While it is important that we debate these things, it is also important that we engage with the wider public. Let me make it clear that today’s heads of agreements should not in any way be held up by any constitutional convention, but I am sure that there is no shortage of issues that could be sent to such a convention.
My Lords, bearing in mind that the Smith commission had only 11 weeks in which to prepare its report, the outcome should be regarded as a useful first step towards further devolution to the Scottish Parliament and Government. Do Her Majesty’s Government agree, however, that since its proposals cannot be enacted before the general election in May, and since the commission itself referred to,
“the additional variability and uncertainty that further tax and spending devolution will introduce into the budgeting process”,
it would be wise for the three parties, in support of what the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, has said, now to set up a commission to appoint a convention involving the public on the future constitution of the United Kingdom? This would enable consideration and analysis of this report to be given by those affected in order to seek a real consensus across the United Kingdom on the Smith commission’s recommendations.
My Lords, as I indicated to the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, there is clearly an agenda that could go to a UK-wide constitutional convention. It is certainly not the policy of the Government—nor, I think, of the Labour Party—that the matters in the Smith commission report should be the subject of a subsequent constitutional convention. If we were to do that, we would be accused of breaking the vow. It is not our intention to do that; the intention is to have the draft clauses by 25 January, and that will pave the way for commitments in respect of party manifestos and for legislation to be pretty well ready for the incoming Government after the May election. I know that my noble friend has regularly put forward the case for a wider UK constitutional convention. As I said, and as the Leader of the House of Commons said in a debate on 14 October, there is merit in that idea, given that the British constitution is a living entity. No one will pretend in the coming months that it has reached a perfect form, whatever we decide on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
My Lords, while the fact that there is an agreement is certainly welcome, the content of the agreement will perhaps prove that allowing 11 weeks to make decisions of this nature is not necessarily the best strategy. I think that in the longer term everybody involved may come to regret putting all the eggs in the income tax basket rather than looking at a spread of taxes.
I want to ask two specific questions of the Advocate-General today. First, given that the assignation of VAT is not the devolution of a power to vary tax, will he, or the Secretary of State, publish the calculation that leads to the claim that 50% of taxation is now devolved to the Scottish Parliament? I cannot see how that calculation has been made. Secondly—partly endorsing the points made by my noble friend Lord McAvoy—the four additional points made by the noble Lord, Lord Smith, in his introduction to the report seem to be almost as important as the actual devolution of more powers. Will the Government give an unequivocal statement of support for those four additional points and do everything they can to support the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament and, indeed, Scottish civic society to ensure that they are implemented alongside the new powers that are now on the way?
My Lords, I hope that we will be able to set out some infographics—if that is the current “in” word—showing how the tax take of the Scottish Parliament will relate to spending, bearing in mind that the spending of the Scottish Parliament is going to go up as a result of these proposals. The denominator is an important factor in that. I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Kelvin, on the TV broadcast of his announcement this morning. I hope that nobody is going to ask me to remind them what the four points were, but, like the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, I thought that they were all very pertinent. They were points that had been made by many people in your Lordships’ House and by others. The one that sticks out in my mind—because it has been a theme in a number of our debates—is the importance of decentralisation generally: that to devolve power from Westminster to Edinburgh is only part of the story. There has to be further decentralisation within Scotland because the last seven years have seen considerable centralisation within Scotland.
My Lords, this is a very important Statement, which is worthy of longer consideration than a short question period late on a Thursday. I hope that the Leader of the House recognises that we expect a very full debate on this matter in this House.
Will the Minister reply to what I describe as the “Dorking question”? If the Member for Glasgow Central in the other place, who has no control over the taxation affecting his constituents, none the less has the power to affect the taxation of my former constituents in Dorking, how will this be reconciled with any democratic process? It is a topsy-turvy situation. In the 18th century, the great cry was, “No taxation without representation”; the cry today would be, “Without representation, no taxation”.
My noble friend makes a point that a number of people and commentators have been making. When we had our debate, my noble friend Lord Lexden said that in the days of Joseph Chamberlain and Gladstone that very issue was being debated in the Irish context. We have gone beyond the stage of saying that the best answer to the so-called West Lothian question was not to ask it. Those days are past, and the Prime Minister said this morning that there will be a publication of proposals on what is now called “English votes for English laws”. I resist using the acronym EVEL, because that might sometimes be a misrepresentation, but a publication of proposals will be out before Christmas and we will wait to see it. It is a proper question and a fair one, but some of the answers are not entirely straightforward.
My Lords, I should like to ask the Minister a question in a slightly different Celtic context. He will recognise that detailed proposals are being produced for Scotland. He will also recognise that, in that event, the situation in Wales cannot be allowed to continue as it is at present. I draw attention to two points. First, do the Government have any proposals that they wish to make to the people and the Government of Wales in respect of tax powers being devolved to Wales on a similar basis to those being devolved to Scotland? Secondly, how on earth can the Government justify saying that the Barnett formula should continue to apply? I listened to the Secretary of State making his Statement in the Commons this morning and he said at one stage, “Well, nobody has been able to think of anything better”. Would the Minister care to pass on to the Secretary of State the report of your Lordships’ committee on the Barnett formula? He will find that we went into it in great detail and produced an alternative that, in my submission at any rate, was clear, cogent and practicable, and it would have been effective. For the Government now to accept that the Barnett formula should continue seems to me absolutely preposterous.
My Lords, I know that the noble Lord is well aware that the Wales Bill, which had a Third Reading in your Lordships’ House on Monday of this week, makes provision for the devolution of tax powers to Wales. They are subject to a referendum, but of course Scotland had a referendum on the principle of tax powers back in 1997. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales has also indicated that he will produce a reserved powers framework for Wales by St David’s Day. I think someone said that it was just as well that St George’s Day is during “purdah” or we would have yet another commitment for England.
On the question of the Barnett formula, the leaders of the three UK political parties made it clear that the formula will continue; but with regard to Wales—and I am aware of the importance of this, having been the spokesman for the Wales Office in your Lordships’ House for two years—the United Kingdom and Welsh Governments have established a joint process to review relative levels of funding for Wales and England in advance of each spending review. That process is not affected by the commitments contained in the Smith commission proposals.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that, while of course promises given by leaders must be honoured, and we accept that clauses—which I hope will be debated in this House in detail—will be produced by 25 January, there is a real danger in deadline democracy? There is no situation in politics or any other aspect of life that is not made worse by panic.
I heed what my noble friend says. It is also fair to say that much in the heads of agreement that has emerged today is based on previous work. In my party’s case, it was done by a commission under the chairmanship of my right honourable friend Sir Menzies Campbell. Proposals came from the work done by the Labour Party. The Conservative Party produced proposals through a committee chaired by my noble friend Lord Strathclyde. So the Smith commission had a considerable volume of work available to it to help to formulate its proposals. My noble friend, and my noble friend Lord Baker, mentioned the opportunity to debate. My noble friend the Leader of the House is here, and the understandable wish for further debate will certainly be taken on board by the usual channels.
My Lords, this is a very clear Statement by the Minister on the way forward for Scotland. Does he accept that this also provides a great opportunity for all four parts of the United Kingdom to look at how we organise our government, both devolved government between the four parts of the United Kingdom and government of the United Kingdom itself? That is why so many of us say that there needs to be a constitutional convention. If we do not take it forward in that way, there is a real risk that we will drift into making short-term amendments to our constitutional arrangements which do not solve some of the problems that exist not just within England but within Wales and between the four parts of the United Kingdom. I know that the Minister is treading a fine line here, but I strongly urge that a constitutional convention is considered as taking an opportunity, rather than leaving the risk that we begin to make back-of-a-fag-packet amendments.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Soley, who I know has had a strong interest in these issues and how they affect not only Scotland but other parts of the United Kingdom. I repeat that the Government have made it clear that they will consider proposals for the establishment of a convention. As my noble friend Lord McConnell, who is sitting beside the noble Lord, knows, a convention is not necessarily a quick answer, but nor should it be an excuse for kicking things into the long grass.
I ask the Minister a specific question about air passenger duty. I refer to paragraphs 86 and 95 of the Smith commission report. Paragraph 86 gives the Scottish Parliament the power to charge tax on air passengers leaving Scottish airports, or it can decide to abolish it. That is the existing policy under the Scottish Parliament. However, the abolition of APD in Scotland but not in England would give a huge competitive advantage in the cost of air fares to those flying from Scotland compared to those flying from the north of England. I wonder whether, in line with the no-detriment principle in paragraph 95, the Government have any plans, should Scotland abolish APD, to abolish APD across the north of England.
My noble friend makes an interesting point, which I am sure my colleagues in the Treasury will note. I recall considering APD during the Calman commission. First, there is no guarantee. My noble friend says that the current policy of the Scottish Government is to abolish it or change the rates, but if they reduce one tax, they have to find the money for some of their spending commitments, which are not small, somewhere else. Therefore, I do not think we can necessarily be sure how that power, when devolved, will be used. Many other factors will come into a passenger’s choice of airport other than APD. If one was travelling, let us say, from Hull, I am not sure that one would want to take on the extra journey to go to Edinburgh, bypassing Newcastle, to start a journey. APD is only one part of a passenger’s choice.
My Lords, if my noble friend Lord Maclennan is right and this is the first step towards devolution—I must say that I thought that we had had a few already and that there are more to come—are not those steps all a ratchet turning in one direction, which is towards the independence of Scotland? Secondly, if we are granting the right to raise income tax in Scotland and, incidentally, corporation tax in Northern Ireland, does that not completely undermine the single currency of the United Kingdom?
My Lords, I do not believe that this is a one-way street to independence—far from it. The majority of the Scottish people on 18 September clearly indicated that they wanted to be part of the United Kingdom. The terms of reference of the Smith commission were that these proposals should be consistent with the integrity of the United Kingdom. The principles agreed by members of the commission were that the proposals had to be in the context of a United Kingdom.
That leads into the second part of my noble friend’s question. With regard to Scotland’s fiscal framework and borrowing powers, the report states:
“Borrowing powers should be set within an overall Scottish fiscal framework and subject to fiscal rules agreed by the Scottish and UK Governments based on clear economic principles, supporting evidence and thorough assessment of the relevant economic situation”.
Therefore, considerable tax powers, including on income tax, the definition of a taxpayer, personal allowances, taxation of savings and investment income, will all still be the responsibility of the United Kingdom Parliament. The proposals have to be considered in the context of the remit that was given: to be consistent with maintaining our United Kingdom.
National Lottery: 20th Anniversary
Question for Short Debate
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the National Lottery in the United Kingdom on its 20th anniversary.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to return to a topic that I spoke on for the first time in your Lordships’ House 20 years ago. I am conscious of the wealth of expertise and knowledge that noble Lords bring to the subject, and I look forward to their contributions today.
The National Lottery has undoubtedly been a huge success, operated successfully by Camelot since its inception, making a tangible difference to organisations and communities across our country, protecting and enhancing our heritage, and supporting the arts and sport since it began in 1994. The fact that it exists and has had such a positive, enduring impact is down to the foresight and leadership of Sir John Major. In a recent article, Nigel Farndale compared Sir John to the Cosimo de’ Medici of our age. We all have reason to be very grateful to him.
The National Lottery’s record of success is impressive by anyone’s standards. With 28% of its take going to good causes, that has totalled more than £32 billion since 1994—a phenomenal sum. A few facts demonstrate the scale of that success: on average, each week, more than £33 million is raised for good causes; more than 450,000 individual awards have been made across the United Kingdom; £12.6 billion has been paid to the Exchequer in lottery duty; those who have benefited include 700 playing fields, 1,400 museums and galleries, more than 37,000 heritage projects, from grand ones such as Tate Modern to funding 90% of Great Britain’s Olympic 2012 medallists—and many more.
How has this changed society? We should not forget that what is now part of our national weekly life was not without controversy when the idea was advanced in the early 1990s. Many at the time argued that for several decades, we had had smaller lotteries. We also faced the risk of competition from European lotteries and that our National Lottery would change society. It has, but not in the negative way that many predicted. A piece in this week’s FT described it as possibly the most successful example of crowdfunding ever. I confess that for many years, I looked forward to a lottery ticket from Father Christmas in my stocking. We are given the opportunity to dream about what we might do if we won and, through millions of individual ticket purchases, as a society we have achieved a revolution in the funding of good causes.
With success come challenges. In a legitimate desire to broaden access, we must make sure that, in increasing appeal, we do not create a crude market price that does not fully capture the true, often intangible, value. The popularity and increasing awareness of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which will distribute £375 million next year, has also driven up the number and quality of bids, meaning that only 35% will be funded, compared to 70% in 2006.
The filling-out of an application can be a labour-intensive and costly business. I encourage all those bodies distributing money from the National Lottery to reflect on how they might make their membership and decision-making process more transparent, simpler and more user friendly, without losing rigour and financial assurance. Much of the success and popularity of the National Lottery has been down to the combination of a chance to win and dream, the fact that buying a ticket helps to fund good causes—not, I repeat, not, to its being a substitute for core spending on such things as education and roads—and to the simple fact that there is only one National Lottery.
I feel very strongly that the National Lottery should remain true to these founding principles, that it should remain the only true national lottery, and that, despite some of the changes made by the previous Government, it should hold true to the additionality principle. As the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund look towards future funding priorities, I counsel them to resist mission creep. With regard to society lotteries, perhaps more commonly seen as charity raffles, they can and should exist alongside the National Lottery, and they do fantastic work. However, I support the view of the Minister, who has acknowledged that careful consideration and wider consultation on this issue need to be undertaken.
Similarly, while I know that the scale of the National Lottery leads many to suggest it is invulnerable to competition, I feel that the Health Lottery has begun to blur boundaries. I am wary of the precedent it sets. My counsel is one of caution: considerable good is already being done by the National Lottery and charity raffles or lotteries, and we should avoid anything that could harm that.
I conclude by returning to my speech on 17 November 1994:
“The National Lottery is expected to provide huge additional resources for our national heritage, the arts, sport and charities. I agree with my noble friend Lord Rothschild who said recently that the National Lottery Act 1993 could easily overtake the National Heritage Act 1980 as being the most important piece of legislation in the heritage field since the Second World War. In boosting our arts, heritage and sport, we are underpinning our culture, which for most of us is the core of our identity and a source of security”.—[Official Report, 17/11/94; col. 64.]
I am proud that those words, spoken in hope in 1994, have been borne out. In an age when many people and groups seek to highlight those things that divide us as a country, we are reminded of the ability of culture and sport, our shared heritage, to transcend differences and bring us together, and that so much more unites us as a nation than divides us. The contribution of the National Lottery to that cause is something of which we, as a country, can and should be immensely proud. We must make certain that it continues for many decades to come.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for bringing this subject to the House. It is a very appropriate one for us to discuss, particularly on this anniversary of two decades of the National Lottery.
When we cast our minds back, we should remember why we had a National Lottery: we were failing to fund important parts of our society and structure properly from the centre. Voluntary contributions were not doing it. Private contributions and sponsorship were not doing it. We had to do something else.
In this area, sport is the activity in which I have been most keenly involved. We had an infrastructure for sport at grass-roots level that was effectively falling apart. This is probably the most effective sticking-plaster, in government terms, you have ever seen. It has gone in there and become something solid. It has given a structure, support and point of reference that it is almost impossible to see us doing without, because finding government money to replace it is something we cannot see happening. I cannot see the Department for Education taking over those sports facilities and that structure which happened outside it, as it was supposed to do before and always failed to do. It never did enough, because there was always another priority that was that little bit politically sexier, which had to be done first. When sport was within the Department for Education, you suddenly discovered that its priority was a new literacy scheme. It usually got that wrong as well. However, the National Lottery came in and gave us a new pillar on which to build these things. The same is true of the arts and heritage.
We must never forget why we introduced the National Lottery. We brought it in to give a structural point whereby funding is generated by the general public, effectively on a voluntary basis, so that they will say, “This is for you”.
Having said that, the success stories that go with it are wonderful. Going back to sport, the improvement in funding for the elite level is almost unanswerable. That said, I say: change the way you fund sport, because you are not fair to team sports. I would also say: yes, you have succeeded; now, be brave and do something else. There will always be discussion about how we go forward with our heritage projects. Now there is greater awareness that we have enough stately homes and that we should also preserve industrial heritage. All this has proceeded from this great central fund. It is something we must do.
These become very short speeches if you just say, “Yes, it’s great”, and do not look to future problems. The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, is the not the first and she will not be the last person to speak about the introduction of the Health Lottery. My statement when I contributed a Starred Question in this House was to the effect that if it is not against the law, it is against the spirit of the law—something, I discovered, that has been said again. Can my noble friend give us some idea about what the Government are going to do to prevent, going with the Health Lottery, the sports lottery, the heritage lottery, the “Let’s pick up litter lottery”, using the same legislation and the same way forward? That is what we are worried about: the idea that this central pillar of funding that we have built and that we cannot see being done somewhere else, gets changed. If these lotteries are to come in, what responsibility will they have to the causes that are dependent on them? That is a very fair question. Will UK Sport be guaranteed the future funding it needs if we have another lottery that starts to hack into its funding stream? We must hear the answer to that. If the legislation needs to be changed we know how to do it—indeed, we are apt to change legislation rather too quickly. However, making sure that we have this guarantee of lines of progress is essential. If the Health Lottery is prepared to play ball, to become involved and to take on some of this responsibility, some of my objections start to be removed. If not, my objections start to grow. How are we going to bring this together?
Having dealt with that central point, will the Minister give me some reassurance about the eternal temptation for all Governments to cut the pie again and again, and to rebrand it? We have seen this in the past and there will always be a temptation to say that we should go on, saying, “We’re making quite a lot of money here, let’s put some more somewhere else”.
This is an argument that has gone on throughout the history of the lottery. I forget how many good causes there were supposed to be at first but then we stuck another one in. I think the noble Baroness was putting up five fingers but I cannot remember exactly how many there were at first. It becomes a blur. There has been a constant argument about how it is done and redistributed. What have the Government done to make sure that there is some consensus about what happens here? Unless we are all involved in that discussion, there may be a new and wonderful scheme that sounds terribly good, and for which you get a little applause, and then you realise that you have done damage to the other things. You will also have cut off the necessity for other bits of government and public funding to be channelled to do that job in the future. The National Lottery finds it difficult to give up a responsibility once it has had it. If my noble friend can give me some assurance on that, I would feel more comfortable.
We probably have, in the National Lottery, something that has done a good job, but I feel that there was an admission of failure when it came in to do that good job. What we can say to Camelot is, “That’s 20 years well done, but there’s no guarantee”. If we can make sure that the National Lottery, under whoever funds it, has this guarantee of funding from this one source, I will be slightly more comfortable. We must make sure that we, first, say what the responsibilities are in the future and, secondly, give an absolute assurance about the process of discussion and negotiation we will have before we expand the responsibilities of that type of funding. I would then feel much more comfortable on this subject.
My Lords, it is a complete privilege to speak in this debate. If there were a medal competition, the National Lottery would certainly be a serious podium finisher for me. I thank my noble friend Lady Rawlings for initiating this debate. She covered the ground in glorious Technicolor. It has been 20 years, and what a journey. There were many who said that it would not last and some who said that it would undermine the moral fabric of our nation. Twenty years on, it is tremendous to see that both the lottery and the moral fabric—and moral fibre—of our nation are in rude health.
I would like to speak about my experience of the National Lottery as a recipient, as a distributor and as an administrator. While I was competing for Great Britain, the lottery came in midway through my career. Until that point, success happened but it happened largely in spite of, rather than because of, any direct support. The Sports Aid Foundation did an excellent job but it was as nothing, compared to what the National Lottery promised.
When it first arrived, funding was limited to capital projects. There was nervousness about revenue funding and direct awards to athletes, which was understandable with such a new lottery. But when we came back from Atlanta in 1996, it was clear that moves were afoot to get that revenue funding directly to athletes, to enable world-class performance through world-class services being wrapped around us as athletes. The lottery athlete personal award enabled that physio care, that sports medicine or that biomechanics—whatever we needed—to be a reality. It was such a change and it was phenomenal to know that through being part of sport before and after the National Lottery arrived. It is fantastic to see now that athletes starting their careers take sport lottery funding for granted, as they should. They are athletes and their job is to perform; that is what the athlete’s personal award is about.
I was then lucky enough to be on the board at UK Sport, to drive a really tight ship with low costs—the lowest cost of any lottery distributor—and to get that money out of the door to sport. It is the national governing bodies and the athletes that give the performances which win gold, silver and bronze medals. Our job at UK Sport was to ensure efficient, effective distribution of that funding with the right level of assurance, as your Lordships would expect with such funds.
I then went to the Paralympic Games to administer a serious grant of tens of millions from the Olympic lottery distributor. Look at east London: at that park and those stadia of concrete, steel and glass. A new community was developed as a result of significant National Lottery funding through the Olympic lottery distributor. The Paralympic Games could not have happened in the way that they did without the Olympic lottery distributor. To connect the lottery brand to the Paralympics was fantastic—to know that it was on board, enabling us to have a sell-out and to broadcast the Games to hundreds of millions around the world. It enabled us to have a Paralympic Games that were a games-changer.
I do not want to be the spectre at the feast, or to draw a long shadow, but I feel that I must for a moment mention what happened to the lottery under the previous Government and the disgraceful diverting of funds into areas of the public sector which were never intended to be the destination for lottery funding. Health and education are good causes; of course they are. It had a fair amount of popularity; of course it would. It was obvious that it would but was that the right thing to do with lottery funds? Was that what the National Lottery was set up for? Absolutely not, and it is right that the percentages for those initial good causes have been put back exactly to where they were always intended to be.
So to the man who was the father of the National Lottery, and who has already been mentioned by my noble friend Lady Rawlings. What courage and commitment there was from Sir John Major, and what a bold and brave decision. Now, 20 years on, it seems an obvious and natural part of the United Kingdom but his courage and commitment—the bravery he showed in having the political courage to take that decision —were absolutely superb. I remember talking to Sir John years later. He said that when the lottery was launched, he went to Victoria Station after the launch and bought some tickets. He then spent the rest of that week in a cold sweat, thinking not just of what would happen if he won but how he would possibly explain to Norma and the family why he would not be able to claim the prize. Ah, Sir John: heavy is the head that wears a prime ministerial crown.
What careers there have been, launched off the back of the lottery. There was Mystic Meg and who would have thought that somebody would have the title “The voice of the balls”? Here’s to you, Alan. Add to that the original catchphrase or slogan, “It could be you”. For many thousands of people—in terms of multimillion -pound prizes, hundred thousand-pound prizes, scratchcards and so on—it has been them. More important, though, for sport, the arts, heritage, for charities, for the cultural foundations of our nation, it has been you, it is you and will continue to be you for decades to come.
My Lords, I should begin by declaring an interest as chairman of the Wordsworth Trust in Cumbria, which has been the recipient of a number of grants that were very handsomely and generously provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund. As the shadow Secretary of State, I was present 20 years ago at the Tower of London when the National Lottery was launched. I join heartily in the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, whom I congratulate on choosing this topic for debate this afternoon, in her tribute to the former Prime Minister, John Major. I am not sure that he has all the attributes of Cosimo de’ Medici, but certainly, in conceiving and bringing to birth the National Lottery, he gave significant service to this country and I trust that it will be part of what history remembers him for with admiration.
Over those 20 years, the lottery has made an incalculable difference to our nation’s life: to arts, sport, charities, voluntary organisations, heritage, museums and the countryside. Here I shall differ, just for a moment, from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes. There was a change some 17 to 18 years ago in the number of causes supported by the National Lottery. That change was possible because so many more people were playing the lottery than had originally been anticipated, so the funds were there to enable an expansion in the range of good causes that it was possible to support, while not substituting—on this I absolutely agree with all the previous three speakers—the principle of additionality, which is that the lottery should not be supporting things that ought to be part of normal, government-supported activity. That is absolutely crucial. If we were able to extend the lottery into some areas related to fields of education, health and the environment, those were things that it was not possible to support by straightforward, direct government grant. That should always be at the heart of what the lottery is all about.
The way that the lottery was initially established did lead to one or two perversities in the early days. The first of those was a tendency to support buildings rather than people or activities. That has long since been put right. There is now a wide range of activities that the National Lottery supports, and rightly so. Indeed, applications now are looked at in the round, not just the capital construction work that is proposed but, alongside that, the activities that will be generated, the income that will come from that and the costs that will arise. The whole package is looked at and encouraged by the lottery distributors.
One of the other perversities that emerged in early days—and I think that we have not yet quite got this right—is that the process of applying for lottery funding, as the noble Baroness alluded to, can be difficult, complex and a hassle. For those who are not well advised, not well heeled and unused to putting in applications, that can make for problems. It is one of the reasons why some of the geographical distribution of lottery largesse has been a bit skewed in some parts of the country. When I was Secretary of State we tried to put that right by dreaming up what we called the “Brass for Barnsley” scheme. We earmarked a portion of funding that we said would go to Barnsley. We then assisted all the voluntary, charitable and third sector organisations in Barnsley to put in applications by making available facilitators and co-ordinators to ensure that they were able to put in the complex applications that were needed. The result was spectacular. A flow of applications for incredibly good schemes came forward and we were able to make sure that Barnsley got its fair share of lottery funding across all the various lottery distributors. We need more such schemes. We need to enable and facilitate organisations in some of the most deprived and worthy areas of this country to put in applications and to be successful in doing so.
As Secretary of State and chairman of the Millennium Commission, I was very proud to see many of the spectacularly successful projects that we have now in this country coming to fruition, whether it was the British Museum Great Court, the breathtaking Tate Modern or the Eden Project in Cornwall. But in some ways it was the smaller schemes, the little things and the individuals who were able to be helped that meant the most. All noble Lords who have contributed to the debate have mentioned the support for individual elite athletes and the dramatic impact that that has had on our performance in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. I was very proud to help put that in place. It has made a huge difference. In addition to that, there is the transformation of village greens, church floodlighting, renovating village halls, putting church bells back into working order, ensuring that local Victorian parks can be restored to their former glory and rebuilding footpaths on highland mountains. One of my favourites is a little bit of what I like to think of as democratic socialism, smuggled past Tony Blair when he was not looking: the Scottish Land Fund, which has helped local communities in parts of the Highlands and Islands to purchase collectively their land, their crofts and their villages, and to make a huge success of running that.
The lottery has much to be proud of. It hardly seems to have been 20 years; but in the course of those years it has helped to transform Britain much for the better.
My Lords, I too would like to thank the noble Baroness for initiating this very important debate. Earlier this week, in Grand Committee, I was reminded by my noble friend Lord Rooker that when the National Lottery was launched, many in my party had strong reservations and concerns about it and even opposition to the principle. The concerns have been mentioned already. Would the funds raised replace government expenditure on things that should be paid for out of taxes, such as nurses, teachers and road repairs? To address such concerns John Major’s Government adopted the principle of additionality, which meant that the funds would go to projects that would not happen without them and would have to be spent on capital projects. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Smith, that the expansion of the good causes under the previous Government did not breach that principle; it maintained that principle, which allowed a broader range of schemes.
The approach of the millennium saw a focus on grand building projects which it was hoped would result in a “culturally led regeneration” of inner-city areas. The Dome may have failed in terms of its broader cultural and educational objectives but it has led to regeneration of a depressed part of London, with most Londoners today being pleased with its subsequent use as the successful O2 entertainment centre. However, that success came with additional investment of £350 million from the private sector. Rowan Moore, in his recent excellent piece in the Observer, reminds us of some of the successes. The noble Lord, Lord Smith, has also reminded us of some. The Tate Modern now attracts about 5 million visitors a year. The Eden Project, Cornwall, captured the public imagination and earned impressive visitor numbers. Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North was firmly established as a symbol of Gateshead, and other towns seek to emulate it. We also have the American Air Museum in Duxford, designed by Norman Foster, which won the Stirling Prize. These are just a few examples of the remarkable range of new-built and refurbished cultural buildings. However, with local authorities being so severely constrained in their ability to support the arts, we could find, if we are not careful, that many of these facilities are empty and simply going to waste.
As we have heard in the debate, the National Lottery has delivered more than the iconic projects that I have highlighted. More than 450,000 individual awards have been made across the UK, with 12 independent specialist organisations awarding the money; 70% of National Lottery grants are for £10,000 or less, helping, as the noble Lord, Lord Smith, identified, small projects that make a big difference in their community. National Lottery funding has saved more than 700 playing fields, supported 1,400 museums and galleries, restored 6,000 village halls, enabled 57,000 World War II veterans to go on commemorative visits, bought and restored 72,000 hectares of land to protect key habitats and rare species, and given more than £750 million to regenerate public parks. As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, at the London 2012 Olympics, nine out of 10 Great Britain and Northern Ireland medallists were lottery funded. Eighteen lottery-funded films have gone on to win a total of 31 BAFTAs and 14 Oscars.
It is a well established requirement that lotteries should be the exclusive preserve of good causes, an issue which has been raised in the debate. However, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the prevalence of gambling products that do not clearly differentiate themselves from lotteries and appear to trade on the good name of lotteries for commercial gain. Can the Minister reassure me that the Government will take steps to maintain the important distinction between lotteries and gambling? The use of external lottery managers—ELMs—and umbrella brands have historically been a means, as the noble Baroness pointed out, by which society lotteries can maximise their returns to good causes, without competing substantially with the National Lottery. I, too, have raised in recent times my concerns with the Minister over the use of ELMs by the Health Lottery. It is supposedly made up of 51 separate companies, yet has the same three directors, the same office and the same branding—in effect enabling it to operate as an alternative to the National Lottery. It is competing with the National Lottery and people think that it is a national lottery. It is even called a “national lottery”, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said, is in breach of the spirit, though not the letter, of the law. While many might say that the Health Lottery’s turnover is a fraction of that of the National Lottery, I am concerned that such a loophole might lead others, such as a big retail chain, to be tempted into the market because they have the infrastructure capability to do it. Does the Minister believe that operations such as the Health Lottery which utilise ELMs to run multiple society lotteries under one brand remain within the spirit of the original legislation? We need an answer.
The success of the National Lottery over the past 20 years is testament to the monopoly model designed by Parliament which encourages a lot of people to play a little, and has created a national institution. More than £32 billion has been raised since the National Lottery began in 1994. More than £12.6 billion has been paid to the Exchequer in lottery duty. Around 70% of adults in the UK play on a regular basis. This year, Camelot commissioned Frontier Economics to re-examine the case for this monopoly, and its findings continue to support this model. Evidence from a number of countries shows that larger jackpots attract more players. By concentrating sales, a single lottery provider maximises the available jackpots, and thus maximises sales and returns to good causes. It is the good causes on which we need to be focused. Uncertainty in the market could lead to operators being less willing to bid for future licences to run the National Lottery or demanding increased margins to do so, which could reduce returns to good causes.
I hope the Minister will state clearly the Government’s ongoing commitment to maintain and protect this model for the foreseeable future.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on securing this debate so soon after the 20th anniversary of the first National Lottery draw, and thank all noble Lords for such an exceptional debate. They have come with such experience across the House.
As my noble friends Lady Rawlings and Lord Holmes of Richmond remarked, when a national lottery was first proposed, it is fair to say that there was scepticism, verging on strong opposition, about the proposal. We can now see what a success it has been. In preparation for the new lottery, Sir John Major’s Government did some work to assess how much it could raise for good causes. The best-case scenario that officials envisaged was a lottery raising £1 billion a year. In fact, more than £32 billion pounds has been raised for good causes since the start of the lottery. This is a truly staggering sum of money, equating to £4.5 million every day.
However, as a wise man once said, it is not necessarily the size that matters but what you do with it that counts. More than 450,000 grants have been made to good causes. That is an average of 692 per parliamentary constituency. My noble friend Lady Rawlings and the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, have already set out many of the facts and statistics regarding the scale of benefits of the National Lottery. As a result, one sees the National Lottery crossed-fingers logo right across the country in galleries, museums, churches, sports facilities, villages, market towns, suburbs and cities. Some of those buildings have been built, saved or renovated thanks to lottery funding.
The National Lottery has enabled the fulfilment of very large projects in major cities. In London, the National Lottery has funded the rebuilding of the Royal Opera House and put a new roof on the British Museum. The lottery has funded the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts and the Sage—both in Gateshead—the Museum of Liverpool and the Lowry Centre in Manchester. In Scotland, it has funded the refurbishment of the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh and access to the Glasgow School of Art. In Wales, it has funded the Millennium Centre and, in Belfast, the refurbishment of St George’s Market.
The National Lottery also funds events of national significance. There were, of course, the unforgettable 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. How fortunate we are to learn from the experience of my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond as a recipient, distributor and administrator. The National Lottery funded not only the infrastructure and staging of the Games but the athletes who competed so memorably and successfully. How proud our country was of them. One cannot adequately describe the euphoria felt across the whole nation, let alone in the stadia of the Games and the sense of a proud, tolerant and united country. So, onward to Rio. In addition, the lottery funded the cultural Olympiad and continues to fund Olympic legacy projects to this day through the Spirit of 2012 Trust. The noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, raised this particular point.
Recently, the National Lottery has been integral in the commemorations of the centenary of the start of the First World War. The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded over £60 million to more than 1,000 First World War centenary projects, covering nearly three-quarters of constituencies across the UK. One grant for over £12 million enabled the National Museum of the Royal Navy to turn HMS “Caroline” into a visitor attraction in Belfast in time for the centenary commemorations of the 1916 Battle of Jutland.
Those projects are but the tip of the iceberg. In fact, less than 1% of all National Lottery funding is spent on projects over £1 million. The overwhelming majority of people have benefited from the National Lottery at community level, to which your Lordships have alluded. People across the country have had their lives enhanced through grass-roots organisations in villages, suburbs and towns. I urge noble Lords to visit the National Lottery Good Causes website, where the projects that compete in the National Lottery Awards can be found. The successful projects give a sense of the extraordinary range stressed by the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury.
I will give a flavour of some of the projects that were nominated for awards this year. Come Eat Together is a project helping older people to get together and enjoy healthy food as a community in County Durham. Active East is a project in the east of Glasgow encouraging young people to engage in more sports and activities. Hooray for Homework, a project in Mansfield, gives children a safe space where they can go after school to do their homework. I hope that my noble friend Lord Addington will be pleased to hear about Carry a Basketball, Not a Blade, a project in east London helping to reduce knife-crime-related violence among young people. The Jubilee Sailing Trust gives disabled and able-bodied people the opportunity to sail tall ships together. The noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury, mentioned the work of the Wordsworth Trust, with which he is most familiar.
However, even these awards fail to capture the impact that the National Lottery has had at the grass-roots level. In the constituency of Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, in which I live, the National Lottery has funded this year: the refurbishment of the Debenham community swimming pool; two community events aimed at involving people with disabilities in fun activities; a project remembering the First World War in Bramford; the staging of the Hoxne music festival; the refurbishment of Bredfield and Cotton village halls; purchasing computers for Worlingworth Primary School; and a number of other art and community projects. This is a snapshot of what is happening across the country. The National Lottery is supporting projects that are put forward by local communities for the benefit of their communities. Over 90% of grants from the National Lottery are for projects less than £100,000, and most projects receive a great deal less than that.
I thank my noble friend Lady Rawlings for this debate because it has provided an important opportunity for your Lordships’ House to mark the National Lottery’s extraordinary success. It has benefited thousands of people across the country and transformed their lives over the past 20 years. Furthermore, the prospects for the future look positive. Ticket sales are strong, on track to be at least the second highest ever. Camelot, the National Lottery operator, continues to build on the success that it has had in running the lottery for 20 years, managing one of the most widely-played and cost-effective national lotteries in the world.
My noble friends Lady Rawlings and Lord Addington and the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, expressed some caution—perhaps I am understating that—about competition from society lotteries, with particular reference to the Health Lottery. The Government agree with this sense of caution. We will shortly issue our call for evidence on society lotteries, which explores how we can ensure that society lotteries continue to raise funds for good causes but only in the context of a single, successful National Lottery. We must not, and will not, put the National Lottery at risk. The noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, mentioned gambling products, external lottery managers and the Health Lottery. We will ensure that these important points are involved and fully represented in our call for evidence.
My noble friend Lord Addington asked about the “cutting of the cake”. The Government do not have any plans for changes. It is fair to say that at the beginning of this Parliament the Government restored the shares of the arts, heritage and sport good causes to 20% each, up from 16.7%. That, along with ticket sales growth, meant that arts, heritage and sport together received more than £200 million in 2013-14 than was predicted in 2010. This afternoon, all of us have stressed the enormous benefits that have been seen across the country because of that.
My noble friend Lady Rawlings and the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury, mentioned distribution bodies and making decision-making more transparent, simpler and more user-friendly. Again, the Government agree with that, and we will continue to work with distributors to improve application processes. Distributors are currently running a pilot in Doncaster—not far from Barnsley, of course—to encourage more people from disadvantaged backgrounds to access National Lottery funding. That is extremely important.
The Government will work to ensure the continued success of the National Lottery. We want to build on the success of the last 20 years for the next 20 years and beyond. We started this debate by referring to Sir John Major. There can be no doubt that we owe him all the accolades that he richly deserves. We now witness the extraordinary contribution that the proceeds of the National Lottery make to the lives of so many people. Sir John’s legacy extends to every part of this country—it is a force for good. I cannot think of a better legacy for a Prime Minister.
Schools: Arts Education
Motion to Take Note
That this House takes note of the case for arts education in schools.
My Lords, I am very pleased that we are having this debate today concerning arts education in schools. I welcome to this Chamber the noble Baroness, Lady Evans of Bowes Park, and I very much look forward to hearing her maiden speech. I also look forward to hearing the speeches of all noble Lords, as we have represented in this debate a wide range of experience of the arts as well as expertise in education. I come to this debate as someone with two points of view: as an artist, and therefore with a particular concern for arts education—I declare an interest as a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Art, Craft and Design in Education—but also, as is true for other noble Lords, as a parent.
A week ago today my noble friend Lady Kidron led an important debate on children’s digital rights on the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 31 of the convention, which is quoted at the top of the Cultural Learning Alliance’s manifesto, states that nation signatories shall,
“respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity”.
Comparable wording stressing a minimum level of arts education is expressed by Darren Henley in the first recommendation of his 2012 cultural education review, which has been fully endorsed by the current Government.
Implicit in the UN definition is that arts education is a good in itself. I would go further: education is a good in itself. It is not merely a preparation for work, nor even necessarily a preparation for life, if we consider that a good education will instil in the child a constant curiosity and questioning about the world—a love of lifelong learning. The arts are and should be an integral part of that vision.
The excellent Library briefing states the Department for Education’s definition of the arts as comprising art and design, music, drama, dance and the media arts. More particularly, we might also cite literature—English literature having a special place in the curriculum—the decorative arts, including craft, and architecture, as well as film and the digital arts. “The arts” is a traditional term, but the arts themselves are both old and brand new. Indeed, as we speak, artists in many media are making new work in new forms, reacting to the world as it is today and discovering new technologies. At the outset, then, I say that it is vital that schoolchildren are exposed to contemporary art and contemporary drama—for instance—as much as to Michelangelo or Shakespeare. The teaching of visual literacy in schools, which many, including Sir Nicholas Serota, see as an essential aspect of life in the 21st century, should involve a critical understanding of new art as well as old.
However, when as a parent I ask myself what I want from a school education for my nine year-old child, I would say yes to access to the sciences, the arts, the humanities, to languages—I would love my child to learn a second language fluently—and access to sport. As a parent, then, I want to see a broad-based education where my child is exposed to a range of subjects. If we are thinking about the whole child, as I certainly am, we should be giving careful thought to what goes into the making of that whole child. As Clara Oswald in “Doctor Who” says:
“The soufflé isn’t the soufflé. The soufflé is the recipe”.
Eggs are good and milk is good, but it is that mix of ingredients, the interplay between contrasting subjects, that is the vital heartbeat of an excellent education.
That is why the Education Secretary is so wrong when in her recent speech at the launch of the “Your Life” campaign she stated that arts and humanities subjects will not give young people the skills that they need to pursue a career. She is wrong because she seems to understand education only through the narrow prism of the labour market. An attack on the arts is an attack on education as a whole and on the fundamental importance of a balanced education. Denigrating the arts means also devaluing the sciences, as would be true the other way round.
Her speech also contradicts what employers in the UK are beginning to understand. The CBI said last year that a significant number of firms needing employees with STEM skills and knowledge had difficulty recruiting because they were not rounded or grounded. The Royal Bank of Scotland said only last week that it now wanted to employ arts graduates because it believed that its economists and mathematicians showed too much so-called linear thinking, which the bank had the temerity to suggest was in part responsible for the financial crisis—and it might be right. For this kind of education to take place in schools, which is where it starts, the arts, sciences and humanities subjects need to maintain their integrity as identifiable subjects in their own right. That is why I am talking about arts subject, not about creativity. The arts need to be treated as significant equal elements within the school educational system.
It is a sad reflection on our educational system that the case for an arts education in schools needs to be made, because arts subjects are under threat in a number of significant ways. To be fair to this Government, although there are specific current issues which need to be addressed, this has been true for a while. Since 2003, the number of students taking art and design GCSEs has fallen by 13%, music by 10% and drama by 23%. Overall, the take-up of GCSE arts subjects has fallen by 28%.
Then there is the question of the national curriculum itself. It currently makes very little mention of either dance, which is only included in PE, or drama, which has been removed from English and, unforgivably, given no curriculum place from the ages of five to 14. Film and the media—and I have already mentioned one of the country's great broadcasting exports—now receive no mention at all. It is excellent that the Government are introducing computer coding into schools, but there is no mention in the curriculum of the digital world in relation to the arts, although in various ways this is already an important aspect of the arts and creative industries. The status of arts subjects is also plummeting in other ways. We are seeing the continuing development of an ever more layered hierarchy of subjects within the system of performance measures. This is already having a real effect on the take-up of exams and indeed on the choices on offer in schools.
The EBacc has not gone away. Early last year we had a full and public debate on the EBacc when it was rightly criticised from all sides for its prescribed bias against the arts. Its effect remains as insidious as if it had become a full-blown qualification. In the debate in your Lordships’ House on 14 January 2013, the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones said:
“I have never seen the creative sector so united against what appears to be a two-tier approach by the Government to educational qualifications”. —[Official Report,14/1/13; col. 551.]
Now, with Progress 8 and the double weighting of maths and English, arts subjects will lie at the third and bottom tier of the new system. The University of the Arts London has said that this has damaged the perceived status of art and design in the eyes of parents and within some schools. In its 2014 Educator Survey report, the National Society for Education in Art and Design says that more than half the heads of departments agree that the EBacc has played an important role in the organisation of the art, craft and design curriculum. The take-up of arts GCSEs has declined by 13% since it was introduced in 2010. UAL, the NSEAD and the Cultural Learning Alliance all recommend that the Ebacc performance measure be dismantled. How can the Minister defend this hierarchical system now so hugely biased against the arts? In terms of accountability, are there any plans for Ofsted to recognise and comment on the quality of the arts in its reports?
There is also the effect of the amalgamation in 2013 of many arts subject discount codes, a further performance measure that is having a serious effect on options. For noble Lords who do not know, subjects given individual codes count individually, while those with joint codes do not. We are grateful to the Government for listening to the arts education community so that this year dance and drama and fine art and photography were separated, but it is a case of two steps forward following numerous steps back. UAL and the NSEAD point to the still unseparated GCSE and AS-level fine art, graphic communication, textile design and 3D design subjects. Comparing these and certain closely related but separated maths subjects, for instance, it is illogical that the maths subjects can often be taught by the same person while the arts subjects are distinct specialisms that may well need different teachers for those subjects to be taught to an adequate standard.
Over the past four years, there has been a decline of 7% in arts teachers and, crucially, a 6% decline in arts teaching hours. The last month showed an increase in the number of allocated places for arts teachers, but the significant flipside to this is that many of the teachers will be taught within a school setting rather than coming through university PGCE courses. The Government talk about good teachers as though somehow they drop from heaven, but good professional specialised teachers provide a necessary value for teaching that would not otherwise occur. It will increase the possibility that teachers can teach more than one specialism in the arts when the need arises. They are more likely to provide a greater in-depth knowledge of the subject and an understanding of both the wider educational and arts professional frameworks.
I want to say something about the initiatives, programmes and partnerships that this Government are encouraging and/or funding. They vary in scale and scope from smaller ones, such as the BBC's partnership with the Public Catalogue Foundation to bring real paintings into the classroom and the new partnership between the Tate and the popular computer game “Minecraft”, through to the Sorrell Foundation art and design Saturday clubs and the ambitious setting up of the 123 music hubs. Many of these programmes are imaginative and to be welcomed, as is the money that the Government are putting into them, but I argue that they should be the icing on the cake. They are in some cases very good icing but they are not the cake, and should not be the basis for a national school arts policy. As a means of solving the problems that exist in schools, they are inefficient because the money does not go directly to the schools themselves. None of these programmes addresses all schools, either in terms of the curriculum itself or in terms of the provision of resources. Some funding will be intentionally selective in its application, such as for the National Youth Dance Company, which will target only the “brightest young dance talent”. The point then is not one of quality but, as UAL says,
“additional programmes ... do not have the capacity or reach to engage with young people across the country and should not be considered a substitute for a high quality art and design offer in schools”.
National Drama says that the RSC Learning Toolkit, while useful,
“is not an acceptable substitute for a national curriculum for drama, with a broad programme of study for Drama that needs to be arrived at through democratic consultation”.
In the excellent music debate led by my noble friend Lord Aberdare on 24 October, two major related themes emerged. One was a concern about the patchiness of the reach of music hubs and, secondly, that deprived areas in particular would not be sufficiently addressed. The problem is that music hubs will always be inherently patchy. They simply do not directly address the real concerns, which are the funding, provision and encouragement of music and the necessary resources, including costly instruments, within schools themselves. A comparable problem, of course, exists for the provision of art materials and resources for art and design courses. As the Cultural Learning Alliance points out, the money put into these programmes does not replace the funding that in other ways is being removed, with education funding in real terms dropping by 13% between 2010 and 2014. There are also the knock-on effects of cuts to the arts themselves and the reduction in Arts Council portfolio organisations, the reduction in outreach and the inevitable isolation of some schools as a result.
The DfE states that 21% of schools with a high proportion of free school meals withdrew arts subjects in 2012. The Child Poverty Action Group said in a report earlier this year that, for poorer children, cost—that is to say, the increasing hidden costs now occurring within state schools—was a factor when deciding whether to study subjects such as photography, art, music and design and technology. There is a real danger, highlighted recently by the acting profession, that the arts will become a province only of the rich. We need to get the emphasis back to schools and the funding and provision for arts subjects within them so that there can be universal access to arts education, replacing a current policy based on piecemeal initiatives. We need to reform performance measures so that arts subjects have a proper place again within the school curriculum. This will be healthy for education, for society and for the labour market. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his eloquence in introducing the debate. I, too, look forward to the speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Evans of Bowes Park. I declare an interest as a member of British Actors’ Equity; I have held that membership for some 50 years.
I want to make the moral case for arts in education—first, by giving a personal perspective. Growing up in the East End of London, the son of a docker, from the very day I was born my life was set out before me. I failed my 11-plus and I went off to my secondary modern school as a rebel in search of any cause. It was then that I discovered drama—or, rather, a drama teacher discovered me. Then there was the wonderful experience of going to see “Oliver!” in the West End of London when I was 11 years old, leaning forward in those cheap seats that we used to call the gods, and thinking, “I never, ever want this to end”. The irony was that I was discovered in a secondary modern school singing in the end-of-term school show, and within three months I was playing Oliver in that very same West End production.
That changed my life for ever. Before that I had no concept of theatre, performance arts or even of drama as a subject. Suddenly there was a focus for the energy that made my father boast—at least, I think it was a boast—that if I had not gone on the stage I would have ended up in prison. I began a career as an actor that lasted 37 years. It taught me so many things. This is why the arts, drama, music, film and media studies—everything that the noble Earl outlined—are so important in education, because they affect every single thing that we do.
I am talking not only about communication skills, which some of us have and some of us do not, but about confidence skills. At how many moments during the day do we stand up thinking, “I can’t do this”? Somehow, though, we have learnt to masquerade and pretend that we can, and we carry it off because we have the ability to imagine that there is another idea, another option. The team-building and discipline that come from the arts in education last for the rest of people’s lives.
The idea that we have to choose between arts and sciences is utter nonsense. The two are married together. Indeed, it was learning the disciplines as a young actor that allowed me, in my mid-20s, to study science and to achieve, in 11 months, my O-levels and A-levels. I could never have done that if I had not had the courage, the confidence and the ability to imagine.
I am going on far too long about me, though, and it is vital that I say some of the things that I have properly prepared to say. What I have said so far explains why I believe that all students should have access to drama as a subject in schools, taught by specialist trained drama teachers with qualified teacher status. Drama is a distinct art form and should have its own subject status, separate from that of English, in both primary and secondary schools. If drama is to be engaged in before GCSE level, that requires trained and qualified drama teachers in secondary schools, and in primary schools it requires high quality in-service drama training as a minimum.
Currently there is a significant and deepening inequality of drama provision in schools, and some schools provide none. There should be equality of national curriculum status for at least the five main art forms in schools: art and design, music, dance, drama, and film. The Department for Education has never given any reason why the different art forms are given differential status and attention. It is vital that we be told why it has that opinion, because it affects not only us but generations to come.
Children and young people can now go through education and receive no direct or specialist drama teaching at all. There is a real concern that drama could get parcelled out as “vocational”, to the financial benefit of theatres. We could see only children whose parents can afford it being able to study and engage in drama and the creative arts. That is why my right honourable friend Harriet Harman has said so often that creative and cultural learning supports attainment in all subjects, including literacy and maths. Research has shown that taking part in arts activities at school can make up for an early disadvantage in terms of likelihood to progress to further education as well as in employment outcomes.
I say with due respect to the Minister that I believe the Government are going in the wrong direction on art and culture, and the arts are in danger of becoming more remote from children from working-class backgrounds, such as me, and children in disadvantaged communities, as well as remote from young people in our regions. The whole government narrative around the English baccalaureate, as the noble Earl has said, which the arts community fought so valiantly against, sent a damaging signal to downgrade the arts in education. The number of children sitting arts GCSEs is declining—music is down 9%, drama is down 13% and film is excluded from the curriculum altogether. Teacher training places in arts education have been cut by 35% and the number of specialist arts teachers has fallen. This makes no sense in terms of the creative industries and the arts. It makes no sense in wider educational terms.
We do not want the children being educated now to live in silos. We want them to imagine and to connect. We want them to imagine that there are other ways and other approaches. In the end, it is art that defines us as human beings. Therefore, we underinvest in these subjects, and in this generation and future generations, at our cultural, moral and economic peril.
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for introducing this timely and interesting debate on the arts in education. I declare an interest as a patron of Creative Skillset, the creative industries’ sector skills council.
On Tuesday this week, I had the privilege of attending a service at St Margaret’s for the Girls’ Schools Association where the school local to me in Guildford, St Catherine’s School, provided the choir for the service. It sang among other things an especially commissioned motet taken from excerpts from poems of Maya Angelou. It was both moving and beautiful. As the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, said, the children of those parents who can afford it have a very broad education. They often have a longer school day and highly specialist facilities, which provide them with an excellent and outstanding education in all areas, including the areas of the arts.
As far as state schools are concerned, I was cheered by reading the foreword provided by Michael Gove and Ed Vaizey to Cultural Education: A Summary of Programmes and Opportunities, published in July 2013—a very recent statement of the Government’s ambition is for arts education. It states:
“The arts are the highest form of human achievement. Through art we not only make sense of ourselves and the world, we also make our lives enchanted. Art allows us to celebrate our common humanity and communicate across boundaries. Artistic endeavour marks us out from the rest of nature as creators and celebrators of beauty. That is why no education can be complete, indeed no programme of education can even begin, without making the arts and creativity central to a child’s life … England’s many successful schools put culture at the heart of their curriculum and we want all schools to be able to emulate, indeed surpass, those which are currently outstanding … We will encourage more schools to offer a wider spread of creative subjects with a new accountability framework for secondary schools”.
Why, then, have we now had two speeches pointing out the drop in the number of GCSE arts subjects being taken, the very substantial fall in the number of teachers being trained in arts subjects, and the real decline in drama, dance and the graphic arts in our schools? It is not necessarily down to the national curriculum. As far as the national curriculum is concerned, the briefing paper we have received tells us very firmly:
“Arts subjects are compulsory in maintained schools in England until the age of 14. They are not compulsory national curriculum subjects after the age of 14, but all pupils in maintained schools in England have a statutory entitlement to be able to study an arts subject as part of their key stage 4 education”.
It is not the lack of the arts in the national curriculum, or even the lack of concern for the arts. It is, I think, an unintended consequence of the accountability measures that we now impose upon our schools.
Mention has already been made of the EBacc. The subjects that fall within the EBacc are English and maths, two sciences, history, geography and a modern foreign language or a classical language. I, for one, am very pleased, in some senses, that there is a broader education within the EBacc, but it is sad that the arts have been downgraded and not given the same status. I have to confess that I am very concerned indeed about what is happening with the arts in our primary schools, where emphasis on SATS in year 6 often drives the curriculum. Lots of very good primary schools get over it, but some that are less good are absolutely terrified by the need to get good SATS results and have narrowed down the primary school curriculum to the three Rs to too great an extent. We want to expand it but at the moment it is not expanding.
As we all know, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and Jill a dull girl. It is vital that we feed a love of creativity in to our young people. The development of their imaginations in primary schools comes from play, but too much of that play has gone out due to the emphasis on phonics and achieving the required standards in phonics at the age of five or six. There is too much testing and too much teaching to the test, pushing out the creative parts of the curriculum.
As everybody emphasises, the creative industries are now expanding faster than other industries. For many years people poured scorn on media studies, yet actually, as the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, mentioned, with the bringing together of computerisation and digital technologies and the arts technologies, institutes such as Arts University Bournemouth and Bath Spa University, which concentrate on these things, are finding it very easy to find jobs for their graduates. It is graduates in geography and history who often have difficulty in finding jobs.
Many times from these Benches I have called for more emphasis on maths and science education. I have been very much a champion of the STEM subjects because I have been very worried about the drop in the numbers of young people taking STEM subjects. However, I have also been somewhat critical of the narrowness of British, and particularly English, education, and the fact that at age 16 we have to narrow things down to three A-levels. This has led to a divide between the arts and the sciences. I would have liked to have seen us move in the direction of a broader curriculum for 16 to 18 year-olds—something equivalent to the international baccalaureate.
I therefore end with a plea not for STEM but for STEAM—science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. We want them all together. We want to provide a broad education for our young people—one which gives them the best foundation for moving forward in life.
My Lords, I agree with everything that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, has said. I regard this subject, the provision of arts—and, in my case, music in particular—in schools as vital. Thus I am much indebted to my noble friend Lord Clancarty for securing this debate. I cannot endorse more warmly his plea for the appreciation of contemporary arts, because it is not just in Shakespeare that we find out about ourselves and the society we live in; it is in the contemporary arts as well, and Shakespeare would have been the first to say so.
I take this opportunity, since it is the first I have had, to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, to our midst. It is great to have another member of the artistic community, and one who has done so much for the gay community through the auspices of Stonewall, which I have long supported. It is also wonderful to be able to welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Evans of Bowes Park. I look forward to her maiden speech with anticipation.
Why do I see this debate as so important? It is because I have seen the quite magical effect that music and the arts can have on young developing minds. Furthermore, objective research supports the fact that music, in particular, often gets through where other things fail. Yet, as we have heard, we have to set against that the fact that in the period from 2010 to 2013 there was a drop in the number of GCSE students taking art and, in particular, music and drama, according to the Department for Education’s figures. I wonder whether this is something that causes the Government concern. I very much hope that it does.
There are schools in which children get no exposure to music or theatre or to singing in a choir—that quintessential activity that many noble Lords still partake of in the Parliament Choir. Singing collegiately is a quite wonderful way of developing the ability to be a team player, to listen to others, to blend in and to communicate. Singing a great choral work with a lot of your friends can be a completely overpowering and binding experience.
Not all children conform, thank goodness, to stereotyping, and it is in the arts and music that many find nourishment and a natural home. Let me give my own experience as a somewhat unusual child. I did not initially thrive academically—I am clearly a late developer—but the music master, a Mr Lambert, saw something in me and encouraged my composition and my playing of the organ in the school chapel. At the same time, I took part in drama productions, and there I learnt to speak in public with a degree of confidence and even extemporisation—a quality that some noble Lords may have cause to regret on occasion—so when I presented the Proms on BBC television, for example, I was not so afraid of the camera. Indeed, I rather relished it. My point is that the faith that two schoolmasters involved in the arts showed in my potential saved me from a possible scrapheap—perhaps not, like the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, prison. The number of successful people who have appeared on my Radio 3 programme “Private Passions” who have ascribed their chance in life to visionary arts and music teachers is quite staggering.
I know the Government are receptive to wide educational remits, but there are real gaps where theatre and music, in particular, are concerned, so here are three definite and distinct questions for the Minister which he might be able to help me with. Will the Government aim to make singing a weekly event in every school? Will they aim to make music and drama part of the curriculum in every school? Will they aim to help disadvantaged children to get musical tuition, currently the privilege of the rich? It is true that the hubs have begun to have some patchy success in this area. The Government have rightly saluted the income which the creative industries bring to the economy of this country. However, to secure that income for the future it is essential that the children who will be the performers of tomorrow—string players, for example—are able to start young. We have to get to young minds, young fingers, and young, still-developing muscles.
Beyond these practical points, there is the aesthetic, spiritual, transcending outlet that music and the arts afford young, and sometimes turbulent, minds. There are, of course, many calls on the Government for funds in different directions, but I passionately believe that they discard this particular call at their peril.
My Lords, it is a privilege to make my maiden speech on the important subject of education. I declare an interest as the director of New Schools Network, an educational charity that helps groups set up new, independent state schools. I begin by thanking all noble Lords and the staff of this House for the warm welcome they have given me. In the few weeks that I have been here, I have experienced the genuine kindness and tremendous assistance for which the House has such a well deserved reputation. I particularly thank my two supporters, the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, and the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish of Furness.
My first challenge on being given this honour was to select my title; not something I ever expected to do. I chose Bowes Park, the area in Haringey in which I have lived for over 10 years. The heart of Bowes Park is Myddleton Road, named after the constructor of the New River, which flows through the area and was built in 1613, providing London with fresh drinking water ever since. Once a bustling high street, Myddleton Road fell into decline for many years but it is now showing encouraging signs of regeneration, thanks to a passionate local community. A new open-air gym—part of our Olympic legacy—a regular street market and, most excitingly, the opening of a café and gallery by two local entrepreneurs, are all playing their part in helping to revitalise the area.
I am delighted to become the youngest female member of the House, an honour passed on to me by the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox. In doing so, I am also delighted to have doubled the number of noble Lords sitting in this House under the age of 40. In the 1984 presidential election campaign, a 73 year-old Ronald Reagan said that he would not make age an issue and exploit 56 year-old Walter Mondale’s youth and inexperience. I hope your Lordships will show me a similar indulgence.
I thank the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for initiating this debate. I was fortunate enough to go to Henrietta Barnett, an excellent state school, and am well aware of the advantages it gave me. I already know from this debate that your Lordships will agree that all children are entitled to a good education. Because of this, it has been a privilege for me to be involved with free schools: first at Policy Exchange, helping to develop the programme, and most recently at New Schools Network, supporting teachers, parents, charities and community groups in actually setting them up. I am all too well aware of, and have seen at first hand, the passion and dedication of those committed to improving education in their local communities. Across the state education system we are seeing the real, positive impact that giving freedom to our best teachers is having on raising standards, particularly for some of our most deprived pupils. There is exciting innovation: to name just a few of these, we are seeing the first bilingual schools; new approaches to teaching maths, drawing inspiration from the Far East; and schools that have a no-excuses culture, which helps raise the aspirations of their students.
On the subject of this debate, Britain has an unparalleled cultural heritage. Today, as has already been mentioned, our creative industries are worth more than £70 billion a year to our economy. It is imperative that our education system equips young people with the skills and knowledge to take advantage of the opportunities in this dynamic sector. At New Schools Network we have been delighted to support a number of new schools which have taken an innovative approach to arts education.
East London Arts & Music is a school that has direct involvement from some of the biggest names in the music industry. Its mission is to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in that industry, be it as technicians, producers or artists. The world class Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts has opened a primary school whose creative curriculum draws on that city’s rich heritage. Wac Arts uses the performing arts to re-engage young people who have struggled in mainstream education. As has already been made clear in this debate, a well rounded education is fundamental to ensuring that young people make the best possible start in life. It should be available to all, regardless of their background, and must not become a luxury for those who can afford it.
In this globally competitive world, young people need to develop confidence and resilience. They need to be able to communicate effectively and think creatively. Research demonstrates that participation in the arts can help pupils, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, develop those characteristics. The importance of arts education across the state sector must not be underestimated. I hope that my short contribution today shows my commitment to ensuring that all young people get the best opportunities in life. I look forward to contributing to the work of the House in this and many other areas.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak after the noble Baroness, Lady Evans of Bowes Park. Her absorbing maiden speech was dignified by her commitment to education and her history in public policy and both will be of great benefit to this House. I was particularly glad to hear her speak of the value of arts to those young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. I join all Members from all sides of the Chamber in welcoming her to this debate and more broadly to the work of the House, in which I am sure she will play a formidable role.
I also must thank my noble friend Lord Clancarty for making such an excellent introduction. I want to associate myself with absolutely everything he said. He is tireless in bringing this subject to the House and admirable in the way and the seriousness with which he does so. I have many interests in this area, which are all recorded on the register.
I have considerable sympathy for the Secretary of State for Education, the right honourable Nicky Morgan MP, who earlier this month made a clarion call for girls to take up science and maths at school. As a camerawoman and film director of 35 years’ standing, I am familiar with the obstacles inherent in stepping outside traditional gender roles. However, in valorising the sciences she chose to pit art and science against each other. Her given reason was that the,
“world is changing beyond recognition, at a pace unmatched by any other point in history”.
In that explanation, I felt that she was mistaken. Rather than requiring this binary opposition, the new world demands a mix of skills. A world with infinite information requires us to filter what is useful and to imagine the content and source of that information. A world delivered digitally not only requires digital literacy but visual literacy in order to understand and to contribute to its predominantly visual language. A world in which user-generated content is a primary economic driver demands one to be one’s own photographer, publisher, graphic artist and computer programmer, whether one is a hotelier, an academic or a journalist.
Perhaps not surprisingly for a world designed as a network of networks, there is an emphasis on teamwork. Global companies which invent “disruptive” businesses with their flatter, leaner hierarchies work across projects deliberately in cross-functional and multidisciplinary teams. In schools, young people learn to work together in drama, sport, dance and film, all of which are disciplines in which a common objective and not just individual attainment is key. In the GCSE drama course, one’s grade actually depends to some degree on the performance and discipline of one’s peers. For our new world, that is indeed a precious lesson.
At school, the young learn visual literacy from graphics, design, art, photography and film, though, as other noble Lords have said, film is no longer mentioned in the national curriculum for the first time in almost two decades. In school, critical thinking is developed across all of the humanities and the arts, as well as science and maths. In short, the skills necessary for our world are present right across the curriculum.
This text from the home page of the MIT Media Lab embodies the culture of the rapidly changing world to which the Education Secretary refers:
“The MIT Media Lab goes beyond known boundaries and disciplines, encouraging the most unconventional mixing and matching of seemingly disparate research areas”,
“in more than 25 research groups on more than 350 projects that range from digital approaches for treating neurological disorders, to a stackable electric car for sustainable cities, to advanced imaging technologies than can ‘see around the corner’”.
On a visit to the Media Lab last year, I met musicians, philosophers, social scientists, mathematicians, medics and linguists. There was one woman whose entire research trajectory was about the colour of words. This is the world into which schoolchildren of today will emerge.
However, the narrative from Her Majesty’s Government appears to be that the arts are not central pillars in their vision of education. The EBacc, the emphasis on STEM subjects, discount codes and the new Progress 8 all structurally devalue and destabilise the place of arts in the curriculum. As a result, we are witnessing the inevitable gravitation, even in good schools, towards those subjects against which their performance is judged. The Department for Education’s own figures indicate a disproportionate fall in the hours of arts teaching and the number of arts teachers since 2010.
I am not arguing for the arts alone; I am, as the Minister knows, a passionate advocate of digital literacy across the entire curriculum and have argued for greater investment in teachers’ professional development to deliver the Government’s excellent computing curriculum. As I have said, I support wholeheartedly the Secretary of State’s call for girls to do science and maths, but it is simply the case that many, if not most, of the new workforce will have to have a complex matrix of skills and the fluidity to move between them.
I hope that other noble Lords will refer in detail to the extensive evidence on the role of arts in supporting social mobility, but I will briefly make this point: if we deprive disadvantaged young people of access to the arts on a measurable basis in school, we will create a situation where cultural capital will be the preserve of the already privileged. This will, in the future, decimate the pool of talent that we now enjoy right across all the art forms.
I also put on the record the value of the arts in and of themselves: they are transformative and life enhancing and reflect what it means to be human. In their own right, moreover, they are a major contributor to GDP. Like top independent schools that see no reason to privilege one discipline over the other, the Government should not present a binary choice, but promote arts and science as single virtuous circle.
I therefore ask the Minister: given that our new world requires young people to have multiple skills, should not an arts subject be explicitly included in the Progress 8 measure? Should not the EBacc be dropped as a supplementary accountability measure? Should not the Government narrative be “STEAM not STEM”, because it is this narrative that determines funding, training and infrastructure, and ultimately the provision of arts in our schools?
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Earl for securing this important debate, congratulate the noble Baroness on her maiden speech and thank other speakers for their contribution. I, too, am a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Art, Craft and Design in Education, which is so well served by the noble Earl and our chair, Sharon Hodgson. The APPG was set up to champion high-quality and inclusive arts education in our schools in the belief that art, craft and design are essential not only to our economy but to the cultural, creative and social well-being of everyone.
The Labour Party has always recognised that the arts are for everyone, for each and every individual and all our communities. However, I think that we all share a vision of every child having the chance to learn about the value and thrill of culture. I look forward to the speech of my noble friend Lord Smith of Finsbury because, under his stewardship, the previous Labour Government were able to ensure free admission to all our national museums and galleries which, I am pleased to say, the present Government have continued to support—although it is sad that museum visits by schoolchildren have decreased by one-third.
As has been said, the Government’s thinking in this area has been a little muddled, to say the least. The previous Culture Secretary supported STEM to STEAM, but that was at the same time as the then Education Secretary was busy devaluing creative education through the introduction of the EBacc. The new Education Secretary has waded in and compounded the problem by announcing that the best way to get a job is to drop arts and humanities, although the Culture Select Committee said in a recent report that,
“the crucial role of arts subjects … should be recognised and that art subjects should be added to the STEM subjects”.
Surely no one wants our young people to be denied fulfilling their unique potential, nor do we want the creative industries’ success story to stall. The Select Committee also recommended that a Minister from the Department for Education should attend the Creative Industries Council. Will the Minister say whether that has happened or will happen?
A quarter of schools withdrew non-EBacc subjects from their curriculum this academic year, and art was one of the most commonly withdrawn, according to Ipsos-MORI. Figures from the National Society for Education in Art and Design show that, since the introduction of the EBacc and changes to the discounting codes, the number of young people sitting arts GCSEs is in decline. The reduction in arts training places has resulted in fewer specialist arts teachers, and fewer hours are taught. The number of design and technology teachers has also been hit.
As the noble Baroness just said, it should not be a binary choice between STEM and art and design: both are important. For example, the Royal College of Art is running highly sought-after joint masters degrees with Imperial College London. According to Steve Jobs,
“technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”
In that regard, I welcome the Government’s introduction of coding into the curriculum, but the video games industry needs artists as much as computer experts. That is why the Labour Party has commissioned an independent review, led by John Woodward, the former head of the UK Film Council, to consider, among other things, how better to link up education and training with the needs of the creative industries and the digital sector.
Literacy, numeracy and creativity are what the modern global economy demands, and I am sure that we have all enjoyed the excellent book, The Virtuous Circle, by John Sorrell, Paul Roberts and Darren Hanley, which has been sent to all of us for this debate. Sir John and Lady Frances Sorrell’s work on education, particularly in the area of design, have helped successive Governments, and I welcome their support for the newly formed Creative Industries Federation, because design is the bridge between arts, science, technology and business. Design has been defined as the,
“specification of an object, manifested by an agent, intended to accomplish goals, in a particular environment, using a set of primitive components, satisfying a set of requirements, subject to constraints”—
I apologise, because the last clause could have been written by the Treasury. However, it shows that design is relevant in almost every situation or environment.
For many years, I have been visiting the New Designers exhibition. It is the UK’s largest graduate design exhibition, showcasing the work of more than 3,000 of the very best graduates across a host of disciplines from 200 of the UK’s top art and design universities and colleges. It helped launch the careers of Thomas Heatherwick, Bethan Gray and Matthew Williamson, to name a few. I strongly recommend that your Lordships take the opportunity to visit the exhibition next year. You cannot walk away from that exhibition without a smile on your face after being enthused by the talent, potential and enthusiasm in the hall. A poll of this year’s students showed that almost half of them see themselves setting up their own creative businesses in the next five years, thereby adding to the creative capital in the UK. However, if the trend for young people at key stage 4 not to be able to access art and design courses continues, where will the new designers of the future come from?
This year the New Designers exhibition hosted two “creative Saturdays”, which offered children and young people their first taste of the professional design world. This was part of the Sorrell Foundation’s National Art and Design Saturday Club, which offers young people aged 14 to 16 the opportunity to study art and design every Saturday morning at their local college or university—free of charge, with half of them located in the most disadvantaged areas. They hope that 2,500 youngsters will be taking part by 2018. However, this is a programme aimed at complementing the curriculum, and it is not a substitute for one.
As Europe’s largest specialist art and design university, UAL, has said, the additional programmes funded by the Department for Education, like Saturday clubs, do not have the reach or capacity to engage with young people across the breadth of the country. Those young people need teachers who have had access to professional development. Ofsted has recommended that the Department for Education should explore how teachers could,
“improve the teaching of drawing and widen the impact of contemporary crafts-based initiatives”.
Craft skills generate over £3 billion for the UK economy and it is exceptionally worrying that GCSE craft courses have fallen by a quarter and higher education courses by a half. Will the Minister say whether the department is taking up the Ofsted recommendations and whether he is in favour of an annual subsidised entitlement to professional development programmes in art, craft and design?
Michael Gove said that he wanted state schools to be indistinguishable from the best fee-paying schools. The Cultural Learning Alliance interviewed the heads of some of the leading fee-paying schools in the country. All were of the view that cultural learning improves children’s attainment and that it is a duty to their children and their parents. Tony Little, of Eton College, told the Cultural Learning Alliance:
“By limiting the subjects that are valued, the EBacc is downgrading and reducing the potential for achievement”.
Does the Minister think that by not adding art to the STEM subjects we are on course for making state schools indistinguishable from fee-paying schools? Is it not strange that parents who pay for education expect a cultural offer but there are different expectations for the education provided through taxation? Unless art and design education is supported and encouraged at the very beginning of a child’s journey, there will be untapped potential for that child and for our country.
My Lords, this is a very timely debate and I too thank the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for initiating it, and I certainly congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Evans of Bowes Park, on a maiden speech full of passion and commitment for education—which I very much applaud.
I am not an artist. I am not a designer. I am certainly not an actor. In fact my art teacher described me as the most boring pupil he had ever encountered. I thought this was a touch overstated, but it was a setback to my creative ambitions and left me with few options but to become a bureaucrat—which I did. I subsequently sought to rehabilitate myself and have been vice-chancellor of the University of the Arts London, which has already been mentioned, the chair of the Design Council, the chair of FILMCLUB, with the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, helping me, and I am now vice-chairman of Shakespeare’s Globe—an organisation which, without public money, works with more than 120,000 young people every year, creating productions with and for students. In those various capacities, I think I have come to understand the power of arts education, as well as its importance to young people, to society and to our economy. I want to give some specific reasons why we should champion the cause of arts education.
For a start, it enables young people with talent for the arts to develop their potential. Not everyone excels in the traditional academic subjects—as we have heard—but education must be about ensuring that every child fulfils their potential. We have a responsibility to ensure that our young creative talent has that opportunity, too. As the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, said, it also develops confidence. It develops the capacity to communicate and to present effectively. These are essential social and employability skills, which we know that many school leavers lack. As a result they struggle to engage, to find work and to assert themselves in society.
Arts education often helps children with learning difficulties to participate on a level playing field. I have seen countless moving examples of pupils who generally find school difficult coming alive in drama classes, in dance classes and in the arts generally. They are excited by the chance to play a full part in class activities, at last feeling a true equal. It also builds our creative engine for the future. Our creative industries fuel our economy, not least in London. They not only produce GDP, from a sector which is growing three times as fast as the rest of the economy, but provide the UK with a major international profile. That does not happen by accident. We have to develop the creative skills that we need, and we have to do that early. We cannot leave it to further and higher education.
Arts education helps to develop an understanding and an appreciation of the creative arts, which will enrich lives throughout the adult years, not only improving immeasurably people’s quality of life but building in our society a demand for the arts. In effect, arts education builds tomorrow’s appreciative and discerning audience. It teaches pupils the importance of resilience, determination and, yes, the need for courage. People used to be surprised when I spoke about courage at the university. However, what struck me quickly upon taking up that job was that arts students needed to have not only application and sustained effort but the courage to expose their work to criticism, some of it ill informed. That may, after all, be very good training for the next generation of politicians.
It helps pupils to work effectively in teams because art is rarely an isolated experience. Drama, dance, music and design are examples of where you need to work together to be successful, and that equips young people with another key life skill. It helps people to develop the ability to innovate and be creative beyond the boundaries of the creative arts. Our businesses need people who can be creative and think laterally. They need people capable of using their initiative—with the possible exception of the banking sector. They need people who have learnt the importance of challenging the accepted wisdom. Exposure to the arts and to the mindset of artists at an early age begins to build those invaluable capabilities. It also teaches you how to solve practical, not theoretical, problems. There is a danger that education can, too often, become concentrated on theories and not on practices.
Finally, your Lordships will be glad to hear, it provides the sheer joy of creative achievement. What can compare, for example, with being involved in a successful performance after weeks or months of rehearsals, setbacks, challenges and learning? That is a unique feeling, and one which will stay with you for the rest of your life.
I do not think that there is another subject which provides the same return on investment but it is essential that government recognise that, and recognise the arts as a core exam subject, as others have said, if that subject is not to become seen as second class. If it is seen as second class, teachers and students will walk away from it. They will vote with their feet. We have already had some statistics but it is worrying that the numbers of GCSE drama students has fallen by 25% in the past six years. Equally, it is important that Ofsted gives due regard to arts education in its inspections and more clearly defines what cultural development means, within the Ofsted guidance for inspectors, because we all know how significant Ofsted inspections are to schools. At present it is just one part of the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and that is not good enough. We need to do better than that.
But I am in danger of proving my art teacher right and I do not want to detain the House unnecessarily; I want to end on a slightly lighter note. One of the things that people often tell you is that the arts cannot really cope with complex and difficult issues. Let me tell you that the arts are a way of helping young people to address the really complex and difficult issues. I have always loved the story, told by Sir Ken Robinson, of his going into a drawing class one day, sitting down alongside a young lad and saying, “And what are you drawing?” The young lad said, “I am drawing a picture of God”. Ken said, “But no one knows what God looks like”. The young lad responded, “Well, they will do in a few minutes’ time”. Never underestimate the power of the arts.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for a most informative speech. He gave us a lot of statistics about the decline in the teaching of the arts in recent years. I do not want to repeat what he has said, but the points that he made were very forceful and I hope that they will be noticed and taken into account by the Government in considering what their policy towards education in the arts should be.
Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, I was a very privileged schoolboy. I should like to speak about that and how it has affected me and my outlook. Before I do so I want to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Evans of Bowes Park, on a most passionate and informative speech. I look forward to hearing her in the future.
The privilege that I enjoyed was to be educated as a schoolboy at a private school in the west of Scotland, the Glasgow Academy, which at the time was the sole private school. The interest in the arts in that school was enormous. We had a school choir and when I started in it, it was led by the organist of Glasgow Cathedral. Subsequently we had another man who went to the University of Aberdeen and focused greatly on outreach, bringing in people who otherwise would not have the opportunities of the wider possibilities of the arts. I was entranced by the possibility of acting, but, with it being an all-boys’ school, as a young boy I was given largely female parts. I have acted as queen to King Richard II, Olivia in Twelfth Night and, in my last year, as Cinderella; but I also had the good fortune to be cast as Hamlet in my last year at school. I believe that this whole experience over the years gave me a greater degree of confidence than otherwise I would have had.
On the musical side, the head music teacher gave us all a big surprise when we came in on the first day of the first term, saying, “Under your desks there are 25 violins. I want you all to take them out and we will try to engage you in this”. The result was that a great many people went on to learn stringed instruments. I was lucky enough to become the leader of the school orchestra. I was very conscious of how privileged I was, and having heard this debate, which has been unanimously supportive of the arts in education, I would like to hear from the Minister in his reply how the Government will systematically restore the arts to their proper place in wider schooling and education.
We have had indications of the importance of creativity and the creative industries to the economy. It is not only true that this subject occupies many people and that there is a risk that this will decline if we do not stimulate education at the beginning, there is also another aspect: the arts bring in visitors from abroad and are hugely advantageous to our tourism. There is no city in the world like London in respect of its broad spectrum of arts, which cater for all visiting interests.
The extraordinary decline in professional arts teaching is something we must seriously regret. There are Ministers within the Government who are helpful in this. Edward Vaizey constantly talks about it and was reported earlier in the context of an article he had written with Michael Gove. However, the present Secretary of State for Education seems to be opposing the arts in favour of science. That is a great mistake. They are not exclusive. Indeed, music is highly mathematical. I cannot understand why the Secretary of State is indicating that if you do one, you cannot do the other. It is not inevitable that someone advantaged by education in the arts will be tied into an artistic career. For my part, I thought about it but decided to become a public international lawyer. Such a career was not excluded because I had spent a lot of time being involved in the arts. Even so, it is possible for people to proliferate their interests by becoming public international lawyers but also writing librettos and operas.
I commend that renaissance attitude to the Government and look forward greatly to hearing how the Minister believes that they should stimulate arts in education.
My Lords, I join in thanking my noble friend for introducing this debate. I also join in congratulating our youngest Member on her maiden speech. We hope to hear much more from her, especially on the subject of teaching and the freedom that teachers in free schools may have to adapt and improve the balance that they can introduce into their schools.
I was also deeply moved by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Cashman. He took the subject that I was going to talk about briefly this evening. We have had many debates on arts education in the House. I normally find myself talking about music education, in which I have been involved since the golden age of instrumental teaching in the late 1950s and 1960s. I have continued to feel very strongly about the kind of opportunities that ought to be given to children and were given to them when the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, first picked up his violin from under his desk.
Today I want to say something about teaching the visual arts, although I feel rather ashamed of speaking in such an amateurish way, after hearing the extremely professional speeches of my noble friend Lady Kidron and the noble Baroness, Lady Nye. I pick on the visual arts simply because I think that, if a parent has a child who is enthusiastic and talented musically, it is usually possible, if you have the money, to find very good teaching outside school, even very good choirs and orchestras on Saturday mornings to fill the gaps that perhaps the school is not doing anything to fill.
In the case of the visual arts, it is very difficult to find any parallel way of getting your child taught art. In fact, you probably do not think of doing such a thing. I therefore believe that schools have an overwhelming responsibility for teaching children in the visual arts from a very early age. This is not only a matter of allowing children to have the fun and experience of self-expression. Some children do not particularly enjoy expressing themselves through the visual arts. However, a good teacher of art teaches children to look; to see things that they probably would not look at or see otherwise. A lot of us—grown-ups as well as children—scurry along the street or tear down the motorway without looking at what we are passing as we go. The talent of looking and seeing needs to be followed up with being taught—it needs teaching—the skill of representation, which is a very natural human instinct, as we know. Thousands of years ago, human beings were representing what they saw on the walls of caves and so on.
If children are not taught to see and properly look at things in school, they are being deprived of something that is almost like a new sense of what the world is like, what their place in it is, and how they can contribute to the things that people want to look at. Of course, this is not just a matter of teaching children to draw or to paint, although these skills are crucial, as any practising artist will tell you. You must be able to draw before you can do anything. It is also a matter of seeing what is a good design and what is a bad design. It does not matter whether the object is a chair, a building, a window or a cushion cover. The ability to look and to discriminate between something that is worth doing and something that is rubbish needs to start at a very early age and to be taught in school, because it will not be taught outside school. The failure of maintained schools to keep up this tradition of teaching art as an integral part of the curriculum is socially undesirable, if not disastrous.
Every Government has been in danger of this, and the present moment, with the utterances of the current Secretary of State, is a particularly good one to raise this point. Successive Governments have tended to take the attitude towards art teaching that Sir Keith Joseph once referred to as the “leather blotter view” of the arts. That is, a leather blotter may be an agreeable thing to be given, and you put it on your desk, but it is totally dispensable. Everybody can live without a leather blotter. That attitude is certainly exemplified in what we have most recently heard from the department, which I find incredibly depressing.
Therefore, let us, and the Government, give up that view. Otherwise, I fear that what will happen, which is happening increasingly, is that students who enter architectural schools and design colleges, join a national youth orchestra and maybe go on to become professional instrumentalists—all these people who enter the artistic world, which includes the world of design—will come from middle-class or relatively affluent families. That is not only grossly unfair to all the talent there is in children from disadvantaged backgrounds, but is the most appalling waste of talent. We have only to think of people such as the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, and David Hockney to realise that there is no class distinction in talent in the arts. We waste one of our greatest assets as a country if we fail to allow the disadvantaged end of the school population to benefit from the kind of teaching they ought to have. That is especially true in the case of the visual arts because, as I say, it is very difficult for any parent, however enthusiastic, to substitute for the teaching of the visual arts skills that their child ought to be getting at school.
My Lords, I join my colleagues in thanking the noble Earl for introducing the debate, and not least for his opening remarks. I share his pessimism about the present situation at government level. We have a great deal to worry about; other speakers have given examples.
I look back to a bit of luck in the sense that for my first 13 years I lived in Berlin. I do not like to talk about those days for obvious reasons, but as regards the particular subject that we are discussing today, I wish that we were like Berlin in those days. It is very simple. The society as a whole—leaving aside Hitler and all that—always regarded music and the other arts as totally central to our lives. That was reflected in the schools, so my school life, in an ordinary state school in Berlin, was packed with all the arts, notably music. I was lucky in that respect because it was not just about playing but about participating in all possible ways. I was even luckier because when I came to this country at 13 my parents had the good sense to choose a school which was also passionate about the arts. All those who stress the importance of what happens in one’s early days are right. That is when it has to be started and also when one has a great deal to worry about.
I shall confine my remarks to two subjects. First, I shall say a few words about music, simply because it has been my passion and almost predominant activity during my long life. I declare an interest as a trustee, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, one of the major philanthropic foundations in this country. It has given a great deal of money to the arts for a very long time, partly due to its founder, Paul Hamlyn, who also came from Berlin and had a passion for the arts.
I recall a particular moment, about 12 years ago, not long before he died. I had become so worried and disappointed—and angry, in a way—because, if I remember the figures correctly, at that time only 11% of secondary school children went on with music beyond the moment when they were allowed to give it up. The rest just could not wait to give it up because it was badly taught and there was not much enthusiasm in society as a whole for the young to get into the arts. That led me to persuade Paul Hamlyn to give a great deal of money—many millions over the years—to what we came to call Musical Futures, which is a method of teaching music in a totally different and attractive way. Teachers had to be taught how to do it in a way that attracted youngsters. It has been running for 10 years in secondary schools and has succeeded quite well. Results have been good. It is now about to go private and will be replaced in our foundation by other activities related to arts education.
We started by inviting Katherine Zeserson from Sage Gateshead. She has written a wonderful report called Inspiring Music for All, which is the foundation for other things that we might now discuss and fund. It is clear from everything we know and from what others have said that part of the problem is the teaching profession. Teachers are poorly taught; they teach poorly and quite a few schools are without a head of music. It is a disgrace. There is a great deal to be done and we may set up a commission to deal with it.
My final point is that it is not simply about having more rather than fewer music teachers, or drama teachers, or literature teachers. It is not just that specialist teaching needs strengthening, it is also about the influence of the arts on the whole life of a school and on all the teachers and pupils. We must not think purely in terms of the specialist side of the subjects, although they are important. There is a great deal that can be done and, of course, what ultimately matters is the outside influence. The good news is that the BBC is getting more and more active—the local authorities less so—and the Government, as other colleagues have said, want this to be done. But it is a declining area when it ought to be a growing one.
My Lords, I begin by expressing my interest as a patron of the BRIT school in Croydon and as chairman of trustees in the Wordsworth Trust and the Donmar Warehouse Theatre, both of which have substantial educational and school engagement programmes.
The case for the overwhelming importance of arts education in our schools has been compellingly made by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, in introducing this debate and by the noble Baroness, Lady Evans of Bowes Park, in her excellent maiden speech and by all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. On a personal note, I add what a privilege it is to speak for the first time in a debate alongside the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, who has been a dear friend and comradely fellow campaigner for many years.
The case for the arts in education has also been compellingly made by Sir Ken Robinson in his outstanding report some 15 years ago, by Darren Henley in the two reports that he has produced more recently and by many other studies—as well, of course, by a multitude of successful examples in school after school up and down this country. Why on earth, therefore, is it not a more automatic part of the curriculum and rhythm of school life and educational provision in this country? Some schools shine, while many do not. It depends on individual teachers and head teachers and individual circumstances. It should not have to be a lottery; we should be aiming for all schools to shine in arts provision.
This is not just a nice to have thing—it is an essential. I say this for two fundamental reasons. First, education is all about drawing young people to fulfilling their fullest potential in all senses and ways, and that has to include engagement in the arts, culture and creativity. It is about lifting horizons and exploring new ways in which to see and understand the world. It is about understanding humanity and emotion and what makes us all the people we are; that is what education is all about and it is what the arts fundamentally can offer to education.
I take just one simple example, taking place out of school rather than in school, but the principle is exactly the same, a thing called the Hartcliffe Boys Dance Company, started in Bristol many years ago by a visionary man called Vic Ecclestone. Instead of lowering horizons for the teenage boys on the Hartcliffe estate in south Bristol, an area of enormous deprivation, he decided to lift their horizons and introduced them to the power of modern dance. Not only that, but he persuaded them to write, perform, choreograph and video an opera about the Prometheus myth.
This was not teaching kids how to be a good DJ; it was about really challenging them—lifting their horizons and enhancing their life skills. The excitement and the sense of achievement and self-worth that they were able to achieve through this transformed not only their lives but the entire estate that they lived on. This is incalculably rewarding. It ought to be part of the warp and weft of our education provision, for whoever, from whatever background, to benefit from.
Let us not forget the importance of creativity in subsequent employment and career opportunities, either. This is not just about the creative industries, devoted though I have been for many years to the promotion of their role in our economy. They are, of course, hugely important, and account for about 6% to 7% of our national economy. Creativity matters elsewhere across the economy as well, in all other businesses and public organisations.
Yet what do we do about creativity for our school pupils? We squeeze it out of them. A child of five will sing and dance, express themselves, paint and make music with free abandon and enormous creativity. We then spend the next 10 years of their educational experience teaching them that that is not important. It is, and we should teach them that it is. We should encourage children to continue with creative spirit, if they have it.
I have one more thing to say. When I was Secretary of State for Culture, I was very proud to have established what we called the creative partnerships programme. It was about linking artists, performers, creative businesses, directors and producers with schools in some of the most deprived areas of this country. It gave pupils the chance not only to experience and learn, and to enjoy the arts, but to practise the arts: to direct a play, to make a movie, to compose a piece of music, to design a dance—and to paint, to act, to dance, to design and to make music. It was not just about enjoyment and experience and preparation for creative careers; it was also about enabling the whole of the rest of the school to benefit from the experience that those pupils were having. In Ofsted inspection after Ofsted inspection, the schools that were part of the creative partnerships programme outperformed other schools by miles. That programme has now been abandoned. I was very sorry to see it go, and I hope that one day, either it or something very like it may be put in place once again, to lift the lives of countless pupils up and down the country.
My Lords, I join in the congratulations to my noble friend the Earl of Clancarty on obtaining this excellent debate, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Evans of Bowes Park, on her splendidly well judged maiden speech. I declare my interest as a member of several music-related all-party groups, including the Parliament Choir; my membership of the latter may mean that I have a rather limited amount of voice left after the concert last night. Apart from that, I could probably have outdone the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, in terms of my total lack of artistic talent in my schooldays.
At this stage in the debate much of what I planned to say has already been said, which I regret may not prevent me from repeating it, probably a good deal less eloquently. I share the concern expressed about the recent words of the Secretary of State for Education, which I will not repeat again but with which I profoundly disagree. STEM subjects are vital, not least in developing skills needed for employment, and we need more young people to study them to a higher level. However, they are not alternatives to arts and humanities subjects but complementary to them. We need from our education system rounded individuals with not just STEM-based skills but the sorts of skills better developed by arts subjects including creativity, imagination, innovation, team work, discipline, self-esteem and entrepreneurship. I agree entirely that the emphasis should be on STEAM, not STEM.
There is no shortage of evidence, both anecdotal and research-based, for the beneficial effects of arts education. Much of that was set out in a very helpful Library note produced for this debate. The list of benefits cited in research is a long one. Beyond those skills that I have just mentioned, it includes reading skills, general literacy, language acquisition, maths, visual and spatial intelligence, working memory, brain plasticity—whatever that may be—thinking skills, personal and social development, confidence and motivation to study. That is just a selection that I took from the literature. Many of those skills are recognised, not least by employers, as key skills for the digital economy of the future.
Perhaps in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, I might remind noble Lords that the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, which he chairs, is ranked third of 154 higher education institutions in the country for employment, with 98.8% of UK-domiciled students in jobs or further study six months after graduating. Of the two institutions ahead of that one, both with a score of 100%, one is the Royal College of Music. So much for arts and humanities not helping to enhance employability.
I will now focus more specifically on music and ask whether our schoolchildren are getting what they deserve in music education, and indeed what they are promised by the Government’s commendable and visionary national plan for music education. There are many excellent and inspiring music education activities and initiatives around the country. On Monday I attended an outreach programme supported by the Worshipful Company of Musicians at Argyle Primary School in Kings Cross, one of 84 outreach programmes this year. Two groups of children listened in thrall to a young violinist from Estonia talking about and demonstrating her instrument. Many of those children, mostly either Bangladeshi or Somali, were themselves learning to play the violin, while others were learning the tin whistle. Apparently, that reflected the interests of the previous teacher with a passion for the ceilidh.
The pianist James Rhodes’s “Don’t Stop the Music” campaign on Channel 4 included an instrument amnesty, which led to more than 3,000 instruments being pledged for donation to 150 schools so that their students could learn on them. This morning I visited the Royal Opera House Thurrock, which is involved in an impressive range of education programmes, including the new Thurrock Trailblazer project initially involving 21 local schools, with plans to extend to all 52 schools in the borough.
I have heard about numerous other brilliant initiatives backed by the BBC, the Mayor of London, the City of London, Sistema England, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and many more, not forgetting the DfE itself and the Arts Council. There are lots of good news stories, yet the whole seems somehow to add up to less than the sum of its parts. A review published in July for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation found that,
“the quality and reach of schools-based music education is still unacceptably variable and inconsistent—at both primary and secondary”.
As we have heard, the numbers taking music GCSEs are down from almost 54,000 in 2007-08 to about 42,000 in 2013-14. A recent ABRSM report states that:
“Sustained, progressive music education tends to be the preserve of children born to wealthier parents … 40% of children from the lower social grades who have never played an instrument said they had no opportunity to learn at school”,
yet Arts Council research shows that students from low-income families who take part in arts activities at school are three times more likely to get a degree. I have a number of questions to ask the Minister focusing on the music education plan, but also relevant to other arts education more widely.
First, what can he do to ensure that Ofsted takes music and arts education more formally into account in its inspections? We know how important Ofsted inspection results are in determining priorities for schools, so why can it not be made a requirement for a school to offer good or outstanding music and arts provision in order for it to be rated good or outstanding overall? That might also help to convince some of the more sceptical head teachers and governors about the merits of arts education.
Secondly, what steps will he take to improve the availability of teachers with the necessary training and skills to teach music or art? The shortage of skilled, confident music and arts teachers is a constant refrain, yet I understand that, for example, the primary teaching module that was developed as part of the national plan for music education receives no funding from the department.
Thirdly, what can be done to improve the availability of information about what is actually happening in schools across the country to identify areas of weakness and to disseminate and promote good practice? The monitoring board originally set up as part of the national plan has been redesignated as a cultural education board, but nothing has been published on its actual views about the progress being made.
Fourthly, what can the department do to broaden the impact of schemes such as “Don’t Stop the Music”, so that more schools benefit from them? The national plan needs to embrace such initiatives, so as to enhance its effectiveness in reaching those parts that have so far proved difficult to reach.
Lastly, what can be done to ensure that the available funding addresses the challenges posed by geographical areas and categories of students that are currently not getting the benefits that they should, and also to reassure music education hubs that they can plan ahead in the confidence that their funding is likely to continue at its current level beyond 2016? I look forward to the Minister’s response and, following his encouraging answers to the first Question this morning, which I was sorry to miss, perhaps he should consider giving it in Latin.
My Lords, I do not think I am going to rise to that challenge. It is a pleasure to respond to this debate and I thank the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for giving us the opportunity to raise these crucial issues, despite the air of pessimism that we seem to have engendered as the debate has gone on. I feel that I am among old friends here, with some new conscripts added. I particularly welcome the contribution of my noble friend Lord Cashman, whose personal testimony and insight this afternoon captivated us. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Evans, for her incisive and articulate maiden speech. I look forward, given her education background, to debating education policy with her at length in the future.
I mentioned old friends from around the Chamber, because when we have debated these issues in the past, we have reached a wide degree of consensus about the value of the arts and creativity in their own right—an importance that I think we all agree needs to be grounded in education from an early age. We also acknowledge its wide reach into our economy, our health and well-being and our society as a whole. As a number of noble Lords have said today, the creative industries have been acknowledged to be growing three times as fast as the national economy, and now make a contribution of more than £71 billion. So it is a worthwhile cause in itself.
However we measure it and through whatever prism we view the contribution of the arts, their significance to our society is impressive. In previous debates on the arts, Ministers responding have agreed with the central premise. How could they not, since the evidence is overwhelming? I am sure that the Minister will do so again today and will give us examples of some lovely projects and initiatives that have been introduced in schools during this Government’s reign. It would be churlish not to welcome them, and we do—but, sadly, they do not make up for the more substantial losses affecting arts education overall. As the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, said, they should be the icing on the cake, not the cake. As the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, said, when there is a piecemeal distribution, we risk cultural capital becoming the preserve of the elite and the privileged. We are in danger of that now.
Ultimately, the Government will be judged by their overall record of support for the arts—and, as we have heard as the debate has gone on, this has left us with a series of very serious questions. For example, we have debated several times the effect that the disastrous reorganisation of the curriculum has had on the teaching of arts subjects. In retrospect, it was clearly a mistake to announce an EBacc system that gave no priority to arts subjects.While this has now been supplanted by the Progress 8 and Attainment 8 measures, which have slightly more flexibility, the take-up of arts subjects at GCSE is continuing to fall. Meanwhile, the important issue of discounting the value of arts subjects against each other continues to rumble on, with an inevitable negative impact on the take-up of certain arts subjects. To compound the problem, teacher-training places in arts education have been cut by 35%, as we have heard, with specialist arts teachers inevitably being cut and affecting the quality of teaching at all key stages in the future.
Yet we have heard from several noble Lords about the transformative impact that an inspiring, qualified art teacher had on them. We have also heard that arts activity at primary level has been cut by almost a third and after-school cultural activities are also being cut back. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, that hot-housing at primary level and the lack of play have a corrosive effect that needs to be addressed.
Thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, we had an excellent debate on music hubs a couple of weeks ago—a policy which at that time we all supported. But even there the Minister was forced to admit that, despite some notable exemplars, their coverage was patchy and that disadvantaged children were particularly losing out in the provision.
What are we to make of Nicky Morgan’s more recent speech to which noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and others referred? Will the Minister let us know if he agrees with her comments? Of course we want to encourage more young people, particularly girls, to study more STEM subjects, but you do not do it by rubbishing arts and humanities and saying that they will not lead to decent careers. After all, 34% of chief executives from FTSE 100 companies have an arts background. How could she get the message so wrong, and what does this tell us about the Government’s commitment to arts subjects in the future?
Surely what we want to encourage is a broad education which embraces a mixture of arts and science, literally transforming STEM to STEAM with the arts taking their rightful place, perhaps even with universities offering more courses that combine arts and science disciplines. I applaud the joint master’s degree initiative at the University of London to which my noble friend Lady Nye referred. More of those sorts of courses should be offered. We want young people to be both creative and analytical and to have an education which ceases to stereotype them by the subjects they study and builds on their individuality.
As the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, said, investment in arts education is more than the sum of its parts. We all seem to have quoted Professor Ken Robinson this afternoon, and I have my favourite quote, which is that,
“creativity, like learning in general, is a highly personal process. We all have different talents and aptitudes and different ways of getting to understand things. Raising achievement in schools means leaving room for these differences and not prescribing a standard steeplechase for everyone to complete at the same time and in the same way”.
Surely this quote captures the very creativity that will shape our lives in future.
That is the real challenge to this Government going forward. As several noble Lords pointed out, it is also that creativity that employers are craving their employees to demonstrate; it is obvious that film-makers need digital and visual literacy, that drama teaches confidence and communication, that engineers also need to be designers, that scientists need innovation skills and that craft skills are crucial for practical application.
So what would an alternative approach to arts education look like? It would make it a priority that that every child should have the opportunity to engage in the arts throughout their education, and we are consulting on how to make that happen. It would ensure that children from disadvantaged families do not miss out in the knowledge that access to high-quality arts and culture helps to close the attainment gap in educational outcomes. It would give every child a regular programme of access to the arts to see theatre and dance productions, to hear a wide variety of music and to visit museums and galleries. It would give every child opportunities to express themselves: taking part in art, drama, music and theatre, and learning how to perform on stage and create their own art.
It would reverse the negative messages about the importance of the arts in the performance and attainment measures and reject the binary choice between science and the arts. It would review the implementation of the music hub programme and consider how the aspiration that every child should learn a musical instrument and experience whole-class ensemble teaching could really be achieved. It would be imaginative in using new technology to support children’s creative learning. It would consider whether Ofsted should be able to rate a school as outstanding if it does not provide an outstanding cultural and arts education. It would build on the proposals for wrap-around education for primary schools from 8 am to 6 pm, and develop an exciting programme of extracurricular cultural activities, welcoming arts experts into the school to run workshops and short courses. It would also work with the Arts Council and the National Skills Agency to provide more high-quality apprenticeships, as an alternative to university, in the arts and culture sectors.
The previous Government had a great record of promoting and supporting the arts. Their achievements are too many to list here, although a number of my noble friends have already done so. However, those working and learning in the sector know our values and our record and will have confidence that we can deliver for them again. I will be interested to hear whether the Minister supports our aspirations for arts education provision in the future and I look forward to his response.
My Lords, I join others in congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, on securing a debate on this important subject. I also congratulate the other speakers on their contributions. In particular, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Evans of Bowes Park, on her eloquent maiden speech. We have worked closely together on free schools and I have been immensely impressed by her judgment and analysis. I am sure that she will make a very valuable contribution to your Lordships’ House.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Nye, mentioned, many noble Lords will have seen the book, The Virtuous Circle, by Sir John Sorrell, Darren Henley and Paul Roberts, published earlier this month. It makes the argument that cultural and creative activities and learning should form a vital part of the everyday lives of all young people. It is a compelling argument and I commend it to your Lordships. However, most of us already know that a rich cultural and creative learning experience is an essential part of a good education, particularly for those disadvantaged pupils who may otherwise have a cultural deficit which will hold them back. That point has been made by many, including Diane Abbott, who has articulated it so eloquently.
The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, referred to the danger of the arts becoming the province of the rich. Sadly, it is true that that has, proportionately, been the case for some time. This is the most socially immobile country in the developed world. That is why the Government are particularly focused on improving the life chances of disadvantaged children and arresting the decline in academic and cultural education which took place under the previous Government.
No one should be in any doubt that the Government fully accept the case for arts education in schools. We recognise the arts as an integral part of children’s development, and believe strongly that every child should experience a high-quality arts and music education throughout their time in school. The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and others made the case that arts subjects should have an equal place in the curriculum. Arts subjects do have the same status as many other important subjects. To answer some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, music, art and design are statutory subjects in the national curriculum, so every child in a maintained school must study these subjects from the ages of five to 14. Singing is included in the national curriculum. Pupils must also study drama as part of their English studies, as well as dance. Dance has been a compulsory element in the curriculum at key stages 1 and 2 for some time and, since September, it has been compulsory at key stage 3.
It would not be appropriate, of course, to force students to study arts subjects at key stage 4. Children need to choose options that reflect their individual interests, strengths and future career choices. Children do not have to study arts subjects at key stage 4, nor do they have to study humanities, languages or design and technology. However, all children in maintained schools must be offered the opportunity to study history or geography, a modern foreign language and design and technology. They must also be offered the opportunity to study at least one subject from the arts entitlement area, which includes music, art and design, drama, dance and media arts. These are not soft subjects; they combine creativity and practical skills with academic rigour. Our reform of GCSE and A-level exams is designed to ensure that all exams are equally challenging.
The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and others asked about the role of Ofsted. All state-funded schools are required to offer a broad and balanced curriculum which promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils, and Ofsted inspects against that. It is currently consulting on increasing the emphasis in the inspection framework given to the breadth of the curriculum.
Prior to January 2012, inspections included a minimum of 27 graded judgments with four additional early-years foundation judgments and four additional sixth-form judgments for schools with these settings. We slimmed down the number of judgments from a maximum of 35 to four to focus Ofsted inspections more clearly, and that was warmly welcomed. However, we will be interested to see the outcome of the consultation.
The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, and others mentioned changes in relation to accountability measures and how they will affect arts subjects. From 2016, the Government will remove the existing headline attainment measure of pupils achieving five or more A to C grades at GCSE, including English and maths, which has encouraged schools to place far too much emphasis on lifting pupils over the C/D borderline. The shadow Secretary of State has acknowledged the mistake of the previous Government in focusing exams far too much on what he called the great crime of the C/D borderline. We have introduced the EBacc as a first step to a fairer accountability system.
I have listened to many speeches stating that the arts have been downgraded by this Government. I have stated that that is not the case and I will statistically disprove it shortly, but we must also recognise our starting point. This Government came to power facing some depressing facts about our education system. We started from an extremely low base. We slumped down the education international league tables under the previous Government and, at the end of last year, the OECD told us that our 2012 school leavers—Labour’s children—were the most illiterate in the developed world, coming 24th out of 24 countries for literacy and 21st out of 24 for numeracy. That is shocking.
Under the previous Government, the number of pupils taking a core suite of academic subjects fell from 50% to 22%. In my view, that Government practised the greatest confidence trick ever perpetrated on the British public; namely, the scandal of the misuse of equivalents, under which subjects that were of little real value were overvalued in the GCSE equivalent tables. Subjects such as a higher-level BTEC diploma in fish husbandry were equivalent to four GCSEs, despite the fact that there were no exams and it was all coursework. Other favourites of mine are cake decorating and hazard control. We have stopped that and, thanks to the policy of this Government and partly to the EBacc, the number of pupils now taking a core suite of academic subjects—so essential to those pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds to make up for cultural deficits—is now back up by 64%. The assumption that under this Government the curriculum has changed from one that is rich in the arts for many students to one that is not so rich is false. Under this Government, it has changed from one which for so many pupils consisted of a curriculum of English, maths and some low-value so-called vocational subjects to one that is far broader in terms of academic and cultural subjects. That is the reality.
A number of noble Lords, including the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, talked about the effect of the EBacc, and the fact that it has led to a fall in the number of pupils taking GCSE music and to a decline in other arts subjects. I am pleased to have the opportunity to put the record straight. The number of GCSEs taken across all subjects has fallen nationally since 2010 as the cohort has reduced and as more children have taken vocational exams. Therefore, it is no surprise that the number taking GCSEs in music and the arts has fallen. Since 2010, the number of entries in all key stage 4 exams in music has gone up by 7%, in art and design by 4% and in drama by 3%. The average number of key stage 4 exam entries in arts subjects per pupil has stayed level since 2010. In 2014, more year 11 pupils took GCSEs in arts subjects than in 2013, including more than 3% more in music, 6% more in art, 10% more in performing and expressive arts, and 11% more in media, film and TV studies.
That is possibly the result of the fact that we are now introducing the new Progress 8 measure, which will be the only measure used for secondary school floor standards. This will look at pupils’ progress over eight subjects—English, maths, three further EBacc subjects and three other high-value qualifications. Up to three arts subjects per pupil, including music—the noble Lord, Lord Moser, will be pleased to hear—will count, as will grade music exams at grade 6 and above. Including eight subjects will encourage schools to offer a broad and balanced curriculum, rather than to focus their attention on only five subjects. As a result, schools will have a greater incentive to offer a range of arts subjects, to allow pupils to study more than one arts subject, and to teach those subjects well. The average number of GCSEs or the equivalent that pupils take is now more than 11, so pupils will be studying a broader sweep of subjects than eight and it is likely that many of them will be arts subjects.
The new progress measures will also incentivise schools to focus on improving the grades of all pupils, and coasting schools with strong intakes will be encouraged to get the best from their pupils. The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, referred to the recent speech of the Education Secretary on STEM, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. I do not think that the Secretary of State thinks that STEM subjects are necessarily more useful than the arts and humanities, but we need to improve the take-up of STEM subjects, as we are doing. We believe that a balance of STEM subjects, humanities and arts subjects will equip pupils to thrive in modern Britain. Indeed, the Secretary of State is a great believer in building character, for the formation of which a curriculum rich in the arts is so important.
It is important for pupils to study the arts for a variety of reasons. The noble Lord, Lord Bichard, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, spoke about the contribution that the arts make to the UK economy and the skills that are needed by the creative industries. My noble friend Lady Evans, the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, and others suggested that studying arts subjects has a positive impact on a variety of skills that all employers find attractive: teamworking, confidence and communication skills. These are important, but they are not the whole story. Participation in the arts helps build character. Children and young people who apply themselves learn the value and rewards that come from hard work and practice.
Even without all those benefits, however, we believe that arts subjects are worthy of study in their own right. They are part of our cultural heritage. Children’s education is not complete until they have learnt to dance and to take part in drama, or until they have learnt to draw, paint and work with clay and other materials. It is not complete until they have learnt to sing, play a musical instrument and compose, or until they can understand staff notation, without which many musical doors will remain closed to them. All children should have the chance to study the work of great artists, craft-makers and designers, the work of great composers and musicians, and the work of William Shakespeare, the greatest of English playwrights.
Today, people of all ages still enjoy singing, dancing, playing instruments, acting and making art. The latest Taking Part survey shows that 99% of children aged five to15 have engaged with the arts in 2013-14. The recent Making Music report by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music shows that more children than ever are playing musical instruments: 76% of five to 14 year-olds say they know how to play a musical instrument. That is up from 41% in 1999. However, 15% of five to 17 year-olds said that they had never played an instrument, and 40% of the children from lower socioeconomic groups who have never played an instrument said they had no opportunity to learn one at school. We need this to improve. A child’s economic background should not determine whether they are able to play a musical instrument, or whether they are able to continue to play and make progress.
Our music education hubs were set up with four core roles: to ensure that every child aged five to 18 has the opportunity to learn a musical instrument through whole-class ensemble teaching programmes; to ensure that clear progression routes are available and affordable to all young people; to provide opportunities to play in ensembles and to perform; and to develop a singing strategy to ensure that every pupil sings regularly and that choirs and other vocal ensembles are available in the area. The hubs will receive at least £17 million more in 2015-16 than they did in 2014-15 to help them make a reality of this vision. Schools need to play their part, too, by providing opportunities for pupils to sing in choirs and play in orchestras. There are many examples of good practice, and it is wonderful when we can celebrate them.
Earlier this month, at the School Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, in front of an audience of thousands, Katie Crozier from Brampton Village Primary School in Cambridgeshire was awarded with the Classic FM primary music teacher of the year award. When she started at the school, there were eight singers in the choir and no orchestra. Six years on, there is a choir of more than 100 and an orchestra of more than 50. What a wonderful difference one teacher can make.
Secondary schools will, by their nature, have specialist teachers in the arts, as they do in other subjects, but some schools are specialising even more. The noble Lord, Lord Smith, mentioned the BRIT School: an independent, state-funded city college for the technology of the arts, dedicated to educational and vocational training for performing arts, media, art and design and the technologies that make performance possible.
The noble Baroness, Lady Evans, mentioned the East London Arts and Music school and the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, a free school. We have funded a further five free schools specialising in the arts, several UTCs and nine studio schools specialising in the arts. My department supports a number of initiatives in addition to those provided by the music hubs designed to ensure that young people have access to good quality music education, which the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, mentioned.
We support In Harmony, a national programme that aims to inspire and transform the lives of children in six deprived communities, using the power and disciplines of community-based orchestral music-making. We support Music for Youth, a national music education charity providing free access to performance and audience opportunities for thousands of young musicians across the UK, and we support the national youth music organisations such as the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, which provides opportunities for the most talented musicians to perform at a high level.
In addition, our music and dance scheme enables exceptionally talented musicians and dancers to achieve their full potential by funding full-time education at eight specialist schools. They include the Royal Ballet School, the Yehudi Menuhin School, Elmhurst School for Dance and the Purcell School, which was home to the winner of this year’s “Young Musician of the Year” competition, Martin James Bartlett. The music and dance scheme also funds training at a network of 21 music and dance centres of advanced training across the country, including the junior departments of all the English music conservatoires. Jointly with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, we fund students aged 16 to 23 through the Dance and Drama Awards to attend a range of 19 specialist dance and drama schools.
Those schemes are great ways to ensure that talented pupils from all backgrounds are able to achieve their potential. We also fund a wider range of cultural education programmes: the Sorrell Foundation’s Saturday art and design clubs, which provide opportunities for 14 to 16 year-olds to study art and design every Saturday morning at their local university or college for free; the British Film Institute’s Film Academy for budding young film-makers aged 16 to 19; the National Youth Dance Company; and a museums and schools programme that aims to increase the number of high-quality educational visits by school pupils from areas which currently have lower than average cultural engagement; the heritage schools programme, run by English Heritage; and an expansion of the Arts Council’s bridge organisations.
In total, we are spending more than £340 million in the three years from 2012 to 2015 on music and arts education programmes. We will be announcing funding for 2015-16 shortly.
The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, mentioned teachers. The proportion of music ITT trainees with at least a 2.1 has increased substantially. Now, 82% of them have a 2.1, which has risen since 2011-12 by 13%. We have increased the range of bursaries; we offer £9,000 for those with a first-class degree. The Government have supported teaching schools to designate 145 specialist leaders of education in arts subjects.
The noble Baroness, Lady Nye, asked about the teaching and learning of drawing. We have improved the emphasis on drawing in the new national curriculum. In key stage 1, children must be taught to use drawing to develop and share their ideas, experiences and imagination. We have also improved the emphasis on drawing in the proposed content for the new art and design GCSE, which requires students to demonstrate an ability to use drawing skills.
The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, mentioned discounting codes. As he acknowledged, we changed discounting codes for drama and dance and art and photography, and I believe he welcomed this. If evidence is presented as to why other arts areas are distinct enough, we will of course review the discounting codes.
I hope your Lordships will agree that, together with the policies I have already outlined, this package of programmes demonstrates our strong commitment to arts education. Once again I thank all noble Lords for participating in this important debate.
My Lords, I thank every noble Lord who has spoken in this debate. I particularly congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Evans of Bowes Park, on a very valuable contribution, and extend a warm welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Cashman.
I need to say that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber, very much wanted to be here today to talk about his work with schools, but was unable to because of other commitments. However, hot off the press as it were, he has given me a quote which I think makes an interesting observation:
“There is currently no legislation that ensures every child has an entitlement to high quality arts provision throughout their education. High quality teaching and in depth experiences benefits not just individuals, but schools, communities and the wider economy”.
That chimes with the fundamental point that many noble Lords have made: that a good arts education is a necessity. This is apart from the huge importance of the arts and creative industries to our economy, a fact many noble Lords rightly emphasised.
I thank the Minister for giving a comprehensive reply to this debate and answering many noble Lords’ questions. We can certainly argue about the statistics. Significant concern about the future of arts education in schools has been expressed today from all sides of the House. Many have said that the arts need to have a central role in the curriculum. I hope that the Government will take away these concerns and reflect on them carefully. I beg to move.
Maternity and Parental Leave etc. (Amendment) Regulations 2014
Paternity and Adoption Leave (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2014
Reports on Payments to Governments Regulations 2014
Motions to Approve
That the draft regulations laid before the House on 13 and 23 October be approved.
Relevant documents: 9th and 11th Reports from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. Considered in Grand Committee on 25 November.
Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) (No. 3) Order 2014
Motion to Approve
That the draft order laid before the House on 24 November be approved.
Relevant document: 14th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments
My Lords, it may be useful if I give the House some background to this order. The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre—JTAC—has raised the threat level for international terrorism from “Substantial” to “Severe”, as it assesses that a terrorist attack on the United Kingdom is highly likely. The House will be aware that earlier this week the Home Secretary stated that we believe that more than 500 British nationals have travelled to Syria and Iraq and thousands from other European and western countries have joined them. The threat from ISIL is clear. It is one of the most serious security challenges we face today. However, it is not the only threat we face, and your Lordships will know that the groups before your Lordships today operate in Libya and Egypt as well as in Syria.
In Libya, violence and instability have provided an environment for groups such as Ansar Al-Sharia–Benghazi to operate. Syria and Iraq have become the crucible of terror and violence in which groups such as Jaysh al Khalifatu Islamiya, al-Nusra Front and ISIL operate. Egypt has seen a significant increase in criminal activity and terrorist attacks on police and security forces by groups such as Ajnad Misr and Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.
We can never entirely eliminate the threat from terrorism, but we are determined to do all that we can to minimise the threat from terrorism to the UK and our interests abroad. Additionally, it is important that we demonstrate our support for other members of the international community in their efforts to tackle terrorism, wherever it occurs. Proscription is an important part of the Government’s strategy to tackle terrorist activities.
The three groups named in the order are: first, Ansar al-Sharia-Benghazi, or AAS-B, also known as Partisans of Islamic Law; secondly, Ajnad Misr, also known as Soldiers of Egypt; and, thirdly, Jaysh al Khalifatu Islamiya, or JKI, also known as Army of the Islamic Caliphate. We propose to add these groups to the list of international terrorist organisations, amending Schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000. This is the 16th proscription order under that Act. As noble Lords will appreciate, I am unable to comment on specific intelligence. However, I can provide a brief summary of each group’s activities in turn.
Ansar al-Sharia-Benghazi, or AAS-B, is a Sunni Islamist militia group that has an anti-Western stance and advocates the implementation of strict Sharia law. AAS-B is involved in terrorist attacks against civilian targets, frequent assassinations, and attempted assassinations of security officials and political actors in eastern Libya. On 11 September 2012, members of AAS-B took part in the attack against the US special mission and annex in Benghazi, killing the US ambassador and three other Americans. AAS-B continues to pose a threat to Libya and Western interests and is alleged to have links to the proscribed organisation Ansar al-Sharia-Tunisia and al-Qaeda. The US designated AAS-B as a terrorist organisation in January 2014 and the UN listed the group on 19 November.
Ajnad Misr is a jihadist group based in Egypt. The group is believed to be a splinter group of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, or ABM, which was proscribed on 4 April. Ajnad Misr has stated that it seeks to protect Egyptian Muslims and avenge alleged abuse against them by the Egyptian security services. Ajnad Misr is believed to have been active since 20 November 2013, when it attacked an Egyptian checkpoint. The group announced its establishment on 23 January 2014 and has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks on the Egyptian security forces since 2013, including the attack in April at Cairo University that resulted in the death of a policeman and injured three others, and the bomb attack near the foreign ministry in Cairo that killed three police officers in September. The Egyptian authorities banned Ajnad Misr in May 2014.
Jaysh al Khalifatu Islamiya, or JKI, is an Islamist jihadist group active in Syria. The group consists predominately of Chechen fighters. JKI has assisted al-Nusra Front and ISIL in conducting attacks. In February 2014 Abdul Waheed Majeed, a British individual linked to the group, carried out a suicide attack on a prison in Aleppo, resulting in prisoner escapes.
Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000 provides a power for the Home Secretary to proscribe an organisation if she believes that it is currently concerned in terrorism. If the statutory test is met, the Home Secretary may exercise her discretion to proscribe the organisation. In considering whether to exercise this discretion, the Home Secretary takes a number of factors into account. These are: the nature and scale of an organisation’s activities; the specific threat that it poses to the United Kingdom and to British nationals overseas; the organisation’s presence in the United Kingdom; and the need to support other members of the international community in tackling terrorism.
Proscription, in effect, outlaws a listed organisation and makes it unable to operate in the UK. Belonging to, inviting support for or arranging a meeting in support of a proscribed organisation is a criminal offence, as is wearing clothing or carrying articles in public that arouse reasonable suspicion that an individual is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation. Proscription can also support other disruptive activity, such as the use of immigration powers, including exclusion, prosecutions for other offences, messaging to deter fundraising and recruitment and EU asset freezes. Additionally, any assets of a proscribed group are liable to seizure as terrorist assets.
The Home Secretary exercises her power to proscribe only after a thorough review of the available relevant information and evidence on the organisation. This includes open source material, intelligence material and advice that reflects consultation across government, including with the intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The cross–Whitehall proscription review group supports the Home Secretary in her decision-making process. The Home Secretary’s decision to proscribe is taken only after great care and consideration of the particular case and it is appropriate that it must be approved by both Houses.
Having carefully considered all the evidence, the Home Secretary believes that AAS-B, Ajnad Misr and JKI are currently concerned in terrorism and that it is appropriate to exercise her discretion to proscribe them.
My Lords, I support this order. I have a couple of questions, on the basis that this at least was familiar terrain to me at an earlier stage. I thank the Minister for his detailed and helpful description of the purpose.
As the three organisations were being described, it was clear that there had been a considerable period in which there had been a review of their activities and a review against the standards that the Home Secretary applies in making the judgment and then seeking the view of the cross-Whitehall group. In one case—I think it was that of AAS-B—this discussion follows fairly closely on a decision that has been taken by the United Nations. In the case of the other groups, the issues seem to have been discussed in international fora relatively earlier.
My anxiety—it is no more than that—about which I am seeking clarification is whether it is not possible for the UK Government to move relatively faster when threats from these kinds of groups materialise. I recognise and respect the concept of thoroughness, and most certainly it should never be done in a way that does not take full account of all the facts. However, it may be that the reality is that a number of these groups have been operating in a hostile way for rather longer than we should tolerate, and in those circumstances there may be an argument for a methodology that gives more pace to what is required for the security of our country.
I ask that not because I want anyone to abandon thoroughness or the Home Secretary to take precipitate decisions that do not make sense—I would not advocate that—but I want to make sure that at the very earliest moment the calibration of threat shows that the people of this country, and those with whom we also have interests through our alliances and through other routes, are protected. Is there a view that the process could be faster? I hope that that is a simple point, which I make in support of the order being sought.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation of the purpose of, and need for, this order, which we support. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Bates, for his letter to my noble friend Lady Smith of Basildon, setting out the reasons for the order.
As the Opposition, we are obviously limited in the response we can make, since we do not have access to the intelligence that presumably has led the Home Secretary to go down the road that she wishes to take. The Explanatory Memorandum sets out some information about the three organisations that are covered by this order and will be proscribed under Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000. They are considered to be organisations that commit or participate in acts of terrorism, prepare for, promote or encourage terrorism, or are otherwise concerned in terrorism. The Terrorism Act 2006 also included in the grounds for proscription organisations that unlawfully glorify the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism.
These organisations appear to have been involved in activities justifying proscription for a little while, the point made by my noble friend Lord Triesman. One was involved, as the Minister said, in an attack that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans in Libya more than two years ago. Why has the Home Secretary decided to lay the order now, rather than at an earlier date?
The report earlier this week from the Intelligence and Security Committee referred to difficulties expressed by the Metropolitan Police in prosecuting charges for membership of a proscribed organisation, and it appears that there have been very few such successful prosecutions. Why is this the case? Presumably, an order such as the one that we are discussing comes about because there is hard evidence of the terrorist-related activities and aims of these organisations, and evidence that there are people who are active in these organisations. Why is it, then, that once an organisation has been proscribed, the evidence that must surely have been accumulated to justify the proscription order in the first place is not then used as the basis for making the case to prosecute successfully at least some of those presumably involved in those organisations? It would be helpful if the Minister could say why successful prosecutions appear to be the case very infrequently. Can he also provide, now or subsequently, information on the number of people who have been, first, prosecuted and, secondly, successfully prosecuted under each of the 15 orders that have previously been laid under the terms of the Terrorism Act 2000 for supporting, belonging to, inviting support for or arranging a meeting to support a proscribed organisation? The point of these questions is simply to try to establish exactly what, and how much, these orders are achieving in reality.
There is also provision under the Terrorism Act 2000 for the Secretary of State to remove an organisation from the list of proscribed organisations. How often has this happened, and in respect of which organisations? If no one has been prosecuted for membership of a particular proscribed organisation, either at all or within the past few years, would that be regarded by the Government as a reason for considering the removal of that organisation from the list? Are the Government satisfied that the organisations already proscribed still represent a terrorist threat to this country, and do the Government regularly review the situation to satisfy themselves that the case still remains for organisations already there to continue to be on the proscribed list?
Do the three organisations that we are discussing today use social media to promulgate their unacceptable aims and objectives? If so, has action already been taken, or is it going to be taken, to seek to ensure that this no longer continues to be the case? In indicating again that we support the order, I nevertheless hope that the Minister will be able to throw some light on the issues that I and my noble friend Lord Triesman have raised.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Triesman and Lord Rosser, for their support. I hope that I will be able to answer their questions in some measure at least.
We believe that the three organisations should be added to the list of proscribed organisations. I am glad of and acknowledge the support that we have received from all corners of the House, not only for this but for the previous 15 proscription orders. The noble Lords, Lord Triesman and Lord Rosser, talked about the timing of proscription. The decisions on whether and when to proscribe a particular organisation are taken after extensive consideration and in the light of a full assessment of the available information, identifying whether a group is currently concerned with terrorism and meets the statutory process for proscription. There is then the discretionary element— the Home Secretary has to decide whether it is right in the light of our national interests, even if it meets the statutory definition of terrorism, to proscribe the organisation. Sometimes it may not be. It is important, for example, that it does not adversely impact on any ongoing investigations and supports other members of the international community. It is not appropriate for us to discuss the specific intelligence that leads to the decision to proscribe.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, also asked about the low number of prosecutions for proscription offences. In answer to his specific question on numbers, between 2001 and the end of March 2014, 33 people have been charged with proscription offences as primary offences in Great Britain and 16 have been convicted. The Terrorism Act covers a broad range of offences and different offences may well be adopted on the basis of the evidence that is presented. However, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service continue to examine these issues carefully.
We regard proscription as a valuable tool, as it supports other disruptive activity, including immigration disruption, prosecutions for other offences, messaging to deter funding and recruitment and asset freezes. The assets of a proscribed organisation are subject to seizure. Although we realise that issues are involved in the numbers of prosecutions, there have been some, and it is worth noting that, in its report yesterday, the Intelligence and Security Committee said that,
“given the deterrent effect and the value in drawing attention to individuals who hold extremist views, the Committee considers that there is benefit in continuing to proscribe organisations”.
In answer to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about how many groups have been deproscribed, at the moment there is one: the People’s Mujaheddin of Iran. He also asked why evidence to justify the proscription of a group is not used to prosecute individuals such as its members. The test for proscribing a group is whether it is concerned with terrorism. The evidence that is relevant to that test is not relevant to an assessment of whether particular individuals are members or supporters of that group.
In terms of any progress on deproscription and whether it is reviewed continuously, we do not give a running commentary on proscribed organisations. On 10 December 2013, the Minister said that he would consider deproscription only on application. Anyone or any individual connected with the organisation at any time can apply for deproscription and the Home Secretary is required to determine that application within 90 days. In addition, it is important to note that Section 10 of the Terrorism Act provides that evidence of anything done in relation to a deproscription application is not admissible as evidence in proceedings against an individual for an offence under that Act. Therefore there is no disincentive there to apply for deproscription.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, also mentioned action on social media. Some 65,000 sites have been taken down, 42,000 of those within the last year. Therefore there is a lot of activity in that area, which is obviously a very relevant one. The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, which was presented to Parliament yesterday in the House of Commons, will contain provisions on that, and this House will have plenty of time to talk about social media in the context of counterterrorism.
I hope that I have answered most of the questions. I will now summarise. Proscription is based on clear evidence that an organisation is concerned in terrorism. It is the Home Secretary’s firm opinion that on the basis of the available evidence, all three groups named in this order meet the statutory test for proscription, and it is appropriate in each case for the Home Secretary to exercise her discretion to proscribe these groups. Therefore, I commend this order to the House.
House adjourned at 6.31 pm.