House of Lords
Thursday, 11 December 2014.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Sheffield.
General Practitioners: Hippocratic Oath
My Lords, there is no requirement for doctors to take an oath in the UK. Some medical schools may choose to include an oath in their graduation ceremonies, but that is not a requirement. When a doctor requests registration with the General Medical Council, before they can submit payment, and therefore as the final mandatory step, they must sign a declaration, part of which reads:
“I have read Good Medical Practice and understand my actions may be judged against the standards and principles it contains”.
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for that reply. Is it not the case that the GP contract, with or without the Hippocratic oath, is now not fit for purpose, despite its 208-page length? Does my noble friend not therefore agree that it is time the contract was considered from top to bottom, particularly as regards the provision of out-of-hours and evening services?
My Lords, the 2004 contract has been reviewed and renewed on an annual basis, and has proven to be a fairly robust document. The Government are not at the moment minded to change its basis. As for out-of-hours services—the nub of the Question—GPs can decide whether they opt out. Where they do opt out, the providers are inspected by the CQC and the local CCG.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that although there are several absolutely admirable principles embodied in the Hippocratic oath, its archaic language is totally inappropriate to the 21st century? For example, I do not believe that the noble Lords, Lord McColl and Lord Kakkar, would be prepared to swear that they would not cut for stone—and many doctors would be unwilling to honour their teacher as they do their parents. Is the Minister aware that the full original Hippocratic oath is fully reprinted in the Oxford Medical Companion, which I had the privilege to edit many years ago—and of which there is a copy in the Library?
My Lords, is the Minister aware that the first half of the Hippocratic oath is all to do with protecting doctors and that there is no mention of patients until way down the page? Furthermore—I used to read this out to my medical students—it contains a promise to supply “all the financial needs of those who taught me medicine”. None of them did.
My Lords, does the noble Baroness acknowledge that many general practitioners and other medical professionals have sworn the Hippocratic oath and regard it as a very serious statement of principle? Does she acknowledge the view widely held among medical professionals that to perform the role assigned to them in the Assisted Dying Bill would not be consistent with the principles of the Hippocratic oath?
That is an interesting point. The Government believe that any legal change should be made by Parliament rather than by government. However, doctors may choose to opt out of providing a medical procedure if it conflicts with their personal beliefs or values. The Assisted Dying Bill makes provision for a person not to participate in anything authorised by the legislation to which they hold a conscientious objection.
My Lords, while the GP contract is separate for Scotland and the modern Hippocratic oath is consistent with the ethos and the meaning of the proposals in the Assisted Dying Bill that have been debated in this House, does my noble friend the Minister agree that the principle of the oath being taken in its modern form, consistent with the duties of the General Medical Council, is a fundamental part of the service provided by doctors? Will she assure noble Lords that the ethos of the oath is a fundamental part of the training? On a wider front, could other professions that provide essential services benefit by learning and stating the principles of good professional conduct?
Do the Government recognise that yesterday’s vote in the National Assembly for Wales that rejected the principles of the Assisted Dying Bill is compatible with the 77% of general practitioners who do not want that Bill to come in, and with the view of a high percentage of doctors who are looking after such patients full-time?
My Lords, going back to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, will the noble Baroness repeat the words of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, when this issue was raised a couple of weeks ago—namely, that the core part of the 2004 contract that the noble Lord complained about was negotiated in the 1990s by the previous Conservative Government? Will she confirm that?
As far as the oath is concerned, the noble Baroness will be aware that part of it states:
“Whatsoever house I may enter, my visit shall be for the convenience and advantage of the patient”.
Would Hippocrates be surprised by how few home visits are now done by doctors?
My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that part of the problem with GP contracts is that GPs are independent practitioners who can negotiate their contracts, whereas hospital doctors, when they apply for a job, have to comply with the job description for that job?
My Lords, the UK balance of trade will depend on a number of factors, including the exchange rate and economic performance of our trading partners. This Government will continue to make supporting our exporters a key priority.
Does the Minister agree that it is more than 30 years since our balance of trade was last in surplus and that the policies of successive Governments have been totally inadequate in tackling this fundamental economic weakness? We have no policy on import substitution and we give no incentive to companies to provide their staff with international trade and export qualifications. How can any country achieve long-term economic success and stability if this level of trade deficit continues indefinitely?
I commend the noble Lord for his enthusiasm for exporting, although I think that he does the UK some disservice. We are the sixth largest exporter in the world—the second largest exporter of services. I agree with him that it has not been a key priority for past Governments, but it most certainly is for this Government. With regard to import substitution, while I would not refer to it in these terms, there is for instance the recent announcement by the Prime Minister of a Reshore UK service within UKTI to encourage manufacturers to come back to the UK. That is just one example of the many things we are doing to help our position in the long term on the balance of trade.
The original Question was on the balance of trade, not the balance of payments; they are, of course, two quite different things. The balance of trade is in deficit to around £30 billion; it is a deficit of about 2% of GDP, which is significantly better than under the previous Government, when it was on average 2.5% of GDP. As the UK is growing much faster than its partners it is difficult to forecast exactly when it will come to zero. Certainly the OBR expects to see a significant improvement going forward, but I am reminded of the words of J K Galbraith, who said that the only purpose of economic forecasts is to give astrology a good name.
There has traditionally been a deficit on our balance of trade, but always this has been counterbalanced by a large surplus on our service industries. Will the Minister therefore pay tribute to them, including the creative industries and the City, for ensuring that?
The noble Lord is correct that services have been and remain a very strong surplus for the UK. It has to be recognised that, increasingly, services and goods are becoming intermingled. I know that when Rolls-Royce sells a jet engine, almost half the value is a service. One of the things that we should cease doing to a degree is separating off goods and services, because increasingly they are the same. I commend our creative industries, our professional and financial services, our aerospace sector and, indeed, our growing motor vehicle industry which, of course, is the second largest producer of cars in the whole of Europe.
My Lords, my noble friend has reminded us that this country is a huge exporter of services—I think he said that we are the second biggest in the world. That will increase more and more as information and data will play the key role rather than actual physical products. Free trade in services is what we have not got—particularly in Europe but throughout the world. Will my noble friend reassure us that huge efforts will be made to free up the service trade so that our exports can prosper even more in the future?
I certainly confirm that that is a key priority: both extending the single market to services, which we are pushing for in the EU, and the trade and services agreement, which is a plurilateral agreement between many countries. The UK is championing that. As such a large producer of services, we certainly support both those measures to increase trade.
First, I thank the noble Lord for his contribution to life sciences, which is very much appreciated. The life science sector is hugely important. From pharmaceuticals onwards, the UK has a very strong position. The appointment of George Freeman as the Minister responsible shows how important it is, and the measures taken on R&D allowances and tax relief on the exploitation of IP in the UK will carry on supporting this industry. I was in Boston recently, talking to a number of life science companies that are thinking of coming to the UK.
My Lords, it is the turn of the Labour Benches and then it will be right if we come back over to the Liberal Democrats.
My Lords, does the Minister recognise that in the north-east we still have the highest proportion of manufacturing in the country as part of our economy? However, the large companies there, such as Nissan and now Hitachi, see membership of the European Union as absolutely critical to their ability to trade, particularly with Europe. They want to be in the north-east because of the quality of the workforce and because it is English- speaking, but they want the clear access to Europe. Are not the Government potentially putting this at risk, and will the Minister fight within his Government for this country to stay in Europe?
The north-east, indeed, is one of our manufacturing powerhouses and is part of the UK that actually has a trade surplus with the rest of the world. The Nissan factory is producing more cars than the whole of Italy. I recognise that a number of exporters wish to remain in the EU but I also recognise that they wish to remain in a reformed EU—and that is what we on this side of the House are fighting for.
The Government’s industrial strategy brings together academia, the Government and also businesses in producing a long-term commitment to the next generation of technologies and industries. I know that the motor vehicle industry in particular welcomes this. I mentioned earlier the Reshore UK proposal. These things together are helping significantly, both with companies coming back to the UK and, for instance, companies such as Gestamp, a Spanish company that recently announced a significant investment in the UK.
My Lords, it is necessary for the safety and protection of the child that we undertake a full and careful assessment of each application. First-time passport applications for children are subject to additional checks and overseas applications can require documents to be verified in the country of issue with the relevant issuing authority.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his helpful and sensible Answer. Since I put down the Question, luckily, the eight-week advised wait for a newborn baby’s passport did not occur; it arrived nine days after application and the Home Office is to be commended. However, I would still like to ask the Minister for his reassurance that a minimum eight-week wait is not the norm but something of the past for low-risk areas, so as to alleviate the anxiety of new parents?
My Lords, we are always pleased to hear about a satisfied customer of the passport services, especially this year. That is good news. The reality is that delays can occur for three reasons. Sometimes they are caused by the passport service, and we are trying to bear down on that and improve on it. Sometimes the cause is the applicant not filling in forms or providing the necessary documents. Sometimes it is the country from which parents are applying for the overseas passport not giving in the documents in sufficient time. I agree that we should be doing much better.
At the peak of the summer holiday season, the Passport Office had a backlog of more than half a million passport applications. Thousands of people who had booked and paid for holidays were left uncertain whether they would be able to travel. In an editorial on 10 July on the great passport backlog, the Times wrote:
“The Passport Office has failed. The minister responsible … has failed”.
The Times was right. What guarantees can the Government give that there will not be the same shambles in the first half of next year?
There was a failure. That is why the Home Secretary intervened to annul agency status and to bring the problem into the Home Office to get a grip on it. That is why the delay in the process time for applications—which had sunk as low as 20%, which is appalling and for which we apologise—is now above 50% and heading towards 60% to 70%. That is as a result of the actions that have been taken and the grip that the Home Secretary has on the situation.
The ultimate responsibility now lies with the Home Office. We have taken that decision. Sometimes in the history of government it has been the case, when there was a problem, that we push it out and call it “agency status”. Here we have brought it in-house to get a grip on it. That is clearly happening.
May I ask the Minister what the position is regarding records, in view of his last statement? Every time I have to apply for a right of abode every time I get a new passport—I still have only my Australian passport—I am asked to provide all the original documents of my husband’s birth, his parents’ marriage and my marriage. I do not know whether the documents are going to give out or whether I am going to be dead first. Is there no way that these things can be kept on record?
Documentation is, of course, a critical element of this. The British passport is arguably the most prestigious travel and residence document in the world because of the security and steps we take to maintain its integrity. We cannot do that without having documents verified in-country to ensure that we award passports to people who are entitled to receive them. That is a key part of what we are trying to do.
The most important thing we have to do is to get a grip on the situation to ensure that the problems that led to delays last year—an increase of some 1 million applicants over what was normally forecast and expected—are dealt with, that people get the service that they expect and that we keep the security of our borders as our highest priority.
My Lords, the Minister has admitted that the real problem last year, in his words, was that there were a million more applications than normal. It was nothing to do with agency status. Has he thought through the law of unintended consequences? One of the reasons why the asylum figures and deportation of foreign prisoners were so difficult is that, after a long series of judicial appeals, someone could go to their MP. When the MP applied to the Home Office Minister, the case had to be opened again. Does the Minister think that bringing this back into the Home Office and thus permitting that has had anything to do with the escalation of the asylum and immigration problem?
That is a possibility. I defer to the noble Lord’s deep expertise in this area. The problem that happened with the numbers was an issue of forecasting and therefore ensuring that we had the right number of staff. We are now confident that we have the right number of staff to deal with that. Where issues are raised with a Member of Parliament then they should also apply to the ombudsman, which can deal with these matters if it thinks there has been maladministration.
My Lords, this report is a serious contribution to an important and wide-ranging debate, which recognises the multiple factors behind demand for emergency food assistance. As a country, we have enough food to go round. We agree that it is wrong that anyone should go hungry at the same time as surplus food is going to waste. There is a moral argument, as well as a sustainability one, to ensure that we make the best use of our resources.
I thank the Minister for his reply. I pay tribute to my colleague, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Truro, for co-chairing the inquiry. When the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury launched the report, he said that a party -political approach will not solve a problem such as this because of its complexity. I wonder whether the Minister would agree with that sentiment and whether, therefore, a genuine cross-party approach can be adopted to implementing the recommendations of the report. In particular, will the Government liaise and work closely with voluntary agencies, with the food banks and with industry to address the pressing problem of food waste and redistribution, whereby millions of tonnes of perfectly good food are going to waste at great cost, at a time when hundreds of thousands of people are still hungry?
My Lords, the Government are very happy to do that. After all, the whole food bank movement is a major civil society initiative. I entirely agree with the right reverend Prelate that this is a long-term problem and that we should not approach it in a partisan manner. Perhaps I might quote from the report:
“How a society protects the poorest from what appears to be a fundamental change in the way economies of the Western world are operating – which results in cuts in their living standards”—
that is, those of the poor—
“faster than other groups – calls for developing a political agenda which can only be delivered over decades”.
My Lords, I have been told by a friend who is involved in the food bank movement that demand for food banks has dipped when schools go back. The Government take some comfort from the fact that the expansion of free school meals in primary schools is clearly, therefore, a help in this regard, whatever the Daily Mail may have said in attacking the whole initiative.
My Lords, noble Lords may be aware that I have been a member of this inquiry, which over the past few months has travelled from Birkenhead and South Shields to Cornwall and Salisbury to take evidence, as well as indeed taking evidence from a large number of witnesses and organisations in London, many of whom do outstanding work in their local communities. I would like to take this opportunity to say how much I regret the wording of my remarks at the launch on Monday, not least because they have overshadowed the 76 other recommendations in the report. I ask my noble friend to urge Ministers in the eight different departments responsible to read the report and its recommendations with great care.
My Lords, I pay tribute to the enormous amount of work that the noble Baroness, together with others, has put into this inquiry. I know that she has been committed to these issues for some years. Perhaps I might draw particular attention to the chapter on resilience in this report, which talks about the problems of families who do not have the skills or confidence to cook. I note that the Trussell Trust has been providing courses on cooking for some of those in order to help with diet, so that they eat well and spend less.
My Lords, noble Lords will be aware that the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, and I have taken part for four years now in the Live Below the Line extreme poverty initiative every spring, and I welcome very much her statement here today and the way that it was received in the House. I also chair the Cash for Kids charity in the west of Scotland and have done for three years. This year, we experienced a 12% increase in the number of families and children applying for Christmas grants for food vouchers, cash or gifts to ensure that they have some pleasure on Christmas Day. It seems to me that, regardless of what debates take place in 2015 on welfare benefits, the economy or other issues, it would be an absolute tragedy if that figure were to be increasing again this time next year. Therefore, I hope that the Government will indeed take this report and our discussions with NGOs and charities throughout the land on board, to ensure that the Government, the public sector and the third sector can work together to serve those families who are still going to be in need, regardless of the initiatives that we take on welfare benefits or other aspects of the economy in the immediate future.
I thank the noble Lord for that. The report is also addressed to the utility companies and to problems such as having mobile phones on “pay as you go” tariffs meaning that you pay more. The poor pay more due to a whole range of structural reasons and the report therefore identifies a large number of targets to be addressed. It talks about debt, addiction, utility pricing, low pay, housing costs and mental health. The problem of low pay and the minimum wage, and how we increase pay, turn around troubled families and rebuild local social networks, are all part of the issues we need to address.
My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Food and Health Group, and I must say that we have had so much evidence over the years on why the national diet is inadequate, with malnourished people, obese people and so on. The noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin of Kennington, correctly identified that responsibility for food in the national diet is spread across eight government departments. Does my noble friend agree that the time has come for a national food strategy?
We do not need just a national food strategy. The Government are well aware of the complexities of this, which is why I am answering this Question on behalf of the Cabinet Office. This is a large, long-term problem. I was struck to read in the report that there are 1,000 food banks in Germany and 2,000 in France. It is not just a British problem.
My Lords, that takes a great deal of consideration and the Government certainly will do so. The report recommends that free school meals should be provided in the holiday period. That involves a lot of implications and cost, which the Government of course will have to consider.
My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that many of these people are living in multioccupancy buildings, with either shared cooking facilities or none, and have extreme difficulty in providing proper square meals for their families? Can that be taken into account when people are criticising them for not being able to support themselves?
My Lords, I agree with that. Another of the recommendations in this excellent report, which I encourage noble Lords to read in full, is that landlords should be expected to supply basic cooking facilities and equipment. There was also some good material on encouraging people to grow their own food. I have had some association with the charity in Shipley that deals with people who have mental health problems, runs a series of allotments and indeed encourages people to grow their own food and then cook it themselves. There is a whole range of issues that we need to address, some of which the Government can address but quite a lot of which civil society is at least as well equipped as government in addressing.
Business of the House
Motion on Standing Orders
Insurance Bill [HL]
Economic Leadership for Cities
Motion to Take Note
My Lords, I am grateful to have this opportunity to debate the case for enabling economic leadership for cities in the UK. I am grateful, too, to those noble Lords who will contribute today from all parts of this House. In particular, we look forward to hearing the maiden speeches of three Members on these Benches, each of whom has had personal experience as a council leader in driving economic growth and whose contribution to our debate will be very valuable.
My purpose today is twofold. First, it is reflective; that is, I want to look back at what the Government have done and what our cities have achieved since 2010. Secondly, it is about looking forward. We are experiencing a sea-change in our understanding of the economic importance of our cities; and by “cities” I mean the conurbation cities belong to—in essence, their travel-to-work areas. We are experiencing a rising self-confidence in our cities as local leaderships grasp the opportunity to do more to generate wealth and jobs and thus to reduce their reliance on London and the south-east. I am much encouraged by this, and, for the avoidance of any doubt, I do not mean for this debate to be exclusive: we should acknowledge the crucial role of shire counties and rural areas in wealth generation and the crucial role of London as a world city whose success means that it represents one-fifth of the UK economy. We may note that London has suffered less in the recession, but our aim should be to raise growth levels in other cities, whose tax revenues are very important to the rest of the UK, as well as London. It is, of course, now hugely expensive to live in London, with the result that there are many reports of young people moving out to other cities in the UK as employment clusters grow there, where the cost of living is cheaper and the quality of life is excellent.
I welcome the interim report by the Independent Commission on Economic Growth and the Future of Public Services in Non-Metropolitan England. It says that a handful of shires are now ready for devolved decision-making about public services and tax. It makes this debate on the economic leadership of cities even more important, because cities depend on rural areas and rural areas depend on cities. They complement each other, and they need to work closely together.
This is not about creating lots of independent city-states; it is about empowerment of our cities within a national framework so that they can grow faster and generate and retain higher tax revenues. It is about bringing local government closer together across boundaries so that it does not operate as geographical silos. Transport, skills and jobs, for example, all transcend an individual council’s boundaries in urban areas. This in turn means that governance structures are needed to which central government can effectively devolve. Such governance structures must have popular support. They need a direct link with voters, they must be inclusive of other political parties, and they must be able to demonstrate a clear capacity to share risk and investment and to deliver better outcomes. Simply dividing up the available cash in Whitehall and posting out cheques will not be enough.
We have learnt a lot since 2010 about what works and what does not. For example, we have learnt that devolution is a process, not an event, and that it is a two-way process. We have learnt that we must learn from doing things and that we cannot wait to move at the speed of the slowest. We have learnt that achieving growth in our cities is so very important because they have been underperforming for far too long and because it is through the tax generated by growth that they will be able to afford the public services that they aspire to. By any method of comparison that we might choose with similar cities across Europe, UK cities underperform. Seven out of our eight core cities in England outside London are below the national average in GDP per capita. Bristol is above, but Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield are below. UK cities represent 60% of jobs and output but, interestingly, they account for 73% of highly skilled jobs; they could, however, do much more. Similar second -tier cities in other countries are economically much stronger than ours. One of the problems is that, unlike those European counterparts, powers have been stripped away from local government outside London over recent decades. This has impacted on growth, so it is no surprise that cities outside London have been performing comparatively poorly. For example, in 2010, Manchester had a GDP per head half that of Munich and a fifth lower than that of Marseilles.
Having identified the problem, I want to pay tribute to the leadership on this issue shown by the Deputy Prime Minister and his ministerial colleagues, who in 2011 took the first initiative to strengthen our cities through city deals and who have led those city deals and local growth deals since. The initiative was a vital step because it put cities centre stage. It said that cities were important and it put the onus on them to come up with deliverable proposals that they wanted to implement. It was a subtle but vital change in approach. Defining those cities’ increasing responsibilities has unleashed a rising confidence which can only get stronger.
Cities were prepared for it, of course, because English core cities have been pressing the case for investment and further devolved powers for at least a decade, and had done a lot of the necessary preparatory work. So the Government are committed to devolving power. They appointed a Minister for Cities, introduced city deals and growth deals for local enterprise partnerships, and now devolution deals, of which Greater Manchester is the first, I hope, of many. There were 28 city deals; 95% of the first wave actions are on track or have been completed, while 82% of wave two actions are on track or have been completed. Examples of action taken include growth hubs, innovation centres, earn-back programmes, gainshare schemes for the additional national tax raised, freedoms to borrow against future business rate income and localised youth contracts and apprenticeship schemes. In governance, several combined authorities have been established, with others on the way. Three joint committees have been established and two more are to come shortly. The Glasgow and Clyde Valley cabinet has been established. I turn to the growth deals. The Government have committed £12 billion over six years from 2015-16 to 2020-21 for local growth. In the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced £1 billion of funding from that allocation for local enterprise partnerships to be allocated in January.
I conclude from all this that the pace of devolution within England is quickening. The speed and unity behind the announcement about Greater Manchester has been particularly impressive. The context is now one in which there seems to be general agreement that there is a relationship between growth and devolved powers. One has only to read all the reports published by organisations such as Centre for Cities, IPPR North, ResPublica, the City Growth Commission, the Local Government Association and the interim report of the Independent Commission on Economic Growth and the Future of Public Services in Non-Metropolitan England to realise this. But these were all preceded by the visionary report, No Stone Unturned: In Pursuit of Growth by my noble friend Lord Heseltine and by the work of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, who led the North East Independent Economic Review, which made the case for devolved powers to drive growth and skills and for a combined authority, and talked about the importance of clusters.
There is now a public appetite for devolution within England; opinion polls show that. There may not be any more money for devolution unless it is raised locally, but there can be more effective joined-up delivery of public services, which would save money locally across Whitehall’s 50 spending lines and enable savings to be redirected into investment and growth. Devolution starts with a desire to take on the greater responsibilities that come from having more powers. Just expressing a wish for more powers is not enough. As Jim O’Neill, the chairman of the City Growth Commission, said recently, local leaders aspiring to take on greater responsibilities need to demonstrate that their councils and joint structures have the capacity to take control from Whitehall. That capacity-building is important.
May I make a plea here over words? I hear lots of demands for devolution of powers and freedoms, but it is not just about that; it is also about responsibilities. That is because you can have all the freedoms and powers you like; the real question is what you plan to do with them and how you will measure your success.
We have moved on a long way from the passing of the Localism Act 2011, which gave a power of general competence and helped to create the framework in which city deals, growth deals and devolution deals have been able to take place. It is clear that this is indeed a cross-party initiative at Westminster, as each of the main parties commits itself to the implementation of greater devolution. The crucial point now is this. Cities are thinking about their “functional economic geography” when making economic decisions. They are working across local authority boundaries for the benefit of their area as a whole, and they see growth as a central task of local government rather than just thinking in terms of local government being about provision of services.
One of the consequences of the Scottish referendum is that demands for further devolution within England have increased. We should note, however, that devolution within England is not dependent on what happens over devolution to Scotland; it would be happening anyway, but it may well be speeded up. I would make this further point: there is a huge difference between Scotland, which already had a Parliament, significant devolved powers and debated independence for two years, and English regions and sub-regions, which have no directly elected structures other than through their councils, many fewer devolved powers, and with a few honourable exceptions have not been thinking much about the detail of devolution at the sub-regional level. Defining what is wanted in detail, with clarity in governance and resourcing, is an essential prerequisite to successful devolution, whether it is urban or rural.
One of the indirect benefits of city deals is that they can have the effect of raising the aspirations of an area as a whole. I want to give an example briefly from my own part of the country. In October, some 300 north-east business leaders met in Newcastle to acknowledge the role of those who have helped to build the IT sector in the area into the thriving sector that it has now become, supporting some 32,000 jobs, with a further 2,000, I understand, expected to be added to the sector very shortly. Tech-based entrepreneurship is thriving in the area, fed by active early-stage investment and incubators, dynamic universities and a thriving corporate technology sector. Of course, one of the world’s largest business software firms, Sage, was founded and remains head -quartered in the city. Crucial to this success are the growing indigenous independents now coming together as a cluster to drive the local agenda for skills, collaboration and innovation in IT.
The north-east IT network, Dynamo, has established that the north-east’s current problem in IT is filling vacancies. Some 2,000 jobs were filled this year; for instance, Accenture hired 150 staff and the Government Digital Service expanded to 450 desks locally. Many local firms are now growing beyond 100 staff, some opening offices in other cities to tap new labour markets. Some of the growth is being absorbed by the boomerang Geordies, experienced locals who sought work away but are returning home as globalised markets offer career challenges on their doorstep. It is most encouraging. Indeed, to IT in the north-east we can add clusters in the automotive industry, pharmaceuticals, the process industries and the offshore, subsea and renewables industries. In a recent edition of the Observer, I read an article about Bristol, about its creative edge and about young people moving out of London to Bristol to share in its creative buzz. Clusters seem to be growing in our cities, and that is a very good thing. I conclude that Whitehall must now look increasingly to cities for innovation and growth.
In conclusion, what of the future? The Autumn Statement was very helpful, in particular, in outlining the things that are planned to put the north of England at the centre of growth. What we need now are cities that know what they want. That includes comprehensive city region strategies in transport, housing, skills and land use. They should understand how they will generate more resources locally. Secondly, the Government need to devolve fiscal powers. There is a danger that we will achieve devolution of functions only when we need greater fiscal devolution and three to five years’ funding of central government grant. We should accept and plan for differential devolution and ensure that city regions integrate with each other, particularly in transport.
In their 2011 report, Unlocking Growth in Cities, the Government stated:
“Cities are the engines of economic growth and they will be critical to our economic recovery”.
I hope we can agree. Recently, the City Growth Commission rightly said that sustainable growth and deficit reduction cannot be delivered from the centre. I hope we can agree. The House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee said this July that cities such as London and the core cities were ready to take greater control over their financing and borrowing powers. Areas to which any fiscal powers were devolved should, it said,
“demonstrably function as an economic unit”.
I hope we can agree.
I conclude that cities need greater control of their funding streams and clear powers and responsibilities. They need fiscal powers and the powers to build up their own resources, and devolving powers to cities should be the start of a much more ambitious process of devolution for the whole of England. I beg to move.
My Lords, I begin by thanking my noble friend for setting the seal and the pattern for a great debate today, with numerous maiden speakers, on matters of enormous importance. Your Lordships’ House also has somebody like me, an amateur.
Now, 11 November 1967 was quite an interesting day for me. I happened to be in London at the weekend and I went down to Buckingham Palace to the Guard Mounting. There was a horde of young gentlemen there in blue outfits. It was clear from the way they spoke that they came from elsewhere. They were from Liverpool. They were attending an afternoon event. I joined them. We had a tremendous day out. They said I must go up to Liverpool so in 1968 I went to Liverpool. I had been there only once, in 1957 when I was a young soldier. I went in April 1968 and I walked for three and a half miles from another afternoon event back to the station. I was interested in huge areas of what I would call inner Liverpool—not Kirkdale or Kirkby or Huyton—that were being renewed and were capable of being redeveloped.
Every schoolboy in Scotland, England or elsewhere will know the history of Liverpool, with its huge port centre. It was and still is a great centre for commerce and ideas. I read a great deal to try to prepare. But I knew of one thing in Liverpool: the enormous docks. The pattern of trade has changed noticeably, certainly in my lifetime and especially over the past 20 or 30 years. Now we have enormous containers and other methods of transporting goods, all kinds of apparatus, but they arrive and they come from all over the world. Liverpool is not sleeping at all. I understand that there is a £350 million project to improve the deep-water quay so that the world’s largest container ships can come to Liverpool, to Merseyside, to carry on the great tradition of the Port of Liverpool.
What is the geography? Liverpool, with a new port of that nature, is far nearer to the manufacturing centre of the Midlands than other ports around the coast elsewhere. Time is money, so save it. The city of Liverpool has carried out economic leadership off its own bat. I understand from a Financial Times survey that between 2010 and 2012, when it was difficult throughout the United Kingdom, the city of Liverpool created 12,800 private sector jobs. There was a loss of about 5,000 jobs in the public sector because of cuts in various government departments. That shows the wonderful capacity of the city of Liverpool, and cities like it, of two words: “can do”.
As I an amateur, I know of one thing. The main industry that comes to my mind and is splattered throughout the newspapers, not just the financial press but other sectors, is the enormous motor works at Halewood. There must be something in the spirit of the people who work there—and of the city—and their attitude. I understand that it is very nearly a three-shift system, producing Jaguars, Range Rover Evoques and other enormously high-quality vehicles that go all over the world, revitalising industry in Liverpool. That is enormously encouraging.
I spent a happy evening in Liverpool in May this year. Since April 1968, the waterfront, down at the docks—Albert Dock and Kings Dock—has changed unbelievably. Why? It is the people of Liverpool. I have a great close tie with the city. I was taken ill in 2006 and I received telegrams and good wishes from people I had not necessarily met in the course of my job. My great affection does not always clash with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, but never mind. It is a great institution that has looked after me. Those men in blue in November 1967 encouraged me to go and take a look at what this great city does in the north of England, what it can do and what it will do in the future. I very much look forward to hearing what my noble friend the Minister will say about this part of the north of England, which I will be passing through today on my way home. I thank my noble friend for introducing the debate.
My Lords, we should congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, on securing this debate for us this morning, and the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, on his clear attachment to and love of Liverpool—although I am advised that he is an Everton supporter. I also look forward to the three maiden speeches we will hear today. The notion that local councils—particularly cities; and I am happy to accept the definition of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for that term—with strong local leadership can be a force for economic progress is, of course, not new. But moving forward on this agenda has been given impetus by what my noble friend Lord Adonis has set out in his report, Mending the Fractured Economy: the link between economic growth and the living standards of ordinary people has been broken, and this dictates a fundamental reform in order to secure more balanced growth. This converges with the recognition that the scale of spending cuts facing local authorities will most effectively be delivered by the chance to join up, reconfigure and innovate at local level.
As the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, concluded in his report No Stone Unturned: In Pursuit of Growth, too many decisions are taken in London without a full understanding of their local impact. I certainly agree with that. But he asserted that local authorities have been relegated to service providers—increasingly, commissioners of services—and that local economic leadership has all but disappeared. This is too sweeping an assertion, doubtless many noble Lords here today will know of the engagement of their local council in regeneration activities and a partnership working with the local business community—driven in many instances by the support of RDAs. It belies the leadership role of the Core Cities Group over some 15 years, I believe, and in particular its work which culminated in amendments to the Localism Bill—as it then was—agreed by an all-party consensus, which allowed Ministers to transfer local public functions from central government to local and combined authorities.
As we know, a range of city deals followed, not homogeneous arrangements, underlining the diverse needs of cities—and there are more to come. Important as they are, however, it is difficult to maintain that such arrangements are transformational; step change is required if the true potential of our towns and cities is to be realised. We should remember that the Secretary of State still holds the whip hand in these deals, being required to determine whether any transfer of functions would promote economic development or wealth creation or increase local accountability.
What should change entail? It raises issues of funding, powers and coverage. Again, as my noble friend Lord Adonis has proposed, we should devolve funding of £30 billion over the next five years to combined authorities, local authorities and LEPs to cover key economic levers—housing, transport, skills and business support. Of course, how funding is devolved is important and we must not replicate the past with endless bidding processes and bureaucracy, nor allow the Treasury to strangle such initiatives.
This agenda brings with it the thirst for more taxes to be devolved to English cities. City Centred campaigns for council tax, stamp duty land tax, business rates, annual tax on enveloped buildings and capital gains property disposal tax to be devolved. It properly asserts that this would be Exchequer-neutral because central grants to cities would be cut.
We would go some way along this path by giving control over the full revenue from business rates, which we would in any event reform, to powerful new city and county regions which come together in combined authorities. It would be an incentive to do so, but we would not insist on their needing to have an elected mayor.
It is important that there is scope within the system to address the differing needs and resources of local authorities and scope for a safety net for local economic shocks. This will be especially important in the near term, given the current local authority funding arrangements, which have hit the poorest areas the most. Of course one way to devolve economic power and funding would be to relocate more civil service posts outside London.
So far as combined authorities are concerned, we can look to Greater Manchester as a beacon. It in particular has been leading the way, and we should congratulate it and indeed the Government on its new deal with the Treasury. The opportunity to promote a northern powerhouse is obviously to be welcomed. It will build on some of the existing strengths of these regions, including in science and technology, and it chimes with my noble friend Lord Adonis’s proposals for a long-term innovation strategy.
However, these opportunities are not just about big cities, however important, nor just about the north. We need to mend the link between growth and living standards across the UK, so we will propose that local authorities covering any part of the country—Norwich or Luton included—will be able to become combined authorities, again with devolution of powers and funding. We would devolve funding to all local areas that reform their LEPs and create formal governance structures across local authorities at regional level, so that every part of the country would have the chance to make its decisions over how to invest in skills, infrastructure and business.
My Lords, listening to other Peers’ maiden speeches has been quite a revelation for me; some have been amusing, some quite touching. Anyone who had the privilege of hearing the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, must have been moved by his highly personal story. On the other hand, I now know that there are seven Smiths in the House—a quite useless fact but one that I cannot get out of my head. I thank everyone who has made my introduction and my stay here so welcoming: my long-suffering supporters, my noble friends Lord Lee of Trafford and Lord McNally, and my mentor, my noble friend the one and only Lord Addington.
I also thank the officers, the staff and of course the legendary doorkeepers. On my second day in the House, I decided to come in early—be my own man. I took my place on the third row, in prime position. The House began to fill up. To my surprise, a doorkeeper came across to me. “Lord Goddard?” he politely asked. “Yes, I am.” “Lord Goddard of Stockport?” “Yes, yes.” He actually knows who I am after one day in the House. “Lord Goddard of Stockport, the Liberal Democrat Peer?” By now, I am the emperor penguin, chest out and proud as punch: “Yes, I am that Member”. The doorkeeper leans in and whispers in my ear: “Perhaps the noble Lord will wish to follow me across the Floor to the Liberal Democrat Benches. You are actually sat in the Labour Benches”.
As the realisation of my predicament dawns on me, I slowly follow him down the steps and across the Floor of the Chamber. I can see the Members politely smiling at my mishap right around the Chamber. I go from emperor penguin to Donald Duck in 30 seconds. At the bottom of the stairs he mercifully administers the coup de grace: “My Lord, I’m sure you will be safer sitting here”. Many new Members are confused by the geography of the Palace of Westminster, but I managed to get confused over the geography of this Chamber. Noble Lords will be pleased to know that I will not be putting my name forward for overseas visits in the foreseeable future; I fear that I could be lost to the House for ever.
I turn to the Motion being debated today, which I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Shipley for tabling. I want to spend a short time reflecting on Greater Manchester’s journey towards achieving greater control over the decisions that affect us all locally. It is a journey that has been made in partnership with government, recognising not only the economic potential of English city regions but their leaders’ capacity to make the right decisions for those places. Greater Manchester’s 10 leaders have an unrivalled history of collaboration, characterised by consistent leadership and hard work over many years, first through the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities, established in 1986, and then through the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the first in the country, marking a new phase in our collective ambitions. The combined authority provides us with strong and effective governance and has statutory responsibilities for transport, economic development and regeneration. As a Liberal Democrat vice chair of the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities, I was uniquely placed to help frame and deliver those unique opportunities.
Our leadership has evolved from a “bottom up” approach—it is vital that Members understand that—to meet the Greater Manchester agenda and ensure the ownership and commitment of the 10 leaders. We have worked out which functions are best delivered at the Greater Manchester level and which are best delivered at local level. We also have been able to develop a highly effective partnership with business leaders, helping to shape the strategic direction and oversee the delivery of key growth functions. There is no equivalent comprehensive partnership anywhere else in the country.
In March 2012 I was one of the four leaders from Greater Manchester who pitched for, and were successful in securing, the first city deal in the country. That city deal secured a broad-ranging set of arrangements to deliver jobs and growth to Greater Manchester. Three aspects of that merit particular attention.
The earn-back model is a ground-breaking tax-increment financing scheme which means that £1.2 billion of investment made by our councils can be earned back as real economic growth is delivered, to then be reinvested in further schemes.
The Greater Manchester Investment Framework combines different government funding streams into a single pot, making it easier for investors to access the finance they need. Because the fund is a loan, not a grant, it can be recycled to make better use of scarce resources. New skills pilots will deliver an extra 6,000 apprenticeships via small and medium-size businesses.
The devolution agreement, signed in November, is quite simply an agreement designed to drive growth and reform public services in the quickest possible way.
I recognise that the full devolution of Greater Manchester’s public spending will take many years to deliver. Our road map proposes that the functions and resources for public services be devolved in a staged manner to enable the city region to be financially sustainable and economically successful, providing early wins for both Greater Manchester and the Government.
Finally, I thank Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester City Council, and Eamonn Boylan, chief executive of Stockport Council, for their support over many years. Today Sir Howard and I share a wider smile, following our beloved Manchester City’s win in Rome last night against all the odds. As my mother used to say to me, “Do good things for others and sometimes good things will happen to you”. Thank you.
My Lords, it is my great pleasure to congratulate my noble friend Lord Goddard of Stockport on his excellent maiden speech. He will be a very welcome addition to the Liberal Benches and also to the whole House. His work in local government and his wide experience of partnership working, particularly in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, will be of great value to us, especially in deliberations such as this one. He is most welcome.
I declare an interest as a former chairman of the Local Government Association, a current LGA vice-president and a previous leader of Bradford Metropolitan Council, where I am still a councillor. I know that all councillors here today, and those who have been councillors, fully appreciate the importance of today’s debate, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for initiating it.
Bradford, as most noble Lords probably do not know, is the fourth-largest metropolitan district in England, after Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield. It has the eighth-largest economy in the United Kingdom, creating more than £8 billion of added value. And Bradford is not alone. The potential of the United Kingdom’s cities is enormous. The City Growth Commission has already reported that, if the UK’s top 15 metro areas realised their full potential, they could add almost £80 billion to our economy by 2030. Of course, this is not just about individual cities but about networks of cities, in the north and in the south, coming together to drive economic growth. Already we are seeing more powers for Greater Manchester, and the Chancellor, in his speech on the Autumn Statement, said that his,
“door is open to other cities who want to follow its cross-party lead”.—[Official Report, Commons, 3/12/14; col. 314.]
Throughout debates on cities, Core Cities is mentioned as if it indisputably represented the largest economically. While in no way trying to undermine the efficiency and effectiveness of Core Cities, I point out that, at the time, it was formed as an interest group of one political persuasion. Economic reality is a little more complex. As an example of complexity, Leeds city region, an area of a combined authority, is polycentric: Bradford, which is within that combined authority, has a population of over 500,000 people. The role of Bradford and other cities such as Wakefield and Huddersfield, which are not members of Core Cities, should not be underestimated.
However, today’s debate goes beyond cities. Two-thirds of Bradford district is rural. The commission on the future of public services in non-metropolitan England has already noted that these areas account for half of our country’s population and economic growth. The fact is that all people can benefit from decisions being made closer to them, whether they are from a big city or a rural community.
When it comes to economic leadership, certain powers are ripe for devolution—such as skills. That will be crucial for low-wage, low-skilled economies such as Bradford. Getting people the right skills should help keep employment levels stable as the area’s populations grow. The evidence for a local approach to skills is convincing. Pilot schemes that are run in my part of the world help nearly three in five young people who take part to go into education, training or employment. That is more than twice the success rate of the national scheme. In just 18 months, a council-led youth job scheme created 105,000 jobs, instead of 7,500 from the national equivalent.
Beyond skills, research by Ernst & Young shows that applying lessons from community budget pilots could save up to £20 billion in five years. However, local areas, including cities, do not just need more local decision -making; they also need more financial freedom. That is what “economic leadership” means—giving local areas the freedom to raise and spend money at a local level. Last week, the Chancellor announced a business rates review, which is something that the Local Government Association and the business community have called for. We must ensure that councils are properly involved in the consultation. The Local Government Association has proposed devolving the setting of business rates and discounts to local authorities. It also proposes that 100% of business rates income—including business rates growth —be retained by local government. The reforms proposed by the Local Government Association would set councils on the path to greater self-sufficiency and would give councils greater financial certainty in their future.
The cities agree that, while policies such as city deals, the regional growth fund and the Localism Act 2011 have made important moves towards localism, they still do not deliver the economic leadership and security needed for cities to control their own destinies. There is now a real opportunity to push this agenda forward, and this is the perfect time for all political parties to push forward with this important reform.
My Lords, I welcome the introduction by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, of this important debate, and the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Goddard of Stockport, which was very thoughtful and amusing. I am sure that he will make a great contribution to the House.
My reflections will be on the issue of the Scottish referendum and from my experience as a Member of Parliament in the other place for 23 years. In Scotland, the most important question was that of the currency. The SNP proposals were described by Jim Sillars of that party as “stupidity on stilts”, and Paul Krugman commented:
“If Scottish voters really believe that it’s safe to become a country without a currency, they have been badly misled”.
We can see that today, with oil at $65 a barrel—the White Paper had Scotland breaking even at $115 a barrel.
Yet almost 45% of people in Scotland voted yes, and there were many reasons for that. In my campaigning, I found a few: first, people wanted a fairer, more socially just Scotland; they thought, “We couldn’t do any worse, so why shouldn’t we vote yes?”; and they had lost faith in the ability to bring change through the ballot box. The fundamental issue is that there is an increasing distance between the political process and the people, but the referendum demonstrated that people are interested in politics—we saw tremendous turnouts of 85% to 90%. So there is a clear desire for increased devolution and a recognition of the special characteristics of other nations and regions in the UK.
However, there is a remoteness to our politics, whether in Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff or Stormont. What I have witnessed, with Holyrood, is devolution to Scotland but not devolution within Scotland. Let me give my own experience of how difficult devolution within Scotland is. As MP for West Dunbartonshire, I witnessed the closure of the J&B bottling plant in 1997. Instead of letting Diageo depart simply with warm words of regret and a cheque for the local community, I held its feet to the fire and established a task force, which I chaired, comprising local enterprise companies, local authorities, trade unions, local companies and the community, as well as Diageo.
Tying down that local public/private partnership was not without its difficulties, but in 2011 I departed, after 14 years as chair, of what has become known in the local area as Lomondgate. What is the audit of that? Four hundred and thirty jobs were lost by the J&B closure; at the end of 2013, the audited accounts showed that we now have 702 full-time equivalent jobs on that 40-acre site—that is 2% of West Dunbartonshire’s resident workforce. We have contributed £182 million gross value added regionally and £65 million nationally. The major achievements include: attracting the BBC to us as a production location for “River City”, which is Scotland’s equivalent of “EastEnders”; attracting Aggreko, a company that started almost in a back room in Dumbarton in the 1980s but is now a FTSE 100 company, with 400 jobs; and bringing in housing and leisure investment of more than £40 million, accompanied by capital investment of £62 million.
Independent economic forecasts estimate that, by 2019, there will be 1,971 gross full-time equivalent jobs accommodated on that site. That is a net cumulative regional gross value added of £510 million, plus £192 million contributed nationally. What does that mean in terms of public funding? Public funding for that project was less than £500,000, so the net return on investment is more than £1,000 for every £1 of public money. That is a tremendous outcome.
And what are the lessons? This would never have been achieved if it had been left at national level. The public/private partnership had to be locally devised and driven, and Diageo had to fulfil its community responsibility. If Westminster or Holyrood—or even the local authority—had been running it, they would have been too remote and that would not have happened. To end up with this successful outcome, day-to-day project management was needed to drive it. This is not just about satisfying local needs; it is about powering those with the ambition for their areas, and the skill sets to realise their potential. I conclude by saying that if we take the concept of subsidiarity to its natural conclusion, we will not end just with devolution to cities alone.
My Lords, I rise before you today with a sense of pride—pride in the fact that I come from a very humble background: born in a council estate in Huddersfield, the son of a refuse collector and a hospital cleaner—but also with a sense of nervousness. As I look round the House at all the experience, the wisdom and the knowledge, I understand that in my five minutes I have to share some of my experience as leader of Sheffield City Council.
I thank noble Lords for the warm, generous and open welcome they have given me, for the advice they have given me, and for playing to my male vanity: never in the past 25 years have I been called “young man” so often as in the past two months. I thank them, too, for their advice on giving this, my maiden speech. I have been given two recurring themes: keep it short and sharp and keep it non-controversial. Those who know me know that I will struggle in the next four minutes, but I will do my best. I also want to thank all the staff who work diligently, quietly but effectively to make your Lordships’ House work so well, and I give my personal thanks to the doorkeepers.
I thank my noble friend Lord Shipley for introducing the debate. Why have I chosen this debate in which to make my maiden speech? I am steeped in localism and local government and I love my adopted home city of Sheffield, where I have lived for 18 years—a city that is green, open, welcoming, industrious and nonconformist. I suppose that is why I chose that city as my adopted home. As a former leader of Sheffield City Council, I understood that, in a global world, city areas are key to growth. The Royal Society of Arts points out that 62% of all economic growth across the world in the next 10 years will come from city areas. There are examples from across the world of cities such as Boston, Hamburg and Bilbao, which have been given powers and autonomy, reinventing themselves and growing. They all have greater powers, autonomy and financial control than city areas in the UK.
In the UK, our journey has just started, but there is further to go. I shall explain how Sheffield’s journey started and some of the things that we have done in the past couple of years. The debate on city area versus rural area or town area can become sterile. The real issue is not one of lines on maps or administrative boundaries but of where real businesses are located and of where real people travel to and from work: that is the economic area. Sheffield city region comprises areas as diverse as the Derbyshire Dales and the city of Sheffield, and political leaders drawn from the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative Parties—even, initially, an English Democrat mayor—who understood that for our people and businesses to succeed we needed a certain skill set, infrastructure and plan to enable businesses to grow.
The area contains 1.8 million people, with an output of £28 billion per year. There are 700,000 jobs in the area and 47,000 businesses. It is our real economic area, not designed by a bureaucrat or by a line drawn on a map but by people who live, work and invest in that area. In the past four years, we have achieved a number of things. Thanks to my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister, who happens to be the MP for Sheffield Hallam, through the city deal and the Local Growth Fund more than £500 million of public money has been handed back to the area to enable us to have autonomy and control. The key areas that have come up are skills, skills and skills, infrastructure, access to finance, transport and housing. We have used that money to make sure that local control, local decisions and local knowledge were used to design schemes such as the Sheffield city infrastructure fund, where more than £221 million of public money was put in one pot, leveraging in an extra £500 million to enable investment in 15 infrastructure schemes. A £130 million skills bank has been created to enable local employers to create a demand-led skills scheme, so that people are skilled up for existing jobs and jobs that will exist in the area in the future.
As time is short, I end by saying that, as I sit down, I do so with the sense of pride I felt as I stood up, but with fewer nerves, thanks to the gracious way that noble Lords have listened to my speech. I hope to play a full and active role in your Lordships’ House and promise to keep my future interventions short and sharp. However, I cannot promise that I will always be non-controversial or conformist. As the saying goes, “You can take the boy out of Sheffield, but you can’t take Sheffield out of the boy”.
My Lords, I take this opportunity of formally welcoming the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, of Hunters Bar, to your Lordships’ House and I congratulate him on such an excellent maiden speech. It was my privilege to work with him in his time as leader of Sheffield City Council. He was and is held in great respect by the faith communities and many across the city and region. As he said, he is a native of West Yorkshire and, like me, was called to live in South Yorkshire. It will be apparent to many already that he brings significant experience of leadership of one of our major cities. I know that he will be an excellent advocate in this House for Sheffield and its region, and for the north of England in the years to come. I thank him for his short, sharp, non-controversial maiden speech and, in particular, for his emphasis on the reality of the city region and on collaboration across different perspectives. It was a speech so deeply steeped in local experience, yet with a truly international perspective.
I warmly welcome the debate. The economic flourishing of our cities and regions is key to the economic prosperity of our country, as so many have said. The city I know best, Sheffield, as you have already heard, is poised and well placed to take advantage of the new deal for cities. It has a long history of manufacturing and craft, particularly in the steel industry. There is a flourishing partnership between manufacturing, local government, the universities and the voluntary and faith sectors. The quality of life for many is high. The city has the highest retention rate of graduates of the two universities of any city in the country. Recently Sheffield City Council committed to the aspiration of becoming the fairest city in Britain—a reference not to its natural or physical beauty, as some would say it is that already, but to greater equality of wealth and opportunity into the future.
The question of economic leadership for cities is complex. The proposals made by the Government and others have, perhaps naturally, reflected a focus on the creation of unitary authorities and new kinds of city mayors. There is a paradox, it is thought, that most of the larger cities are seeking greater economic devolution but have turned down by referenda the possibility of mayoral systems. I believe that there is wisdom in the cities which declined to have a mayor, according to their local circumstance. Local democracy is a vital part of economic leadership. That leadership needs to be broadly based, using the gifts of all. That broad base is often better served in a medium-sized city through a council leader and cabinet model of leadership than through the creation of the new office of an elected mayor. New structures of government should not be a condition of greater investment or devolution of powers.
The strengthening of economic leadership for the future will rest in the long term on the widest ownership of the democratic process locally, which encourages local people to guide and lead their own communities. This in turn will stimulate the vital integration of skilled migrant and ethnic-minority communities in the life of the city. A new forum for engagement between civil society and the Muslim community began recently in South Yorkshire and is an excellent example of this.
Investment in transport and infrastructure is vital across the region. There needs to be excellent leadership in manufacturing, finance and chambers of commerce. The city region needs to be able to compete in global markets. Its ability to project a vibrant and positive image is enhanced through sporting connections, tourism and developing a global brand. We saw a brilliant illustration of this in Yorkshire earlier this year in Le Grand Départ, which has had a significant effect on the local economy and morale.
Sheffield Cathedral has recently celebrated its centenary, together with the centenary of the diocese I serve. This has been marked by a £3 million reordering of the medieval church to make it truly a place for all people and contributing to building confidence across the whole region.
Economic leadership for the long term depends to a high degree on investment in education and skills locally. Earlier this year, I made a visit to the Sheffield College, a fine example of a further education college which has reshaped its curriculum by listening to the needs of local industry. There is a specific focus on the needs of local manufacturing, the digital industry, tourism and sport. I hope that the present Government and the next Government and all parties will have the courage to continue to develop an ever stronger and more coherent vision for local democracy leading to the economic growth of the cities, working through parish, district and city councils, which can enable even more citizens to give of their time and skills for the flourishing of our great cities.
My Lords, I declare an interest as leader of a London borough. I guess I am a sort of city dweller. I thank my noble friend Lord Shipley for introducing this important debate. We have heard two remarkable maiden speeches already from my noble friends and I am looking forward with confidence to a third one.
It is true that the road to the city across the centuries has been the road to the hope of a better and fuller life. We see that in waves of demographic movement even today in many a megalopolis in the developing world. Cities must be centres of new enterprise and we must encourage and cherish successful businesses and business leaders who we need to keep our cities great.
However, no city is immune from change. The greatest cities of England before 1700 were, after London, Norwich, Bristol, Newcastle, Exeter, York and Great Yarmouth, in that order. Of course we can regret past decline in places such as Lowestoft or Nottingham, which shaped my childhood. But for Lowestoft or Yarmouth you cannot put the herring or the gas back in the North Sea. In Nottingham you cannot reverse the war on tobacco, the fall of lace from fashion, the sourcing of textiles from the developing world, or the environmental movement’s successful felling of “king coal”.
History shows that cities cannot stand still in resentful nostalgia. Today they must diversify, embrace new technologies and invest in education and skills, as other noble Lords have said, working with employers, such as in the new enterprise and education campus we plan in our own authority. I welcome so much what the Government have done in assisting that through city deals, partnerships, educational reform, support for small business, infrastructure investment and much else. It is quite a long time since the Government took such a committed interest in our cities.
While I agree with much that other noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Goddard, have said, I have some concerns. I share the views of the noble and right reverend Prelate on this. I do not share the rather faddish obsession with new statutory political structures in what seems, at times, a rather hasty response to the referendum in Scotland. I do not think the answer to city decline is more law about local government structures. Waste, churn, conflict and cost have followed almost every past statutory interference in local government structures.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Shipley that we need more joint working, co-operation and bottom-up partnership, but there are mechanisms already for that. We also need local flexibility and freedoms and not single institutional models pedalled in clever professorial lectures and imposed by statute. Each city must choose for itself, but it is ridiculous, for example, in my own city of Nottingham to say that it cannot solve its economic problems unless the suburb of West Bridgford is put under the same authority. If the fad for constitutional change leads to the submergence of the concerns of those who work in cities but live in small communities around them—and to governance without consent—then I would not board that band -wagon. I say yes to partnership and yes indeed to devolution, but with super-authorities I am not so sure. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench, who understands suburban communities very well, will make it clear that these will not be imposed—by our side, at least—whether by statute or by the effective blackmail of conditional resourcing.
I underline this issue for London. We already have a regional super-authority in London. The most slow-moving, bureaucratic and least accountable parts of London government are the Molochs of the GLA’s transport and planning departments. Co-operation and partnership work well across London and are developing further from boroughs upwards. It would be folly if, in a constitutional spasm, we were to identify more devolution with more central powers for a mayor, or sanction new governance that enables the piling of ever more taxation on already heavily taxed suburban communities.
In conclusion, I agree with the right reverend Prelate. There is a spiritual element, in the largest sense, to the conundrum of city revival. After all, cities were once identified by their cathedrals and enhanced by local philanthropy. People today are crying out for a sense of being rooted, with some idea of permanence and security. The spirit of place matters enormously in that. It is a great motivating force and a binding element. Whatever change we may contemplate in our cities and their surrounds, do not let us stifle that spirit of place, wherever it is found, or fail to hear the diverse voice of smaller communities.
My Lords, this is a very timely debate. I welcome it enormously. I particularly welcome the fact that it comes from someone else from the north-east. The case for more economic opportunity for our cities is irrefutable. The intellectual case is there and has been made in different ways by people from different sides of the House already. I want to come at this in a very different way.
As many will know, I never represented a city in the other place. In fact, I live in a part of County Durham, which I think is an amazing place. I am very privileged to live there. I was born in Sunderland. We were always really proud that it was a bigger city than Newcastle. I say all of that because there are rivalries and issues around what we mean when we talk about cities here. We have to be very flexible around that. I want to talk about why we have not before now done what we have done and what that balance between the centre and the locality has to take account of in our country.
This debate is very important in the context of other important areas of debate in this country. One is the size and role of the state. There is a real argument to be had about that. The Chancellor has raised it; he is trying to tell us that he has not really raised it, but it is absolutely there: what sort of state do we want, where we do want power to lie and how are we going to develop that? We cannot sort that out today. I am a bit worried that the Government want to sort it out on the back of a fag packet before January, but there is a lot to think about and a lot to do about that.
The other issue is the one that we are being told will be sorted out on the back of a fag packet before January, which is devolution. Devolution is a huge challenge to us. It is a particularly huge challenge because we live in a very small country, where we see daily on our televisions and read in our newspapers what the world of the media thinks about what is going on in different places and comparing them. One of the great challenges for those of us who are committed to effective local government with new fundraising powers is what is described all the time as the postcode lottery rather than as an issue of democratic decision-making. I can tell noble Lords that that is what Governments run away from. When I was Local Government Minister between 1997 and 2001 we would agree to do a particular thing. For example, we agreed that the police would be given autonomy over how they spent their grant. The headlines after nine months were all about how many police were being taken off the beat. At the end of the year the Home Secretary said, “I’m going to ring-fence the money around numbers of policemen and not let them decide—they’re not going to spend it on policemen, they’re going to spend it on back-office stuff”. So we have the huge challenge of how we are seen as doing things. I do not see that as easy.
We live in a global world where the public have less and less confidence in what that global world means and how it affects their individual position and their community. They used to trust Governments and politicians to sort out for them what they needed, if you like, in order to live in their community in the way that they wanted to live. That trust has gone. We have to recreate the trust in different ways; we do, and local government does. Because we are a small country, we have problems in terms of the way in which the press and media report it. All the maiden speeches today, which I welcome, are from Liberal Democrat leaders who lost their seats after the election. That is the other thing that happens. When you get into Government, your local government base slowly starts to erode, and therefore the confidence of Government to give more powers to local government disappears as local government is then going to be running what they did.
I have lots more to say, but my time is up. We have to think of the broader things. Of course we want more economic power for local government, but how are we going to do it and how are we going to hold our nerve, particularly in devolving more financial powers?
My Lords, it is a great privilege and honour to join your Lordships’ House. I stand today as a former leader of Bristol City Council, not as one who has lost her seat. I am still a councillor in Bristol and I stand here in the hope of sharing some of the ambitions and hopes for that great city with your Lordships in the debate today.
First, let me thank your Lordships for the warm welcome that I have received here. I include my supporters, the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, who are not only parliamentarians but have long experience in local government. Secondly, I add my thanks for the advice, professionalism, kindness and good humour of the staff in this place. The doorkeepers have already been mentioned, but I, too, would like to add my thanks for the many times that they have rescued me from the labyrinthine corridors and staircases of this magnificent building. Who knows, I might not even be here today if it were not for their good advice on finding some of the best routes.
On my own background, I was born in Liverpool, which is a great and proud city. We have already heard in the debate about Liverpool and its achievements. I am a teacher and have taught in a variety of settings: primary, secondary and adult. I have taught modern languages, including English as a second language, and economics. I have also taught in a number of different locations, in London, Paris, the west coast of Scotland and Bristol. In addition, I have served as a councillor in the London borough of Kingston upon Thames and of course Bristol. It is a great privilege, in a debate on cities in this House, to be able to talk about Bristol in the week of the 150th anniversary of the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Bristol is a city of innovation and technical excellence: whether we talk about the suspension bridge, Concorde, Airbus or Wallace and Gromit, it is testimony to the high concentration of technical expertise, which is underpinned by two world-class universities. Bristol is the most economically successful city in England, with the exception of London. Bristol is also the European Green Capital and a place where many of the new green industries and organisations choose to have their base and headquarters; it is a very green city.
So it is with great pride that I wish to speak in this debate. Yet, coming even from a successful city like Bristol, the question is constantly being asked: why cannot cities take their own decisions, invest in infrastructure, invest in housing, and invest in the growth that is really going to address the needs of their people? As my noble friend Lord Shipley has said, the IPPR report really outlines the case for economic improvement in performance in English cities. They have lagged behind the average GDP per capita. Only Bristol has bucked the trends. This, of course, is in stark contrast to other cities in Germany, Italy, Sweden and France, which are at the forefront of economic growth and have outperformed even capital cities.
The report of the City Growth Commission recommends a range of powers that could be devolved to what are called “metro areas”; and I agree with what has been said today: there should be no tight imposition on what those boundaries should be. However, there is a recommendation about financial flexibility and this, as other speakers have said, is the key to giving powers, whether it is to our regions, county regions, city regions or whatever configurations emerge. The London Finance Commission and the Communities and Local Government Select Committee have outlined ways in which revenue and taxes could be raised at local level and add to the rates of economic performance of our cities or city regions.
In conclusion, the many reports of such groups as Core Cities, the Centre for Cities and the City Growth Commission and others that have been mentioned provide ample evidence to support major change. As I have said already, it is important that new configurations, whether they are federations of existing local authorities, county regions or city regions, should be voluntary and locally inspired. One size will not fit all. The ambitious and visionary proposals that are coming forward from all parts of the country are a huge encouragement and are opportunities that we must seize. I hope that the constitutional debate will give us the opportunity to move forward on these major issues. I thank my noble friend Lord Shipley for raising the debate, and I thank noble Lords for their attention.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Janke. She has just made an excellent start to her House of Lords career, as indeed have our other two debutants today—if one can refer to the noble Lords, Lord Goddard and Lord Scriven, as debutants on these occasions. As part of her background, the noble Baroness described her great wealth of local government experience that she brings from just about every corner of the country. That will make an enriching contribution to the work of this House as we proceed on this important issue of devolution within England. She remains a member of Bristol City Council, and first-line experience will therefore be brought to our deliberations. We look forward to many more well informed contributions from her in the years to come.
Our great cities, which boomed in the 19th century, had a lousy 20th century. There were two world wars, a prolonged depression in the 1920s and 1930s, and even in the post-war recovery, much of the rebuilding was shabby and ugly—and industrial decline set in. Very few new industries emerged in that period. Then there was the collapse—in some cases the partial collapse —of many of the cities’ staple industries in the 1980s. The result was some of the worst city centres in Europe outside the Soviet bloc. One had only to go to, say, Rotterdam or Hamburg—industrial cites both—to see the graphic differences.
In the 1990s, the cities began to improve—quickly in some places, more slowly in others. As has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and my noble friend Lord McKenzie, the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, deserves a mention in despatches for his contribution on Docklands, Liverpool, Manchester after the bomb, and now Hull. What a record that is. A new spirit began to emerge; remember Glasgow’s “Miles Better”, and Manchester’s impressive but perhaps improbable bid to host the Olympic Games? At least it stirred London into action.
In the more benign economic conditions that followed after 1993, big improvements became evident. Substantial public expenditure was a significant factor, enabling public/private deals on property; a retail and entertainment boom; expanding universities; and inward migration flows for the first time in a long time began to play a big part. Since the financial crisis of 2008-09, the cities have shown significant resilience in the face of the pressures: perhaps the pressure was greater in the smaller towns surrounding the newer city centres.
However, as the noble Lord, Lord Shipley said, the core cities underperformed the national average on GDP per head. There are still large areas of deprivation where poverty is all too evident and there is a shortage of solid private sector activity aside from discount stores, fast food outlets and betting shops. All the main parties are persuaded that devolution will help, spurred on by Scotland and perhaps by what has happened in London. City deals offer new opportunities for these cities to make further progress, with the Manchester city region setting the pace. I welcome these moves: they are overdue and I hope they can be widened. For example, Exeter is a city that I know, and it is beginning to do quite well. It needs to get help, encouragement and recognition for its contribution.
However, the condition of a lot of these cities remains fragile. The core cities are still heavily dependent on public expenditure, not just the local authority but the hospitals and universities as well. After the Autumn Statement, if we are going back to a state that is the same size as it was in the 1930s, what kind of guarantees and assurances can the Government provide that devolution will not be a devolution of responsibility with a big shortage of resources?
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for taking a lead and introducing this debate. I congratulate the noble Lords, Lord Goddard and Lord Scriven, and the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, and on their fine maiden speeches. I declare an interest as a non-executive director of the Manchester-China Forum.
In the limited time we all have, I want to echo other speakers today in setting out and agreeing with the historic case for city regions to have greater leadership and responsibility in running their own economic affairs. Indeed, in my view, Britain became great largely because of the rise of its modern industrial towns and cities and their ability to project and trade in and with the world. After a century or more of centralisation, events at home and abroad are giving rise to the rebirth of the city cluster as the premier organising force and source of growth in the world today.
I have witnessed this at home in and around Shoreditch, one of the fastest growing and most creative places now in the world. I have witnessed this first hand in my travels to places like China, which have been built on strong cities with a degree of fiscal devolution and talented city governance. I have also witnessed this over the last few years in the Greater Manchester area, where I produced a report on the potential of the city region, and others like it, to do more together to attract and support two-way trade and engage with international investors. There is no doubt in my mind, in light of the success of the model built in Manchester, London, and elsewhere, that providing greater autonomy to city regions to oversee their own economic development and inward investment can enable us as a country to engage more with the world and grow our economy overall.
Of course, there is always more we can do to spread this model of strong, internationally engaged cities and to encourage co-operation between our many metros to attract firms and investment. We could do a lot more to harness local diasporas, which could provide great connectivity with the world, including many international students who now study in most of our great cities and should be encouraged to help us connect even more with other cities around the world to help our businesses find new markets and create local jobs.
Beyond this direct model of enabling economic autonomy within city regions for trade, and other ideas such as granting tax-raising powers—already mentioned by others in this debate—there would be a positive impact on the social economy as well from greater fiscal and political devolution to city leaders, which would spur enhanced levels of social innovation and ultimately social venturing.
In our media-dominated age, it has become increasingly difficult to get new, big ideas birthed at the centre—I know that, having been involved in one or two—and then tested and piloted from within the Whitehall industrial complex. City regions, which by necessity will have to do more with less, need to innovate and pool their own resources, and try out new ideas and solutions that fit local needs and have the potential to improve the state of the nation as a whole. In this light, I welcome the use of city deals, most notably that recently agreed with Greater Manchester, which seek to reward a city region’s ability to deliver matched investment, growth and efficiency through joined-up and innovative approaches, such as the earn-back scheme.
In the model of cities competing and at times collaborating to develop new social economy solutions to thorny social problems, Whitehall ideally ceases to be the monopoly provider and commissioner of policy and practice. Instead, it will curate and learn, highlight and spread best practice, rather than seek to dictate its practices dogmatically. It should focus more on foreign policy, more nuanced immigration control, defence and the reduction of monopolies and oligarchies so that consumers and workers alike can get a better deal.
Devolving greater powers to cities economically is not a total panacea and there will be risks. Over the years, voters have shown a wariness of local kingpins who might go AWOL if given too much power, so the centre and others will need to play a role in fostering broad-based local leadership and utilising emergency powers if corruption or incompetence threaten to undermine a city region—as we have seen perhaps in Tower Hamlets. An independent process that would trigger such interventions will be needed to avoid undue central interference.
Alongside this there is a risk that having different tax levels and other policies across the country might make doing business more complex and costly, although both the Americans and Chinese seem to have found ways of coping with this. These risks, though, are worth running, because unless we do something, the current unsustainable economic inequalities and the political instability that they engender will continue. It is time to incentivise city regions to have greater powers. Finally, I would be interested to learn from the Minister what the centre is thinking of doing and how it will reshape itself as more powers are transferred to city regions over the years.
My Lords, this is a timed debate. I note the wealth of experience and expertise on this fascinating subject. However, we are now almost five minutes behind where we should be. If noble Lords make sure that they finish when four minutes is still being shown on the Clock, that will allow the Minister time to speak at the end.
My Lords, as a councillor in the late 1960s, I helped woo a major company to Norwich with a package of site, planning consent, key worker housing, roads and training. Sedgwick became the second largest reinsurance company in the world. Some 15 years later, another major financial company wished to relocate in order to expand. I tried hard. I offered a site, housing and TLC, but highways and planning consent were for the county. The company did not want the hassle of negotiating with two very different authorities, so it walked. I lost 600 good jobs for Norwich and for Norfolk. What was the difference? It was the disastrous 1974 local government reorganisation, with its alpha male obsession with size. Despite our cathedrals, university, research parks, international airport and 600 years of unitary status, Norwich became a district council, the largest in the country, and larger than a dozen or so unitary authorities.
Today, we are still the regional capital of East Anglia, providing half of Norfolk’s jobs—and half of those jobs are in knowledge-intensive industries—as well as most of the leisure, retail and media services for Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. Our economic multiplier effect stretches far beyond our formal functions. Like other mid-sized cities, we think that we are focused, energetic, fast, innovative and entrepreneurial. We strive to do all this within the constricted boundaries, functions and revenues of a district council. We are fettered, and yet we are the key city of East Anglia.
This debate from the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, is superbly timed. Cities drive our economy. They are where things happen, but that potential is not limited to the great core cities. Mid-sized cities like Norwich and Luton are also key. They contribute £162 billion to the national economy alongside the £173 billion of the eight core cities. Some have a manufacturing or maritime identity, such as Coventry and Plymouth. Some share interdependent economies, such as Southampton and Portsmouth. Yet others are self-contained, travel-to-work centres like Norwich and Sunderland. All of us are driving growth and turning around the life chances of the deprived, the ill educated, the ill housed and the overlooked.
What do mid-sized cities such as ours need to grow our local economies? It is, of course, unitary status, as do Cambridge and Oxford, if we are to fulfil our potential to transform our knowledge economy into knowledge jobs. Who, in the recent Pfizer bid for Astra-Zeneca, spoke for Cambridge? Nobody. Combined authorities really work only where there are shared goals. Despite this, Norwich has formed a Greater Norwich Growth Board, a partnership that will drive forward our city deal to spin off new businesses from our research park, plan our wider growth programmes for 13,000 more jobs and 3,000 more homes, and attract the £2.5 billion private sector investment we need.
Over and beyond unitary status, we need additional economic powers and flexibilities, which have already been cited in this debate. First, we should localise the ineffective government Work Programme. Secondly, we need commissioning powers for the wider public services, irrespective of elected mayors, to work with the private sector and public agencies. Thirdly, all publicly held land within a city should be brought into a single property board to make the best use of development sites. Fourthly, on finance, ring-fenced funding should be removed in order to encourage new funding models, along with funding for five years for greater stability. I could go on.
Above all, we need a culture change within Whitehall and at Westminster. They need to understand that local government is about local difference, so they should respect our sense of place and encourage diverse structures, as the noble Lord, Lord True, said. They should stop being hung up on size and stop trying to impose on us the macho model of elected mayors. As a leader, I could do everything a mayor does, and consensually. Trust us: we are better at doing most of this than central government. Finally, that utterly insulting phrase, “earned autonomy”, should be banished from the Westminster and Whitehall mindset. My Lords, I wish.
My Lords, it is a joy and a pleasure to take part in this debate. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, on giving us the opportunity to talk about these issues. He and I share a pride in Newcastle, of course, and in particular in Newcastle United. My mind goes back to the 1920s, when I was born. One never loses the link with where one was born. You follow the history and activities of your area over the years.
I also want to congratulate the staff of the Library on producing the document for today’s debate. Quite frankly, over the 30 years that I have been in this House, I have had to call upon the service of the Library many times. It has always been good, but I cannot recall such a comprehensive and helpful document as the one for this debate. The name attached to it is Russell Taylor, who compiled it. I just want to say that we are all indebted to him.
I was the leader of the London Borough of Enfield in the 1960s. When the reorganisation of local government took place, we finally had Southgate, Edmonton and Enfield. Edmonton was solidly Labour, Southgate was solidly Conservative—although they called themselves ratepayers—and Enfield was sometimes Labour and sometimes Conservative. One of the lessons I learnt was this. When you are trying to weld together a common purpose, you have got to be prepared to give as well as to take. It is not easy. What was reinforced for me at the time was how much pride there is in territory. We wanted to get Edmonton and Enfield in with Tottenham, along with the Lee Valley Regional Park, but we did not get it. However, I am very pleased to say that, 50 years later, that has been taken care of.
The other thing that I want to emphasise is that there are problems with an amalgamation of any kind. The House knows of my background with the co-operative movement. In Tyneside in the 1960s, 31 separate co-operative societies were brought together—at that time, by the way, there were 1,000 individual Co-ops in the country and now there are fewer than 20. All amalgamated by agreement, but it has not been easy. In my view, one has to keep in mind the sensitivity of people who patently are seen publicly as having lost out on the argument. People do not forget that they have lost out and they wait for the opportunity to get back at the other people.
In London in the 1980s, a reorganisation took place, and at that time the structures that we are talking about now were regional authorities. It was an attempt by the then Government to try to co-ordinate what was going on. What happened, of course, was that the Labour GLC became very Bolshy. It used to have great posters, which you could see across the river from here, simply pointing out the number of people who were unemployed in the London area. That irritated Mrs Thatcher so much that she decided that when her time came—and it did—she would abolish not just the Labour GLC but all the other economic entities.
I make no complaint—I am watching the clock and I will sit down before it gets to the number five because, as a former Chief Whip, I know my place in this House. All I want to say is that I wish those who are going to make the decisions well. Having already committed myself to sit down, I will not drop any other pearls of wisdom. Thank you.
My Lords, the subject of this debate, enabling economic leadership in cities, can be interpreted in a number of ways, but the aim is clearly a constructive discussion on how we encourage economic activity in our cities and give people the tools, the skills and the space to flourish. With ever more people moving to cities, it is clear that our economic future is dependent on these urban centres. As we well know, where you have a critical mass of people, there is a growth in creativity and economic activity; thus cities should be nurtured. I think it is precisely this sentiment which is the driver behind the city deals agenda currently being implemented. The drive towards localisation, and the understanding that local communities themselves best understand what they need for economic growth, is a really positive and ambitious step.
Twenty-six city deals have been announced and each of these has its own unique formula or mix of priorities in deciding how to spend funds and create an environment for growth. In the limited time available to me, I shall make a few points on my own city of Glasgow and on the £1.2 billion Glasgow and Clyde Valley city deal. It is hoped that this will create 29,000 jobs over the next 20 years and unlock a further £3.3 billion of private investment across the city region. The proposals as to how this money will be used are available for those interested. Up to 20 major infrastructure projects across the city region, including rail and road, have been proposed. Among several employment schemes there is a £9 million scheme proposed that will work with more than 4,000 vulnerable and unemployed residents currently in receipt of employment benefit, along with life science research and medical technology projects. This is an exciting time for the city.
For this strategy to be the kind of success that we would wish for, true leadership and vision are required to make the most of it. This is an opportunity for generations to come and should not be squandered. First and foremost, there has to be complete transparency in implementing these projects. A fair chance must be given to the SME community to benefit from contracts, as ultimately they are the real drivers for future economic and job growth. Part of our consideration has to be about public procurement so that some of the benefits of this injection of public funding filter down to SMEs. A lot of thinking and discussion has taken place in Scotland on the subject of public procurement—certainly, as far as my own involvement is concerned— for the past decade and a half,—but I know for a fact that it goes much further back than that. We are sadly still far from the ideal situation of a fair bite of the cherry for SMEs, but perhaps that discussion is for another time.
I would suggest that we offer affordable space in the heart of the city for small-scale manufacturers such as weavers, potters and all manner of artisans. When do young people see someone making something with their hands and then selling it for a profit? These are basic principles to encourage enterprise and at the same time bring back vibrancy, creativity and industry to the city centre. I would add that along with affordable industrial and commercial space must come better public transport and affordable, accessible parking. In Glasgow, those at the helm of the revival of the city have to take into consideration the current prohibitive access to the city by their draconian use of parking meters and other road regulations. According to a BBC report on 2 September 2014, Glasgow city imposed £3.2 million of bus lane fines in 2013, one of the highest figures in the UK. I refuse to believe that there were so many people in Glasgow deliberately breaking the law.
I would suggest that, when we come to implement these major projects, true leadership means talking to ordinary people in the street—the workers and the small businesses. We have become too accustomed to dancing to the tune of interest and lobby groups. While there is most definitely a place for these groups as experts on many social and environmental issues, there is also something to be said for speaking to those who simply work, live and breathe in the city.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for securing this debate and I congratulate the Government on the city deals initiative. I am confident that true leadership at the local level will bring rich rewards to our cities and communities.
My Lords, I find myself in this House agreeing with the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, far too often, to the consternation of my friends in the north-east, and I am very glad that he initiated this debate. I also find myself slightly out of place in that I have only ever lived in either London or the English countryside and my football team is Millwall. Nevertheless, I have developed a great love for the English cities, although over most of my lifetime there has been a sad relative decline of those cities, as my noble friend Lord Monks said. That has turned around a little in recent years, and the city centres certainly look a lot better than they did 20 years ago, but there is still much deprivation, dereliction and lack of economic activity.
We need to emulate in our key cities the performance of European cities and the performance of our own cities back in Victorian times. Relative to the national economy, they should be leaders, whereas at the moment many of them are followers. To do that, I commend the reports of my noble friend Lord Adonis and the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, who has been praised much in his absence.
That sometimes requires bringing together a city region rather than observing the local boundaries, such as they are at the moment. Issues of transport, planning, housing, skills, employment, training and regeneration require crossing what are very tight boundaries within our urban areas. In my own area of housing, you need a wider area of approach than current city boundaries allow. This can be done. You can create combined authorities and co-operating councils without necessarily unravelling the whole of English local government; you can do so without recreating regional structures or metropolitan counties; you can do so without requiring a mayor in each of these areas; and you can do so without any net increase in central government spending.
But it will work effectively only if those combined authorities are supported by the local authorities within their area, and by business within their area, and—more importantly perhaps—only if the Treasury is prepared to let go of a lot of things, including the expenditure identified in the various reports and control of business rates. Not only the Treasury but all Whitehall departments have to eschew their ring-fencing, their requirements, their stipulations, their minimum standards and so forth. It is not only the political and administrative apparatus; the media and the public at large need to get rid of their obsession about the postcode lottery, because there will be different solutions in different parts of the country and quite rightly so. That is what local democracy is about.
More specifically, we have to allow the new city regions and local government generally, contrary to existing Treasury rules, access to borrowing powers so that they can genuinely invest in housing and infrastructure in their own areas. It means a genuine absence of strings on block grants and it means that there are at least some discretionary powers of local taxation. That is what happens in all those European cities we are seeking to emulate.
We must also recognise that partly because of the dominance of London and the south-east in our whole structure, any move to city regions will require a significant redistributive process from the centre. London has twice the level of value added per head even than Manchester. That means some serious redistribution will still be needed. The recognition of the dominance of London means that the strategy within which we are attempting to recreate our cities also has to do something about the overheating of London and the south-east. As my noble friend Lady Hollis said, it also has to do something about the other parts of England. I would add Exeter to her list of areas that require unitary status. Unless we do something for the shires and the small towns of England, the cities will not prosper. We need a balanced approach.
This debate is about economics and devolution of democratic powers. But the terminology of devolution is going to undermine the importance of this debate. This is not the same as legislative and political devolution to Scotland and Wales, and the constitutional arguments should not be mixed up with the arguments about economic autonomy.
My Lords, I declare an interest in the register that my wife is the statutory Deputy Mayor of London and a local councillor in London. So I welcome this debate, and thank the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, as I know first-hand that great cities need great economic leadership.
I find it particularly interesting to debate this issue here in the House of Lords, where cities are perhaps underrepresented relative to the countryside. This is partly because of our age profile, as young people go to cities. But the truth is that the cost of houses means that many noble Lords cannot live in London. Indeed, the cost of living in cities is generally higher than outside them, partly because of higher housing costs. For that reason, the London living wage is higher than the minimum wage.
The Government’s emphasis is on building new garden cities; one to be built in Bicester was announced recently. I declare another interest in a property company building homes there. Garden cities will certainly have less air pollution than bigger city centres, where levels of dangerous PM2.5 particles are much higher. Perhaps we can give the Green Party some credit for helping us to focus on building new towns that will be cleaner and greener.
A city is only as good as its people and we have to ensure that the younger generations are capable of economic leadership so that our great cities compete globally. That is why I am so happy about the work being done to improve economic and business competence among young people. I have been very impressed by a fantastic charity called Young Enterprise, which does exactly that. It operates in nearly half the schools in the entire country, teaching children to operate small businesses. That is exciting because more young people should be encouraged to go out and get some real experience, take some risks and see how far their new ideas go. That way, we will be bringing through a much bigger and more talented group of people, with knowledge of economic leadership.
There are reasons why we are not yet seeing enough young people coming through with the right leadership skills. They should experience leadership in school. But between supply teachers, a lack of autonomy for good teachers, a wide variety of first languages and large class sizes, children do not get the leadership they need. It is extraordinarily difficult for a teacher to both teach the material and inspire the students. This is something that people just do not talk about enough.
We know that cities work well. They make people more efficient. As they get more efficient, they become more prosperous. Will cities become the new heartlands of Conservative voters? But what is a city? Could a whole group of people and businesses in the countryside connected to the internet operate as efficiently as a city—but without the traffic jams and bad air pollution that we suffer from in cities?
We know how important cities are for a nation’s economic growth. In the UK, cities occupy 9% of the land but provide 61% of the output. But do we need different economic leadership in each of our cities? If economic leadership means inspiring young people to contribute to the economy, I am thoroughly in favour of it. If it means the ability to come up with new taxes, I am against it. The most valuable economic leadership comes from the family. No economic leadership from any city could ever compete with taxpayers deciding what to do with their own money.
My Lords, first, I congratulate the three maiden speakers from the Liberal Benches on their contributions. I look forward to hearing from all three of them in future. I particularly single out—I hope without upsetting the other two—the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Goddard of Stockport. As some noble Lords know, Stockport is my home town. It is traditional never to criticise a maiden speech and I hope the noble Lord will not think that I am breaking that tradition when I say, as a former chairman of Stockport County Football Club, that his espousal of the cause of Manchester City will not be universally satisfactory in the town itself.
In the short time open to me, I wish to make just two points. My first is to express concern, not about the motives behind the debate today—I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, on the fluent way in which he moved it—but I have never believed that devolving power without resources is a sensible way to run things. We have been here before. It was a Conservative Government who created the metropolitan county councils, as my noble friend Lord Graham reminded us. Of course, that was partly out of a political motive as the Conservative Party could not win the big cities at that time and thought that by extending the electorate and taking in the suburbs it might be able to do so. When that proved to be fruitless, it promptly abolished the metropolitan county councils using the excuse of the abolition of the GLC. The previous Labour Government decided that some of the powers we are discussing today could perhaps be administered by the regional development authorities. The incoming coalition Government abolished the RDAs and replaced them partly with the LEPs—in my view a totally undemocratic group; women make up far less than 50% of the membership and as far as I am aware there are no women at all in the West Midlands LEP. There is nothing particularly democratic about that.
My second point is about resources. As I have indicated, if there is no money to do these things, there is no point creating a structure to do them. I was struck by the contribution from the noble Lord, Lord True. Like him, I am rather against Whitehall and Westminster dabbling in local government. I was a councillor during the passage of the Local Government Act 1972 referred to by my noble friend Lady Hollis. If the electors had felt differently, I might have been a member of Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council before the noble Lord, Lord Goddard, but democracy prevailed and my candidacy was rejected. But I do not feel that the structures set up by the 1972 Act were necessarily more efficient, democratic or fiscally responsible than the authorities that they replaced. I remain to be convinced that the devolution of powers that is behind this debate will work without adequate financing.
It is traditional in your Lordships’ House not to get too involved in politics, although what we in the other place called the Front Bench below the Gangway on the Government’s side is pretty adept at it when it comes to attacking my own party. This Government have waged a fiscal war against local government, and they show no signs of relenting. In the West Midlands, I am not alone in expressing my concern that the Chancellor of the Exchequer says that in future greater Birmingham—a greater Birmingham authority or a greater Birmingham structure—will have an elected mayor. I remind your Lordships that it is less than three years since the citizens of Birmingham, including me, voted not to have an elected mayor. Flouting democracy in that way is something that we ought to regret in this House. I see the Whip and I will sit down in a moment. I voted on the wrong side: I voted for an elected mayor. The fact is that, according to the LGA, by the end of this Parliament the real-terms reduction in government funding to the city of Birmingham will be 41.5%. In the borough of Sandwell, where my former constituency lies, it is 39%. These freedoms—the freedoms spoken about in this debate—are valueless without adequate and proper funding, and that is not what we will get under a Conservative/Liberal Democrat Administration.
My Lords, I also congratulate my three city and urban colleagues on their maiden speeches. Certainly if I ever thought of looking back at my own, I am never going to again, given their erudite speeches.
It was not seen—or not noticed—much this week, but an OECD report came out which talked about inequality of incomes nationwide across all OECD club members—the developed nations. It pointed out very strongly, perhaps controversially, that the greater the income inequality within an economy, it forgoes economic growth over that period and thereafter. It calculated that in the UK over 1990 to 2010, we lost some 10% of growth because of inequality.
If this is controversial in terms of population incomes, I guess it is not in terms of regional disparity. It is quite obvious that where we do not have economies fully functioning within our nation state, we are losing economic output, incomes and jobs and creating unemployment. In the short time I have in this debate, I want to talk not about the metropolitan areas but about that other 91% of our land mass: the non-metropolitan and rural areas. These include important cities like Norwich and Exeter—its economy is vibrant at the moment. It is perhaps important to realise that those non-metropolitan areas provide some 56% of England’s economic output. That leaves only 44% for the metropolitan areas, but four-10ths of that is London. That illustrates what a great issue this is. I do not dispute it at all in terms of other non-London metropolitan areas, particularly the northern challenge.
It is really important that rural areas and non-metropolitan areas stay very much on the agenda in terms of this wish and momentum towards devolution, which I welcome strongly. Non-metropolitan rural areas have specific problems that maybe metropolitan areas do not have; transport, getting to work, access to services —particularly in rural areas—the digital divide and, in particular, affordable housing. Apart from those specific areas, there are a lot of similarities. That is why the solution towards devolved government is equally important in that part of our kingdom as it is in metropolitan areas. It is quite clear that cities such as Manchester have the capability for devolution to take place. I welcome that they are ahead and moving forward. But I believe strongly that, after those initial larger metropolitan areas, rural areas and shires are equally able and competent fiscally, in terms of their administrations and in their strength of culture and identity, to move forward on this agenda as well. I give the example of Cornwall where I live. We already have a unitary authority—a competent and very successful administration that is able to move this forward.
In the last few seconds of my speech, I ask the Minister whether she will guarantee that there will be no discrimination between metropolitan and non-metropolitan and rural areas, and that there will be a road map for such local authorities and areas. It is quite clear that we ignore non-metropolitan areas at our peril. They should not be an afterthought. They have a great role to play in the economic future of this country.
My Lords, I welcome the debate of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley—and indeed the arrival of his new colleagues on the Lib Dem Benches. But I was surprised, from his opening remarks, to hear that somehow the clocks started in 2010. In 2010, as you will recall, the Lib Dems did not demur from the coalition Government’s reduction, or taking away, of the regional economic organisations. This of course is another example of stop-go—and now we are going again with more funding and providing more impetus to these areas.
It is, however, excellent that the House of Lords is debating the issues of urban areas. We had a discussion on planning a month or so ago. I believe it would be advisable for the House of Lords to have a Select Committee to review all the relevant aspects of the development of urban areas. There has been a circular note from the Chairman of Committees, the noble Lord, Lord Sewel—and if noble Lords are minded like me that this should be a very topical and appropriate area for the House of Lords, I ask them to write in with their views, as I am doing. If they would like to copy me in with what they say, I would be very pleased.
Another important feature of this discussion is that the Government Office for Science has been producing documents. Maybe these have the statistics that have been referred to. For example, in August it produced The Evolving Economic Performance of UK Cities: City Growth Patterns 1981-2011. There are interesting and surprising results in it. There are statistics of employment, population, output and productivity. The biggest qualitative change seems to have been in small and medium-sized cities, and these seem to be the ones most successful in employment, health, environment and output. The largest cities have either grown, like London, or have, as it were, reduced in northern areas —northern cities—as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley.
Whether or not they are growing or not, there seems to have been a significant growth in inequality in these large cities—also inequality in health. Indeed, Sir Michael Marmot has pointed out that the mortality for males between one part of London and another may be affected by as much as 20 years. In fact—this might have been raised earlier—as Jonathan Glancey wrote in his powerful essay in the book on London’s environment, the morality of London is more like that of piracy than civic duty. I applaud Sheffield for remarking that this is an important area which cities should think about.
Over the past 20 years in the medium-sized cities mostly in southern England—Telford, for example, is counted in the north in these statistics—there has been a substantial rise in population and in output. For example, the economics of these areas has been associated with services, commerce and retail. But a clutch of northern cities have experienced a much lower population growth and output growth, as the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, explained.
The surprising result of these government reports is the question of whether high-tech cities are the future. Surprisingly, it shows that in the high-tech Meccas of Oxford and Cambridge, where Nobel prizes abound, the average income and growth rate have in fact not been very impressive. The argument given is that a lot of these people work in the public sector and, as noble Lords all know, if you work in the public sector you have pretty low pay. The cities that are in fact growing fastest in population and productivity in income are those such as Milton Keynes and Crawley.
The other feature of these high-tech cities—I have some experience in this area, having been a city councillor in Cambridge and set up a company—is that quite a few companies have been set up and then all sorts of takeovers have occurred. Very few significant companies have grown, so it is very far from the Silicon Valley phenomenon. ARM is of course a great company in Cambridge, as is Oxford Instruments in Oxford. In fact, if you are involved in running a company in Cambridge you will get endless e-mails from people in London saying, “Can I invest in your company?”. However, you know that it is a trap; they want to raise the value of the company and then sell it off. It is all a kind of gambling operation as opposed to a long-term investment using companies to develop services and products. The word “start-up” in the English language now almost means a company that is on a path to making a lot of money for someone who then sells it off.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lords, Lord Goddard and Lord Scriven, and the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, on their excellent maiden speeches. They add lustre to the distinguished group of former and current leaders of local authorities in the House who play such a big part in our debates, and who will promote even more forcibly in future the cause of cities in our deliberations.
I note that the past or current leaders of Newcastle, Bristol, Luton, Sheffield, Bradford, Norwich, Cambridge, Stockport and Sutton have all spoken. Indeed, Sheffield has been doubly blessed by having both its Lords spiritual and Lords temporal taking part in our debates. As the noble Lord, Lord True, noted, the spiritual dimension to our cities—of course, the definition of a city historically is a place with a cathedral—is an important part of their life and vibrancy. One might also add sport—most football teams are city-based; I have nothing against cricket but it is very notable that football has had a great revival in the past 20 years—and universities and places of learning, which are predominantly based in cities.
The Library Note that my noble friend Lord Graham referred to as excellent says that although cities account for only 9% of land use, they account for 54% of the population, 59% of the country’s jobs, 61% of output, 73% of highly skilled jobs and 60% of new businesses. However, I hope that we are not going to see in future, as we have not seen in this debate, a pitting of the rural against the city. As many noble Lords emphasised, without strong cities we would not have strong rural areas. We need to see regional growth—cities and their hinterlands working together and forging much stronger partnerships together in future. As my noble friend Lady Hollis said, cities drive growth, in neighbouring areas as much as in the city regions. We need to ensure much stronger collaboration in future between the urban areas, the suburban areas and the rural areas—which, to be frank, have too often in the past seen their interests as being in conflict. If we are to have a successful economy and society in future, they need to align their interests much more strongly than has sometimes been the case.
The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, in his excellent introduction to this debate—I pay tribute to the work that he has done with the Deputy Prime Minister and others on city deals—said that what we are about is emphatically not forging independent city states but enabling cities to grow faster and bring wider benefits to their wider regions. I entirely endorse that approach, just as I very much endorse the words of the noble Lord, Lord True, that the last thing we want to see is a repeat of the great error of the 1960s and 70s—my noble friend Lady Hollis referred to this—which was the belief that endless local government reorganisation itself would produce better-run cities and more growth. We need to see more collaboration between authorities, but not an endless redrawing of boundaries. Indeed, we are just about to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the London boroughs; the last thing that we need to see is more navel-gazing and redrawing of lines on maps.
As many noble Lords said, though, although there is great potential in our cities, unless that potential is realised we face a bleak future. The challenges are enormous. We went through the middle period of the 20th century with almost all our cities in decline, in terms of their ability to sustain jobs but also in terms of the quality of their cityscapes and, for the most part, their city institutions. There was also some spiritual decline that went with that, in the sense of a great loss of faith in the capacity of cities to regenerate themselves and to be a driver of growth and enterprise in the way that they had been in the Victorian period.
My noble friend Lord Monks put it well when he said that although there has been some revival—he referred to the revival of many city centres—it is, as he put it, still very fragile in many areas. In too many cities the city centre has been rebuilt but, if you go just a mile or two outside it, you still have council estates that are in a poor state with very high levels of unemployment. There are many areas of great wealth in most of our cities but, cheek by jowl, some of the very poorest areas of our country are located there, too.
In reviving cities—I put London fairly and squarely in that camp, alongside Manchester; they are two of our greatest success stories—the challenges of growth are as great in many respects as the challenges of decline. Our growing cities have a huge problem of a shortage of housing and weak infrastructure, and transport systems that have been underinvested in for a large part of the 20th century and simply cannot cope with the numbers when these cities are growing. We are seeking to address, at one and the same time, the challenges of past economic failure and weakness, which need to be addressed systematically, and the mobilisation to the fullest extent of the resources of our cities, such as the great enterprising side of our cities that the noble Lord, Lord Wei, referred to—the Shoreditch and Tech City clusters that are replicated across so many of our cities. We are seeking to address the problems of the past but also to equip our cities with the infrastructure without which they will not be able to flourish in future.
That can happen, in our judgment—and I think this judgment is shared across the House—only if there is more devolution of responsibility to the cities in terms of being able to take charge of their own destiny. With that devolution of responsibility must come the devolution of funding and some element of fiscal devolution, too, so that cities are actually able to take advantage of more of the proceeds of growth than has been the case in the past. In the second half of the 20th century, not only did we centralise functions too much on Westminster and Whitehall but we centralised too much funding on Westminster and Whitehall and we largely removed the fiscal base of local government, which is why our local authorities have a smaller share of their spending covered by locally raised taxes than almost any other democracy in the world. The debate is now taking place about how we can start to reverse that trend.
In my view, all three of these need to proceed in tandem. We need more powers devolved to our local authorities, and to groups of local authorities working together through partnership arrangements of the kind that we have seen in Greater Manchester with combined authorities. We also need more funding to be devolved, and we need the capacity for our local authorities to raise more of their own funds and share more in the proceeds of growth. The measures that the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, set out in his report, and which I set out in my report, all move in the same direction in this respect: we need to see more devolution of functions that are crucial to growth, particularly functions in relation to skills, transport and economic development, passed down to local authorities or groups of local authorities. The funding needs to follow those functions. We are going to have some very difficult debates about how funding will be devolved in that respect.
We also need to see that there is more fiscal capacity at the local, city and regional level. My report sets out proposals, which have been endorsed by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, for significant devolution of business rates so that the full growth in business rates, allowing for redistribution, takes place within an existing system; so that the full proceeds of growth in business rates are secured by local authorities; and so that other local property taxes, specified in Tony Travers’ report, are devolved as well.
My time is up; I will say just one thing in conclusion. Unless we have a programme of systematic devolution of functions, funding and fiscal powers over the next 20 years, the problem will not be simply that we will be unable to tackle our individual city problems, great as they are; we will not provide that strong and visionary leadership in our cities, without which there will be no future for them.
We have so many leaders and past leaders of local authorities here, all of whom have a vision for their cities and their localities. One cannot have vision when it comes to politics without having power. Local leaders need the capacity to set out visions of growth, of jobs and of revival and regeneration for their cities, but they will not be able to set those out with any conviction and carry local support behind them unless they also have the powers necessary to deliver policy programmes and visions. We need, therefore, to see from Government —and any Government which follows this one—not simply aspirations for more devolution but real, solid proposals for devolving functions, powers and, increasingly, tax-raising powers as well.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Shipley, who brought forward the debate today, for his work on devolving new powers to our cities and regions. My noble friend was involved in the city deal negotiations and—together with my noble friend Lord Heseltine, who is not here today—he played a key role in helping to secure a number of agreements. I would like to place on record my thanks to him for his crucial role in these discussions. He is a key figure on this agenda, and has been for many years, and it is fitting that he was leading today’s debate.
It is also fitting that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is here today. I pay tribute to the work that he has done over the years in getting us to where we are today. He has been very much part of the cross-party approach that has in fact led to this, as has my noble friend Lord Heseltine. This cross-party approach—which has not been talked about much today, but is actually very much seen here today, with all the noble Lords who are from cities and from local government—has enabled some of the big shifts in devolution that culminated in the announcement by the Chancellor in November of devolution to Greater Manchester. I do not think that, without the other parties, this could have happened and I must place that on record.
I must also declare not just an interest in this matter but a very great enthusiasm because, like my noble friend Lord Goddard, I was at the start of what has become the first devolution deal for Greater Manchester, and it is a great pleasure to talk about it today. I pay tribute to all noble Lords who have made their maiden speeches. I am delighted that so many—my noble friend Lord Goddard, the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, and the noble Baroness, Lady Janke—have chosen to make them in this debate. All are from a local government background, which is great.
My noble friend Lord Shipley’s comments were very helpful and very constructive, as were those of many noble Lords. He talked first about not disempowering London. I think this is a crucial point. In the conversations that we were having in local government 10 or 15 years ago, we did have a bit of a tendency to whinge about how much London got and how we were so badly done to. I think the narrative has moved on in a far more mature way, to be not about how much London has got and how much it has grown—because, actually, that bodes well for all of us in this country—but how cities outside London can punch above their weight in terms of progressing growth and unlocking their growth potential. I think that was a very good point to make at this stage.
Many noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Shipley, have talked about not creating city-states and about the link with the rural areas and the inner cities. As the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said, we should all collaborate to create a better economic outlook for our country. My noble friend also talked about how this is not just about posting out cheques from Whitehall —if any noble Lord has studied the devolution deal for Manchester, that is very clear. It is based primarily on a proposition to government about growth, based on making better use of the funding that would be coming down to Greater Manchester anyway. It is about not just using it more efficiently but getting to the point where city regions like Greater Manchester are not recipients of public funds but actually become net contributors to the Treasury.
This is very much about accountability. Several noble Lords have asked, “Do we want a mayor? Do we have to have a mayor?” What I think the Government expect is a very clear accountability and leadership role. Certainly, in Greater Manchester, the advent of a mayor in 2017 is not going to create another layer of government. It was very clear that that was what Greater Manchester did not want, and in fact the Government did not want to create another layer of bureaucracy but to enhance what was already there, to create clear leadership.
My noble friend Lord Shipley also talked about underperforming cities. The figures are stark when one compares the different regions of this country with the south-east. The north-west is the second most productive region outside the south-east, but its productivity lags behind by some £30 billion, and that figure is not shrinking, so something does need to be done. This is a radical proposition, but it will be done by increment. We hope it will help to enable areas outside the south-east to punch above their weight and to unlock their potential to do so and to shrink that gap.
My noble friend also asked about the government commitment to devolution to cities. I do not think there needs to be any greater demonstration of this Government’s commitment to devolution to cities, certainly in starting with Greater Manchester. I do not think that, by this time next year, every single city in the country will have a devolution deal; there needs to be a step-by-step process where this agenda is advanced. My noble friend also talked about the pace quickening. I would like to see a sort of point of no return, whereby—a hopefully successful—devolution to Greater Manchester paves the way for other cities and, indeed, rural areas to follow.
My noble friend also talked about responsibilities—I think we have covered this—and also about functional economic geography. Certain things have to be done at scale and across local authority boundaries. In fact, that already happens, as it did with the regional development agencies with things like transport. It is very difficult to deal with transport in a single local authority area, because it transcends authorities and authority boundaries. He also talked about Newcastle’s success and introduced what for me is a new term, “the boomerang Geordies”. I may be one of them, because I left Geordieland 30 years ago; I may return after my retirement—I do not know.
My noble friend Lord Lyell talked about his walk through Liverpool in November 1967 and about the renewal that it has enjoyed. He talked in particular about the port and the waterfront. I declare an interest, which is outlined in the register, in that I was executive director of Atlantic Gateway. There is no doubt that the recent developments of the superport in Liverpool, which is being developed in response to the expansion of the Panama Canal, will provide a fantastic post-Panamax terminal that will be able to receive those massive vessels that will cross the world. It will enable round-the-world shipping again and a huge potential in logistics and distribution and, going back to some of the papers that have been produced in the last few months, it will very much enable those east-west links to be taken forward.
My noble friend also talked about private sector employment. He mentioned Halewood and the Range Rover Evoque; if he has been there recently, he will have seen them all lined up, waiting to be shipped off. I understand that you now have to wait six months for a Range Rover Evoque, such is the demand for them. However, it also has such great potential to revitalise that area of Liverpool and indeed the whole Liverpool city region.
My noble friend also talked about the Liverpool waterfront, which is the most wonderful asset—Liverpool is so lucky. As somebody—I think it was Noel Gallagher —once said, “Manchester’s got everything apart from a beach”, and it is true. Manchester has plenty of assets, but Liverpool has that beautiful waterfront. He also talked about governance. Here I pay tribute to Mayor Joe Anderson, who has shown such strong leadership in Liverpool, and to how Liverpool and Manchester work so brilliantly together to take forward that whole agenda for growth in the north-west.
The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, talked about not allowing the Treasury to stymie progress. The proposition between local government or groups of local governments and the Treasury has to be crystal clear so that there is no room for manoeuvring as regards what was promised and what was promised to be delivered. As far as I know from Greater Manchester, which was the first deal to be done, the expectations and the expectations of the outcomes are very clear. The noble Lord also talked about how local authority cuts hit the poorest most. In fact, as I said in answer to a question the other day, the bottom 10%—in terms of the most deprived local authorities—receive on average 50% more money, so I must disagree with him on that. He also asked whether any area will be allowed devolution. There is a challenge to groups of local authorities to put forward propositions to government, and I think that the Government do not rule anything out as regards what they want to see put before them. As far as I know, there is no bar to propositions going to government.
I come to my noble friend Lord Goddard. I would say that we were “partners in crime”, but I do not mean that. We served on the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities for some time, both as deputy leaders, and we led the journey to become a combined authority that took place in 2011—I had gone by then, but he was still there. In his very amusing maiden speech he also talked about going to the wrong Benches. I nearly did that, but realised my mistake when I did not recognise any of the faces on the Labour Benches. He talked about the collaboration we enjoyed. That collaboration, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and other noble Lords, has been absolutely essential to our getting where we are today. We would not be here if we did not collaborate.
Another noble Lord made a very good point, which I want to bring out. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton—
It was, and there he is. He talked about a common purpose, and having sometimes to swallow the fact that you do not get everything that you want. That has been key to how we have worked together. If there was ever a handy tip I could give local authorities that wanted to achieve devolutionary status, it would be that: collaborate, co-operate, allow for the fact that you might have to compromise slightly, but you will get there in the end.
My noble friend Lady Eaton talked about skills and about local areas being best placed to respond to local need. That is crucial in devolution deals, and it is interesting that skills were mentioned in the first devolution deal we got. If local authorities do not engage both with employer need and therefore with those learning institutions, those skills will just not be there and we will have to import them from elsewhere, whether that is from home or abroad.
I am very conscious that I am running out of time and that I am not even half way through what I wanted to say. The noble Lord, Lord McFall, I think, made a point about the Glasgow and Clyde Valley city deal, which I think is one of the largest ever under the city deals—we wish it well.
I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Scriven’s maiden speech. It was uncontroversial, coming from a controversial man, as he promised us he is, and a young man—you sometimes feel very young when you come here. He mentioned the Sheffield city deal, which we wish well.
I will just try to pick up on some more points. My noble friend Lord True talked about avoiding faddish political structures in bringing forward devolution. I totally agree with that; to come back to a point I made earlier, Greater Manchester was very much against doing that—I realise that I am now completely out of time. I thank noble Lords who have taken part in this debate—
Two more minutes.
Oh, I have two more minutes.
I totally agree with that, and in fact, Greater Manchester was very clear that it did not want a layering-on of structure, so it has decided to go to the model of having an 11th leader until 2017, when it will elect a mayor, but it will still keep that core of 10 local authority leaders. The noble Lord also asked about the imposition of local structures. That is not true in the sense that, as I have said, it is a proposition to government; whether it is agreed or not will be the result of a dialogue between local authorities. Therefore nothing will be imposed upon anyone unless they want it.
The noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, talked about being born in Sunderland. I was brought up in Hetton-le-Hole, so we have more in common than she thinks. You could not vote Tory there if you wanted to, because—well, they did not want to. The noble Baroness also talked about the size of the state and asked a crucial question about where we want it to lie. I think that trust has to be given by central government to local government. It is no small wonder that central government have taken what is probably the best and most worked-up proposition forward first. Hopefully, that will lead incrementally to such trust being built up between central and local government. The coalition are a Government who want to decentralise, not to create more state intervention—the noble Baroness clearly does not agree with me there. She talked about the back of a fag packet. This is not the back of a fag packet; it has taken years.
But I realise that my time really is up now. I thank all noble Lords, and I will write to anyone whom I have not answered fully.
AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
Question for Short Debate
My Lords, one of my major purposes in raising this short debate is to emphasise a crucial point about public health across the globe. Currently there is vast concern about Ebola, and rightly so. It must be met with all the resources at our disposal. But at the same time we must not forget the even greater challenge posed by the three diseases that the Global Fund was formed to fight—AIDS, TB and malaria.
The figures for deaths tell their own story. In 2013 an estimated 1.5 million people died from HIV/AIDS; 584,000 people died from malaria, and an additional 1.1 million people died from tuberculosis. The burden is heaviest in sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 90% of all malaria deaths occur, and—this is perhaps the most disgraceful statistic—in children under five. So, currently, three diseases account for more than 3 million deaths a year, to add to the mountainous totals over the past 25 years. AIDS is an example: the death toll so far is 35 million people. In addition, 36 million people are living with HIV, and in 2013 almost 200 million cases of malaria, and 9 million new tuberculosis cases, were detected.
Having said that, I do not want to downplay or understate the progress made, or the vast contribution that the Global Fund, and the President’s fund from the United States, have made. Without them the world would be in even greater crisis. The latest figures for the Global Fund show that 7.3 million people are on antiretroviral therapy for AIDS. It has tested and treated, or helped to test and treat, more than 12 million people for TB, and has distributed 450 million insecticide-treated nets to protect families against malaria. We have therefore made vast progress since those dismal and tragic days in the 1980s, when AIDS patients died and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it. I pay tribute to the clinicians, the nurses, the volunteers, and all those working for NGOs, throughout the world, who have made this progress possible.
Now we come to what is perhaps the most difficult challenge for any Government. In spite of the progress made, much more needs to be made, and it needs to be made urgently. As UNAIDS says in its latest report, only about three-fifths of countries have risk reduction programmes for sex workers, and 88 countries report that fewer than half of men who have sex with men know their HIV status. Most countries fail to provide drug substitution therapy, or access to sterile needles and syringes for people who inject drugs—even though that is something we started in this country back in the 1980s. Again, most disgracefully of all, antiretroviral treatment for children lags very substantially behind that for adults.
Not all the steps to combat these factors imply increased financial help. If the 80 countries that currently—and disgracefully—criminalise homosexuality were to reform that policy, we would take a massive step forward and reduce one enormous barrier to testing and treatment around the world. There is no question but that that could have a profound effect. I very much hope that in this debate the Government will underline their determination and commitment to do as much as they can to persuade those countries to reform their legal processes.
Just as certainly as that, sustained and increasing financial help is necessary from the nations of the world. Here I pay tribute to the Government for honouring the important pledge, made by Andrew Mitchell when he was Secretary of State for International Development, to add a further £0.5 billion for the Global Fund, as long as other nations join in. There is a slight question about that at the moment, because the total aimed at has not been reached.
Having just praised the Government, if I had a criticism of them it would be that that message about the increased aid should be made loud and clear. At the recent international AIDS conference in Melbourne, where there were Ministers and civil servants—it is by far the most important meeting in the AIDS calendar—we could manage no Minister or civil servant from DfID, and as far as I know, unless he attended very secretly, no British high commissioner. And that was in a Commonwealth country. We need to explain to the world what we are doing and why, and not allow other countries to paint us in terms of the British policy of the Victorian years.
I shall make one last point. With AIDS, antiretroviral drugs have saved millions of lives, but I wonder whether we should put all our eggs in one basket. I believe we should take heed of the warning given today by the review of drug resistance set up by the Prime Minister. Drug resistance can have a profound effect on HIV, TB and malaria. According to Jim O’Neill, who headed the review, drug-resistant infections already kill hundreds of thousands of people a year globally, and by 2050 that figure could be more than 10 million.
There will be further reviews, and I see that it is said, and emphasised, that the role of vaccines to prevent infections, in particular, will be examined. I declare an interest at this point, as a board member of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, a non-profit organisation, based in New York, dedicated to developing a vaccine for AIDS. It has been consistently supported by both parties—although this Government’s recent decision to cut help from £10 million a year to £1 million a year in one slash has not exactly helped. I could say more, but I will not, unless I am provoked, because the point I am making is a rather broader one than that.
Vaccines can take, and almost always have taken, decades to develop. This is not necessarily a natural area for Governments, with their four-year time limits—and perhaps even less so for Ministers, whose time limits are usually rather shorter than that. That is why it is so significant that the President’s fund in the United States, which obviously has a much longer timescale, is now devoting a small part of its substantial resources to research into prevention and vaccines. That is an extraordinarily important move and underlines the importance of prevention. Following that, I wonder whether the Global Fund should not do exactly the same thing and provide a more certain source of finance as well as underlining the crucial importance of prevention as well as treatment. That is the point about moving in that direction.
The Global Fund has made amazing progress but it is dependent on government resources from and around the world. The message for all those Governments is: for goodness’ sake, don’t stop now, for we are dealing with three of the main killer diseases in the world today.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, for initiating this extremely important debate and, indeed, for his long and distinguished record on these very important issues.
The Global Fund is a 21st century partnership. It works because it combines Governments, civil society, the private sector and people affected by these diseases. The genuine nature of this partnership ensures that there is unquestionable success. We should be proud that the UK contributed £1 billion to the fund in December 2013. This contribution will save a life every three minutes.
HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria disproportionately affect certain groups known as key populations. Despite progress within general populations accessing antiretroviral drugs for HIV treatment, key populations are being left behind in terms of access. TB disproportionately affects those working or living in overcrowded conditions, such as prisoners and labour migrants, particularly mining communities in South Africa. Also at risk are people living with HIV. They are over 20 times more likely to develop TB, and one in five AIDS deaths is from TB alone. HIV poses an increased risk to groups including young women, men who have sex with men, transgender people, who are often forgotten, injecting drug users, those in prison, migrant or mobile workers and sex workers.
Recently, the excellent report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS, Access Denied, published last week, highlighted as a key issue the lack of political prioritisation of key populations. Problems happen, particularly in so-called upper middle income countries, when global funders withdraw support and this happens before domestic Governments are able to pay market prices for antiretroviral drugs. So, will the Government encourage the Global Fund to reassess its decision to withdraw funding from key population groups in middle-income countries unless there is clear evidence of how funding for services and treatment will be provided to key populations? Will the Government pledge to work with the pharmaceutical industry and multilateral organisations to make newer and more effective ARV drugs available and affordable to all, including marginalised populations and people living in middle-income countries?
The sad reality is that HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB do not discriminate. HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among young women of reproductive age in Africa, and the region’s young women are twice as likely to contract HIV as their male peers. This is partly due to their unequal status, which constrains women’s ability to negotiate condom use. It is therefore vital to develop a range of HIV prevention tools that can be used by diverse populations, such as female-initiated microbicides. Will the Government continue their support for product development partnerships and other approaches that are developing products targeted at such groups as women in low-income countries?
As I said earlier, sex workers are also at great risk from an increased number of sexual partners, greater exposure to sexual violence and the economic incentive to offer unprotected sex. Will the Government pledge their support for promoting health services and harm reduction globally as the most effective approach for addressing HIV and other diseases among sex workers and drug-using populations?
Much has been said in earlier debates about men who have sex with men, but the sad truth is that they are 13 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population. The current slide towards criminalisation in certain countries of people accessing HIV services does no good whatever. These include countries within the Commonwealth, such as Uganda, where a Bill is pending. Therefore, I would be interested to know what the Government are doing to promote—we have to promote this; we cannot impose it—a change of direction as regards homosexuality within these countries. Will they follow the recommendation of the report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS to significantly increase the funding of advocacy groups within these countries that need the resources, such as the Robert Carr network or the Stop TB Partnership?
Finally, and probably most importantly, will the Government desist from trying to prevent the Global Fund working in so-called middle-income countries, where the poorest and marginalised are those most in need and where the Global Fund must continue to work if we are to eradicate malaria, TB and HIV? Make no mistake, the weight and influence of the UK on the Global Fund board is significant. Many middle-income countries are facing a perfect storm of bilateral donors and the Global Fund pulling out of funding very rapidly before national Governments have the time, support or money to replace essential HIV funding and programmes. I thank noble Lords and look forward to the noble Baroness’s response to my questions.
My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Fowler. I also congratulate him on consistently pursuing these issues and the work he is doing month after month, year after year. We owe him a great debt for that. I applaud the remarks made by the noble Lord opposite on middle-income countries and the Global Fund. I cannot remember his name. I do not watch television. You know where I am coming from. The noble Lord raised an important issue. In that context, we should remind ourselves that the Global Fund is a 21st century partnership designed to accelerate the end of the AIDS, TB and malaria epidemics. It is a partnership between Governments, civil society, the private sector and people affected by the diseases. The genuine nature of the partnerships it fosters is critical to the fund’s successes.
The Global Fund mobilises and invests nearly $4 billion a year to support programmes run by local experts in more than 140 countries. Following on from the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, thanks to the Global Fund, 7.3 million people are on antiretroviral treatment, 1.3 million of whom have been put on the treatment this year. Some 12.3 million people have been tested and treated for TB, 1.1 million of whom have been tested this year. Some 450 million mosquito nets have been delivered, 90 million of which were delivered over the course of this year. This has contributed to tens of millions of lives being saved in the decade since the Global Fund was founded. The Global Fund has set a number of goals in relation to its work on HIV, TB and malaria. These goals are due for delivery in 2016. It has already achieved 100% of its HIV goal, 115% of its malaria goal, but only 58.5% of its TB goal. The fund provides over 80% of international financing for TB, over 20% of all HIV funding and 50% of global malaria spend. As the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, mentioned, the UK contributed £1 billion to the fund in December 2013. This contribution will save a life every three minutes.
I want to talk a little about the UK Government’s pledge. They made a renewed commitment to Gavi to invest up to £200 million a year for the period 2016 to 2020 to ensure that 76 million children can access life-saving immunisation programmes. The UK’s contribution will save another 1.4 million lives and will help Gavi to move closer to its overall replenishment target of—would you believe?—$7.5 billion.
Despite the shift in the burden of disease, and indeed the population, from low to middle-income, funding allocations from the Global Fund appear to be moving in the other direction, as the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, mentioned. The application of new funding methodology in Kyrgyzstan—a country with significant HIV and TB burdens—has resulted in an almost 50% cut in total funding for HIV prevention and treatment. Funding for HIV and harm reduction programmes in Ukraine is predicted to fall by about $30 million from 2014 to 2015, on top of a 71% reduction in domestic funding for the HIV epidemic.
Another eastern European country, Romania, was allocated no HIV funding for 2014-16 because it was perceived that there were no political barriers to providing services for people living with infectious diseases, and there is no political will for funding harm reduction. Despite countries having greater GDP, it does not necessarily mean that they are choosing to invest more resources in disease-control programmes. I cannot say this loudly enough: a reduction in Global Fund support can result in the closure of key programmes. That threatens a resurgence of disease in countries where there has been a general reduction in rates over recent years. HIV and TB are prevalent in middle-income countries in our neighbourhood. They are infectious diseases and do not respect national boundaries. Growth of these diseases in central Asia and eastern Europe could impact on the broader region. If we inadvertently facilitate a reduction of disease control in countries just because their GDP has increased to place them in a different World Bank income category, we risk a resurgence in the epidemics.
Finally, I want to talk a little about DfID’s role. We must recognise that our Government, as a major supporter of the Global Fund, should be congratulated on the work they do. Accordingly, the UK has significant influence on the Global Fund board. DfID has made a move to close programmes in middle-income countries and focus its efforts on a smaller group of low-income and fragile states. We should be using our influence on the Global Fund to ensure that it continues to support programmes in countries that receive from few or no other external donors, and not try to influence the fund to focus its efforts on the same countries that DfID currently targets.
I hope that our Minister will commit to work with UK representatives on the Global Fund board and with the Global Fund to develop a more gradual taper of support for countries with increasing domestic resources. It is important to remember that access to treatment is still being denied to too many people, with a total of 29 million now estimated to be eligible. As a final quote, Michel Sidibe, the executive director of UNAIDS has said:
“HIV has transformed from a death sentence to a chronic condition”,
that is treatable, enabling millions of people to live long, healthy lives. However, this is far from enough to end AIDS by 2030, let alone ever.
My Lords, in political affairs there are always a number of things that cannot be repeated too often. As regards global health issues, it is impossible to overemphasise either the importance of the work done by my noble friend Lord Fowler over the past 30 years or the value of the leadership that he has provided and continues to provide to politicians across party dividing lines who have committed themselves to doing all they can to support those on the front line—the doctors, scientists, academic authorities, health workers and volunteers—leading a battle against three diseases, malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS, that wreak such havoc in large parts of the world today. Some of us taking part in the debate had the great good fortune to hear a few days ago from a number of experts who have dedicated themselves selflessly to releasing as many as they can from suffering and achieving immensely impressive results, particularly in Africa.
However, there are those who succumb to the illusion that the battle is far advanced and final success is in sight. My noble friend Lord Fowler is tireless in pointing out how much remains to be done. He has made that clear again today, as he did in his recent influential—and, I am sure, best-selling—book, in which he stressed the essential uncomfortable truth that we all need to bear constantly in mind. This is how he put it:
“The central problem that the world faces with HIV and AIDS today is this: it is the millions of people infected with HIV who, in spite of the medical advances and all the money poured in, remain untreated”.
There are millions of people united with us in the brotherhood of man who desperately need the treatment to hold their HIV in check but who are denied it.
That fundamental point was underlined in the authoritative report published on World AIDS Day last week by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Cashman. How welcome he is in this debate and the others that will follow. The all-party parliamentary group calculates that less than two-thirds of adults with HIV and three-quarters of the children living with it today are not receiving the treatment they require. Immense progress has been made, not least through the Global Fund, to which I, like other noble Lords, pay tribute, in extending access to the treatment that contains and controls HIV, and yet so much more remains to be done. The all-party report last week estimated that 55 million people will need HIV treatment by 2030.
It would be an immense tragedy if this country, which has made such a marked contribution to the progress so far, should falter now. However, without adequate funding our contribution is bound to falter, and the inimitably long period of experiment and trial needed to find an HIV vaccine will be extended further. That, I think, is the main cross-party message that this important debate seeks to deliver. Surely we cannot allow the defeat of pandemics that condemn millions to misery to be set back and weakened because of short-term factors in Britain connected with the coming general election. Rather, the main parties must stand firmly together, explaining, as my noble friend Lord Fowler constantly does, why the skills of our doctors and the breakthroughs achieved by our research scientists must continue to be placed at the service of mankind as a whole. We belong at the centre of the Global Fund, this remarkable international partnership that brings together Governments and the private sector.
The all-party report is entitled Access Denied. In her speech in response to it on World AIDS Day, my noble friend Lady Northover, who understands these issues so fully, referred to the need to address the numerous barriers that limit access to medicines. One of the most formidable of these barriers is the criminalisation of homosexuality in so many countries. In nearly 80 countries—too many of them members of the Commonwealth—it is a crime to be gay. In circumstances of such grotesque discrimination, gay people with HIV are not going to draw attention to themselves by seeking treatment, assuming that it is available. We have referred to this intolerable barrier to treatment—indeed, to simple human equality and dignity—often in our debates on global health and Commonwealth affairs in recent years. Like my noble friend Lord Fowler and the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, I believe that we should emphasise this again and again. The statistics are stark. In Caribbean countries where homosexuality is not against the law, of every 15 men who have sex with other men, one is infected with HIV. In Caribbean countries where it is a crime to be gay, the rate of infection is one in four.
It is, of course, the Commonwealth countries that are most prominent in our minds. They are closest to us, united by ties of kinship, friendship and history. The Commonwealth’s collective institutions produced clear evidence in 2011 that where homosexuality has been decriminalised, HIV infection had failed. To the infinite sadness of us all, that has not led to widespread reform, even though the criminalisation of homosexuality is plainly incompatible with the Commonwealth’s new charter, to which all its members nominally subscribe. Some Commonwealth countries glory in oppressing gay people, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, in relation to Uganda. As for the Commonwealth as a whole, does it want to be seen as upholding or blatantly ignoring fundamental human rights? It cannot dodge that question.
My Lords, I, too, want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, for today’s debate. It is an opportunity to thank this Government for their continuing commitment—a commitment started by the previous Labour Government—to funding for international aid. In times of austerity, there are those cheap political point-scorers who will say that international aid is a luxury which we cannot afford. They could not be more wrong. As today’s report on anti-microbial resistance shows, health issues are now global, and investment in the health of people in countries around the globe is an act of self-preservation for people here, too. Any political party that says it will cut foreign aid is not acting in the best interests of its own citizens.
That said, tackling these three big issues is very complicated. We have all sorts of different actors: academics, national Governments, researchers, scientists and not least the people themselves. By far the agents with the biggest impact are the global funders: the UK and the United States Governments are the biggest contributors to them. They have the most profound impact on what happens to everybody else.
I, too, want to echo the points that have been made by a number of speakers about the Global Fund’s current strategy towards middle-income countries. It is right that the Global Fund has gone through a process of refining its funding models. It is important that it should fund work in countries in ways which are compatible with the development of proper national health systems in those countries, including basic health systems, such as access to clean water. However, it is an unfortunate reality that, having gone at such a pace, the Global Fund is withdrawing funding from middle-income countries, such as Ukraine and Vietnam. It is having a devastating impact on those countries, not least on their marginal communities.
I want to echo what was said by the noble Lords, Lord Cashman and Lord Lexden: it is groups within those countries that can have the biggest impact on their own Governments. I would therefore encourage the noble Baroness to commit to working with civil society groups to achieve that. I say that because of the searing experience I had of standing in a top AIDS clinic in New Delhi watching a line of women queuing up for their HIV and TB treatments. They were among the most powerless people I have ever seen. Recognising that they are in the position that they are in through absolutely no fault of their own makes a compelling case not to abandon them, just because they live in a country the economy of which is increasing.
I am proud to be part of the group that produced the Access Denied report. It covers a number of matters in tremendous detail, not least the matters of intellectual property rights and TRIPS agreements. I am not going to talk about that in great depth today, but I would welcome the opportunity to do so some other time. The Global Fund, as noble Lords have said, is an important player when it comes to research. Underlying the whole of the work to deal with these diseases is the issue of research, funding for basic research, funding for translational research, and funding for new medicines. We had the experience in India of talking to generic manufacturers who explained to us, as the commercial people that they are, that there was no market for paediatric formulations for HIV. That makes it even more important that Governments and funds, such as the Global Fund, continue to make the sorts of structural investment over a long term which enables other people to maximise their efforts.
Noble Lords will know that in the last 50 years there have been no new drugs for TB. There have been loads of new drugs for allergies and so on, because they are diseases of the west and there is a market. In the case of drugs for TB, there largely is not a market. It is therefore really important that the Global Fund continues to fund research.
In answering the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, on 1 December, the Minister made some remarks about the funding of research which have caused some alarm among the lobby groups and civil society groups that work in this area. Will she commit to meet a cross-party group from both Houses along with some of those groups so that we can talk about that?
I think that we all understand that, now more than ever, there is cause to be efficient and effective in the way in which resources are deployed, but there are some decisions that we need to take, not just for the present moment but for years to come, which will, I hope, bind future Governments. As the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, epitomises in his work, this is something for the long haul. Things that are for the long haul require exceptional political commitment. Will the noble Baroness make that commitment so that we can all rest safe in the knowledge that the investment which has been made over the last 30 years will not be lost?
My Lords, I begin by joining in the congratulations which have been expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, on his outstanding record over several decades campaigning against homophobia and for the eradication of HIV/AIDS. He continues with this work effectively here in your Lordships’ House, in his book, AIDS: Don’t Die of Prejudice, and in his many speeches and articles on what the world needs to do to eradicate a scourge that my noble friend rightly describes as the greatest public health threat in the world today.
The noble Lord rightly castigated the 80 countries that criminalise homosexuality and the noble Lords, Lord Cashman and Lord Lexden, mentioned Uganda in particular as having an anti-homosexuality Bill currently before its Parliament. It was not for this reason, I think, that we cancelled our budgetary aid to Uganda, but perhaps we ought to review our non-humanitarian aid to all the 80 countries to see whether any pressure can be brought to bear on them through fiscal means.
As has been said, the Global Fund invests some $4 billion a year, of which the UK provides nearly £1 billion as its share. This is a cost-effective partnership, bringing together Governments, civil society, the private sector, philanthropists and patients affected by the diseases. It mobilises programmes run by local experts in 140 countries, avoiding duplication or overlapping.
As your Lordships know, HIV and TB are closely linked and TB is the leading cause of death worldwide for people living with HIV. Last year, the Global Fund provided that all applications for support from countries with high incidences of both diseases should present integrated programmes to qualify for assistance. This is a great step forward in the response to TB, because country HIV programmes have often been significantly more developed than their counterparts that address TB. TB patients will benefit from the greater resourcing, expertise and reach of country HIV programmes. For some reason, DflD currently does not integrate TB into any of its bilateral HIV programmes. This needs to change. I would like my noble friend, when she comes to wind up, to say that we will follow the Global Fund’s example by requiring recipients of our bilateral assistance for HIV/AIDS also to integrate their TB/HIV programming.
There is also a case for the co-ordination of delivery systems for malaria diagnosis and treatment with programmes for TB and HIV. The APPG on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases points out in its latest report that,
“HIV and malaria frequently co-exist and the treatments most commonly used for each are now known to interact with each other”.
This would not be the case, I hope, with the first ever vaccine against malaria, RTS,S, developed over the last 20 years by GSK with additional funding by the Gates Foundation in one of the product development partnerships which are proving to be so successful in addressing the lack of commercial incentive to undertake R&D for vaccines, diagnostics and drugs for neglected diseases of the developing world. Does my noble friend the Minister think that we are likely to be able to eliminate these three diseases by 2030? On malaria, the APPG says that the Medicines for Malaria Venture has,
“the strongest anti-malaria … development pipeline that has ever existed”.
The rollout of the RTS,S vaccine before the end of the decade will be a significant milestone on the road to eradication. However, targets are needed for the post-2015 agenda, which is to be discussed shortly.
For HIV/AIDS, the fast-track approach of UNAIDS to ending the epidemic by 2030 is supported by a strong consensus, according to UNAIDS, which has identified headline intermediate targets for 2020. It recalls that African countries committed in the 2001 Abuja declaration to spend 15% of their budgets on health, but only six of them have met that commitment. Additional funding—the amount not specified—would be needed from donor countries; presumably, as the third-largest donor to the Global Fund, we are entitled to ask our EU partners to step up to the plate and contribute proportionately to their national income, as we do.
In conclusion, I am sorry to note that there was not a word about DfID in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, still less any mention of our commitment to the Global Fund over the next five years as we embark on the post-2015 agenda. The fund’s three-year pledging cycle does not fit with our five-year Parliaments, but it would be useful to hear from my noble friend what Mr Osborne has pencilled in for the 2016 round.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, for initiating the debate. I also thank him for his lifetime commitment to the battle against HIV and AIDS, and, more importantly, against the prejudice and stigma that all too often hinder treatment and prevention.
The Global Fund mobilises and invests nearly $4 billion a year to support programmes run by local experts in more than 140 countries. As noble Lords have said, thanks to the Global Fund, 7.3 million people are on antiretroviral treatment. About 12.3 million people have been tested and treated for TB. Some 450 million mosquito nets have been delivered. Of the goals it set in relation to its work on HIV, TB and malaria for delivery in 2016, the fund has already achieved 100% of its HIV goal, 115% of its malaria goal, but, regrettably, only 58.5% of its TB goal. As we have heard, despite the huge progress on malaria in particular, still more needs to be done. I was shocked to hear yesterday a DfID scientific adviser state that half the children in high-risk areas still sleep without nets.
The fund is short of its TB targets because countries do not have the capacity to run programmes of the scale of those for HIV and malaria. As the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, said, the fund provides more than 80% of international financing for TB, more than 20% for HIV and 50% for global malaria. As my noble friend Lord Cashman said, the UK contributed £1 billion to the fund in December 2013, saving a life every three minutes. Again as we have heard, the UK has pledged £1 billion to the Global Fund for the next 2014-16 round, but this funding is capped at a total of 10% of the total sum raised. The US contribution, which is huge, is also capped at 33% of the total funds pledged.
Sadly, as the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, said, the Global Fund is still short of its funding target. Given its importance to the global response to these three diseases, what action have the Government taken to ensure others step up to the mark in this round of funding? Also, if these fail, will the Government commit to disbursing the full £1 billion, regardless of whether other countries pledge or not? As the noble Lord said, the Global Fund has led the way on integrating TB and HIV programmes as recommended by the World Health Organization. When I raised in an Oral Question last December just how integrated DfID’s bilateral HIV programmes were, the Minister agreed to write to me. In fact, in her subsequent letter the noble Baroness stated that DfID,
“responds to partner countries’ health priorities”,
including tackling TB/HIV co-infections. The noble Baroness assured me that DfID will ensure that this approach is followed where we have bilateral TB/HIV programmes.
Of the 28 countries DfID lists as partners, 14 are on the list of high-burden TB countries and two are on the list of high-burden drug-resistant TB countries. In which case, I am concerned as to why TB is not identified as a health priority in any of those countries. Does the Minister accept that DfID could better integrate its TB/HIV programme in its bilateral arrangements and help to build the capacity of national TB programmes? Further, there is a £2 billion a year funding gap for TB that the Global Fund cannot fill. TB is an infectious disease that does not recognise national boundaries. Failure to control the disease in one country can and will lead to resurgence in others that have successfully tackled the disease.
The Global Fund helps countries purchase drugs, diagnostics and vaccines to tackle the three diseases. However, for many conditions, such as paediatric HIV, as we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, and TB—particularly drug-resistant TB—we do not have drugs of sufficient quality. I conclude by stressing the point I made on Monday in Grand Committee: there is a strong case for DfID to scale up its investment in R&D for TB, HIV and malaria to develop the treatments needed to eliminate these three diseases. I, too, would welcome the meeting suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, to raise these issues and the concerns of many people.
My Lords, I also thank my noble friend Lord Fowler for putting this issue once again on the Order Paper, for his passionate and informative introduction of it, and for his long campaigning history in this field. He makes the point that, although progress has been made, there is still much to do. I fully agree with that. I also congratulate him on the publication of his book AIDS: Don’t Die of Prejudice, as was noted by my noble friends Lord Lexden and Lord Avebury. The concerns he raises in that book and elsewhere—the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, and my noble friend Lord Lexden referred to this—about the discrimination and bigotry that surround this issue are, as noble Lords have indicated, of tragic significance.
Various noble Lords addressed the legal and societal barriers to human rights in this field. I can assure them that the Government are at the forefront of promoting human rights around the world. We regularly engage with Governments that violate these rights. We also support civil society groups that advocate for the relevant groups. I have just come from a meeting with Stonewall and the Kaleidoscope Trust. We explored how best to support voices in this area. I assure noble Lords that we will continue to engage in as effective a way as we possibly can.
Clearly, the level of prejudice is very striking. I saw that at first hand, when I visited South Africa recently. Representatives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans -gender community told me of the difficulty they had, even in an environment where the law would seem to protect their rights, in accessing specialised services geared to their needs. I learnt also of the terrible plight of rape survivors in South Africa and southern Africa, about 30% of whom become infected with HIV, and who risk rejection from society. It is enormously challenging. AIDS, TB and malaria remain among the biggest causes of death and illness in developing countries. In 2013 alone HIV/AIDS killed 1.5 million people, malaria killed 584,000 people and TB killed 1.5 million people.
Progress has been made: new HIV infections are declining in many of the worst-affected countries; there has been a significant reduction in malaria incidence and deaths; and the world is on course to halve TB deaths by 2015, compared with 1990 levels. Clearly, the Global Fund has played a major part in this and that is why we are so strongly supportive of it. As my noble friend Lord Chidgey spelt out, since 2002, Global Fund-supported programmes have kept 7.3 million people alive with HIV therapy, distributed 450 million insecticide-treated nets, and detected and treated 12.3 million TB cases. These efforts to end the AIDS epidemic accelerated last year, with increases of 20% in the number of people being treated for HIV and malaria through Global Fund-supported programmes, and smaller increases in numbers being treated for TB. That is a truly remarkable achievement.
The UK has played, and continues to play, a critically important part in these successes. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Collins, that we are very active in seeking others’ help; that is one of the reasons why we have used the help as we have, in order to lever the other assistance that needs to come in internationally. We worked with the Global Fund to develop a new funding model that prioritises investments in countries with low incomes and a high burden of disease—countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, where over 11% of all global malaria deaths take place. The model has increased allocations to these countries by 40%. It is worth noble Lords bearing that in mind, as we seek to tackle the high burden of very poor countries that the Global Fund has identified.
One year ago, the UK pledged up to £1 billion to the Global Fund for 2014-16, but our contribution does not end there. For example, last year the UK worked with the Global Fund and others to pool our procurement of insecticide-treated nets—the most effective intervention to prevent deaths from malaria—and used our market power to drive sustainable reductions in prices. Noble Lords rightly highlighted the challenge of cost here: that is saving $140 million over two years. The Global Fund is now rolling out similar approaches across a range of commodities. Savings will be used to enable the Global Fund to reach more people with life-saving interventions.
However, although these achievements are impressive —and I think they are worth noting, as noble Lords flag up what else needs to be done—clearly we are not complacent. Improvements are not uniform in all countries; we have heard that referred to in this debate. Resistance to effective medicines is indeed a growing threat and devastating rebounds can occur quickly if there is any let-up in prevention and treatment efforts.
One issue in particular that is concerning is the impact of the AIDS epidemic on women and girls. The noble Lord, Lord Cashman, referred to this. Every hour, 50 young women are newly infected by HIV. The infection rates are twice as high as in young men. The Global Fund, with UK support, has made a strong commitment to the health of women and girls, and we are very pleased that that is the case. It is increasing its own capacity and building capacity at country level to mainstream women’s and girls’ concerns into programme design. But the power dynamics within societies that underlie these problems will not be easily tackled, and we look to the Global Fund to redouble its efforts. Of course, programmes such as the use of microbicides are also relevant here, as the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, said.
There were a number of specific issues that noble Lords mentioned. The noble Lord, Lord Fowler, mentioned the AIDS conference in 2014. That happened to be held in the same week in July as the Girl Summit —which I hope the noble Lord was acutely aware of—and at which Malala spoke, among others, as I referred to yesterday. It was a stunning occasion and I was very glad to be able to be there. I was also happy to go to Australia; my noble friend will have to ask the previous Chief Whip about why I was not allowed to. Nevertheless, I was the beneficiary, therefore, of being able to attend the Girl Summit here, in Simon Hughes’s constituency. FCO colleagues from the high commission in Canberra attended the meeting in Australia on behalf of the United Kingdom. The noble Lord will know how committed we are in terms of the Global Fund and as far as tackling HIV, malaria and TB is concerned.
The noble Lords, Lord Cashman and Lord Chidgey, and my noble friend Lady Barker challenged us on lower-income countries. We support the Global Fund’s new funding model, which funds the most cost-effective interventions where the need is greatest, which is in the low-income, high-burden countries; but we do ask the fund to focus more heavily on key populations in the middle-income countries, where they are investing. I hear what noble Lords say; but it is also important that we all galvanise here, to ensure that Governments themselves—such as the Government of India, where the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, saw what she saw and I have seen it, too—step up to provide those services. They cannot simply be underpinned because we have the Global Fund; we must make sure that we are not neglecting the poorest in the poorest countries for the sake of those countries in which something more can, and must, be done.
The noble Lord, Lord Cashman, referred to harm reduction. Clearly, we are firmly committed to supporting harm reduction to reduce HIV transmission in injecting drug users. My noble friend Lord Fowler referred to that as well. The United Kingdom has indeed—no doubt, chivvied along by my noble friend Lord Fowler—led in this regard.
We are supporting market shaping, which I think we have spoken about before. The noble Lord, Lord Cashman, and my noble friends referred to ARVs. We are working with others to try to ensure that we have got reduction in prices, to get ARVs to as many people who need them as we possibly can.
My noble friend Lord Avebury and the noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked about bringing together TB and HIV. We are well aware of that as a co-infection and it is part of our ongoing work. In 2011, when we reviewed this, that was one of the issues we particularly focused on. As noble Lords will know, we are working through UNITAID, UNAIDS and also the Stop TB Partnership and are seeking further product development research and market shaping for TB vaccines as well as HIV drugs and diagnostic tools.
My noble friend Lord Avebury invited me to suggest what the Chancellor might do in the future—in the year, I think, beyond the general election—which is an interesting suggestion. I am afraid that I cannot foresee exactly what will happen in that general election, though perhaps he can. But he will know that the Department for International Development’s budget is ring-fenced until 2015-16, and therefore the commitment that he might have wanted to see in the Autumn Statement was already in place in terms of the funding for DfID.
I am extremely happy to meet Peers and CSOs in the way my noble friend Lady Barker suggested, and if the noble Lord, Lord Collins, wants to join, I am very happy to talk about that and our support for research. I hear what noble Lords are saying about drug-resistant diseases. I have a personal interest in this issue, in that one of my children is currently being treated in hospital for such a thing. It brings into focus exactly what Jim O’Neill is saying. Looking at this whole area will be exceedingly important.
The Global Fund has made a fantastic difference. We have been a major support of it in terms of tackling TB, malaria and HIV. We will continue in that way. We welcome people’s engagement in ensuring that we are focusing as we should. We listened carefully to what noble Lords are saying but they should not doubt our commitment in this area.
Global Development Goals
Motion to Take Note
My Lords, I should start by referencing the register of interests, in which my interests in a number of development and charitable organisations are recorded.
On 8 September 2000, the member states of the United Nations agreed the millennium declaration and set out the millennium development goals, which aspired to transform the lives of those living with poverty, disease and lack of basic human rights around the world at the start of the 21st century. Those present affirmed their collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity, and they set out key values that should underpin their collective action to support peace, development and human rights.
Those values of freedom, equity and solidarity, tolerance, non-violence, respect for nature and shared responsibility were to drive the international community to action in the hope of eradicating many of the worst conditions in the world by 2015. In the 15 years that have followed, much has been achieved. By tackling disease, achieving gender parity in primary education, improving access to clean water and reducing extreme poverty, the lives of more than 2 billion people have been transformed. But of course much remains to be done. Progress has been inconsistent: around 1 billion people still live on less than £1 a day; millions of girls miss out on secondary school; safe sanitation is absent for hundreds of millions; and too many die or suffer from the impact of violent conflict.
So in 2015, we will not only celebrate the significant, if incomplete, success of the MDGs—and, indeed, the 10th anniversary of the G8 summit in Gleneagles, which did so much to prioritise change in Africa—but the global community through the United Nations will, I hope, agree a new set of goals, the sustainable development goals, which will be the engine for development over the next 15 years, with the aim of eradicating extreme poverty and delivering basic human rights for all.
Much of our political debate in the UK and globally over 2014 has been dominated by fears about migration, security, economic uncertainty, our climate and our planet. These fears cross national boundaries and are shared by people of different cultures and nationalities, and their solutions are truly global, not national. Surely we can agree, though, as we look ahead to 2015, that fundamental to tackling these fears, to help ensure a more peaceful, stable, prosperous and equitable world for future generations, is the need to lift those living in extreme poverty or in fear of extreme weather conditions, or lacking in basic human rights or provisions, out of those conditions and into a better future.
Surely a world that is more equitable, where more have opportunities, where women and men have the same rights and opportunities, where those marginalised as a result of their physical condition, their identity, their sexuality or location are recognised as having the same basic rights as others, would be a world in which it would be easier to deal with these great fears and uncertainties of our times. While the SDGs are ultimately about justice and solidarity, they are also about tackling these great fears of the 21st century and helping all of us live better, safer and more fulfilling lives.
For the first time, in 2015 the global community has a unique opportunity to bring together in one set of agreements goals about our climate, environment, development and inequality with the financial mechanisms and partnerships that are required to deliver those goals. For the first time—because any agreement will be built on years of consultation and involvement, with the record of what works and what does not, with access to 21st century technology and the means of accountability to ensure delivery and results—these goals will surely be built upon greater ownership and partnership than ever before. Tackling inequality must run like a thread through the new SDGs to ensure that all have access and rights. Reducing inequality between and within nations is fundamental to eradicating extreme poverty.
Just as tackling economic inequality will affect the delivery of every SDG, so too will the position of women. It is undoubtedly the case that on a local, national and international level, where women’s participation is guaranteed and women leaders can flourish, development is more successful and sustainable. The participation and empowerment of women, and the eradication of gender inequality in relation to property ownership, income and basic rights will be fundamental if the SDGs are to have the impact we demand.
Earlier this year, I experienced in the Philippines, as so many others experience every year of their lives, how extreme weather events and natural disasters can destroy years of hard work in economic and social development. Programmes that develop and strengthen resilience to such events must be built into the delivery of these SDGs so that the most affected and sometimes most marginalised communities can plan their development for the future, safe in the knowledge that their work will reap results for future generations.
Across all this, the principle of universality of rights will underpin the 2015 agreement on sustainable development goals, and the rallying cry will be, “Leave no one behind”. However, I should like to focus particularly on two key aspects that will no doubt be controversial and challenging in 2015 but must be central to the final commitment if it is to make a difference for the poorest people on the planet. The United Nations Secretary-General published on 4 December his synthesis report, The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet. It brings together all the work carried out so far on the SDGs and sets out six essential elements that must guide the work to strengthen, prioritise and deliver an agreement by September 2015. These elements—dignity, people, prosperity, the planet, justice and partnerships—are our pipelines to peace and sustainable development.
However, the delivery of the goals that we agree will be achieved only if we invest seriously in capacity in regional and continental organisations, and in national institutions and governments in the developing world. This includes: proper taxation systems and revenue authorities that can collect and disperse funds; courts and justice systems that protect the weakest and assert the fair and transparent rule of law; strong parliaments that hold Governments to account and government ministries that can deliver in education and health, and in the creation of jobs; and reliable, independent data collection on which to base decisions and measure success. Therefore, as part of the agreement on financing that will run alongside the newly agreed sustainable development goals after 2015, there must be genuinely concerted and consistent effort to invest in capacity and a willingness, in those nations where the vast majority of the extreme poor live, to support that capacity building and respect, accountable, open, fair and transparent systems and institutions that put people before those in power.
The second key aspect is peace and security. The draft sustainable development goals include, for the first time, a firm commitment to peacebuilding and a recognition of the importance of freedom from conflict and violence if those living in the most extreme poverty and with the worst level of human rights are to see their living conditions transformed. Draft goal 16 of the 17 published by the United Nations last Thursday states that the goal is to,
“promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.
As Saferworld, with its particularly strong research and campaigning over recent months, and UNICEF, with its campaign on violence against children, have shown, implementing and agreeing this goal is going to be perhaps one of the toughest challenges of all. There will be many states in the UN that will see such a commitment as a threat to their national sovereignty and as opening the door to interference and intervention from Europe and North America. The UK can play a key role this year in reassuring these nations that this goal and this understanding are instead about delivering justice for those who live in the worst conditions in the worst places on earth.
Current projections are that, by 2030, more than 50% of those living in extreme poverty will be living in the most violent and fragile places. As many of us know from our experience in these places, access to schooling, access to health services, access to clean water and access to justice can be almost non-existent. The United Nations cannot only be about peacekeeping and other uniformed forms of security around the world. The member states and their global leaders must address these fundamental issues on the rule of law, with strong but accountable and open institutions, and they must give priority to those living in fear of violence, with the impact of conflict around them every day.
In conclusion, I want to stress the important role of the United Kingdom. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a leading member in the European Union and an active participant in the Commonwealth, the IMF, the World Bank, the G8 and the G20, we are uniquely placed to influence, even lead, this debate. I hope that the Government will do so, and I will ask four questions here today. First, what mechanisms have been set up to integrate and then promote our intervention towards the best possible agreement on sustainable development goals in September 2015? Secondly, what response have we given to the report of the UN Secretary-General, published last week on 4 December? Thirdly, what will we demand at the European Union Council meeting next Tuesday, given its responsibility to help shape the best outcome in 2015? Fourthly, will we insist that commitments on peacebuilding, on inequality, on gender and on resilience to extreme events be upfront in the final agreement? If we do, we will help to usher in an era of transformation that will deliver a safer, more prosperous and more just 21st century. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am sure that everybody in the House is truly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, for introducing this subject. We do not have enough debates—at least not in my view—about development, aid and the best way of going about these connected, but different, activities. I am grateful to him for his synoptic view of the scene. I confess that I approach the subject with a certain humility—and that perhaps makes me not the best possible person to follow the noble Lord—because I am a retired practitioner. I have to remember that I was a practitioner in the 1980s and 1990s and that the world has moved on, but in those days I was deeply involved with aid and economic development.
My interest in the subject arose a long time ago. There were two economists, Tom Bauer and Thomas Balogh: they were both immigrants—which is interesting —and both became Members of your Lordships’ House. They used to debate the philosophy of aid and development passionately on the Floor of this House, in a way that I have not seen us debating lately. Bauer was a market man. He believed in economic opportunities —a seizing of opportunities to trade and invest achieving a satisfactory return. His philosophy has been demonstrated to work in certain places, such as Malaysia and Brazil. His conclusion was that there was no reason to suppose that development could not be achieved all over the world in much the same way as it was achieved in western Europe and in the United Kingdom during the industrial revolution.
Balogh was much more a top-down Government-to-Government aid supporter. He was an adviser for a number of years to Harold Wilson. The aid orthodoxy of today is much more on the Balogh theme than the Bauer theme. As I said before, we do not have that much debate about it; we seem to hold similar views about the orthodoxy, which is probably something that makes me unsuitable to follow, because I am a Bauer man, not a Balogh man, and therefore in a minority—a quite familiar position.
My second interest in the subject arises because 30 years ago, I started about a dozen years with what was then the Commonwealth Development Corporation. At that time, it was a classic development finance institution: state owned and funded by Treasury capital, funding private sector economic opportunities and making modest profits that were liable to corporation tax. What it did was, in general, unattractive to fully market players, either because of the political risk or the risk of low returns. Therefore, what the CDC was doing then was filling gaps—doing things that other people did not quite want to do. That is my definition of a development finance institution: for it to be a DFI, it has to be prepared to do things that the market is not prepared to do—and of course to do them successfully.
My third interest, which is much smaller, is with the Hospital for Tropical Diseases—this relates back to the previous debate. CDC had some 250 people in 65 different locations, many of them tropical, and we needed the services of HTD. After retirement, I did quite a lot of work for HTD, including fundraising in order to move the hospital into more satisfactory premises.
I was, therefore, a bottom-up player in both senses. I respected and knew about millennium goals, in the sense that although I was pre-millennium, we were still aiming at much the same things that were codified in 2000. The problem is that bottom-up players cannot cope with millennium goals: they simply do not have the time. They are too big, too abstract and too distant from their lives. Take mobile phones in Ghana, tea in Malawi or marine offloading facilities in Papua New Guinea: while you are carrying out those projects and making sure that they are sustainable and generate returns, it is difficult to take time to think about the great, wide issues of the millennium goals.
With our experience as front-line operators, how should we think about the millennium goals and the aid programme? For my part, I think about striking a better balance in our aid programme between aid and economic development, as well as the contributions to the development goals. I will illustrate that briefly by taking the example of tea. The Commonwealth Development Corporation was responsible for starting the Kenya Tea Development Agency, which now has more than half a million growers and 64 tea factories. It has definitely been a sustainable enterprise and Kenya is now the third largest producer of tea in the world. But after that we went elsewhere.
I shall also mention Malawi, which is not a word-for-word accurate experience, but a good illustration. Malawi with its 17 million people is not abounding in economic potential. It is a difficult place with no access to the sea, and market players find it difficult to achieve returns there. So we started a tea property. We did our due diligence and saw that we had land with good soil, that water was available and that the climate was right—all of which would allow tea to be grown successfully. Tea needs a medium-term capital input. Tea plants are trees, but they are allowed to grow to only 30 inches high. However, they need time to develop, so you cannot pluck the leaves for tea for some years. You also need to build a tea processing factory, and therefore you must have capital. However, capital in Malawi was then and still is in very short supply.
We set up a nursery for the tea plants and for woodlots—because without timber for fuel, you cannot operate a tea factory. Immediately, we were creating jobs. We needed to make a road because you can bet your life that a lorry cannot get in and out of a remote place easily. Again, that is economic development and it creates jobs. Then there was the matter of housing and gardens for the people working on the plantation, as well as the school and the clinic, both of which we would build. We needed communications in the form of mobile telephones to contact the market in Mombasa and sell the tea. Lastly, women are very important in tea plantations because they are much better at plucking the leaves than men will ever be.
I should like to say in conclusion that this kind of activity is a way of fulfilling from the bottom up the millennium development goals. If I had to choose between aid and economic development, I judge that the contribution of economic development is the greater.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord McConnell for introducing this debate. His commitment to these issues is impressive, and I was particularly pleased that he emphasised the indispensability of solidarity. He is a living example of what solidarity means. We are having this debate in the context of another debate that is taking place about the 0.7% of GDP. Of course it is clear to me that if we are going to opt for 0.7% at least and maintain it, we have to be very clear about our objectives and what the money is for.
Against that background, there is also a certain amount of discussion about the relative merits of disaggregated targets and global targets. I believe that there is a matrix of interrelated issues and that we need both. Perhaps I may make two points to set the context. We cannot give too much priority to peace, security, conflict prevention and conflict resolution. Often, conflict disrupts any chance of meaningful development. We also desperately need security sector reform so that those who are responsible for ensuring security are accountable and treated with respect, and have a culture to which human rights are absolutely central. I also happen to believe that the recent arms trade treaty is highly relevant because the availability and circulation of arms across the world is undoubtedly aggravating conflict and increasing its damage.
The UN Secretary-General recent report on post-2015 development spoke of “dignity”, “people”, “prosperity”, “the planet”, “justice” and “partnership”. The objectives were to end poverty and fight inequality, to ensure healthy lives, knowledge and the inclusion of women and children, to grow a strong, inclusive—I emphasise that word—and transformative economy, to protect our ecosystems for all societies and for our children, and to promote safe and peaceful societies and strong institutions. We should seek to capitalise global solidarity for sustainable development. Perhaps in its concern for justice, it would have been good to see even more effectively spelt out the importance of peace and the inescapable significance of fair and just international financial and trade systems, as well as the need for human rights to be seen at all times as the cornerstone of any lasting well-being.
Saferworld, of which I am a trustee, has argued that while the disciplined and essential concentration on disaggregated indicators with benchmarks so that progress can be ensured at national level is important, it is equally vital to emphasise the indispensability of a shared set of common and universal indicators. They are central to creating a monitoring system that enables the evaluation of progress at a global level.
As the principal NGOs stress in the excellent briefs with which they have supplied us, rooted as they are in their authority of engagement and experience, what is now clear beyond doubt is the inseparability of sustainable development from climate change issues. Christian Aid, Oxfam, Bond and the others all speak out unequivocally on this, and they are certainly right. Already the poorest and most vulnerable people of the world—women, children, the elderly and sick—are suffering acutely from floods, landslides, coastal erosion, drought, famine and conflict. We may not be able to stop climate change—our unforgiveable inaction and prevarication for too long has accentuated this—but we can still moderate it. However, we can do so only with urgent and decisive action.
What the World Wildlife Fund has said is certainly challenging. Its report stated that,
“currently we are consuming globally 1.5 times what our planet can replenish. If everyone globally had the same living standards as the UK, we would need three times the resources that our planet can provide. However it is the biodiversity in low income countries that has experienced the greatest decline over the last 40 years, averaging 58% and reaching 83% in Latin America. A major contributory factor to this decline is from the high consumption patterns in wealthier countries, which relies on the exploitation of natural resources in the low income countries. By taking timber, fish and agricultural products such as soy and palm oil, we are exporting our environmental impacts”.
Of course, there are specific issues to be effectively addressed. UNICEF UK underlines that, while poverty and its lifelong physical and mental stunting effect on children is bad enough, there are still the issues of trafficking, exploitation, violence, torture and child soldiers. I sometimes wonder how on earth we can live with ourselves when we are able to contemplate trips into space for the rich or, indeed, garden bridges across the Thames, when millions upon millions of children are going prematurely to their graves, never having had the opportunity to begin to be what they might have been.
Age International graphically brings home that by 2050 there will be more people over 60 in the world than children under 15. Today’s 868 million older people will have become 2 billion. It estimates that 71% of those who die of non-communicable diseases are over 60, and some 80% of non-communicable diseases occur in low-income and middle-income countries. Like other NGOs, VSO brings home that women are two-thirds of the people globally who live in extreme poverty. While women undertake two-thirds of the world’s work and produce 50% of the food, they earn only 10% of the income and own only 1% of the property of the world.
I am convinced that if we talk about 0.7%, we must talk as passionately about what is necessary to make effective use of it. The people of Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland desperately need a peaceful, stable world. For our own economic security, health and well-being it is absolutely essential. That is why we should have the post-2015 goals at the centre of our concerns—in whatever party we are—as we approach the general election.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, on securing this debate on the case for establishing new development goals in 2015. The noble Lord’s contribution to this House, particularly in the All-Party Group on the Great Lakes Region of Africa and other all-party groups, is highly regarded and gives insight into the challenges that face Governments. It also engages with NGOs and civil society in the international efforts to deliver the MDGs by 2015.
I declare my interests, which your Lordships may recall include being the elected chair of the Africa All-Party Group, the UK director of the advisory council for the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa, and a director of the advisory board of Transparency International in the UK.
In my remarks, I plan to stress the importance of strengthening democracy in the developing world to deliver sustainable development goals post-2015, particularly strengthening parliaments and their ability to establish transparency, accountability and probity in their dealings with the executive arms of their Governments. Before I do that, I should like to refer to a number of the issues raised with me and with other colleagues by various aid and development organisations.
Colleagues have mentioned the Bond organisation. In its paper, Inequality in a Post-2015 Framework, it points out that the new post-2015 sustainable development goals offer a critical opportunity to tackle extreme social, economic and structural inequalities, which perpetuate poverty and social exclusion across the world. Saferworld has raised its concerns about security, and UNICEF is campaigning vigorously to tackle violence against children.
The Bond organisation argues that the three dimensions of sustainable development—economic, social and environmental—should be reflected in the target and goal headlines in a balanced way. There is a call to tackle inequality and ensure that no one is left behind, with the belief that a post-2015 framework needs to be specifically aimed at reducing inequality within and between countries, as noble Lords have mentioned, and to tackle its underlying causes. Interestingly, in a recent address to the United Nations, the Pontiff, Pope Francis, raised inequality as a moral issue, condemning the “economy of exclusion” and its consequences, in views echoed around the world by religious and political leaders alike.
In addressing inequality as we seek to achieve the new SDGs by 2030, life chances and opportunities to be rewarded for your efforts and to realise your potential should not be determined solely at birth or be dependent solely on ethnicity or gender, age or geography. In that regard, I would be interested in the Minister’s views on how the UK Government think that the framework for the post-2015 development goals can best tackle inequality. Will the Government champion the proposed inequality goal in next year’s negotiations? What preparations are under away across Whitehall to respond to a global goal to reduce inequality?
As Health Poverty Action stresses in its case for new global development goals in 2015:
“Tackling inequality is fundamental to addressing poverty. This requires inequality to be mainstreamed across the framework, as well as a stand-alone goal on inequality”.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its recent report that we are running out of time to prevent catastrophic climate change, where average temperature rises exceed 2 degrees, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, so eloquently described for us. Many developing countries are already experiencing the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation through increased floods and droughts and uncertain weather patterns.
There are substantial opportunities for the new framework to promote win-win outcomes by setting targets for actions that have benefits for environmental and other development outcomes. These include cutting waste, technology transfer and renewable energy. Will the Government support and champion a stand-alone goal on climate change in the new framework? What should a green thread look like in goals such as economic growth and governance? How can the United Kingdom be assured that the Government’s proposed reduction in the number of goals and targets in the framework will still achieve environmental sustainability and contribute to action against climate change and sustainable development?
The Bond Beyond 2015 UK group puts forward a strong case for accountability and participation, calling for a more comprehensive system, with the post-2015 framework underpinned by a robust and comprehensive accountability mechanism, incorporating commitments to monitor, evaluate and report on progress, applying to all countries, to all participants and to all people.
That brings me to engagement with parliaments. Throughout the United Nations Development Programme, through the Paris and Accra conferences, through the fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, and now through the first High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation in Mexico City, there has been a running dialogue on the role of parliaments in the development process. It has to be said that in some quarters of civil society, NGOs and the aid establishment, there has been a strong resistance to recognising any role at all for parliaments—the assumption being that donor and recipient nations need only work with them to achieve the aid and development goals.
Let us be clear: the only body that has the authority to approve and ratify state development—the only body that has a mandate from the people over development and state expenditure—is the parliament and the elected representatives of the country concerned. Only parliaments can insist on transparency, accountability and probity from the executive branch of government in actions taken on behalf of the people. That is why the brief on democratic governance issued by the United Nations Development Programme in January 2013 is encouraging.
In setting out the role of parliaments in defining and promoting the post-2015 development agenda, the UNDP makes the point that parliaments have often been sidelined in discussions on official development assistance—ODA—resulting in low accountability for budgeting of aid and its allocation to MDG achievement. The need for country ownership, government accountability and national policy was not sufficiently taken into account during the design and implementation of the MDGs and must now be highlighted as a requirement to ensure that a new set of objectives is attained. Those are not my words. They are the words of the United Nations Development Programme. We should listen to them.
Parliaments are at the forefront of these imperatives, because the play a critical role in meeting those requirements through their lawmaking, budgeting, and oversight functions.
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, on securing this debate, which could not be more timely given the stage we have reached in the negotiations towards a new set of development goals to replace the millennium development goals in 2015. I declare my interests as president of the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment and vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Education for All. I would like to focus on what role Ministers are playing in ensuring that the post-2015 framework secures a good quality education for all and leaves no one behind by including and prioritising children and adults with disabilities.
I would like to start by commending Ministers on the way in which they have so far championed the concept of “leave no one behind”, which was such a powerful part of the report produced by the UN high-level panel co-chaired by the Prime Minister. I add to this a strong welcome for DfID’s new disability framework, which was launched last week at an event I chaired. I believe this will help to keep driving this agenda forward as it relates to disability. I also welcome the fact that the Government have maintained their commitment to spending 0.7% of gross national income on overseas aid. I look forward to supporting the Private Member’s Bill on this issue, which I hope will shortly reach this House.
The UK’s commitment to 0.7% has enabled us to become a leading donor to support education for the most marginalised children and young people in the world. Between 2011-12 and 2014-15, DfID will support 11 million girls and boys in school and a further 1 million of the most marginalised girls to receive a basic education. Education is fundamental to ending the poverty, discrimination and exclusion faced by disabled people in developing countries. Yet it is estimated that in most countries disabled children are more likely to be out of school than any other group of children. In Nepal, it is estimated that 85% of all children out of school are disabled. In Ethiopia, less than 3% of disabled children have access to primary education. In some countries, being disabled more than doubles the chance of never enrolling in school. Disabled children are also less likely to remain in school and transition to the next grade. The exclusion of disabled children not only denies their human right to education but makes it impossible for the world to reach the millennium development goal of universal primary education, which was due to be achieved next year. Fifty-eight million children of primary age are still out of school around the world, and progress has all but stalled. It is estimated that disabled children may make up over one-third of the out-of-school population.
Disability has long been neglected as a niche area of development, deemed by many to be too complex or too small an issue to be core to development efforts. The millennium development goals failed to mention disability at all, yet we now know that disabled people make up an estimated 15% of the global population—approximately 1 billion disabled people. Disability is both a cause and a consequence of poverty. Fully 80% of disabled people live in developing countries, and the UN calls them “the world’s largest minority”.
The ongoing negotiations towards post-2015 development goals, to replace the millennium development goals, therefore represent a unique opportunity to reverse the neglect of disabled people by ensuring that the new framework explicitly includes disability as a core issue, and that the framework leaves no one behind, by measuring the achievement of targets by whether they are being achieved for all, including marginalised social groups such as disabled people, girls and women, the poorest or those living in vulnerable locations.
Last week, as we have heard, the UN Secretary-General published his synthesis report, The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet. I would be grateful to hear the Minister’s comments about this crucial report and the extent to which she feels it lays the groundwork for successful intergovernmental negotiations next year—in particular, whether the Secretary-General has done enough to push forward the “leave no one behind” principle, which was somewhat lacking from the UN open working group’s final report.
With regard to education specifically, I am also conscious that twin negotiations are happening in parallel next year with the Education for All process, led by UNESCO, and other negotiations on education as part of the main post-2015 sustainable development goal negotiation. There is thus a real risk of confusion, duplication and mismatch between what these two negotiation processes come up with. What is the UK’s position on that? What do the Government want to see happen? The obvious answer is that what the two processes produce in terms of education, goals and targets should become one and the same thing, but that is not what happened last time with the Education for All goals and the millennium development goals. Millennium development goal 2, on universal primary education, was only one of the Education for All goals that covered secondary education, adult literacy, quality of education, early childhood and so on, which has resulted in a lot of focus on primary education but much less on other areas of education. I would welcome hearing the Minister’s views on these negotiation processes and how the Government are ensuring that the goals, targets and indicators agreed reflect the need to ensure both that all people get a good quality education and that no one is left behind from development and aid efforts.
After months of deliberation, the open working group outcome report includes 17 proposed goals, including one on inequality. However, many countries are pushing for these to be reduced to possibly between 10 and 12, so that the goal on inequality is thought to be at risk. Oxfam has estimated that seven out of 10 people now live in countries where inequality is growing fast, so I strongly support the retention of a goal on inequality and I very much hope that the Government will as well.
My Lords, I welcome this debate. With others, I passionately support the case for establishing new global development goals in 2015. I note with appreciation the part played by the Government and the Prime Minister in the international dialogue, and I offer my sincere thanks to the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, for tabling this debate. I welcome the passion and learning displayed in this House today.
I share the view that much has been achieved through the millennium development goals. Extreme poverty has been reduced by as much as half; there has been clear progress in the battles against malaria, tuberculosis and HIV; access to drinking water and sanitation has been improved; the participation of women politically has increased; and 90% of children in developing regions are attending primary school.
These are major achievements and should be celebrated and communicated much more effectively than is the case at present. There is a story to be told here. I have had conversations even in this House questioning the value of our overseas aid and what it can achieve. It is vital that the story be told to build hope and to present the case for change. My first call to the Government, to the charities and to the media is to use 2015, the end of the millennium development goals period, as an opportunity to tell the story more imaginatively and to describe in clear and imaginative ways the change that has happened. I ask the Minister in reply to offer us some reflection on the ways in which the Government will communicate all that has happened.
The Church of England is part of the worldwide Anglican communion. Bishops and other senior leaders are daily in touch with churches all over the world. Two days ago, I heard a vivid presentation from eight of our senior Anglican women leaders, who recently spent 10 days living and working in Kerala in India with Christian Aid. They were inspired by the progress they saw there, particularly in gender participation and its effect on development, and they inspired others. Last year I had the privilege of spending time with a church in the West Indies and observed it still wrestling with extremes of poverty and deprivation and the rebuilding of a society still profoundly affected by generations of past slavery.
As to communication, the new global development goals clearly call for a fresh way of seeing the world. For much of the 20th century, development has been about the rich giving to the poor in charitable aid. The world was seen and described for these purposes in a series of binary categories: rich and poor nations; the one-third or two-thirds world; the global north and the global south; the haves and the have-nots. These binary categories are now outdated, though they still have a powerful hold on our minds and our vocabularies. Our mental maps of the way the world is and the way it could be both need to be redrawn. The vision for the new global development goals needs to be and is of one world that is interdependent, developing and searching for pathways to sustainable, equitable growth and the flourishing of all.
The threat of climate change, the desire for sustainable growth, digital communications and the movements of peoples have all contributed to this sense of one world and the desire for a good globalisation. It is a vision profoundly rooted in the Judaeo-Christian vision of the world: a family of diverse nations, cherishing peace, seeking justice, nurturing wisdom and looking for the flourishing of all.
Finally, I highlight four vital themes for the new global development goals, also pointed to by others. I support and commend these four key principles developed by Christian Aid in a most helpful briefing paper which I commend to your Lordships’ House. First, I have already mentioned the need to battle the evil giant of climate change and to seek carbon reduction as a major goal immediately and for the next generation. If we fail to place this sustainable development front and centre, the effects on life on earth will be profound. Secondly, I would urge that gender justice must be a stand-alone goal. There must be targets to end violence against women and girls, increase participation and ensure economic justice for women. Thirdly, I support with others the principle that no one should be left behind in the eradication of poverty and the pursuit of justice. In particular, the world needs still better and swifter ways of responding to human and natural disasters and building resilience in the poorest communities. Fourthly and finally, there should be a renewed focus on global equity with a stand-alone goal of a fair global economic system and with targets on illicit financial flows and on global tax justice.
Many years before the Christian era, the remarkable prophet Isaiah of Jerusalem shared a radical vision of what it would mean to end poverty and live in peace. He prophesied:
“they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks”.
Conflict resolution, as other noble Lords have said, is closely related to sustainable prosperity.
We are citizens of one world. Much has been achieved; we need to tell that story. However, there is still much to be done. We need to set goals for gender justice, for global equity, to leave no one behind, and to close the gap still further between rich and poor.
My Lords, I, too, am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, for securing this debate, and congratulate him on the timing, which comes just a few days after the UN Secretary-General’s much anticipated synthesis report. There can be no more consistent and committed friend of international development than the noble Lord.
The topic of today’s debate is very similar to that of one I initiated in October last year, and the intervening year has been both momentous and challenging for the world, with a number of highs and lows. In June, the UK hosted the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, and here I take the opportunity to pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Helic, who was the inspiration behind the event and who remains committed to driving the agenda forward. We look forward to hearing from her in this Chamber before long.
In July the UK hosted the first and very successful Girl Summit, aimed at mobilising domestic and international efforts to end female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage within a generation. UNICEF co-hosted the event, and I declare my interest and pride as a board member of UNICEF UK. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, has said much of what I had intended to say about the current UNICEF campaign on ending child violence. The emergence of the Ebola outbreak and the rising threat of extremism have demonstrated the need to continue with a sustainable development agenda to ensure that the risk of disease and terrorism are lessened through education and equality for both men and women.
I take this opportunity also to thank the many NGOs and their staff and partners who are working in the field to beat Ebola, and in particular to commend Restless Development, of whom I am proud to be a patron, whose efforts in Sierra Leone are growing day by day. Its 1,700 volunteer mobilisers have gone through extensive training, equipping them with vital skills to bring life-saving messages to more than 3 million people in the largest social mobilisation ever to take place in Sierra Leone.
To return the topic of the debate, no speech about the successor agenda can be delivered without referencing the historic impact of the MDGs. In 1990, a decade before they were launched, more than 12 million children died each year before reaching the age of five; in 2013, fewer than seven million did. As other noble Lords mentioned, maternal and child mortality has fallen by almost 50% since 1990, and 2.3 billion people have gained access to clean drinking water during that time.
The reason the MDGs have been so successful is that they served to focus world attention on a handful of goals: eight of them, to be precise, articulated in 374 words. They communicated to the world that these eight objectives would be the world’s priorities between 2000 and 2015, and as a result, billions of dollars in development funds flowed into efforts to tackle the challenges. That said, there is much more to do, and we should not be distracted from the need to finish the job.
International development combined with globalisation has opened up many doors into and out of the developing world, as other noble Lords have said, and significant progress has been made to reduce the number of people living in poverty. However, the opportunities have not always been equally shared. Many people are still locked out. Many women, children and disabled people, as the noble Lord, Lord Low, so eloquently said, and many others have been prevented from taking advantage of the progress that has been made.
I mentioned the Girl Summit and I pay tribute to the Secretary of State for her commitment to gender empowerment and to advancing the rights of girls and women as a top priority. I also welcome the fact that the UK is campaigning for a dedicated gender goal that addresses the causes of gender inequality and gender-sensitive targets integrated in that goal.
Earlier this year, in September, I was in a remote village in Zambia, where two young girls were reporting to the village elders what their hopes, worries and concerns were. They were the only girls in the room—and I was the only woman in the room. The chief and the other elders were, I thought, rather dismissive of what the girls wanted. I said to them, “I think that you should take these women, these young girls, on to your council in order to better reflect what girls really want in their community”. They said they would—and I hope they did.
Of 163 million illiterate young people in the world, 63% are female. Each year almost 5.5 million girls aged 16 to 19 give birth, effectively ending their chances of getting an education and earning a living. The World Bank study of 100 countries showed that every 1% increase in the proportion of women with secondary education boosts a country’s annual per capita income growth by about 0.3%.
As we know, DfID’s record on assisting women throughout the world has been exceptionally strong. Due to the department’s focus on the women and girls development agenda, more than 14 million women now have access to financial services, almost 3 million girls are in primary education and more than 4 million women are using modern methods of family planning. As an officer of the APPG on Population, Development and Reproductive Health, I would be remiss not to focus a few remarks on sexual and reproductive health and rights and the significant economic and social gains for individuals and families.
There are 225 million women and young girls living in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy but are not able to use modern contraception. The consequences are huge: 754 million unintended pregnancies, 28 million unplanned births and 20 million unsafe abortions every year. Investing in SRHR has one of the highest rates of return in international development. For every additional dollar invested in preventing an unintended pregnancy, nearly $1.50 is saved in pregnancy-related care. Additional savings accrue across all sectors, from healthcare to education and employment. As Governments and international agencies consider and negotiate the goals for 2015 and beyond, I urge them to prioritise universal access to SRHR.
To sum up, the UK objective for post-2015 is to agree a simple, inspiring, measurable set of goals centred on eradicating extreme poverty. The goals should have sustainable development integrated across the framework, and should include what is referred to as the golden thread—conflict and corruption, justice and the rule of law, property rights, and open and accountable government. These goals should be supported by a new global partnership that ensures that together we mobilise a range of actors with sufficient resources from both public and private organisations.
The 17 goals and 169 targets produced by the Open Working Group are too diffuse, and the UK’s priority should be to define a more concise and compelling goals framework. We should beware a kitchen-sink approach that seeks to appease all the interest groups. In a world of increasing resource constraints, such an approach would be a recipe for disaster. The danger that countries will cherry-pick, or be subsumed, or throw up their hands and do nothing at all, must be avoided. Never before has the world had to face such a complex agenda in a single year. This unique opportunity will not come again in our generation. It must not be wasted.
My Lords, I too thank my noble friend Lord McConnell for this debate, and for the enormous dedication that he has given over the years to this important subject. I would like to bring to the debate my experience as a former member of the Development Committee of the European Parliament, as the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the mid-term review of the MDGs, and as the leader of the delegation to the UN on the post-2015 MDGs.
I shall start by going away from my text and saying that if we bring forward the achievable and the attainable, we shall leave behind the majority of those who look to us to ensure that no one is left behind. Arguably, the MDGs have raised awareness of ending global poverty as an urgent challenge and a priority for global action. Assessments of the progress made in attaining the current MDGs show that, in the new post-2015 framework, a strong linkage between poverty eradication, fighting inequalities—all of them—and the promotion of sustainable development, as well as a single and universal set of goals with differentiated approaches, are crucial.
Poverty reduction is uneven and inequalities exist within countries, let alone between countries. This represents a major challenge, especially with the dubious concept of labelling countries “middle income” according to their GDP rather than real poverty, gender and inequality indexes. Access to early childhood development, education and training of the highest attainable quality for every child, young person and adult is an essential prerequisite for breaking cycles of intergenerational poverty and inequality. Yet sadly, as has been said, little progress has been made regarding gender equality and the empowerment of women. Globally, women and girls constitute a majority of those living in extreme poverty. Gender equality and women’s rights are necessary conditions for the success of the post-2015 global development framework. It is staggering—indeed, shameful—that every day an estimated 800 women in the world die due solely to complications during pregnancy or childbirth.
Ownership of all the millennium development goals and the post-2015 development goals is essential. The EU and its member states, such as our own country, are the largest donors of development aid and should remain the driving force during the next phase of the negotiations under the UN, promoting in particular the human rights-based approach, based on equality, non-discrimination, participation and inclusion in the design and implementation of the post-2015 framework. A human rights-based approach is the only way forward. That is why I welcome the inclusion of the promotion of a human rights-based and people-centred approach among the SDGs proposed by the UN open working group, reinforcing the principles of the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights of all people, without discrimination on any grounds, starting with the fundamental right to dignity of all human beings, with particular attention paid to: the human rights of women and girls, including the promotion of universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights; the protection of and respect for the rights of migrants and minorities, including LGBTI people and people living with HIV; and the importance of respecting and promoting the rights of disabled people.
Now is not the time to fail. That is why, sadly, I have to express real concern about the approach and attitude taken by the Government in advance of the UN September summit both at EU level and in New York. We have achieved much before because the EU took a single approach after long and timely discussions. That is not happening now. I am reliably informed—although I hope the Minister will inform me that I am reliably misinformed—that the Government’s intention is to reduce the number of goals proposed by the open working group, and to cluster them. That would not be helpful.
The UK Government are also not happy with the universality of the framework, which means that it would apply—this is extremely important—to all states and that targets would be fixed for every single state, including the United Kingdom. I cannot see the problem with such an approach: that which we demand of others, we should demand of ourselves and for ourselves.
To have weight in the debate at the UN, where there will be much opposition, it is important that the EU speaks with one voice on the issue. The United Kingdom Government are preventing that at the moment as they bypass the EU representatives in the negotiations in New York. It is one thing to complement influence, quite another to undermine it. I look forward to the detailed response of the Minister on these issues.
The draft conclusions are to be adopted imminently. They are very ambitious, especially when it comes to human rights and fighting inequalities. These conclusions need our support. However, I am again reliably informed that there are suggestions that the UK Government want to remove references to fighting inequalities. Sadly, I must end on this note: it is regrettable that on 25 November Conservative Members of the European Parliament voted against such an approach as I have outlined in a plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. I hope, indeed, that this is not a foretaste of what is to come.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, that if we reduce the number of goals and the number of tasks, we may be in danger of losing some very important principles. I also agree with him on the need to tackle inequality, as a fan of the Equality Trust, and on the proposition that he carefully enunciated that unequal societies are not happy societies. Many of the evils that we suffer in the developed world are a product of our failure to tackle inequalities in our own society.
I also regret that, although the Secretary-General refers to this in his report, The Road to Dignity by 2030, published last week, there is an omission in the main goals, and even in the subsidiary tasks that are set out before us in the SDGs, of any reference to the greatest threat to the objectives of ending poverty, addressing climate change and keeping the rise in global temperature below 2 degrees centigrade, which is the inexorable rise in the number of human beings. I do not see any explicit recognition of that in the Secretary-General’s report.
In the draft sustainable development goals, also published last week by the UN open working group, goal 13 is to take,
“urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”.
This is recognised as the primary responsibility of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and I think there needs to be stronger linkage between the two strategies. Is it really possible to achieve 7% GDP growth in the least developed countries, and should we not distinguish between growth that requires consumption of energy, such as manned space travel or Formula 1 or nice garden bridges over the River Thames, and beneficial growth, such as the development of tidal power which could provide 42% of Scotland’s electricity?
On the continued growth of the human race, goal 3.7 calls for,
“universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes”.
If we coupled that with goal 5, which aims to:
“Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”,
women would have the right to control their own fertility, and have access to the means of doing so. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, said, 225 million women in the world do not have access to the means of controlling their own fertility. I am very glad to see that that is part of the new SDGs. In the developed world people have control of their own fertility. The problem is that there are religious and cultural obstacles to women’s equality in sub-Saharan Africa and the Islamic world that will not be easily overcome. There is good evidence to show that as women get better educated they will begin to take control of their own fertility, but where there is a long history of male dominance, that is not going to be easy to achieve.
I entirely agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Judd, when he said that conflict prevents any meaningful development. The emergence of extremist organisations such as al-Shabaab, AQAP, the Daesh and Boko Haram should be recognised explicitly as a major obstacle to women’s emancipation. Former members of the Secretary-General’s high-level panel, in an open letter in September, stressed:
“Freedom from fear and violence is the most basic human entitlement, and people demand peace and good governance as a core component of their well-being, not an optional extra”.
The nearest we get to this is goal 16, calling for “peaceful and inclusive societies”, but the language does not spell it out. The necessity of combating ideologies of hatred, murder and the subjection of women, and blasphemously claiming to be the true voice of Islam, needs to be on the final version of the SDGs presented to the General Assembly for approval next September.
My grandfather, who was born in 1834, had 12 children. They had large families in the 19th century because they expected high infant mortality. That is no doubt one of the factors behind the huge birth rates today in many less developed countries. But we know what needs to be done to complete the reduction by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, in the under-five mortality rate—goal 4 of the MDGs—in the countries that have not got there and to take the process much further. The WHO recommends 11 antigens for universal infant use and this should be incorporated in the post-2015 agenda.
That goal should be achievable even for the poorest countries with the help of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, to which I am proud to say this country is one of the largest contributors. But can my noble friend explain why in the five years 2011 to 2016 we contributed £1.3 billion, and now that has been reduced to £1 billion in the next funding round for the years 2016 to 2020? If I may refer to the previous debate, the Chancellor has had no difficulty in signing up to the renewal of the contribution to the former fund for AIDS, TB and malaria, so he ought to be able to do the same for GAVI.
I note that Germany, Canada, Norway and the Netherlands have all announced larger increases in the pledges they intend to make at the replenishment conference chaired by Chancellor Merkel in January. Are we really going to be the only country to give less this time, when the Secretary of State says:
“Investing in immunisation is one of the most cost-effective ways of saving lives and improving living standards, health and the global economy”?
The APPG on Child Health and Vaccine Preventable Diseases, of which I am co-chair, would like to see in the next 15 years the adoption of a more holistic approach to child health, integrating the vaccination programmes with the delivery of the WASH agenda for clean water, sanitation and hygiene, where there is still huge potential for disease prevention. Half the girls who drop out of school in sub-Saharan Africa do so because WASH is not provided. Many more drop out or miss school when they reach the age of menstruation for the same reason. We would like to see hygiene added to goal 6. This would be the place to refer to the co-ordination of the delivery of the WHO antigens with the WASH programme.
We also believe that there is tremendous potential in product development partnerships. I mentioned in the previous debate the example of GSK’s development, with the help of the Gates Foundation and many others in the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, of the world’s first anti-malaria drug RTS,S. In phase three trials, the drug reduced incidence of the disease by a quarter in six to 12 week-old infants at first vaccination, and by half in young children aged five to 17 months at first vaccination. In July, GSK sought an opinion from the European Medicines Agency on the quality, safety and efficiency of the drug. Assuming that the reply is positive, the WHO is likely to issue a policy recommendation before the end of next year, allowing African countries to develop schedules for the delivery of RTS,S and for their national regulatory agencies to consider applications from the manufacturers. Children could receive the vaccine by 2016, saving hundreds of lives.
There is broad reference to multi-stakeholder partnerships at the very end of the open working group’s draft list of sustainable development goals. My final plea to my noble friend, when she comes to wind up, is whether DfID would consider proposing that a reference to PDPs, which have such enormous potential, be added to goal 17 as a shining example of what these partnerships can achieve.
My Lords, 2015 is set to be an important year for the UN in what is already proving to be an exceptionally testing period for the organisation. Two major sets of decisions will need to be taken next year: those on the policy framework to succeed the millennium development goals, which we are debating today, and those on climate change. Those two sets of decisions will have crucial implications for all the world’s citizens, whether they live in developed or developing countries. That is what makes today’s debate in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, so timely, topical and welcome, certainly to me. Inadequate policy prescriptions—or, worse still, failure to agree on anything meaningful at all in either of these negotiations—would have seriously negative consequences for the world’s prosperity and its security for a long period ahead.
When the millennium development goals were set 15 years ago in 2000, many regarded them, with a cynical shrug, as just more warm words from an organisation not short of that commodity. Some still take that view. This morning I read an article in Prospect magazine which suggested that the setting of these goals was a pretty worthless exercise—an article that completely ignored the distinction between the specificity of the millennium development goals of 2000 and the discredited, very general goals set in previous decades.
In any case, I think the millennium development goals have turned out to be a lot more significant than that prognosis. They set a course that has seen many millions of people lifted out of poverty in some of the world’s poorest countries, which have also seen remarkable improvements in education and health. However, those benefits have been too narrowly spread and too heavily concentrated in the rising economies of Asia, leaving what has been called the “bottom billion” of the world’s population—most of them in Africa—largely unaffected. Daily we are reminded by events—by the Ebola epidemic in west Africa and by the chaos and threats of genocide or violence in the Middle East and in parts of Africa—of how far the world still has to go and how fragile any progress made on development issues can prove to be if basic security cannot be addressed. I join those who have underlined that point in numerous contributions.
The case for setting out recalibrated goals for the period ahead seems, to me, unanswerable. For example, the Ebola outbreak has highlighted how important it is not only to conduct high-profile campaigns such as those against malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis, as the previous debate underlined, but to give far more emphasis to general provision of public health facilities.
In other areas that so far have been either neglected or inadequately treated—for example, removing discrimination against the disabled, on which I support every word that my noble friend Lord Low said, and discrimination against women and girls—clear objectives need to be set out. In some cases, which have emerged in prominence only since 2000—for instance, bringing the benefits of the digital economy and the revolutions in communications technology to a wider range of countries and a wider range of social groups within them—the challenge is to define sensible and sustainable goals. Those are the challenges that I see in 2015 and I hope that whichever Government emerge from next May’s general election will measure up to them.
However, we also need to realise that if we cannot respond effectively to the challenges of the climate change conference in Paris at the end of next year, much of what we set out to achieve in the form of development goals will prove to be unrealisable. A world beset by coastal flooding from rising sea levels, desertification and catastrophic climatic events will not be a world capable of achieving sustainable development. A world in which civil and sectarian strife spreads across whole regions, uncontrolled by the rules-based institutions that we have so laboriously built up since the end of the Second World War and the end of the Cold War, will fare no better. So the agenda that we face goes a lot wider than the simple setting of development goals. If a new policy framework of development goals is to be worth while, I suggest that we will need to ensure, in addition, that it does not just consist of words on paper but that the commitments subscribed to in New York in 2015 are implemented and monitored. Surely, there needs to be effective monitoring of the way in which both developed and developing countries, and both donors and recipients, fulfil the commitments they have undertaken.
Our own record in recent years, in particular the action taken by the coalition Government to ensure, even in a period of austerity, that we achieved the target of 0.7% of gross national income for our official development aid, is one of which we should be proud; but it is not unchallenged. No doubt, as the political debate hots up before the election and concentrates on future public spending projections, it will come under threat again. I very much hope that this House will now match the action taken in the other place by passing into law our commitment to the figure of 0.7% and that when she replies the noble Baroness will say that the Government—as they did in the other place—will lend their support to such a measure. I suggest, too, that it would be good if all three main parties in Parliament were to make sticking to that commitment a non-partisan objective in their manifestos. After all, it is a lot easier to sustain the commitment to 0.7% than it ever was to reach it in the first place. If we can do that, we will be well placed to give the lead in the debates over the 2015 development goals that will take place in the European Union, at the G8, at the G20 and, of course, at the United Nations for final decision. I hope that we will be there, giving that lead.
My Lords, like others, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, on raising this very important issue today. As the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon himself has said, the millennium development goals have been the most successful global anti-poverty push in history. During the past 14 years, we have witnessed enormous progress in tackling some of the world’s most prevalent ills and providing for the needs of those in the very poorest and most disadvantaged communities. As other noble Lords have said, the setting of these ambitious and measurable targets has resulted in a worldwide halving of the numbers living in extreme poverty. Fatal diseases have been tackled and millions more people today have access to sanitation, clean water and primary education. It is important, therefore, that the progress made is strongly acknowledged and celebrated, but this is not a job finished; this is work in progress.
Although the targets were projected to be met by 2015, still around 700 million people across the world live in abject poverty and without many of the things such as healthcare and secondary education that we in the UK take for granted. As Amina Mohammed, Ban Ki-moon’s special adviser on the post-2015 development planning acknowledges, the world has changed radically in the last 15 years and we must now expand on progress, build on existing momentum and learn the lessons that the MDGs have given us. This is not the moment to give up the fight.
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his recently released synthesis report, stressed the need for a renewed global partnership for development between the rich and poor nations in the context of the post-2015 agenda. Thus we need to look ahead, establish new goals and finish the job in hand. This will need a new approach, which needs to include caring for the environment and protecting the world that we live in —as the Secretary-General has made clear, you cannot have true economic development that does not recognise the importance of the earth’s natural systems, because climate change causes crops to fail and people to starve in poor countries.
At Rio+20, member states agreed to launch a process to develop a set of sustainable development goals—the SDGs—to build upon the MDGs and converge with the post-2015 development agenda. Whereas the MDGs concentrated just on developing countries, to really create a sustainable agenda we will need to treat people as active partners in development rather than passive beneficiaries of aid. It will need all countries, both developing and developed, to commit to good governance, rule of law and the fight against corruption, with targets and indicators relevant to every country and region. It will need everyone to be engaged to help deliver this: Governments, civil society, all ages—the young and old—and especially the marginalised groups, because we must ensure that no one is left behind, regardless of age, gender or ability. It is only by working together that we can deliver a truly transformational approach.
Some of the MDGs have delivered more progress than others, but one of the areas in which we still have a significant way to go is that of gender equality and the empowerment of women, which was millennium development goal number three. Globally, women are disproportionately impoverished and, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, told us, make up two-thirds of those still living in extreme poverty, form 60% of the working poor but earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 2% of the world’s property. Sixty-one per cent of the 123 million young people who lack basic reading skills are women. A survey of 63 developing countries also found that girls are more likely to be out of school than boys among both primary and lower secondary age groups.
Why is gender equality so important? It is because women have the ability to transform their communities if they are given the right tools and support. As Brigham Young once famously said:
“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation”.
I find it incredible that there is still no country in the world where women are equal in political, economic and social terms, not even in the developed West. This is a missed opportunity. Even here at home, it is projected that by equalising men’s and women’s economic participation rates we could add more than 10% to the size of the British economy by 2030. In developed countries, gender wage gaps also persist. Only one in five parliamentarians worldwide is a woman; and VSO tells me that on current rates of progress women will not be equally represented until 2065 and will not make up half the world’s leaders until 2134. Domestic violence everywhere is often all too commonplace, with 35% of women across the world having experienced violence. A woman who has to fight for her existence at home has no prospect of working towards greater rights, higher status within society or helping her community.
In some countries, violence has become a pandemic and, where conflict occurs, rape is all too often used as a weapon of war. Sexual violence destroys lives, shatters families and breaks up communities. I therefore congratulate William Hague on his initiative to end sexual violence in conflict. He has put the spotlight on a war crime that has been ignored for years.
Today in war, 90% of the casualties are civilian—mostly women and children, yet women are nearly always excluded from the peace processes. Some 125 million women and girls have undergone FGM and one in nine girls in developing countries is married before the age of 15. The reality of this usually means that their education is finished and their prospects curtailed; many are condemned to a life of domestic servitude. Still, every day globally, around 800 women die in childbirth.
This was brought home to me when I visited Mali last week. Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world; it has a very high illiteracy rate and many women are married off at an extremely young age. Most girls there have undergone FGM and, as there is little access to contraception, they will end up having a large number of children. It is hard for the women there to do anything but just concentrate on their survival and that of their children.
Too many countries today still have a patriarchal society, with men dominating all the leadership positions, and with the societal norms and values working against women. I therefore welcome the recommendation of the open working group—established to develop the sustainable development goals for future consideration by the UN General Assembly—for a standalone goal on gender equality and the empowerment of women, a goal that so many of us have been calling for.
This new gender goal—goal number 5—unlike that of the MDG, has targets aiming to create policies and laws to ensure an end to discrimination and the elimination of violence and harmful practices, such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation. They also aim to ensure women’s full participation in decision-making at all levels and in ownership of land and economic resources. In particular, I welcome the reference to universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare and reproductive rights, on which there has been pushback from some countries in recent years. This goal also emphasises the need to address stereotypes, mindsets and attitudes that reinforce traditional gender roles. I am delighted that not only has our own Government Equalities Office stated its support for this but it has also been championed by our Secretary of State for International Development and very much welcomed by NGOs and women’s groups.
We all hope that this strong and explicit goal on gender equality will remain in the final post-2015 framework. However, we are not there yet and intergovernmental negotiations will continue into next year when the final post-2015 development agenda is to be adopted at the summit scheduled for September 2015. Therefore, things can still change—and slip backwards—and some fear that global leadership is not strong enough. We look to the UK to provide a strong lead by setting out an inspirational vision for the future so that agreement can be reached for a renewed global partnership for development, which will enable us all, together, to meet the challenges facing us around the world today and help to transform the lives of those who live in poverty.
My Lords, in thanking the noble Lord, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, for this opportunity to bring us up to date on the language and methodology of development goals, I wish to concentrate on what I believe to be one of the most important areas. That is the population factor, which in many parts of the world is the key element—but not the only contributor—affecting development. It is also a key to sustainability in the long term. I shall focus on two aspects of this. The first is the recent responsible prediction, endorsed by the United Nations Population Fund—UNFPA—that world population is not expected to level off this century, as previously expected, but will reach a much higher total before beginning to come down in the next century.
The other aspect I will highlight is the recent report by the Guttmacher Institute—again, together with the UNFPA—called Adding It Up, which deals with the costs and benefits of investing in sexual and reproductive health. I am hoping that in both of these areas, the final version of the development goals will be framed to emphasise the importance of these aspects.
On the first, I have always tried to avoid trading numbers in population matters. The concept of world population has limited use, as there are so many regional and local variables. A new prediction in a recent paper in Science, with UNFPA support, is that the present world population of 7.2 billion will increase to 9.6 billion in mid-century and to almost 11 billion by the end of the century. This is against the more conventional scenario until now that the figure would level off at around 9 billion in the mid-century and thereafter decrease. The use of talking in these terms is then to look at how and why the figures have changed. Not everyone would support the new hypothesis leading to that change. All these predictions are expressed in terms of the probability of their being right.
What has changed is that the remarkable rate of fertility decline in both Asia and Latin America has not been copied in Africa, and in particular in sub-Saharan Africa. In some African countries, decline has stopped. The ideal family size there seems to remain on average about 4.6 children, and the level of meeting the unmet need for contraception seems to have remained unimproved for the last 20 years. These are generalisations, but they include populous countries such as Nigeria. The figures are merely signposts to highlight where things are and are not changing, whatever the cause.
The same paper also deals with the related but opposite matter largely in developed countries, and that is the potential support ratio—roughly the number of workers per retiree. Where there have been fast declines in population numbers, support for the older members of a population is put under pressure. The most extreme projected case is Japan, where the proportion will be 1.5 workers for each retiree. Both fast declines and fast increases in population produce their own pressures, but in both rational human intervention is possible, if not simple.
As I have said, these new and possibly alarming figures have been disputed, partly on the grounds that background assumptions might not remain unchanged over the lengthy projected period. For example, education and even climate change might alter the outcomes. But it is accepted that, over time, the UNFPA population projections, which are updated every two years, have been broadly accurate. I mention all this, and the new increased projection, partly to remind us that the common supposition that the size of the population is somehow magically sorting itself out into a kind of natural equilibrium is almost certainly not the case. In sub-Saharan Africa in particular there is still a large, unmet need for modern contraceptive services.
That brings me to the recent Guttmacher Institute report, also supported by UNFPA, on the costs and benefits of reproductive services. The commonly accepted figure for unmet need is around 200 million women wanting to avoid pregnancy but not being able to access contraception. Here the figure is confirmed in some detail as around 225 million. That is apparently one-quarter of all such women of reproductive age and is the same for the whole range of reproductive services and related health benefits. The report quantifies the investment needed to provide proper health services and the savings that would be made by so doing. The situation varies widely region by region. Providing all women with the healthcare they need would be cost-effective. The general conclusion is that for every £1 invested in contraceptive services, £1.50 is saved in consequential outcomes.
Finally, I urge that the ultimate version of the new development goals should emphasise the need for greater investment in sexual and reproductive health services. These investments are cost-effective, save lives and are the cornerstone of sustainable development.
My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord McConnell for initiating this timely debate. The EU is calling 2015 the European Year for Development, with the intergovernmental negotiations commencing in January and with a view to finalising work in July ahead of the September summit to determine global plans for the next 15 years. As my noble friend said, last week the United Nations Secretary-General published an advance copy of his synthesis report which draws upon the Open Working Group proposals for 17 goals and 169 targets. Six essential elements are identified, although the Secretary-General does not detail explicitly how these elements should be used in the negotiations. I ask the Minister: what initial assessment the Government have made of the implications of the UN Secretary-General’s report? I share the concerns of my noble friend Lord Cashman. Given that the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister have both commented on a number of occasions that 17 goals and 169 targets are “too many”, what will the Minister’s priorities be in the post-2015 negotiations? Which goals would she be happy to see either merged or discarded from the final list?
As my noble friends have said, our country’s commitment to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable is not just morally right; it is in Britain’s national interest. Just as important is how our actions can help shape global opinion. We need to convince those who are able to do much more and empower others to stand on their own two feet. We need global agreement on tax transparency, need to ensure that companies pay their tax in-country, and need to support Governments to collect their own taxes to reduce aid dependency and foster good government. If we are to unlock development, the UK must push for bold and visionary global agreement on development over the next 15 years.
As we have heard in today’s debate, there are three vital areas that are the greatest areas of inequality that the world faces. First, we must set new global priorities to give everyone universal access to healthcare. Secondly, climate change is a development issue and must form an integral part of global effort over the next 15 years. Finally, we must protect human rights, as my noble friend Lord Judd so ably argued, working to help eliminate exploitation, to protect the rights of women and girls and to protect workers’ rights.
Ensuring that everyone in the world has access to affordable healthcare is essential to end poverty. It is deeply unfair that 3 million people die every year because of a lack of vaccine for preventable illnesses. As we heard in the previous debate, there have been 1.5 million AIDS-related deaths, when we have treatments that could have kept those people alive. Three-quarters of those living in low-income countries lack access to decent healthcare. In India, a middle-income country, the situation is the same. Universal health coverage reduces inequality and would prevent 100 million people a year from falling into poverty. It is the bedrock of human development. This year the Ebola virus has killed thousands across west Africa. The UK’s response to the humanitarian health crisis has been strong. However, the main issue here was health systems not being resourced or strong enough to deal with the issue. Universal health coverage, whereby there is access for all without people having to suffer financial hardship when accessing it, is the key way that we can make countries more resilient to health concerns such as Ebola before they become widespread emergencies. UHC is a clear and quantifiable goal. Will the Minister support UHC in the language of the health goal in the SDGs?
I turn now to climate change, which hits the world’s poorest people the hardest. It causes severe weather events. The poor live in areas that are most affected by climate change and lack the resilience to cope with drought, flood and food insecurity. Given the clear links between climate change, inequality, poverty and economic development—the most recent example, which my noble friend Lord McConnell referred to, being Typhoon Hagupit, or Ruby as it is known in the Philippines—yet again it appears that those who had the least were those who have lost the most. Does the Minister agree that a post-2015 agenda without a stand-alone goal on climate change will undermine the potential of the entire agenda?
Empowering countries to stand on their own two feet is not just about new powers for more Governments; it should result in changes for working people as well. Decent jobs under decent conditions for decent pay are a vital part of development, providing a permanent route out of poverty. But there are 168 million child labourers working across the world, and those who work in developing countries often work in ill defined jobs in the so-called grey economy. Formal employment would better ensure workers’ rights and avoid exploitation at the hands of unscrupulous companies. We need to stop clothing made by people working in horrendous conditions reaching our markets and we must demand action from major companies to stamp out child labour from their supply chains. Labour will reverse this Government’s decision to withdraw funding from the International Labour Organization and we will work with the International Trade Union Confederation to ensure that those who want to work hard can get on.
Finally, as we have heard in the debate, almost half the world’s wealth, totalling $110 trillion, is now owned by just 1% of the population. Seven out of 10 people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the past 30 years. As we have also heard, gender inequality is the most persistent form of prejudice but inequalities can occur across urban/rural divides or have different ethnic, religious or racial group dimensions. Discrimination on the grounds of disability is also a critical factor fuelling inequality, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Low. Given that inequality is an issue of pandemic proportions—which goes beyond simply ensuring that no one is left behind—I ask the Minister whether her Government are willing to commit to the need for a stand-alone goal on inequality in the post-2015 agenda.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, for securing this debate. He has a formidable record in this field, as have all others who have participated in the debate. I knew that it would be an extremely well informed and deeply thoughtful debate, and it has proved to be so. What shines through is an understanding of why this is so important. The right reverend Prelate urges us on in communicating what has been achieved since 2000, even with the financial crash of 2008 onwards, in the relief of poverty. He is surely right.
As noble Lords know, the year ahead of us is absolutely key—as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, made clear, not only on MDGs but on climate change and many other issues. A key moment, and the culmination of the subject of this debate, will be the summit in September 2015, where the world will seek to come together to agree a new set of sustainable development goals to take us to 2030. We believe that the international community has a duty to produce an inspiring framework that will put us on a sustainable development pathway to eradicate extreme poverty within a generation, building on the successes of the MDGs.
The United Kingdom has played an active role in the post-2015 development process to date. From my right honourable friend the Prime Minister’s co-chairmanship of the high-level panel to the recent Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, we have been extremely active. With the formal intergovernmental consultations on post-2015 running from January to July 2015, and with the report of the UN Secretary-General on post-2015 released last week, today has been a timely opportunity to reflect on the progress the international community has made so far.
First, I will touch on the work of the open working group. Over 13 sessions, member states in the group discussed a range of issues and inputs into the post-2015 agenda, and ultimately its July report proposed a framework of 17 sustainable development goals and 169 targets. The UK Government have welcomed the breadth and balance of this report and there are a number of extremely positive aspects to it. There is a strong focus in the proposals on the eradication of extreme poverty, and welcome goals on gender equality, peaceful and inclusive societies, and access to justice. There are some useful objectives on environmental sustainability and we will continue to work so that this is integrated within the agenda.
As my noble friend Lady Jenkin pointed out, the power of the MDGs was in their simplicity, and the ability for planning and finance ministries to take them in their entirety and to help define their national plans, rather than to pick and choose which targets were most politically expedient. We have heard from statistical experts and implementing ministries in developing countries that turning the current 169 targets into meaningful, measurable and manageable action on the ground would be nearly impossible. Making long lists—and we know this very well in this House—can result in whatever is missed out not being counted. This is why there is an argument for an overarching inclusive approach. Over the coming months, we look forward to working with other member states, civil society and technical experts to ensure that what we agree in September is a genuinely workable framework.
As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, what we surely cannot allow is failing to agree something meaningful. As noble Lords have noted, the UN Secretary-General released his report, The Road to Dignity by 2030. Tasked with synthesising the many contributions to the post-2015 discussions to date, the Secretary-General has called on member states to strive, with the highest level of ambition, to end poverty, transform all lives and protect the planet. As the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, and others have said, he set out the six essential elements that member states should strive towards: dignity, people, prosperity, planet, justice, and partnership. The elements can provide a helpful organising framework for the negotiations to come, and they point towards a focused outcome on post-2015. It is important that the final framework is inspiring and that we can communicate it. That certainly provides food for thought.
We have also been clear on the need for a framework that can be monitored and implemented—again, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said. I note the Secretary-General’s proposal for a technical review of targets to ensure that each is framed in language that is specific, measurable and achievable. One of the downsides of the MDGs was in effect the use of averages, which left many behind—although that was never intended. The UK remains a strong advocate of the principle “leave no one behind” and it is notable that the Secretary-General’s report also supports this approach.
Leaving no one behind must be, in our view, a key to the new goals. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, flagged an ageing world population. We know that around the world, as the world of work changes and as cities grow, there is a serious danger of older people, possibly increasingly infirm, being left out as economies may grow. Women are so often left behind, as we have heard. LGBT people may be left behind. Those with disabilities may be left behind. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Low, for his tribute for what we have done in terms of disabilities, particularly what my right honourable friend Lynne Featherstone has done to ensure that we include those with disabilities. As the noble Lord, Lord Low, notes, 15% of the global population has a disability and 80% of those with disabilities live in developing countries. That is why leaving no one behind is so essential.
Many noble Lords will recall the high-level panel’s proposal that no post-2015 target should be considered achieved unless met by all relevant social and economic groups and we are pleased that this has been reinforced in this latest report. Building on this, the report also emphasises the importance of data to the post-2015 agenda. The UK has been clear throughout that a data revolution is needed better to collect, use and open up data for maximum effect, bringing together all those who are relevant in this area. The noble Lords, Lord McConnell and Lord Judd, and others have noted that as being a vital tool in this regard.
I note what the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, said in his opening remarks—others echoed this—about how essential it is that women are central to these goals. My noble friends Lady Jenkin and Lady Hodgson put the case extremely effectively for why women and girls must be front and centre. The UK Government have argued strongly for a dedicated goal that addresses the causes of gender inequality, as well as for gender-sensitive targets and indicators throughout.
I am also very glad that climate change and the environment have been integrated into the whole process of these goals, as there was a danger that the issue was just going to be running alongside. That integration is clearly essential, as noble Lords have pointed out; the noble Lords, Lord McConnell, Lord Judd, Lord Hannay and Lord Collins, my noble friend Lord Chidgey and others have all emphasised it and numerous NGOs have made that case, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, noted. Those in developing countries, as we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Collins, are indeed the most vulnerable to climate change. It is also a matter of global security, as noble Lords have said. It is impossible to consider eradicating poverty by 2030 without addressing climate change, so we firmly believe that the framework must include measures in this regard.
On peace and security, the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, who is a member of another UN high-level panel, knows a great deal about the need to integrate development for global security, and this is all consistent with that. The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, and others mentioned this, and it will indeed be critical to ensure that peace and security, the ruler of law, access to justice and inclusive economic growth are reflected in the final outcome.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, mentioned universal health coverage. Health, including sexual and reproductive health rights, is a prerequisite for human and economic development and we are strongly supportive of universal health coverage as an essential means to achieve health outcomes.
The noble Lord, Lord Low, rightly talked about the need to integrate. He flagged education, which of course needs to be properly integrated. We do not want processes that duplicate but ones that are mutually supportive, and we will have to look right across the board as far as that is concerned.
My noble friend Lord Chidgey mentioned working with parliaments. Indeed, we support the need for effective monitoring and accountability at all appropriate levels for this framework and that very much includes parliaments, which play a pivotal role.
On universality, I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, that the UK is clear that the next framework should be universal and all countries should have responsibilities in it, so it will apply to the UK. Discussions are continuing at the moment between departments in preparation for that.
There is more to the post-2015 agenda than goals and targets alone, of course. In July next year there will be a major conference in Ethiopia at which the international community will decide how best to finance the new framework, and the Secretary-General’s report acknowledges the importance of an ambitious set of means of implementation, including overseas development assistance and other resources.
I thank those who have paid tribute to the UK on reaching 0.7% of GNI devoted to overseas development. I think that the UK should be proud of reaching that goal, especially at a time of austerity. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, that the Government are fully committed to supporting my right honourable friend Michael Moore’s Private Member’s Bill, which will enshrine this, and I am delighted that my noble friend Lord Kirkwood will be leading the Bill through the Lords, supported right around the Chamber, I hope. It is enormously helpful to hear the voices in support of the Bill. From the Government, of course, I shall be strongly supporting it.
It is because we have met 0.7% that we have been able to become such a significant donor for multilateral organisations, such as the Global Fund and Gavi. I heard what my noble friend Lord Avebury said about Gavi. I would gently point out that the United Kingdom is the largest donor to Gavi. Although, of course, I am absolutely delighted to hear about other countries increasing their level of commitment, that has to be measured against the enormous commitment that the United Kingdom Government have already put in. It is extremely important, and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has recently announced up to £1 billion in direct funding contributions for 2016-20. That is in addition to our existing long-term commitments. I fully recognise the contributions that Gavi makes, as my noble friend outlined.
Significant progress has clearly been made over the past year in terms of what is being brought forward internationally. I will engage with my noble friend Lord Eccles, who has such a long and distinguished history on the economic side of development, not least through the CDC. We fully recognise that people are pulled out of poverty through the economic transformation of their countries. I absolutely agree with him. Our focus on human development, so that people have the education and skills to participate in our globalised world, underpins much of what we do. It is one of the reasons why we support the development of health systems, so that economies can power ahead. It is also why we ensure that we focus on governance, that that is strengthened so that, for example, countries can draw in taxation that they need to support their human development. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, mentioned the importance of taxation. It is also why we seek the reduction in tariff barriers, to ensure that countries can trade with each other. The CDC, with which of course the noble Viscount is so very familiar, helped fund the expansion, for example, of mobile money in Kenya, including those who were outside the banking sector, enabling them to be brought within the economy so that it could move forward. Human development goes hand in hand with, and underpins, economic development, so I do not see a contrast between our approach in terms of underpinning human development and focusing on economic growth.
The noble Lord, Lord Cashman, was concerned about the reduction and clustering of the goals. I will come to this in a little bit more detail in a moment. We clearly welcome the breadth and balance of the report of the Open Working Group, but we are concerned about whether 17 goals and 169 targets are sufficiently focused and whether actually they then lead to leaving things out, because you can be pretty sure they are not going to be as comprehensive as you would wish.
We are moving forward into the next stage. There will be the intergovernmental negotiations, co-facilitated by the permanent representatives of Kenya and Ireland in New York, that help to define the final post-2015 framework. The United Kingdom will be an active participant in this process, and we will continue to work closely with other member states within and beyond the EU and with civil society and other key stakeholders to press for the ambitious framework we need.
The noble Lords, Lord McConnell and Lord Cashman, spoke about the EU. We have advocated for a proactive EU approach to the post-2015 discussions, and, having worked closely with other EU member states and the commission, we are confident that the EU commission on post-2015 will reflect joint priorities and assist us as we try to secure an inspiring and implementable framework. The EU can be a very powerful group if its members work together—the noble Lords are absolutely right. That is why we have been working so closely together to try to have a common approach. I assure noble Lords that a great deal of effort has gone into that.
It was interesting to listen to the list of organisations that the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, mentioned, in which the United Kingdom plays a leading part. The organisation he did not mention, which of course also influences this discussion, is the G77. He will know that those different organisations have conflicting approaches.
The MDGs were, largely, drawn up by one hand: by a Member of this House, the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, from the Benches opposite. The MDGs had a simplicity, and they had an effect. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, indicated, that was not widely anticipated. However, that is what happened, so all now recognise the importance of their replacement. It is excellent that the world has engaged in this area. The risk is that what is produced does not have the clarity and purpose of those first goals, in which case it will not guide and will not have the effect that we all wish. Of course those first MDGs had limitations. We are in the final stages now, and I welcome this debate and the engagement of all noble Lords here, who have such huge expertise and influence. I hope that all will apply that expertise and influence to ensure that what replaces the MDGs is directed at ending extreme poverty by 2030. That is why leaving no one behind, and the desegregation of data so that we know whether people have been left behind, is so critical.
As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, pointed out, it is both morally right to address poverty and in our national interest to do so. The challenge is to secure the bold and visionary agreement that he so rightly seeks, as we all do. We live in interesting and risky times; there is so much to play for here. We must ensure that we work together, and internationally, to build on the remarkable achievements of the MDGs and put in place something that learns from them and is inclusive, and which renders the horrendous poverty and deprivation, to which the noble Lord, Lord Judd, so eloquently pointed, a thing of the past.
My Lords, I predicted on Twitter this morning that we would have a top-quality debate here this afternoon, and I was not wrong. I am very grateful to all noble Lords who participated in our debate for the quality of the contributions and the way in which we have covered so many issues in depth, but with real focus and passion, too. I am particularly delighted to have my noble friend Lord Cashman here, who contributed his experience in the European Parliament in this debate; perhaps we have missed that element in recent years in the many debates we have had to move this agenda forward. I thank the Minister for her responses and for her reassurances and information about the Government’s position.
I will make one other point in closing the debate. I met two teenage girls on a visit to the Central African Republic six weeks ago, who were in an internally displaced persons’ camp. However, they somehow struggled to get out from that camp and go to school each day before they returned home to collect water and perform other duties for their families, who lived in the camp all day, as they had for many weeks and months. If they had been sitting in the Public Gallery today, they would have been very proud to see the way in which we conduct ourselves in our debates. While there is a consensus of commitment, we are able openly to debate and discuss the priorities and the way in which we will take this forward.
To refer back to the contribution made by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, we have come some way since those old debates, which were polarised between commercial activity on the one hand and government assistance on the other. Today, however, most of us accept that a combination of both will deal with global inequality and deprivation. I hope that our debate here in the House of Lords has taken that agenda forward into 2015 with some style and quality. I thank noble Lords very much.
UK and Sri Lanka: Bilateral Trade
Question for Short Debate
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to bring this important subject before your Lordships’ House. I have been a friend of Sri Lanka for several years and have visited the country on two recent occasions. I have met and spoken to several Sri Lankan government Ministers in London as well as in Sri Lanka, including the President, Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa. I have previously raised issues relating to Sri Lanka in your Lordships’ House. I am a vice-chairman of the All-Party Group on Sri Lanka, and I have supported the Conservative Friends of Sri Lanka. I have also enjoyed a highly successful relationship with the Sri Lankan high commission here in London, in particular with the former high commissioner, Dr Chris Nonis, who has been an outstanding representative of his country. He elevated the stature of Sri Lanka in the United Kingdom.
The observations I have made throughout this time have reinforced my view that Sri Lanka is, and should be, regarded as one of our most important bilateral trading partners. Trading links between the UK and Sri Lanka date back to colonial times. We introduced commercial plantations to Sri Lanka—first coffee, then tea and rubber. Over the years the Sri Lankan export product base has diversified significantly, most notably with articles of apparel and clothing accessories. The UK has increasingly imported a wide variety of items, including electrical equipment, bicycles, jewellery, ceramics and toys. In return, we export to Sri Lanka items such as iron and steel, machinery, paper, beverages, plastics and pharmaceutical products.
Both our political and economic ties have worn extremely well over the past 200 years. Today, Sri Lanka is a major emerging economy in south Asia. It is a market of over 20 million people, but its geographical location means that it can in fact reach a market of over 1.6 billion people. It also serves as a logistical trading and shipment hub for the region. Over the past decade Sri Lanka’s gross domestic product has grown at an overall rate of 6.4%. It grew by an astonishing 7.2% in 2013. Sri Lanka now has one of the fastest growing economies in the region and is expected to grow by 7.5% this year. The Sri Lankan stock market is on target to finish among the top 10 performing stock markets in the world this year. It now has a GDP per capita of $3,200, and the Sri Lankan Government aim to increase this to $4,000 per capita by 2016. In short, Sri Lanka undoubtedly holds massive potential for UK investors.
We must acknowledge that for nearly three decades Sri Lanka was torn apart by a civil war. Thankfully, that came to an end in 2009. The country has since made significant progress, including meeting many international obligations and engaging with the United Nations on post-conflict matters. A commission was established to strengthen the process of reconciliation and the Sri Lankan Government are currently implementing its recommendations. I have been assured that the Government are committed to the realisation of all human rights to prevent further conflict. I believe that now is the time for any Tamil diaspora which left the country to be encouraged to return and be resettled so that it may once again contribute to the well-being of the country. Sri Lanka’s future is undoubtedly looking bright.
Fortunately, we already have a foothold in the country. We are already one of the top five investors in Sri Lanka. The bilateral trade between the two countries has increased by 70% since the turn of the millennium, and we are its number one EU trading partner. In 2013, UK exports to Sri Lanka were valued at £167 million. It should be noted that the balance of trade has risen significantly in favour of Si Lanka in recent years. In the longer term, we must look to address this imbalance. I would be grateful if my noble friend the Minister could clarify what action is being taken to achieve this.
As important as the volume of trade between the UK and Sri Lanka is the strategic significance of the type of trade. We are one of Sri Lanka’s closest business partners for higher education and professional training as well as for partnerships in the technology sector. These are vital skills that will help Sri Lanka to build and strengthen its economy in the long term and anchor the UK as a key partner in trading. There are already more than 100 British companies with operations in Sri Lanka that cross a wide range of sectors. These include HSBC, GlaxoSmithKline and Rolls-Royce. When I visited Sri Lanka, I was able to visit the Brandix factory near Colombo, which makes garments for Marks & Spencer. I found the operations to be very eco-friendly, with excellent working conditions which were commended by all. I have spoken on this point previously in your Lordships’ House. Sri Lanka also has many of its own home-grown success stories. During my trip, I also visited Millennium Information Technologies, a fast growing Sri Lankan company which was acquired by the London Stock Exchange Group in 2009. Its systems power several stock exchanges and depositories around the world.
Aside from our historical ties and the strong Sri Lankan economy and business base, there are many other reasons for us to promote and further bilateral trade. English is widely spoken across the country, providing many western countries with an easy means of communication with potential workers. The literacy rate in Sri Lanka now stands at about 92%. The commercial law of Sri Lanka is based primarily on the principles of English commercial law and English statutes, offering many companies a legal framework with which they are already familiar. Sri Lanka is the highest rated country in south Asia in the World Bank’s rankings for ease of doing business. Sri Lanka also has free trade agreements in place with India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. These can reduce import tariffs for some goods into those countries and thus help build the Sri Lankan economy further and allow British products to make their way through the supply chain.
Another key consideration is infrastructure. Following the end of the civil war, Sri Lanka is seeing a rapid and wide spread of infrastructure development. Connectivity is being vastly improved through several major road projects linking urban and rural communities. The Government are also improving and upgrading urban infrastructure facilities and basic services in towns and cities.
However, further modernisation is needed and the opportunities for British businesses are vast. The Sri Lankan Government have launched a major infrastructure initiative, entitled Five Hub Programme, which will provide opportunities for us to be involved. There is also an increasing demand for greater expansion in the leisure and tourism sector, including hotels and retail. This is and will continue to be a key growth area for British investors.
Another key area for further investment is education. The Sri Lankan workforce lacks critical job-specific skills, which could serve to undermine both private sector growth and public infrastructure development in the future. We must expand even further our role in providing and investing in higher education and skills training, helping the Sri Lankan workforce to fill the skills gap and become more responsive to the needs of the global market. In particular, I believe we could do more to build university-to-university contacts and become involved in creating colleges of excellence. There are also calls for greater facilitation of business visas for Sri Lankan entrepreneurs to travel to the UK. I hope that our Government will undertake to look at this. I ask my noble friend the Minister whether that can be considered.
Finally, I commend UK Trade & Investment’s recent trade mission to Sri Lanka, which I understand included representatives of 21 British companies. I look forward to learning more about its findings and hope to see more of these delegations in the future.
The future potential for Sri Lanka is huge, but it will be reached only through continued and expanded bilateral trade with countries such as ours.
My Lords, it is a particular pleasure to join this debate and I thank my noble friend for instigating it. I go back 50 years with Sri Lanka, having worked there in 1963 for the Reckitt and Colman Group as a marketing manager, visiting every conceivable market in the year I was there. When I came back, I wrote a pamphlet in 1967 called Helping the Exporter. It even had to have a reprint, although there are not too many copies left nowadays. Before I came to the House I was a director of one of the major advertising agencies specialising in overseas trade, so I think I have a reasonable heritage to comment on trade between two countries.
The first thing I want to say is that Sri Lanka is very relevant to our country. The population is roughly 30% of the size of our own. I will not cover the same areas as my noble friend, but it is right to re-emphasise that growth since peace in 2009 has been roughly between 6.5% and the 8% at which it is currently running. I congratulate Her Majesty’s Government on the trade mission that was put together at the end of November. I think our high commissioner, who I know is on his last few months there, put together a really good programme, and the feedback from the chamber of commerce in Colombo was very positive. Indeed, I shall quote one sentence from the welcome. Thankfully the high commissioner has put “Ayubowan” which is the traditional welcome in Sri Lanka. He says:
“With a Free Trade Agreement with China to be signed shortly adding to the existing FTAs with Pakistan, India, South Asia and Asia Pacific, Sri Lanka could act as a regional hub to over 3 billion potential customers”.
That is what it is all about.
I also inevitably did some research into, for me, a relatively new area, looking in some depth, not at the political scene, which I think I know backwards, but at the trade and commerce side. An excellent article appeared by a man called Jon Springer of Forbes Asia. He picks out a number of key determinants why Sri Lanka has such good opportunities for the UK to export there.
First, he picks out government stability. It is true that in 2009, once peace was there, there was stability on the ground. Added to that, there is now a railway system all the way to Jaffna. There are new roads, both up to Jaffna and down to the south-west. There is electricity, without permanent cuts, which was the situation for many years and certainly when I worked there. There is good electricity on tap. I would call that a rising peace dividend.
My noble friends mentioned the stock market. No wonder Sri Lanka is proud if our stock market is using software from Sri Lanka. I would be jolly proud if that happened. A friend of mine, a Tamil, is a director of one of the major companies, MAS, a major clothing manufacturer exporting all over the world. It exports here to Marks & Spencer and other retailers. I went round not only his factories, but the housing developments for some of their people. They are extremely well done. Yesterday, I went to Human Rights Day in the Foreign Office, where there was talk about the need for the corporate sector to show a proper response to its workers and others for whom it is responsible. In passing, I say to my noble friend that I thought yesterday’s initiative, Human Rights Day, was very good indeed.
John Springer also picked out a comment that I had also seen from Ceylon Asset Management, which, I admit, is at the far end:
“We expect 25% growth in the equity market on average per year for the next five years. If you think about it, that isn’t that much space on 7 to 8% growth in the economy annually. What people don’t realise is that on a per capita basis, Sri Lanka is twice as rich as India”.
I think that is probably blowing a trumpet a bit, but nevertheless, there is positive note there.
Then, of course, next door there is a big brother, but a very much changed big brother. Modi’s India is there with a link for Sri Lanka to be the hub for goods and services on their travels eastward to drop in to the brand new port at Colombo city. There is the additional new port down at Hambantota and the revitalisation of Galle harbour, by kind permission of the Dutch. All that means that this is a real opportunity for growth.
I have been a tourist in Sri Lanka on a number of occasions. I was a tourist in the very early days when if you were on the shore you ate fish curry and if you were up country you ate chicken curry. Today, there are wonderful hotels. I looked at the figures, which are astonishing. This year, it is estimated that there will be 1.6 million tourists and there has been a steady increase in the amount of money that tourists spend.
Sri Lanka is really becoming a middle-income country, although there are obviously poor parts of it; I think I know where they are as well. The real estate market is moving in Colombo and surrounding areas and that is a positive move. Are there risks? Of course, in every commercial world—and I was in it for quite a long time—there are risks. There is one simple thing that Her Majesty’s Government can take on board, which is supported 100%, I am pleased to say, by our high commission. If we want to do more trade with Sri Lanka, we have to speed up the process of issuing visas to those coming on a short-term visit to do business. Although the Foreign Office claims that it is to save money that visas have to be processed in Chennai, that is a nonsense. We even built a building in Colombo to do the processing. It is sitting there idle. What would be the net extra expenditure for a couple of officers to process the proper visas, maybe just for business visitors? That really needs to be looked at. That is my plea to my noble friend on the Front Bench.
There are some other handicaps. I will highlight three. One is the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill going through your Lordships’ House. Parts 7 and 8 and Schedule 3 require that shareholders holding 25% or more, or having some control over a company ownership, have to be kept in a register and that register must be made public. Admittedly, this applies only to UK companies, but I have to tell my noble friend on the Front Bench, as one who has worked and lived in that part of the world, as far as the Middle East and south-east Asia are concerned, nobody wants to have their public or any other public look at a register. That leaves them open to creative journalism and, I am sorry to say, one or two creative NGOs. There is ample provision to check on fraud, money-laundering and other provisions. However, I think my noble friend will have to pass on a message to his noble friends that that will cause a huge problem for trade.
I am sure there are those in the Chamber who wonder why I have not even mentioned politics. I have to mention it on a couple of issues, though. Here in the UK there is a challenge from the part of the Tamil diaspora that just pours out propaganda. I must get one or two things a week, telling me that dreadful things are happening every day, and, more importantly, that Eelam is still on the agenda—that is, the independence of the north and possibly the east. Frankly, that does not help anybody. What I find so disappointing about the Tamil diaspora is that the amount of money and investment that is going into the Jaffna region is so tiny that it is almost embarrassing to record how low it is.
Add to that the news we had yesterday or the day before about torture in Guantanamo Bay. There are allegations of torture in Sri Lanka. On my last visit, I did my level best to check with all the independent authorities whether there was any evidence of torture, particularly the ICRC, which said that there was none. However, we keep getting the odd report, without substantiated evidence, that there is torture. We need to take all those with a pinch of salt.
There are also claims that there is religious intimidation. I say to my noble friend that there is not. There is diversity of faith there. Certainly the Sri Lankan Government are not stirring it up one way or the other. Should we not reflect that mosques were burned down in Luton, Bletchley and Birmingham? We do not know who perpetrated that situation but we know that it is wrong. I believe that the Government in Sri Lanka will be equally keen to find out who is responsible there.
Overhanging it all is the OHCHR situation in Geneva, which, frankly, is not recognised by the Sri Lankan Government. Perhaps more importantly, it is not recognised by a number of Commonwealth countries, including India and Australia. We will have to see how objective it is, but sadly the UN does not have a great history of objectivity in what has happened in Sri Lanka.
I conclude by saying that we have a new high commissioner going from here to Sri Lanka. I hope that he will have really good knowledge of commercial matters and will deal with that with energy. Sri Lanka has a presidential election on 8 January. I do not know who will win; I wish whoever does all possible success. I know those elections, as does the Opposition Whip; I am sure it will be a fair and full election. I thank those who have enabled me to take part in this excellent debate.
My Lords, I start by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, on securing the debate. I thank him and the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, for their speeches. The only regret is that the debate was listed, as it probably had to be, at the end of a long list of debates on the last Thursday sitting before Christmas.
The United Kingdom is proud of being a trading nation. It is important that, in general, the Government encourage and help British exporters. In a former life I was the Minister for DESO, which is now part of UKTI. I hope that I did my bit to assist at home and, especially, abroad. British trade means more economic activity at home; British exports mean more and better jobs for workers in this country. I congratulate the Minister on having one of the best jobs in government.
That is my starting point, but it is always vital to connect the general truth that trade is good with the real world as we find it. Defence exports in particular are, rightly, closely looked at. My first question to the Minister is this: why was more than £8 million-worth of arms—including shotguns, assault rifles and ammunition—granted licences for export to Sri Lanka in the first six months of 2014, as set out in data from BIS, and as reported in the Observer on 8 November? I ask the Minister—if he can help me—what criteria were used in deciding that this was a suitable transaction.
In economic terms Sri Lanka enjoys good annual growth, as we have heard. Since the end of the civil war, by and large trade has increased in both exports and imports between Sri Lanka and both the European Union and the United Kingdom. Of course, I welcome the expansion of trade and welcome the proposals in this debate by the two speakers who have already made their contributions. Obviously, tourism is an immediately attractive product—hardly surprisingly, given the beauty of the country. I can beat the noble Lord, Lord Naseby: I was in Sri Lanka before he ever stepped on to that island. When I was a boy living in Chennai and then Madras, my mother took me to Ceylon, as it was then, before the noble Lord ever went there as a young adult. Of course, those we must be envious of today are those lucky fellow countrymen of ours who were there to see England win the fifth one-day match, held over two days near Kandy. More seriously, it is in other areas of possible trade that, no doubt, progress can be made. The higher education and technology fields, where there seem to be considerable opportunities, are of great interest.
Sri Lanka enjoys preferential access to the EU market under the generalised scheme of preferences. However, the generalised scheme of preferences-plus status was temporarily withdrawn in 2010 and remains withdrawn. As I understand it, 36% of Sri Lanka’s exports go to the European Union: it is its largest market. Why did the withdrawal of the “plus” status happen in the first place, and why does it remain withdrawn today, nearly four and a half years later? The answer of course—although it may be uncomfortable to say so—is in Sri Lanka’s response to the legitimate concerns of the rest of the world about the behaviour of its Government and its military towards minority groups both during and after the end of its terrible civil war. Sri Lanka’s Government—again, I am afraid to say so—appear to have done all within their powers to block any effort to discover what went on and what may still be going on. The frustration of world opinion about this blockage has resulted in the setting up of an inquiry by the United Nations Human Rights Council, instigated by the United Kingdom, among others, under the auspices of OHCHR, which was referred to in passing by the noble Lord, Lord Naseby. The Sri Lankan Government have just gone on blocking: there is no access for the investigative team and a reported threat by the Minister for Mass Media in Sri Lanka that legal action may well be taken against those who testify before the Commission, if they breach the terms of the Sri Lankan constitution. This attitude has led to the respected House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, under all parties and under the chairmanship of a very distinguished Conservative Member of Parliament, to the following conclusion, in paragraph 37 of its recent report:
“Given the time that has passed since the launch of the international inquiry, and the constraints placed on the OHCHR team, we believe that the Government should be ready to consider all possible options, including sanctions, to convince Sri Lanka to allow access. We recommend that the Government negotiates with its EU partners to remove GSP status from Sri Lanka, if the Government of Sri Lanka does not allow the OHCHR investigating team into the country and uphold the right of human right defenders to engage with the UN human rights system”.
What is Her Majesty’s Government’s view on that recommendation? I ask again whether it was wise for a licence to be granted for the arms exports from the United Kingdom in 2014.
We have heard about the presidential elections due on 8 January next, which the world hopes will be fair and, of course, non-violent. However, the Financial Times argued in June that the growing tensions between the Sri Lankan Buddhist majority Singhalese population and the minority Muslim population are likely to affect the country’s business climate. Muslims in Sri Lanka are among that country’s most successful commercial operators; surely it is in Sri Lanka’s economic and human interest to ensure that its minority population is treated with respect and equality. That surely means assisting and not blocking the OHCHR commission, so that if wrong has been done it can be admitted and properly dealt with; and if it has not been done, that can be independently verified. Only in that way can the country move forward. I look forward very much to hearing what the Minister has to say.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Sheikh for initiating this important debate and for his wider contribution to the relationship between Sri Lanka and the UK. I have to admit that I was concerned this morning when I came in and saw the annunciator saying that the final QSD today was on the subject of trade with Syria. It is a relief for all of us that this was incorrect. I also thank the other noble Lords for their contribution to this debate. We may have been lacking something in quantity, but it has been more than made up for in quality. I wish to ask my noble friend Lord Naseby whether he will give me a copy of his guide to exporting. It would be interesting for our team to see what, if anything, has changed since it was written.
Trade is important not only to the prosperity of the UK but to Sri Lanka and its people. However, the UK’s commitment to free trade goes hand in hand with our commitment to human rights. That point has been made volubly. I appreciate that there are divergent views on this issue. Let me set out the Government’s position. The UK co-sponsored the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution in March this year. This resolution requested that Sri Lanka make progress on human rights and reconciliation. As my noble friend Lord Naseby mentioned, it also mandated the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to undertake an investigation into alleged violations of international law by both sides of Sri Lanka’s conflict.
To echo the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Bach, we continue to urge Sri Lanka to co-operate and ensure the protection of those providing evidence to the investigation, and to implement the recommendation of its own internal commission on resettlement and rehabilitation. Sri Lankan presidential elections have been called for next month. We have encouraged the Government of Sri Lanka to invite international observers so that the elections can be fairly assessed. We understand that Sri Lanka’s Election Commission has invited the Commonwealth and the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation to observe. We welcome these moves.
I want to pick up on a couple of points made by the noble Lord, Lord Bach. The first was on the subject of arms. As he will know from his history, the British Government have a rigorous policy of assessing all export licences to each country, including Sri Lanka, very much on a case-by-case basis. We seek not to export equipment where we assess that there is a clear risk that it might be used for internal repression, would provoke or prolong conflict within a country, or would be used aggressively against another country. The equipment concerned included antennae for military transport, carbon fibre tows, some software to do with internet access, and things such as sporting cartridges. On these cases, which we reviewed carefully, we decided that export licences could be granted. It is also something that we will keep under review, as we do with all countries.
The noble Lord, Lord Bach, also raised the recommendations of the Foreign Affairs Committee. The UK Government’s position on this is that it is premature to do anything more prior to the UN reporting on the matter, and we are expecting the UN’s report in March 2015. When we receive it, it will be appropriate for the Government to take a view of which, if any, of those recommendations should be taken up.
I turn to the subject of trade. The UK has strong family, historic, and—particularly today, even if I am a Scotsman—sporting ties. Of course, both countries are members of the Commonwealth. We have a strong commercial relationship. In Colombo, the Council for Business with Britain actually boasts 151 members across a wide range of sectors. Britain is Sri Lanka’s largest export market in the EU and the EU is itself the largest market for Sri Lankan goods. In 2013, bilateral trade was more than £1 billion. While my noble friend Lord Sheikh pointed out that this was weighed heavily in Sri Lanka’s favour, we have started to see some change. Last year, Britain saw an increase of 14% in goods and exports to Sri Lanka. Commercial contracts worth $3 billion to Britain were signed in 2013, as a result of the order by Sri Lankan Airlines for 13 Airbus aircraft with—I am delighted to say—Rolls-Royce engines. There are therefore, in a number of areas, positive signs of improved British performance.
We are Sri Lanka’s leading business partner—as was mentioned by a number of noble Lords—in the field of higher education and professional training. Some 28 British universities offer access to their qualifications through local education providers in Sri Lanka. A further two universities are currently considering establishing their first satellite campuses in Sri Lanka. It also hosts—and this hurts me, as a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants—the largest number of Chartered Institute of Management Accountant members outside of the UK anywhere in the world.
The British Council has been operating in Sri Lanka since 1950. More than 200 staff deliver services across the country, including teaching English to more than 12,000 students a year at the British Council teaching centres. However, there are more opportunities—that has been made very clear by all the speakers in the debate—and more that we can do and are doing to help UK exports. As my noble friends Lord Sheikh and Lord Naseby commented, UKTI held a recent trade mission entitled, “Putting British Business on the Front Foot”. That was just at the end of November. During the three-day event, delegates from 21 British companies met potential Sri Lankan business partners from all parts of the country. They were briefed on new business opportunities and they heard from British companies. It is always very important to hear from British companies actually operating in Sri Lanka so that they understand the position on the ground. UKTI Colombo has already been able to assist with new business worth £15 million as a result of this trade mission and a further £17 million deal is now close to finalisation. In addition, a major British company is now considering entering the Sri Lankan market, and we very much welcome that.
Sri Lanka is actually the highest rated country in south Asia in the World Bank’s ease of doing business index. That is good, but we think that there are opportunities to improve the position still further. It can be done through a number of things. First, there should be a reduction in unnecessary red tape, albeit that that is true across much of the UK and Europe. There could also be improvements to security of contracts, protection from what is apparently arbitrary decision-making, and better transparency and governance. We are encouraging the Government of Sri Lanka to take steps to make it easier for British companies to do business there and to reduce the barriers to foreign investment. We believe that Sri Lanka and Britain can also build further trade relationships through the Commonwealth by utilising the expertise and drive found in organisations such as the new Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, which I am delighted to say is being partially funded by this Government.
The Government will also look to hold further trade missions to Sri Lanka so that companies can understand the scale of the opportunities, as they are indeed immense not only within the country itself, but also as a regional hub. We will encourage exporters to look beyond the standard markets of the EU and the US and try to support them both across the UK through our regional trade advisers and on the ground in Sri Lanka through the high commission and UKTI. Finance and credit insurance are also important issues for exporters, particularly in countries like Sri Lanka. Last year, UK Export Finance provided almost £100 million of support to Sri Lanka. It has the further capacity and desire to support business with Sri Lanka going forward.
My noble friends Lord Sheikh and Lord Naseby raised the perennial issue of visas. While I appreciate that the perception of visas is an issue, some 99% of business visas were issued in under 15 days. For business people coming here, there is also an option for a five-day visa. We will continue to listen as issues arise, but with visas it is always important to separate issues of policy from those of process and perception in order to try to establish what exactly the issue is. However, we absolutely will listen if there are issues on a day-to-day basis going forward.
It is important to make the point that UK companies should not let some of the real difficulties of doing business in Sri Lanka blind them to what are also real opportunities, but they should also not let those opportunities blind them to the difficulties. UKTI is here to help them with both.
In conclusion, the Government want to build an even stronger bilateral trade relationship with Sri Lanka in exports, in imports and in investment. At the same time, we will continue to urge Sri Lanka to make progress on the important matters of human rights and reconciliation. In that way, and together with trade, Sri Lanka can secure long-lasting peace and prosperity for all the people of that country. I know that that is what all noble Lords most definitely wish to see.
Returned from the Commons
The Bill was returned from the Commons with the amendments agreed to.
House adjourned at 6.07 pm.