Thursday 16 November 2017
Question for Short Debate
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what new resources and strategies they will implement to ensure that every child has the opportunity to attend a good school and that all schools are fairly funded, as announced in the Queen’s Speech.
I have met many noble Lords and noble Baronesses in the Corridor who would love to fill these seats, because they were all very excited about the idea of talking about education. Unfortunately, they are not here because they have other things to do. But it is so interesting that everybody, whoever you talk to, is incredibly occupied with our education system. That is because it does not really do very well. It does not reach the parts we expect it to. With a fourth industrial revolution on the way, are we preparing our children and our young for tomorrow, today?
Unfortunately, we are not. The pedagogy offered in schools does not quite fit with the kind of profound shift in thinking necessary to move into this new age. For instance, when Mr Gove was Secretary of State for Education he took a personal dislike and disdain for anybody who studied media studies. Actually, if you go to the City and talk to Schroders and all that, they want people who have picked up those kinds of analytical skills from analysing films and stuff like that. They want people who can imagine a new world in which entertainment and the digital revolution have arrived. People such as Schroders are looking for the opportunity to make money out of the new industrial revolution.
We have this weird world where we are preparing our children for 1972 when we are not in 1972. That is pretty typical of our education system, because when I was at a secondary modern school down the road in Chelsea in the 1950s, they were preparing us ordinary, working-class people who had failed the cherry-picking opportunities presented by the grammar school system, for 1932. They were preparing us back then for work that was gradually disappearing. Margaret Thatcher came along and swept away all these industries, only one of which was post war, which had existed on subsidies—that was the only way they could live—since 1914. So, you had this weird world where our education system never quite fitted in with the occupational requirements of, largely, the uneducated working class, because it was necessary to educate people only to a certain level. Then, it was necessary to hope that some of them would climb on and become managers through cherry-picking.
When the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, raises the question of the fourth industrial revolution, as he did in Oral Questions yesterday, I want to know when we are going to get the intellectual pedagogy that will enable us to embrace the new thinking. Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, there does not seem to be much evidence of that now. I would include the universities in this paucity of new thinking. We need an intellectual revolution now, or sometime. That is my first point.
My second point is on the education system. I am sorry; I have not come here to argue over whether this Government or the next Government or the previous Government are spending the right amount of money. We know darn well—sorry, we know well—that the Treasury will deal only with money and not with the effects of not spending that money. If we do not spend the money at the right time, we have to spend it at the wrong time, when it costs too much. I am an example of one of those who was educated through the present system only because a shedload of money had to be spent later, because it was not spent in the earlier stages of my life.
We know that we are controlled by the Treasury. Perhaps somebody should go along to the Treasury and ask, as the noble Lord, Lord Elton, suggested, if it has worked out the cost of not investing in our prisons and people in poverty. If noble Lords look at the education system they will see that we are failing 37% of our children—one in three. That one in three becomes 80% of the prison population; it becomes people who are caught by mental health problems and all those things. In our local hospitals, lots of people who are depressed are using the A&E department as a place to drop in. A lot of those people will have failed at school—they are part of that 37%.
If noble Lords look at the long-term unemployed they will see that this group is riddled with those who have failed at school. Look at the people on social security, who we pay to go to work—we have to top up their wages with tax credits because they earn £6 an hour. What did they do at school? They did not do very well. I have to say that I cannot get very hyperventilated about the failure of this Government to spend the right amount of money on education, because I know that the last Government failed and that the next Government will fail. I also have to ask: is it not time to alert the world that we need to reinvent the way that we govern, particularly the way that we run the education system? The system needs root-and-branch transformation. We need the intellectual tools to engage in the fourth industrial revolution. At the same time, we must find the methodology and means for a much deeper and more profoundly philosophical move toward education—one that fits the new world we live in.
There is only one way to get a person out of poverty and that is to change their relationship to the market. When you are a person who has no education and, through that lack of education, you also have a problem with how you see yourself in the world and are depressed with those feelings, and when the world looks hostile to you because you have no investment in it, there is only one way—and that is to change your relationship to the market and to ask yourself how you can sell yourself and your skills in the marketplace. This is because in the early stages of their lives such people picked up coping skills and—what is that word?—bounce-back-ability. We need to address those issues.
The reason I came into the House of Lords was to dismantle poverty. I cannot do it on my own. I do not want to be part of a system that is more of the same. I want the House of Lords, the Government and the other place to lead a revolution where we step back and ask what is or is not working. I had a brilliant meeting with the noble Lord, Lord Agnew, yesterday in which he told me about his academies in Norfolk. It was brilliant. All the answers are there. We do not have to reinvent anything, we just have to converge the energies created by all the best things. I am now going to sit down. Thank you and God bless you all.
I have to use a board like this because I suffer from something called an essential tremor. It is very irritating because nothing could be less essential. Anyway, that is why I am using it. I am not shaking in terror. I just have a tremor.
Access to good schools is a goal shared fiercely by all our political parties and indeed the entire population, because it is axiomatic that good schools are the foundation of professional and personal satisfaction in later life. As a part of that, they are also actuators of social mobility; and as we all know, social mobility is the essential adjunct to a free market economy. It is the shared sense of the possible that allows us to live together in peace. While some may jib at the concept of the free market, for most of us it has been the greatest force for social change and improvement in living conditions for the working class since history began. But the question is, are our schools good enough to qualify as “good”?
Certainly over the past 50 years various fashions in teaching have intermittently impeded progress. Unusually, perhaps, for someone of my age, I spent a year in a mixed-ability class when Ampleforth decided to explore this area in the 1960s. It is an idea still much praised by theoreticians but never, in my experience, by anyone who has suffered through it. For me, it was the worst year of my youth—with the able pupils bored to death and the less gifted academically struggling—until finally, in a fit of abject misery, I ran away from school and was only apprehended by the police in Grantham, a town I later gave a measure of fame to in the series “Downtown Abbey”.
There is little point in denying that our social mobility was dealt a considerable blow by the condemnation of the grammar schools by Tony Crosland. Those schools did provide a ladder for the talented which has never been effectively replaced. Alan Johnson made the telling comment that his journey from a council estate to the Cabinet by the age of 54 was no longer possible in modern Britain. No doubt David Davis would say much the same. But I am not a fan of the grammar school system. Much of what it offered may have been good, but not the junking of millions of young lives in the process. Personally, I would have abolished the secondary moderns and put all children into grammars, with a setting system to allow them to develop at different speeds so that they might grow up together and no one need suffer the stigma of attending the “stupid school”.
But since the reduction of grammar schools, various Governments have tried everything in their power to re-create ladders and, more than that, to find different ways for children to get in touch with their own gifts and progress their lives. What interests me is how similar their efforts have been. For example, New Vocationalism and the youth opportunities programme, both initiated by the Labour Government of James Callaghan, were vastly expanded under Margaret Thatcher, eventually becoming the youth training scheme. This was in tandem with the changes introduced in the Education Reform Act 1988, bringing the national curriculum, formula funding, and grant-maintained schools with, all the while, extra money being found for apprenticeships based on frameworks devised by the sector skills councils.
Labour came to power in 1997 with the mantra of “Education, Education, Education”, and introduced many similar measures, creating specialist schools with a rather Conservative emphasis on achievement. The beacon schools programme was to identify high performance; a new grade of advanced skills teaching was introduced, and so were city academies, with education action zones designed to encourage a forum of people to drive up the standards of the schools in their area. The education maintenance allowance was to pay young people to stay in school long enough to gain A-levels and a performance threshold arrived, rewarding teachers with higher pay for the standard of their pupils’ attainments. David Cameron’s Government continued in exactly the same vein: the Academies Act 2010 and the Education Act 2011 both concentrated on driving up standards, while the Education and Skills Act 2008 kept students in school for longer.
And yet here’s the rub—in the international league tables, recorded in 2015 and published in 2017, the United Kingdom ranked 27th for maths and 22nd for reading. Overall we are 15th, behind Estonia, Finland, Vietnam and Korea, not that I have anything against any of those places. Scotland, which once had an educational system that was the envy of Europe, is doing even worse than England.
As for the whole issue of the public schools, we seem to suffer from a kind of schizophrenia when dealing with them. In one way they are an unreasonable privilege, but then again, nothing can be worse than to be the product of a private school. We are told that no pupil there can have any understanding of normal life or normal values. A statement made by the present Government cheerfully asserts that there are now few reasons for preferring private education. I would like to believe that all this is true, but the fact remains that a recent study by researchers at Durham University found that the “private school effect” was evident in every subject at GCSE and that private pupils out- performed their state-schooled counterparts at each stage of assessment at the ages of four, nine, 11 and 16.
The truth is that this country offers a choice of state-funded and privately funded education, as does more or less every other country in the developed world. Would it not be better to find a way for every child to benefit from the advantages these schools have to offer? The Labour Government abolished the assisted places scheme, and maybe they were right to do so, but there must be a way to stimulate co-operation instead of hostility between the systems: in teaching, the use of facilities, voluntary activities, drama, art, debating and sport, not only for the academic advantage that this would bring, but for the social benefits of allowing children to mix freely and get to know those who have grown up in different spheres. In short, would not co-operation be a more productive, more attractive and more adult option?
What seems clear to me from all this is that the political parties have a great deal in common when it comes to educational reform. Neither has been anxious, at least until recently, to revive the unforgiving Rubicon of the 11-plus, but both have sought to compensate for the opportunities that have been lost with the grammar schools. Both parties have taken steps not only to improve vocational training, but also to improve the standards of academic achievement available to the state-educated child. If I were to generalise, it would appear that the emphasis in Conservative policy has been to provide the opportunity for excellence while the chief goal of Labour Governments has been social justice.
But these are both noble aims, both worthy and honourable goals for the good of the country at large, which begs the question: why can the parties not collaborate in this all-important area? Is it really impossible that a group of sentient men and women whose ambitions in education often seem harmonious and even interchangeable, are incapable of working together to find solutions to the issues that are driving down our standards and holding us back in the international league tables? What could be more inspiring for children to witness than for them to see that when it comes to educating the next generation, we really are capable, for once, of pulling together as a nation?
Follow that! My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for having made this debate possible and for providing the opportunity for us to focus not only on a fair distribution of funding for our schools and the children in their care but on fair access to good teaching in good and imaginative schools.
The Church has, down the centuries, provided a constant yet adaptable force in education. The Church of England recently produced a new vision for education, two pillars of which are dignity and hope. As the ultimate aim of our schools is to promote human flourishing, we are particularly concerned—particularly in our emphasis on supporting schools in areas of disadvantage—to enable every child to fulfil his or her aspirations, and indeed to be given the opportunity to have any aspirations in the first place.
While a “good school” can be defined to a certain extent by its Ofsted results, schools must remember to embrace excellence and academic rigour within a wider framework. A good school must educate the whole person so that one day our school pupils will become successful members of our society as adults in their roles as citizens, neighbours, parents and people committed to the public good, as well as those who are called to be economically productive. One way in which this access to equal education is to be served better than it is at the moment is by thinking about how we allow children and young people to access technical education alongside academic prowess. In the diocese of Ely, we have won a new secondary school where academic and technical education will be provided in parallel on the same campus alongside a special school.
Fundamentally, however, we must seek out areas where there is particular disadvantage and strive to bring children living in these places on to an equal footing with their more advantaged counterparts. The Secretary of State has effectively identified parts of the country where we need focus and change through the means of education. One of these “opportunity areas” happens to be Fenland in east Cambridgeshire in my diocese of Ely. Along with our local MPs, the Church is keen to engage further with the initiative to support local communities and as a means of improving attainment and aspiration in the area. I look forward to seeing how all the elements, such as the life skills programme and work experience opportunities, tie together to ensure that every child receives the best education possible. As these new resources and strategies continue to be developed, we must also ensure that education is funded with future economic and industrial needs in mind, as the noble Lord, Lord Bird, has already said.
In the same vein, I hope that the national funding formula, announced in September, will go some way to ensuring that schools receive what they need in order to cater for the local demographic. Indeed, the formula has resulted in more funding for each of the schools in the diocese of Ely, although there is a slight concern that, due to the increase in pension payments for teaching and non-teaching staff, over 40% of the extra proceeds will go towards addressing funding concerns in the pension schemes as opposed to flowing through to the front line. As such, I emphasise the importance of resources and strategies that allow funding to go directly to solving the issues which the Secretary of State herself has identified.
In the light of what the noble Lord, Lord Bird, said about pedagogy, it is very important that we train our teachers to prepare their pupils for a very different future, and this requires both rigour and imagination. However, I would still like to stick up for our teaching profession and for the imagination and commitment they apply to their vocation. I particularly pay tribute to teachers who commit themselves to working in very difficult schools where there is acute disadvantage and problems with discipline and even violence. These teachers persist in their vocation for the sake of the children and with a vision for the future which those children might have.
To go back to 1811, which is even further back than 1972, this ties in with Joshua Watson, who founded the national society which I now chair. The aim, long before state education was conceived, was to give the poorest children access to education to enable them to flourish, and ultimately to give them worth as citizens.
New resources, strategies and fair funding for school education are components of a much larger drive to improve social mobility. One of the most important things about social mobility is that it is not conceived simply as moving to London. We need to equip and empower young people, through a variety of points of access to education, to be contributors with vigour and energy in the places where they already live, so that those places are also regenerated. By supporting the most disadvantaged children at the earliest stages, we can help to build character and in turn produce generous and adaptable contributors to their communities and to wider society, whatever economic and industrial developments the future may bring.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for initiating this debate and introducing it in his inimitable way. What a wonderful addition he is to your Lordships’ House.
First, we must address the discrepancy between the concepts of fairer funding and sufficient funding. It can only be through sufficient funding that we can hope to ensure for our children the opportunities to attend good schools. Under the fairer funding formula announced by the Government, historic inconsistencies in funding allocations across schools and regions are to be addressed—funding will be more transparent. This sounds fair and, while widely welcomed, it is ensuring a sufficient level of funding for schools and mitigating the damaging consequences of historic funding insufficiencies, which may be the legacy of this Government.
While some schools may benefit from the new formula and see their funding per pupil increase, others will undeniably see their funding per pupil cut—I have seen this in my own area of Cheltenham. Since 2015, those schools have also faced historic budget cuts, with figures reported to be £2.8 billion. This has been in part due to budget freezes as well as increases to national insurance and teachers’ pensions contributions, the national living wage, the pressures of annual pay rises, the impact of inflation and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy. Therefore, there are schools that, on the back of hard-felt cuts since 2015, are facing more cuts still. Although the Government have promised to plug the interim gap with transitional funding, head teachers expecting cuts are anxious about the impact they will feel when this protection barrier is set to run out in April 2020.
This is an intensely nerve-racking time for the teaching profession. The announcement of an extra £1.3 billion for the core school and high-needs budget across 2018-19 and 2019-20 has been declared by heads as insufficient in the face of future and historic losses. Steadily, many schools have reported the long-lasting impact of historic and impending cuts: a narrowing curriculum in which the arts are sidelined; less funding for extracurricular pursuits; non-specialist teachers forced to deliver lessons in core subjects; budget cuts for resources and teacher career progression; inability to replace staff who have left; ever-rising class and tutor-group sizes; inability to offer careers advisers and counsellors; and a reduction in numbers of staff, especially support staff. Teachers are under immense pressure not just to maintain standards but to significantly improve them against tougher assessment criteria, with less and less resource to do so.
The Government, of course, maintain laudable aims. In his Statement in July 2017 on the schools update, the noble Lord, Lord Nash, said that the Government want to give all children an,
“education that unlocks their potential and allows them to go as far as their talent and hard work will take them”.—[Official Report, 17/7/17; col. 1429.]
As the catalyst for social mobility that this Government desire, it is long-term security, rather than short-term fixes, that is needed. To unlock a child’s potential and to enable social mobility what is needed is: manageable class sizes; excellent teaching staff who are trained in their subject area and given the resources to inspire and engage; consistency in teaching staff; a vibrant and innovative curriculum that meets the needs of individuals and is not squeezed by the external pressure of fitting what best aligns with national measurements; an enriching extracurricular programme and access to opportunities outside the school environment; excellent careers and post-16 study advice provision that, when offered early on, instils a sense of determination and drive; superb pastoral and emotional support and access to an in-house counsellor, to avoid the NHS waiting lists; and, of course, a well-resourced school library and ICT provision.
All of these aspects have been, and continue to be, threatened in schools across our country that will not benefit under the fair funding formula. This situation cannot improve unless historic cuts are reversed and future insecurities addressed. The aims of the DfE and the Government are indeed worthy, but the question remains at the bottom line of this debate: can fairer funding also mean sufficient funding?
The Conservative manifesto promised an extra £4 billion in the schools budget by 2022. It seems that this promise is being broken. Only £1.3 billion has been provided so far and none of it is new money. The NAO estimated last year that it would cost £6.7 billion to return all school buildings to a satisfactory condition. The Government, however, are cutting £420 million from the capital budget, partly to fund this new core spending commitment.
My party, the Liberal Democrats, wants to protect per pupil funding in real terms; that must involve new money from the Treasury. Our party’s election manifesto also included calls for additional capital investment in schools to support capacity increases and modernisation.
So here are a few questions for the Minister. In view of the National Audit Office estimate of £6.7 billion to return all school buildings to a satisfactory condition, why are the Government, instead of finding new money from the Treasury, cutting the capital budget to fund this new core budget spending commitment? The Government have ended the pay cap by awarding police and prison officers pay rises of above 1%. Will they now look again at giving teachers a pay rise above 1% too, with the Secretary of State increasing the schools budget accordingly?
The Government have abolished plans to make private schools help neighbouring state schools or lose their charitable status. This comes at a time when many state schools are increasingly unable to afford building repairs and are forced to cut back on resources for their students. Will the Government reconsider these plans?
What impact on children’s health do the Government believe funding the core schools budget by cutting capital funding for PE facilities will have, particularly when childhood obesity rates are continuing to rise?
Per pupil funding for 16 to 19 year-olds in sixth forms and FE colleges has been frozen since the 2015 Spending Review. Now that the Government are pledging that per pupil funding for school pupils will increase with inflation, will this be extended to 16 to 19 year-olds?
Education is about empowering each individual. Schools should be about encouraging each young person to discover something they like—something they can become good at and maybe make a career out of. That is the way to give each individual some self-esteem: to feel good about themselves. I am reminded of the young mother who was concerned that her 10 year-old daughter was not making sufficient progress with maths and English. She went to see the class teacher to explain her worries. The teacher told the girl he was going to show her mother something for a few minutes. The teacher and the mother left the room, but as he left the teacher turned on the radio. He then turned and asked the mother to look through the little glass window in the classroom door. She saw her daughter dancing to the music on the radio. The teacher explained that she was a dancer—perhaps she was not the greatest academic in the world, but she liked dancing. He suggested dancing lessons. That young girl turned into one of the most successful choreographers ever to work in the West End.
A good school is one which enables each child to make that kind of discovery. Thank goodness for the wisdom and vision of that teacher. At the end of the day any school is only as good as its staff. We should treasure them and make them feel valued.
My Lords, I too join in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Bird, on securing this important debate and for focusing on a topic that has been a major concern to anyone with an interest in school education for quite some time now.
A major factor that swayed the way in which many people voted in the general election earlier this year was school funding. At the start of the campaign in April, polling showed that education was the fifth most important issue when people in England were deciding how to vote. By election day, following the campaign work of the Labour Party, the Lib Dems, the Greens and the education trade unions, which produced much positive media coverage, education had risen to be the third most important issue in the minds of voters. I like to think that was in part due to the Labour Party’s manifesto commitment to not just reversing the cuts of the past seven years but properly funding schools in the years ahead. The election outcome meant that a Government shorn of their majority had to confront the force of that argument. Pressure from many of their own MPs led to the announcement by the Secretary of State in July of an additional £1.3 billion, to be redirected within the DfE’s budget for schools for the two years from April next year.
However, the real-terms cuts that I mentioned schools have suffered since 2010 are not being reversed. Far from it because, as the noble Lord, Lord Jones, has just said, there is not a penny of new money being allocated. There has been a tacit acceptance that the current funding settlement is insufficient, which is of course welcome, although that leaves much pain still to be suffered by schools. That is not just a party-political point because the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that all the £1.3 billion will do is reduce what would have been a 6.5% real-terms cut between now and 2020 to one of 4.6%. The National Audit Office and the Education Policy Institute have produced similar figures.
Despite an £8.4 billion DfE underspend in 2016-17 the Government still defend their projected funding levels, saying that more resources than ever are going into schools. But that is a meaningless soundbite; of course more than ever is being spent, because there are more pupils than ever. What matters is the funding per pupil. In her Statements in July and September, the Secretary of State said that the new version of the formula was about fairness. How can funding ever be fair if it is not sufficient? It needs to be emphasised that the Government are not ensuring that all schools are fairly funded, as 88% of schools are facing real-terms budget cuts per pupil between 2015-16 and 2019-20. On average, this equates to £52,500 in cuts to primary schools and £178,000 in cuts to secondary schools.
I had intended asking the Minister for some additional information on the thus far unidentified sources of the £1.3 billion announced as additional investment by the Secretary of State in July. But I will leave that for now because the last two days have graphically demonstrated that the Government’s rose-tinted view of the future funding of our schools is not shared by others. On Tuesday, a delegation of school leaders delivered a letter to the Prime Minister seeking a radical rethink on school funding. On the same day, in her role as chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier MP sent a strongly worded four-page letter to Jonathan Slater, Permanent Secretary at the DfE. She pulled few punches in deconstructing his defence of the national funding formula. I will select from her comments to give a flavour of the committee’s very real concerns.
In response to the additional £1.3 billion being allocated over the next two years, Ms Hiller said:
“We pointed out that this additional funding when balanced against £3 billion of efficiency savings the Department expects to be delivered by 2019-20 was not a net gain for schools”.
This puts the additional funding in perspective because it means that £1.7 billion is required merely to stand still. Ms Hillier also queried whether the DfE has plans and the capacity to help schools which cannot meet efficiency targets, saying that the Public Accounts Committee was,
“hearing of schools restricting their curricula and teaching hours”,
which of course is not by any description efficiency savings. The Public Accounts Committee’s concerns were summarised by Ms Hillier stating bluntly:
“We remain concerned about the support the department and the ESFA can realistically provide to schools whose budgets cannot stand up to the savings demanded of them”.
Of course, I am sure that I do not need to state to noble Lords that that is a cross-party committee.
The case was further enhanced yesterday with the shocking news from the Prime Minister’s own constituency of a school writing to parents asking for a daily donation of £1 per day to help pay for teaching materials, including books. The head teacher’s letter says that,
“we would like to suggest that parents donate £1 per school day for each child to help the schools through this funding crisis. This equates to £190 per year”.
The head teacher received a response from the Schools Minister, Nick Gibb MP, although it sounded more like a rebuke. We know that Mr Gibb is prone to get rather tetchy on the subject of school funding. Just two weeks ago, he had to be restrained at the end of a debate on school funding in Westminster Hall, when he aimed a tirade at my colleague and shadow Schools Minister, Mike Kane MP. His response to the head teacher’s letter was that the school in question, Robert Piggott Church of England school in Wargrave, Berkshire, would receive around £10,000 a year extra in 2018 under the new funding formula. The parents of children at the school probably chorused in unison, “Big deal!”, because that will go only a fraction of the way towards meeting the shortfall that the head teacher is trying to make up. Robert Piggott school has 311 pupils; if the parents of each were able to pay the annual £190, it would produce a figure in excess of £60,000, which is very close to the average figure that I mentioned earlier. Yet Mr Gibb expects them to be able to make do with a paltry £10,000 extra. What world does he live in? The whole affair was put into sharp context by one parent, who said:
“I've got two children at the school so that’s around £400 a year, but my salary hasn’t gone up to cover that”.
Nor is that an isolated case—would that it were. The Minister will have seen what I thought was a worrying, even depressing, report in the Times Educational Supplement last week. It concerned a survey carried out for the Academies Show by an independent research consultant which showed that nine in 10 school leaders expect their school’s finances to get worse over the next two years, despite the new funding announced, and almost half of school leaders think the quality of education in England will decline during the next four years.
These are the men and women in the top positions, intimately involved day to day in running our schools. It is not just head teachers but chief executives, business managers and vice-principals. They are the experts; they know the situation on the ground far better than anyone—with all due to respect to those in the Box—sitting in the DfE’s Great Smith Street offices. When school leaders speak, they do so with authority and the Government should listen. I hope they will.
Another body that the Government should listen to is the Local Government Association. Again, that is not a partisan body, unless you regard wanting to defend services for local communities as partisan. Noble Lords will have received a chilling briefing for this debate from London Councils, the local government association for the capital. The proposed national funding formula allocations would mean only 27% of London schools receiving funding that adequately meets the cost pressures they are facing, compared to 56% in the rest of England. London Councils’ analysis of the provisional allocations show that London’s schools will receive a significantly lower proportion of the new money than any other region in the country. Fourteen London boroughs will see more than 90% of their schools receive just the floor of 0.5% per pupil in 2018-19.
Local authorities should be seen by the DfE as improvement partners in ensuring that every child has access to a place in a good school. Research undertaken on behalf of the Local Government Association highlights the strong role of councils in providing good school places, with 91% of maintained schools rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted compared with 85% of academies and 84% of free schools. In case the Minister or his officials deem the research—which was undertaken by independent education consultants called Angel Solutions—biased, it should be noted that they used Ofsted’s methodology and published data to assess the performance of both maintained schools and academies.
With next week’s Budget Statement in mind, I hope that the Secretary of State has impressed on the Chancellor the need to allocate new money for the education budget in general. Can the Minister reveal to noble Lords whether the Secretary of State has specifically asked for new money for schools funding? This is more than justified in order to take account of the fact that impartial organisations such as the National Audit Office and the Institute for Fiscal Studies have highlighted the need for at least £2 billion more each year just to maintain funding in real terms in the face of inflation, additional costs such as national insurance contributions and staff pensions, plus the apprenticeship levy—which is another issue that should not even apply to schools—and of course rising pupil numbers.
The Minister comes into government with a clear understanding of how the Department for Education works, having been an executive board member, and of the need for real-terms increased school funding, not just recycled resources, having established and chaired a multi-academy trust. He needs to fuse those two and ensure that he fights education’s corner to end the constant uphill struggle being faced by our underfunded state schools.
My Lords, I am pleased to answer this Question for Short Debate, and thank the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for initiating it. We want fair access to a good school place for every pupil, regardless of their background. Over the past seven years, we have made significant progress: more schools than ever are rated good or outstanding and, since 2011, the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils has decreased by approximately 7%. However, that progress has been made against a backdrop of unfair and arbitrary funding which has, for too long, acted as a brake on the progress. That is why we are delivering on our promise to reform the unfair and opaque school and high-needs funding systems.
At the heart of the Government’s ambition to provide good school places is the aim to drive up social mobility, as referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Fellowes and Lord Bird. This is the route out of poverty. We want to lift up those areas that have historically been left behind and ensure that pupils can reach their full potential. Beyond the core schools budget and the national funding formula, the Government will invest a total of £72 million in 12 opportunity areas over the next three years. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely recognises the importance of helping some of the most disadvantaged areas in the country, which is what we are trying to do. Opportunity areas will also receive a share of the £75 million teaching and leadership innovation fund to support high-quality professional development for teachers and leaders, and a share of the £280 million strategic school improvement fund for schools most in need of support.
The noble Lord, Lord Bird, refers to the dismantling of poverty. We recognise the impact that living in poverty has on a child’s start in life and that education plays a key role in ensuring that every child can access the same opportunities. That is why this Government are focused on tackling the root causes of poverty by building a strong economy and getting people into work. The noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, used a term for which I am grateful, saying that education is an actuator of social mobility. That is better written than what I have written down here—I could not agree more. That is why we are dramatically increasing access to childcare at the early stages of a child’s life and driving higher standards in further and technical education at the other end of childhood.
The noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, also refers to technical education. We know that education goes beyond our schools. Post-16 education plays a crucial part in supporting future economic growth. We will protect the national base rate of £4,000 per student for the duration of the Parliament, and have announced an additional investment in technical education rising to a further £500 million. In October, we set out our plans on how we will implement T-levels, the 15 new technical education routes to skilled employment for 16 to 19 year-olds. These reforms will build on the changes already made to secure a streamlined and sustainable technical education system which, importantly, is supported by employers.
The noble Lord, Lord Jones, and the right reverend Prelate referred to fair funding. As announced in the Queen’s Speech, the Government have recently responded to the consultation on the national funding formula. This represents the biggest improvement to our system for funding schools in over a decade. Together with the additional £1.3 billion of schools revenue funding across the next two years, announced in July, this will help to ensure that schools get the resources needed. To address the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Watson, the new formula will allocate a cash increase of at least 1% per pupil to every school by 2019-20, with higher gains for some of the underfunded schools.
We recently published full details of both the school and high-needs national funding formulae, and the impact that they will have for every local authority. This includes notional school-level allocations, showing what each school would attract through the formula. I can send the link to the noble Lord, Lord Jones, if he would like more information on that.
Responses to our consultation stressed the importance of funding for children with additional needs, such as those suffering deprivation and low prior attainment. Nationally, the formula will allocate £5.9 billion in additional needs funding, with a further £2.5 billion delivered through the pupil premium, which was introduced in 2011. The intention of the pupil premium was to encourage schools to recruit pupils from less well-off backgrounds and to then create an added-value learning environment for less advantaged pupils to benefit from.
The noble Lords, Lord Watson and Lord Jones, referred to proper funding. The department has been working hard to identify efficiency savings, which will ultimately result in the £1.3 billion cash boost for schools. Making savings and efficiencies allows us to maximise the funding directly allocated to head teachers. I hope that that goes some way towards addressing the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Watson. The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has confirmed that the additional investment of £1.3 billion will mean that funding per pupil across the country is maintained in real terms over the next two years. I know that it is unfashionable to say it but the IFS has also shown that per pupil spending in schools in 2020 is set to be at least 70% higher in real terms than it was in 1990.
To remain slightly unfashionable, we have to look at school efficiencies. We are clear that overall funding for schools and the distribution of that funding is important, but how the funding is used in practice is also vital. School efficiency must start with, and be led by, schools and school leaders. The department will continue to provide practical support, deals and tools. For example, the risk protection arrangement has already saved over £150 million as of August this year.
I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Watson, about remoteness in the department compared with the front line. I have come from the front line. I know that it is difficult but I will bring the expertise that I have gained on the front line to help the department to do more.
The noble Lord also asked whether we have identified the savings. I think that noble Lords are probably aware of most of them, but we will save £420 million on the department’s capital budget, which includes £315 million from the healthy pupils capital funding. We will also save £280 million on the free schools programme and £600 million from the Department for Education’s resource budget.
With respect, those are the figures that were given by the Secretary of State in July. I was asking for some of the gaps to be filled in. We knew that much; I was asking about the shortfall between those accumulated figures and the £1.3 billion.
I will write to the noble Lord after the debate.
The noble Lord, Lord Jones, raised the issue of capital funding. Between 2010 and 2016, we invested over £28 billion in schools capital programmes, including £6 billion on basic need, £8 billion on condition and £1.4 billion on the priority schools building programme, dealing with some of the oldest schools on the estate. Since then, the Government have committed to invest over £23 billion in the school estate between 2016-17 and 2020-21.
The noble Lords, Lord Jones and Lord Fellowes, asked about our relationship with independent schools. We know that different parts of our education system can work in partnership to help deliver more good school places. We are close to reaching an agreement with the Independent Schools Council on what we can expect independent schools to do and how we can help them overcome the barriers that can get in the way of cross-sector working.
The noble Lord, Lord Jones, raised the issue of teacher pay. Of course, we recognise that good schools are about good teaching as well as fair and proper funding. Decisions about teachers’ pay are based on recommendations from the independent School Teachers’ Review Body, and last year we accepted the recommendation of a 2% rise to the main pay range for teachers.
The noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, talked about cross-party collaboration. I certainly give credit to the previous Labour Government for the initiation of the academies programme, which is something that we have tried to build on, and for the London Challenge. I think that we agree on much. I accept that we will agree on some things but it is clear to me that we have things to learn from one another.
The noble Lord, Lord Bird, raised the question of pedagogy and the relevance of the existing curriculum for the modern world; the fourth industrial revolution, as he described it. We are making progress, certainly in two areas. Take maths, which is an essential underpinning if one hopes to go into any technology-based career. In 2010, only 22% of children in the state system were studying maths at GCSE, and that has increased to 38%. We also now have 62,000 pupils entering computer science GCSE, which has gone up year on year.
I again thank noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. Many important points have been raised and I will write to address those that I have not had the time to respond to fully. I want to emphasise that for this Government social mobility and good education are high priorities. I met the noble Lord, Lord Bird, yesterday and he said that he sees the approach to poverty as being based on four categories: prevention, emergency, coping and care. His assertion is that not enough emphasis is placed on prevention. I wholeheartedly agree with him and believe that education is the best form of effective prevention against the mire of poverty.
I warmly congratulate the Minister on his appointment. Is he aware that in Blackpool, one of the opportunity areas to which he referred, there is a pupil referral unit with almost 400 pupils? That is by far the largest concentration of excluded pupils in any pupil referral unit in the country. Does he agree that this is a social crisis? Would he be happy to meet me to discuss how this urgent situation can be addressed?
I would be delighted to meet the noble Lord to discuss the matter further.
Question for Short Debate
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are their plans for future farm support.
My Lords, I welcome this opportunity to pay tribute to those who till the land and battle the elements to put food on our tables. I refer noble Lords to my entry in the register of interests. I have the honour of chairing the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee in the other place and, as well as being an MEP, I practised European law in Brussels.
In preparation for the debate, I have consulted widely with farm organisations, other NGOs and environmental groups. I thank them for all they do to support farmers in the rural community. The hills are alive with the sight of lambs and calves, sheep and cattle, many of which are tended by tenant farmers, some on common land. They lie at the heart of the rural economy yet they face many challenges, not least the weather and a lack of good broadband access. Market towns and rural communities thrive when farmers prosper, yet farming confidence has fallen in the past two years. European Union membership currently provides a market of 505 million consumers as well as support for British farmers. The UK exported more than £13 billion-worth of food and non-alcoholic drinks in 2016, 71% of which went to the EU and 28% to non-EU countries. Farming is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, generating £109 billion in value for the UK economy, while our farmers maintain over 70% of the UK land mass.
Support for farmers currently takes the form of direct farm payments and environmental stewardship schemes. Brexit means changes on a scale we have not seen for over 40 years. There could arguably be put forward a scheme similar to that of deficiency payments which existed before 1973. Alternatively, the Government could look to loosen the link between support and food production, and reward farmers for environmental schemes that benefit the local community such as planting trees, temporarily storing water on their land or improving the natural habitat and soil.
I took the title of Pickering not least because Pickering’s “Slow the Flow” scheme could be the model for such schemes providing public good. Work is ongoing to set a price on certain activities by recognising and putting a value on the natural capital of the countryside. I welcome my noble friend the Minister to his place and I look forward to his summing up. I ask him that when the natural capital may eventually lead to payments for ecosystem services, that those will have been properly tried, tested and piloted before being rolled out. What is certain, and I am sure that my noble friend will agree, is that hill farmers and others farming in the uplands and less favoured areas will continue to need support or to be encouraged to produce more food to stimulate greater consumption at home, substituting imports where possible.
Currently, the UK has a negative agri-food trade balance of £22.4 billion and is a net importer of food. Surely the emphasis must be on greater self-sufficiency at home and generating more exports as well as food security. Going forward, a key factor will be continuing to have access to a regular supply of EU workers post Brexit. In terms of the sustainability of food production at home, we must ensure that a large raft of land will not be lost to a massive housebuilding programme, thus taking it out of food production.
The most obvious support is cost free: boosting trade and learning from our near neighbours how to export more. Denmark, with a population of under 6 million, has an export level far higher than ours and has long been exporting to emerging markets such as China, which we are only beginning to enter seriously now. We can also learn from the Danish Co-operative Movements, specifically Arla and other such models. I pay tribute to the role of the agricultural attaché working out of Beijing, which has substantially boosted exports of food to China. I am delighted to be associated with the export from Malton of pigs’ trotters and other pig parts which we do not currently enjoy in this country, but are a major delicacy in China.
Live animal exports are important to north Yorkshire and elsewhere, contributing significantly to the local economy and ensuring vibrant futures and steady incomes for hill farmers, yet the agriculture Secretary has stated that he wants to ban the export of live animals. These exports are currently small in number and highly regulated compared with the trade in carcasses. Lambs from north Yorkshire and other upland areas are fattened and finished in France every spring. Around 70% of UK pigmeat exports go to the EU. These are predominantly cull sow carcasses as there is no market for them in the UK. World Trade Organization tariffs would render such exports unviable, so the prospect of no deal Brexit would leave pig producers and others very exposed to being treated like any other third country as exporters to the EU.
The ability to move fresh produce unhindered across European borders after Brexit is essential to prevent the loss of perishable goods because of hold-ups at customs, but regulations have yet to be put in place to ensure that imports meet our high animal health and welfare standards. Increased prices of imported machinery and tariffs on pork imports could jeopardise the sale of pork. Post-Brexit there will also be a need to ensure that animals can travel to other EU countries for breeding, horse-racing and other purposes—not to forget pets, which currently benefit from pet passports.
Today’s debate will give the Minister the opportunity to update noble Lords on the Government’s current thinking on future farm support, their policy on live animal exports, and specifically the status of the tripartite agreement between Britain, France and Ireland for racing purposes. The lead-in time for farm products, including livestock, cereals and dairy, is a minimum of 12 to 18 months. Decisions for 2019, therefore, must be made by March 2018 at the latest. The Grocery Code Adjudicator must be given more powers to investigate breaches in the supply chain before we reach Brexit and should apply to the indirect as well as the direct supply chain, such as dairy. After Brexit, I hope that the Secretary for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, who is rightly committed to maintaining our high levels of animal health and welfare standards when we leave the EU, will ensure that these measures are not entered into unilaterally but in step with other producer countries. It is also hoped that the farm-assured Red Tractor scheme should also apply to all food sold in the UK and that food sold through retailers here should carry mandatory country-of-origin labelling.
We must learn from the sow stall and tether ban in the 1990s when, regrettably, the UK unilaterally imposed tough new production standards on home pig producers yet allowed imports from other countries producing pigs to lower welfare standards. As a result, more than half of UK pig producers went out of business. Equally, post-Brexit imports under new trade deals must also meet high British standards of animal health and welfare. There should be no place for substandard imported poultry from Brazil or chicken and beef from the USA and elsewhere. Alternatives to securing more exports are challenging in different ways. I believe that it was a mistake to drop the idea of remaining in the single market and customs union before starting negotiations. The 40-plus existing free trade agreements that we currently enjoy through membership of the EU will no longer apply to the UK post-Brexit. New agreements to replace them will take years to negotiate.
Farmers are looking to export to new markets outside the EU free trade agreements through relationships with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries and with new countries such as Vietnam. These markets, however, do not compare in size with the current EU market of 505 million consumers. The World Trade Organization’s most-favoured nation arrangement would be dire for farmers. In any event, the principle of applying equivalent standards must remain. There must be arrangements for new entrants and the trading arrangement with the UK must become apparent now.
In conclusion, any new arrangement must be based on equivalence and reciprocity, and we must know, in the event of disputes—I hope the Minister will explain this today—what the dispute resolution mechanism will be if it is not to be the European Court of Justice. What will the UK’s future relationship with the EU be? What will farm support look like from 2022 when the annual £3 billion ceases? These are real issues that are causing great concern in the uplands and elsewhere. The Minister is in the right place to respond to them today.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for introducing this important debate. It is so good that agriculture has been debated more regularly in this Session than, I think, during the combined past three Sessions. It will continue to be debated because it is a key industry—probably the most affected industry, for those involved with it, when we exit through Brexit.
Although I voted to remain in the EU, Brexit cannot come soon enough for our environment and our farmers. The sooner it comes, the better. The common agricultural policy has been bad for the environment: birdlife on farms has halved since we have been in the CAP, and biodiversity is in constant decline. The common agricultural policy also made the fundamental mistake of separating farming from the rest of the environment, and it has been bad for taxpayers’ money because that has been untargeted. It has been bad for farmers because it has given them the wrong sort of support, restricting their ability to innovate and their opportunities. It has also kept bad farmers in a living when they should have gone, and put the future of our grandchildren at risk.
I say that because farmers need three key ingredients; air, water and, most importantly, soil. It is soil that has not had enough attention. In the UK, we have lost 84% of our soil since 1850. There are, at the most, 100 harvests left. We are losing at the moment between one and three centimetres of topsoil every year, and it takes 1,000 years to create three centimetres of topsoil. If we continue with the way we have been farming under the CAP, there will be no farmers—not even, I say to my noble friend, in Yorkshire. There will not be any in Caithness even with global warming, which is not going to help them. We will have to look at other models.
The recent Chatham House report, published earlier this month, sets out four models. The first is the sector protection model, which has trade barriers and subsidies. This is the model employed by Japan, Norway and Switzerland. The second is the decoupled subsidy model, which is the disastrous EU model that I have referred to. The third is the insurance model, where payments are made to farmers if prices or incomes fall below a certain level, which is the policy employed by the US and Canada. The fourth is the market-oriented model, which is low in subsidies and in barriers to imports. That is the one employed by New Zealand and Australia.
I do not advocate fully that last model, although it has been touted by some. My reason is that it does not take long for the farmer to go from being the hero to becoming the villain. That is the case in New Zealand, where the mistake the New Zealanders made—which I hope we will not make—was to divorce farming from the rest of the environment. The farmers, who were widely praised for improving their productivity, as we need to do, and for competing on the world stage, as we need to do, forgot the environment. The pollution from the farmers has now made them the enemy of the people.
We are hugely lucky in this country that we are 75% self-sufficient in our indigenous foods, which is a great bonus. My noble friend is lucky to have that as the backdrop to producing the 25-year environment plan. I would say to him: please tell us that the plan will include farming and other rural matters. The whole lot is integrated and farmers cannot be looked at on their own any more.
The big question my noble friend and the department are facing is the balance that is needed to have an agricultural sector which operates at world-class standards of productivity and world-class standards of animal welfare and transport, as well as protecting the environment. Behind all that is the old adage coined in 1906 by Alfred Henry Lewis, which was used by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, the other day:
“There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy”.
My Lords, I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, for initiating this debate. I have five minutes in which to make five points. Contrary to the noble Earl, my first point is: do not rush this. Broadly speaking, the Government have already committed themselves to paying under the present system until 2020, although I think that we should take a little longer going into the transition period. That is because it takes time for farmers to adjust and we can phase it in over a longer period once we know what we are doing.
Secondly, let us remember the inexorable relationship between the nature of our agricultural industry, trade and the pattern of support which is desirable. As has been said, 70% of our trade is with the EU, so we need a new relationship with the Union. If it works, that is fine, but if it does not, we will have a different form of agriculture in this country. If there are barriers between ourselves and the EU, substantial parts of our upland livestock will disappear because the EU is the main market. On the other hand, if we have, as some advocate, a global free trade area with virtually no barriers to the world, we will have very cheap and less-well-regulated imports from Brazil, the US and Australia. Again, significant parts of our agricultural sector would be eliminated and much of our consumer protection would be challenged, to say the least. We could opt for an autarkic “Fortress Britain” structure, which Mr Chris Grayling MP seems to think will lead to quadrupling our agricultural output. It certainly would do wonders for self-sufficiency, but unfortunately it would also increase costs and ensure that consumers have less choice. It would almost certainly drive lower regulatory standards and would probably stop us doing any deals whatever with anyone else in the world. So a support system that is appropriate will depend on the trade system that we have adopted.
Thirdly, we should remember that there were originally multiple objectives in the CAP which we are attempting to replace. The original treaty of Rome effectively saw protection and uprating the productivity of agriculture plus increasing the income of farming communities as its objectives. Added to those over time have been environmental objectives, although quite often they are seen as constraints rather than objectives. I will applaud Michael Gove for trying to ensure that whatever form of agricultural support eventually comes out of all this will in effect be a greener Brexit. We need more detail about the objectives in order to be clear.
The key inputs to agricultural production are the quality of the land, particularly of the soil, as the noble Earl said, and the quality of the labour applied. Unfortunately, the quality of both have rather suffered over the 50 years of the common agricultural policy in one way or another. Yes, productivity has increased through better breeding and more science being applied, but it has also led to the over-application of chemically based fertilisers and pesticides, and of course we have suffered the effects of development and therefore our soil has been degraded over time. It has also polluted our rivers and threatened our biodiversity, some of which the industry itself is dependent on, most obviously the bee population.
We also need to look at the quality of labour. The system needs a modernised, land-based workforce. We need to change from the overdependence of some our agricultural sectors on migrant labour and, at its most extreme, seriously exploited labour in a way that gives the whole of the industry a bad name. We need to eliminate extreme exploitation and control and reduce the dependence on gangmasters. Where imported seasonal labour is still needed, we need a properly regulated replacement for what was once the SAWS system.
I believe that most of our labour could be recruited from the settled population here, but we need to ensure that those workers are better paid and better trained. On the latter, it is unfortunate that agriculture spends less money on training than any other sector in the economy. On the pay and conditions side, since the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board, wages in agriculture have fallen relative to average wages in the economy, even in a period of low or negative growth in real wages generally.
On the management of land, we need to develop a holistic system of managing land, soil, water, wildlife and forestry. I think that is the way Michael Gove is moving but we need to be clearer about it. This cannot simply apply at the individual holding area level. We need co-operation between landowners and land managers. I see that the CLA is proposing a new land contract, but that has to be mandatory in form and not voluntary, although it may have voluntary elements. It needs also to be less bureaucratic, not more, than the worst features of the CAP.
We need to have clear sight of our objectives and to determine the quantum and not be dominated by the Treasury. We need to allow for a period of engagement, not only of farmers and the rural community but of the whole of the food chain and the rest of us. We have an opportunity, but let us get it right.
My Lords, what are the Government’s plans for future farm support? I am already beginning to hear things that I had not really thought about. I hear a great deal from the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, because we are both on the European Select Committee, which has good cross-party coverage. I will not talk again on the points he raised so as to give everybody a bit more time.
I start by saying that my noble friend Lady McIntosh, who was a bit worried about making her speech today, should not have worried. It was an excellent speech which set us off on the right way. My noble friend Lord Caithness frightened me to death, as he often does. However, he talked about other models entirely and reminded us of the ways in which we are lucky. What the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said was quite worrying too. I feel I must cheer us all up a bit, because we have lots to do.
I serve on the European Select Committee, where everything is done on a cross-party basis and we all get on with everybody very well. For this particular piece of work, we realised that there was a lot for us to learn. We submitted our Brexit: Agriculture report to the Government, and no doubt the Minister will speak to that when he gets up to put everybody at ease. He will respond today on the Government’s plans for the future, and so I felt that the best thing I could do was to take some recommendations from our European Select Committee report and remind us exactly what was said on your behalf.
Many farmers rely on Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 funding to keep their businesses viable. Any substantial reductions in the level of support would have a significant impact on both the agricultural sector and the wider rural economy. We felt that the Government should clarify as much as possible their intention regarding financial support post 2020 to provide the certainty required to make the investment decisions that are needed.
Brexit provides an opportunity for the Government to evaluate not only the level but the objectives and structure of financial support to farmers, and to design simpler support schemes which are effective in the context of UK agriculture. This could include support for the rural economy or those in less-favoured areas, such as hill farms; investment in technology; the improvement of productivity, as we have heard about today; environmental protection; or ensuring that UK farmers are not at a competitive disadvantage compared to their EU counterparts. We encourage the Government carefully to review the needs of the agricultural sectors across the UK and consult with the industry to ensure that any future support is targeted and effective.
There is a case for continuing to provide financial support to farmers after 2020 to correct market failures and deliver public goods, such as environmental protection and ecosystem services that would not otherwise be paid for. We recognise that agriculture will be competing with many other sectors for public expenditure. The agricultural sector will have to make a strong case to maintain financial support at the same or similar levels to those provided under the CAP. WTO rules may hinder the design of support schemes tailored to UK objectives. The Government should factor these constraints into their post-Brexit agricultural policy and negotiate a share of the EU’s amber box allowance to maximise their options for designing an effective post-CAP support scheme. They should also consider how to support the provision of public goods through agriculture in the event they do not secure such a share.
There we are. I believe we are on our way to a much better life. I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, trying to frighten us, but in among it all we could hear that he too is excited about where we can go when we come out of the common agricultural policy. The Government have a manifesto commitment to maintain the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of this Parliament. That commitment should help to provide stability for farmers over time as we develop a new agricultural policy working closely with the devolved Administrations and those affected. The decision to leave the European Union provides an opportunity to design a new agricultural policy from first principles most effectively to support the agricultural sector.
My Lords, in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, for introducing this short debate, I declare my interests as a farmer and landowner. We will undoubtedly see much change in agriculture over the next 10 years. In that context, I have four points to make.
First—here noble Lords will see I am on the side of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, rather than that of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness—we should change the current system slowly. Anyone looking to alter their customer base or marketplace knows that the first requirement is to ensure that you do not lose your old customers before you have properly embedded your new sales programme. So if farmers are reckoned to become new customers of Defra on Brexit, providing a variety of services, it is important they are given time to change and understand where they might fit into this new marketplace. In other words, the current system of single farm payment should be gradually diminished over, say, five or eight years. It has never been a good system and provides little reward to society, but we do not want a cliff edge.
Secondly, farmers are unlikely to come out of Brexit well. The Brexit discussions will involve multifaceted trade negotiations of all sorts—financial services, cars, steel, whisky and wine, et cetera—with agriculture somewhere at the bottom of the heap. I suspect that France, Germany and Italy will be keener to protect their farmers than the UK Treasury. On the basis that non-EU countries currently have to pay 40% to 50% tariffs on food coming into Europe, this could be seriously bad for UK farmers, most of whose current exports go to the EU. Our only hope is that we can achieve some form of import quotas into the EU—even if on only a temporary basis—as near as possible to our current trading quantities.
Thirdly, post-Brexit trade deals are unlikely to improve matters. Again, these deals will be multifaceted and multicommodity and UK agriculture will be only a small pawn on the chessboard. Bear in mind that cheap food is usually a good vote winner for any Government, so cheap Australian and US beef or even chicken will be knocking on the door along with other products from hotter climes where labour is cheaper and the regulatory regime looser. Our farmers will not be able to compete. Our only hope is to ensure we impose high standards on all food from whatever source and, above all, retain very good traceability on both domestic and international products.
My fourth point is about the opportunities presented by Brexit. It amounts to a question of how much and for what the Government are prepared to pay land managers for services to society. Bill Bryson once said that apart from producing good, healthy food, the unique feature of the English countryside is that the English people love it to death. Indeed, they have much to be grateful for to our farmers and landowners, and I believe that they—the taxpayers—will not mind paying for environmental land services of all sorts. But there must be profits allowable in the scheme or schemes. Cost-price services, as at present, simply will not do. As I have explained, there will not be many other profits around for farmers, so the state must ensure that farmers are properly rewarded for what they do.
My main point, in summary, is that by hook or by crook we must ensure that our farmers can survive on the land. My last speech on this subject focused on harnessing an improved and diversified economy to keep farming households in place in all parts of our countryside. If we lose those households, we risk losing that hugely important and well-loved heritage asset that is the English countryside, created and nurtured by our forebears from Roman times to modern day and, as I say, still greatly loved by our nation. Of course, it changes and will continue to change, but it will always need nurturing by those who know and love its every fold and stream.
My Lords, this is the first time that I have had the honour of appearing in this particular location. I am very pleased to be here to support my noble friend in her debate. I have nothing relevant to declare on the register or elsewhere, other than my deep respect and support for our farmers and the rural communities that support the enterprises around farming. There is a bit of a Yorkshire mafia here today. I had the pleasure and privilege of representing Yorkshire in the other place and in the European Parliament for getting on for nearly 30 years before I came here. The importance of farming to the economy of Yorkshire, as to the rest of the United Kingdom, should never be underestimated.
I have two things to say. First, planning is essential in most of the things that we are involved in, but it is particularly important for farming communities. While, of course, five-year, 10-year and 25-year plans are more likely to be seen in socialist state-controlled economies, nevertheless the Government a little while ago was talking about a 25-year plan for agriculture. That is a long time; it is an awful lot longer than the plan we have in place, or are putting in place, for leaving the European Union. That just underlines a simple fact—that farming cannot plan for two or even five years, because it is all about things such as crop rotation, inheritance, viability, diversity, food prices, volatility in marketplaces, and trying to determine how to invest to keep your farming successful. It is a profession; it requires the adoption of interest in farming by young people, through the education system as well as through their families. Keeping young people on farms is now a particularly difficult problem. I was interested to hear my noble friend Lord Cameron speaking about communities and keeping farming on the land—and enough farmers. I fear that that will be an even greater problem if we cannot give sufficient certainty to farming communities that they will continue to receive not only financial but political support in the years ahead.
In that sense, I mention a social aspect. Farming is a highly pressured occupation, even without some of the uncertainties to which I refer. I pay tribute to the National Farmers’ Union for its support of the farming community, but I pay tribute too to the Farming Community Network, a charity set up to support farmers who have such pressures. Interestingly, mental illness and those sorts of things are much more prevalent in rural communities than in urban ones, and therefore that support seems very worthy, as is the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, which has stepped in on many occasions to give good and useful advice to farmers when they have had pressures—mostly of a financial nature but nevertheless pressures. The Addington Fund and other organisations have been involved as well. I hope that a similarly friendly and beneficent approach can be continually adopted by our banks. I hope that it can also be adopted and maintained by our Governments.
Great challenges lie ahead. One is simply to make sure that the children in our cities start to know that when they eat meat, it has something to do with farming and animals. Surprisingly few do. Support for farming has to come from an understanding of it and its contribution to our economy both by the Government, as I have said, and by society as a whole. I hope that in our debate we will make that quite clear and that my noble friend will be able to respond to those social aspects of farming, which, in many ways, are just as important as the financial ones.
My Lords, I too thank my noble friend Lady McIntosh for tabling this important debate. I am sure that we will have more debates on agriculture as we go through the transitional period.
I have worked in agriculture for more than 30 years and I understand how important it is to the economy. I was out walking with Daisy and Ted, my two dogs, at the weekend, enjoying the countryside while listening to the gaggle of geese flying over in their distinctive V shape towards the Trent Valley, and looking at the very diverse farming around me, recognising how much it contributes to the welfare of our communities and business sectors. Therefore, regarding future farming support, I am pleased that the Government have already responded to the period of withdrawal from the EU and I welcome their commitment to continuing to guarantee CAP Pillar 1 until 2020 with a future guarantee of CAP Pillar 2 funding to include agri-environment schemes. I hope that Defra will bring forward as quickly as possible further policy options to reassure the farming and agricultural communities about the need for continued clarity and certainty as the Government go through the process.
It is very important that the agriculture Bill sets out a clear framework, not only with a sustainable direction accompanied by agreed timescales, particularly in the early stages, but with a commitment to continuity and certainty while giving confidence to farm businesses. When we leave the EU, we need to avoid costly and disruptive customs checks for our export markets, as delays will have a significant negative impact on the agri-food sector, in which products are often perishable and food supply chains are highly integrated.
It is important to stress the need to present as an opportunity the securing of a decisive break from the CAP and to establish our own ambitious and environmentally responsible policies so that we can achieve a sustainable future for agriculture. Unfortunately, experience in the past has shown that bold CAP reform decisions have often been implemented in a rush, or in the absence of policy certainty, creating significant delivery problems for agencies and delaying payments for farmers. The ambition for the sector would be to focus on restoring our natural heritage while building resilience and supporting production that is sustainable, innovative and humane.
There is no doubt that the CAP is outdated and very complicated, with about £2.5 billion per year used for direct subsidies based on land acreage. Unfortunately, the decline in biodiversity has affected many farmland birds and wildlife—in particular, as the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said, bees and other pollinators, which play an important role in natural habitats and feed supply by pollinating crops and wild plants. This area needs to be supported and to play an integral part in the future agriculture Bill.
The goal for the UK is to create a world-leading food and farming industry which supports farmers in adapting to climate change, increases energy efficiency and helps reduce farmers’ exposure to volatility in prices of fertilisers, pesticides, labour and energy. Investment in IT and digital solutions will help them to drive competitiveness. Whether directly or indirectly, we have a unique opportunity to include as many organisations as possible in discussions during the implementation of the 25-year environment plan and to consult widely.
Families and young people wanting to settle, work and grow in rural settings are being priced out of areas they have known all their lives because of the lack of affordable housing. That puts a huge strain on rural economies, populations and vital community services. We have witnessed village pubs, post offices and rural schools closing because of ageing and dwindling populations. Evidence tells us that high-quality and affordable new homes can transform rural communities.
At this moment, the UK has a negative agri-food trade balance of £22.4 billion, making it a net importer of food with a self-sufficiency ratio of 61%. The question is how we can grow better, sell better and export better in supporting the UK to lead the way. With our reputation for high animal welfare, we must ensure that imports meet these high standards so that UK farmers are not placed at a competitive disadvantage. It is imperative that welfare standards are embedded in any future trade agreement
Farming matters to the UK. Farmers are the stewards of our lovely countryside.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, for introducing this timely debate. She has set its parameters excellently. I also thank all other noble Lords who have contributed today. Time may preclude me being able to mention them by name, but I hope that I will echo many of their remarks. The debate will perhaps underline for the Minister what he has got right in the Government’s forthcoming agriculture Bill, what he may be doing ill-advisedly, and what he may have forgotten about. I declare my interests as a farmer in receipt of EU funds and having been involved in food businesses beyond the farm gate.
There is universal approval for the view that farm support involving public money must be given only in exchange for public benefit. Bearing in mind how fundamental to the well-being of many sections of agriculture is farm support, we wish the approach to be consistent and stable in securing farming’s future according a long-term economic plan. This is not what the farming community is hearing from the Government at the moment. Admittedly, agricultural policy, like most other policies, is not easy when the Government have many competing objectives. I trust that the Minister will outline which of his department’s priorities and choices the Government will commit to undertake in the agriculture Bill, and assure us that they will not be undermined by another Minister in the Brexit negotiations.
As part of public benefit, future farm support should reward responsible land use. With this being undertaken by farmers, it is recognised that stable support is needed against the rising volatility of market returns. Responsible land use also includes stewardship of the countryside and the environment and the welfare of animals. Fundamentally, responsible land use means protecting and enhancing our soils for future generations and for healthy foods. Measures are needed to improve soil nutrients and soil structures. The science around glyphosates needs careful attention so as to promote minimum tillage and least soil compaction from modern heavy machinery. Hedges, wildlife corridors and the biodiversity of songbirds and pollinators need significant measures in this respect. I would be grateful if the Minister could outline how this formulates into land management contracts and targeted stewardship schemes. What it must translate into is a strategic food policy that takes account of the diverse food chain to produce stable prices for consumers and enables the market to support the delivery of good food. I urge the Minister to look at policy measures that reward the value-added element of food products throughout the food chain. That should include the farmer and not merely reward the farmer as an ingredients supplier. I urge the Minister to insist on fair practices that will outlaw the transfer of risk down the food chain being borne by the farmer. These are elements key to lessen the dependency of agriculture on safety net measures.
The competitiveness of UK agriculture and a level playing field of food standards and regulation has been underlined by many noble Lords today. In this regard, support measures are needed to encourage food innovation, including innovation of processing, in the food chain. Research as well as knowledge transfer involved in training are consequentially important. However, we must not lose sight of the fundamental approach of maintaining a level playing field of food and environmental standards. Any industry is rightfully aggrieved to have to compete against lower standards that are cheaper or competition that is structured unfairly. I have a fundamental question for the Minister: post-Brexit, will the Government maintain parity of food standards between food imports and the standards that have to be maintained by the UK supply chain? This is of importance to both consumers and farmers.
My noble friend Lord Whitty spoke well and convincingly about the labour situation on farms and I echo his remarks. Your Lordships’ EU sub-committee has highlighted that agriculture is a devolved matter whereas trade policy is a reserved matter. Can the Minister update the House on aspects of trade tariff splits and support measures between the Government and the devolved Administrations in a still-to-be-determined amount of post-transition period farm support? Will the split between the nations in the UK be satisfactory to their farming characteristics and on a continuing percentage division? On governance issues, time prevents me from asking anything other than: have the Government firm plans to set up UK structures to replicate the EU institutions that currently underpin the regulatory system?
Outside the EU, the UK Government will still need to be mindful of WTO oversight of trade policy in relation to whether or not aspects of trade are distorting. They must be mindful of the long decision-making horizons of agriculture, food production and trade. My experience of re-engineering businesses tells me that two years for a transition period is likely to be very inadequate for changes in trade and agriculture practices to be made. I urge the Government to make incremental and progressive changes to safeguard jobs, communities and businesses.
We must keep two other key elements in mind. First, we must address the challenge of climate change and do all that we can to reduce and lessen its impact. Secondly, antimicrobial resistance—
With respect, we need to make sure that the Minister has time to respond.
I understand. I am sorry to go over by a minute. I was trying to close my remarks by saying that antimicrobial resistance is also a long-term issue to which we must pay attention.
My Lords, I agree entirely with your Lordships that we should congratulate my noble friend Lady McIntosh on securing this debate on agriculture and farm support. I declare my farming interests as set out in the register.
As we leave the European Union, the Government are clear on establishing a strong and productive agriculture and food industry which promotes great British food, strengthens rural communities and maintains high animal welfare standards—all while enhancing our environment. As your Lordships have said, we have a world-class food and farming industry generating more than £100 billion a year for our economy. More than 70% of UK land is farmed. The production-to-supply ratio of indigenous food is 76%, as we heard from my noble friend Lord Caithness. I also agree with my noble friend Lord Caithness that farming and food production are the very backbone of the countryside—and in my view of the country. Farmers have an essential role in ensuring that we leave our environment in a better state than we found it. After all, earlier generations of farmers and landowners, as the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, said, were the architects of our extraordinarily beautiful landscape. A vibrant agricultural sector and the enhancement of our natural environment are entirely complementary. Given the salutary lessons from New Zealand, as outlined by my noble friend Lord Caithness, I need not say much more. So leaving the common agricultural policy provides us with an opportunity to ensure that future agricultural policy supports farmers to grow, sell and export more great British food, as pointed out by my noble friend Lady Redfern.
We are actively engaged with farmers and farming organisations as we develop policies that we believe will provide support more effectively than the CAP does. As highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, we must ensure that we have a system of agricultural support that respects the work of farmers and rewards environmental protection and enhancement. That means support for natural capital and ecosystem services, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and my noble friend Lady Wilcox, such as woodland creation and tree planting, encouraging biodiversity, and high standards of animal welfare. By using public money to reward environmentally responsible land use and activities that enhance the countryside and protect landscapes, we provide the taxpayer with better value for money.
The Government absolutely understand that clarity is required in the farming sector at this time of great change. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, rightly raises the importance of how a smooth transition for farmer is required. That matter was also referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh. We have therefore made a commitment to maintain the same cash total in funds for farm support until 2022 and to honour agri-environment agreements made while in the EU, provided that they align with domestic priorities and our future farming vision.
The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and a number of your Lordships mentioned labour. Defra is considering the latest data and working closely with the industry and across government to monitor labour demand and supply, including the seasonal workforce. We want to enable farmers to develop new markets and provide vital public services. We must therefore support the adoption of new technologies and techniques to improve productivity in food production. In 2013, the UK Government agri-tech strategy was launched, with £80 million invested in four world-class centres of agricultural innovation to support the adoption of innovation and technology in the food and farming supply chain, while improving biosecurity. Last week, at Harper Adams I observed the benefits of precision farming and the importance of such centres in bolstering young farmers’ expertise. In response to my noble friend Lord Kirkhope, the enthusiasm of this next generation of farmers, and their appreciation of the intrinsic interdependence of food production, the environment and animal welfare, was one of the most evident features of my visit. Further to this, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced, the Government have allocated £40 million to the countryside productivity scheme to help farmers improve productivity through investment in innovative technology. Indeed, the Government’s industrial strategy further commits to boosting the adoption of technical precision farming.
When we leave the EU, we will remain global leaders in environmental protection and animal welfare standards, maintaining our high-quality produce for British and international consumers. Noble Lords have rightly raised the importance of trade. We are a trading nation; we always have been and always will be. I was most grateful to my noble friend Lady McIntosh for referring to the work we are undertaking with our food counsellor in China and the other work going on overseas.
For the first time in more than 40 years, whatever our views on last June’s result, we have a golden opportunity to negotiate trade deals with the world. Around 60% of UK agricultural exports currently go the EU, as noble Lords have mentioned. Therefore, our focus is on securing the best deal for farmers in our negotiations, transition and readiness for day one as we leave. We are conducting a rigorous analysis of the full range of trade scenarios on UK agriculture to ensure the best possible trading future for our farmers. My noble friend Lady Wilcox asked about the WTO arrangements. We are currently considering what tariff rate quotas and amber box allocation the UK should create as part of our detailed work in preparation for the draft of the UK’s independent WTO schedule. My noble friend Lady McIntosh also asked dispute resolution in regard to which conflict resolution procedure will apply when we leave the EU. This issue will form part of our negotiation with the EU, as one would expect.
We should be proud that we have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world. Let me be clear to your Lordships: there will be no reduction in our welfare standards, our food security standards or our environmental protections as we leave the EU. The Government have committed direct funding to research programmes with the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England, the Farm Animal Welfare Committee, the Animal and Horticultural Development Board and research councils. Only this morning, I was having a discussion with the chairs of those boards and that committee about advancing knowledge on welfare.
I should clarify my noble friend Lady McIntosh’s remarks regarding the live export of animals. Once we leave the EU, and in line with our manifesto commitment, we can take early steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter. This has been widely welcomed but I want to clarify that traditionally we have also exported live animals because their breeding standard is of the best. I particularly want to refer in the short time that I have to equines. I am fully seized of the importance of this, as the passports currently used for the travel of thoroughbreds used in racing and breeding, as well as other sport horses in the tripartite agreement, is tremendously important. The TPA will be the subject of negotiations when the UK leaves the EU and the Government will seek the best deal possible, as exemplified in the new TPA that was signed off in 2013. Indeed, I have been in correspondence only this morning on these matters.
Our partnership and ongoing engagement with a wide range of stakeholders will ensure that we have a farming and environmental land management policy which supports current and future generations of farmers to follow the best approaches to soil health management. A number of your Lordships raised this crucial point. The policy will also support them to adopt advances in agri-tech, produce quality food and enhance our natural environment. We recognise that future policy must work effectively for all UK agriculture—the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, and my noble friend Lady Wilcox spoke of this. The Secretary of State meets devolved Administration Ministers regularly to discuss the importance of co-operative working and future frameworks. We are committed to continued flexibility in how the devolved nations manage their future farm support subject, we believe correctly, to preserving a single internal market and compliance with our international obligations.
The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will convert the existing body of EU agriculture law into UK law. We will introduce an agriculture Bill and we intend to consult widely with interested stakeholders ahead of publishing plans for that Bill. The Secretary of State has signalled his intention to consult in the new year and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, and all of your Lordships will participate. Our proposals for the future agricultural policy will reflect the Government’s aim of securing a better future for agriculture and food production, while enhancing the environment and rural communities. As my noble friend Lady McIntosh mentioned, we must support farmers across the UK, from the uplands to the lowlands. I agree with my noble friend Lord Kirkhope and, as a member of the NFU and a supporter of the RABI, I share his remarks as to the social pressures and challenges of farming. I also know and understand that farming is exposed to great degrees of volatility, so we must develop a system that helps farmers to face the future.
Our vision for British agriculture is based on a sustainable, productive and competitive industry. This will be set out in our 25-year environment plan, which I hope will please my noble friend Lord Caithness. A great deal of work is under way on what our future farming policy will look like. This is being undertaken through active engagement with all farming interests. We are committed to supporting agriculture, food security, high- quality food and, essentially, the British farmer.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on the success of the Beijing consultant. Will the Government be minded to look at other such in other countries?
My Lords, we are looking at a global trade situation, so I am sure we will be looking at all parts of the world.
HS2: Economic and Environmental Impact
Question for Short Debate
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact on the economy and environment of HS2.
My Lords, I am grateful to have this debate, which is an opportunity to examine further the vexed question of HS2. I am grateful also to the Minister, who kindly arranged a meeting with me to discuss the issue.
Your Lordships may wonder what purpose this debate serves, given how far this ridiculous scheme has got. First, it is never too late to correct mistakes. Although considerable sums of money have already been spent, they pale into insignificance when compared with the eye-watering sums to come. We should not throw good money after bad. Although many lives, homes and businesses have already been damaged, many have not, and the environment is still as yet relatively unharmed. My first reason is to ask the Secretary of State, even at this stage, to undertake an urgent review of the scheme, its costs and benefits.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I firmly believe that this is going to be the infrastructure horror of the 21st century and, along with others, have sought in vain to explain clearly why this is the case to those responsible, from the Prime Minister downward. I am determined that those who sanction HS2 should confirm that they understand all its ramifications, put their names to it and bear the responsibility as the horror unfolds.
I am sorry to burden the new Minister with this enormous responsibility, but I want to task her with one thing above any other. I do not expect her today to commit to a review or, better still, to halt the project. Quite simply, I ask her to read carefully the package of papers that I have given her and to make sure that her civil servants read it too, then to satisfy herself that both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State understand the position as she will then understand it. If she will undertake to do that, I can for the moment do no more. I believe that from the very beginning a scheme as nonsensical and deeply damaging, economically and environmentally, as HS2, could not possibly have got off the ground if those responsible for giving it the go-ahead had taken the trouble—as all the experts opposed to it have done—to understand fully how little benefit it will bring, how much it will cost and how much damage it will do.
This is the biggest infrastructure project ever in this country. There is widespread awareness of it and almost total opposition, combined with a sad acceptance and a resignation that it will happen anyway. It is topical today to think about the gap—the dislocation between government and the people. Nothing could better reinforce the people’s view that government is completely out of step with reality than HS2. Last January, I gave your Lordships’ House the opportunity to stop HS2 by tabling what was described as a fatal amendment at Third Reading of the HS2 Bill. The majority of your Lordships failed to support my amendment, many telling me privately that they agreed with it, but 25 brave souls supported me and will go down in history as having done so. Significantly, two of them are ex-Permanent Secretaries to the Treasury. The noble Lord, Lord Burns, under Gordon Brown and the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson, under David Cameron, saw at first hand and in the closest possible detail the shortcomings of HS2. Both voted to put a stop to it just a few months ago and have spoken against it since.
The crucial point here—this is the most important point I want the Minister to take away from the debate—is that anyone who takes the time and trouble really to understand this project and see all its shortcomings simply finds that they cannot support it. I believe the Prime Minister and perhaps even the Secretary of State have been badly advised. For them not to fully understand the ramifications of a scheme as huge as this, if this proved to be the case, is truly frightening.
This mad scheme, the pipe dream of originally just two people, was based on the idea of speed, as seen in France and Japan, cutting the travelling time between London and Birmingham with speeds of 250 mph. The case for speed has been heavily and effectively criticised and is no longer deployed. The fallback position has been capacity, but this too does not hold water since, although some new capacity may be introduced, it creates other problems. In any case, extra capacity is needed much more in other areas. Some 83% of London’s rail passenger traffic comes from the south and east of London, not the north.
Any serious justification for the scheme no longer exists, except perhaps just job creation—we now have two HS2 colleges. I am all for creating more employment, but not for spending £100 billion for so little advantage. The NHS needs only £4 billion to see its way ahead. We need homes and ships. I am told you could rebuild every hospital in the country with this money. It is generally agreed that any money spent on the railway system should be on improving existing lines, trains and stations, along with the links between our northern cities and the east-west links in the north.
When it comes to cost we really do enter Alice in Wonderland territory. At £400 million per mile it will certainly be far and away the most expensive railway in the world. Unbelievably, HS2 has still not produced detailed estimates. The Government say the total scheme will cost £55.7 billion. Mr Michael Bing, the expert who devised the standard method used by Network Rail to cost its projects and who has advised the Government on these matters, says £104 billion. Mr Bing’s costings have never been challenged.
What about the environment? Let us not pretend: the effect of HS2 on the environment was always going to be deeply damaging. Remember, a brand-new high-speed railway line is being driven through the middle of the country, where, incidentally, a functioning railway line already exists. Speed need straightness and straightness means you cannot avoid precious sites. Ten thousand acres of land will be affected. The Woodland Trust says that, as currently mapped, HS2 will destroy or damage 98 irreplaceable woodlands. Ancient woodlands really are irreplaceable; no amount of money will compensate for their loss. There are already reports of some 60 mature London planes being taken down in Camden to make way for a temporary taxi rank. In the Colne valley there are reports of unregulated clearance work taking place already. If that is true, it is very serious. The law and conditions laid down have to be strictly adhered to, otherwise not only does the environment suffer but so does Parliament’s reputation and credibility. Perhaps the Minister will let us know what arrangements are in place for monitoring these works.
This is the gravy train to end all gravy trains. Millions upon millions have already been spent on lawyers, accountants and planners. One firm is reported as having been paid £280,000 to extol the virtues of HS2 to primary schoolchildren along the route. Unauthorised enhanced redundancy payments have been paid to HS2 staff, against the direct instructions of the Secretary of State. The impression given is that HS2 is arrogant and sees itself as bombproof. Perhaps that it is not surprising. The Secretary of State himself, when asked on the “Today” programme what it might cost to complete HS2, replied, “What it takes”. As a separate matter, some concerns have been expressed about the role of members of the board of the National Infrastructure Commission, and its interest in and involvement with companies dealing with HS2. Perhaps the Minister could look into that for us.
The list of those opposed to HS2 is huge. A few days ago, Dame Margaret Hodge MP, former chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee in the House of Commons, said that the PAC could no longer keep a proper check on problems such as HS2, which she called a vanity project unlikely to help the north. Perhaps the most damaging critique of HS2 comes from a group of professional railway experts led by Tony May and Jonathan Tyler. That can be found in the Lords’ Library briefing—I do not have time to spell it out now. Even more damning is that fact that this group, which sought a meeting first with the Secretary of State and then with a junior Minister, were told, quite simply, that both were too busy.
I have with me a sheaf of quotations. I am not going to read them all out but I will read out two. The noble Lord, Lord Lawson, a former Chancellor, says that:
“HS2 is a huge mistake. The fact is, it is a crazy grandiose vanity project which doesn’t stack up economically at all”.
The noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, said, perhaps tellingly, that:
“In 2010, when the then Labour government decided to back HS2 … We were focusing on the coming electoral battle, not on the detailed facts and figures of an investment that did not present us with any immediate spending choices … I now fear HS2 could be an expensive mistake”.
Time is up.
In conclusion, speed has always been important to railways. On 3 July 1938, a beautiful steam engine called the “Mallard” set a world record speed of 126 miles an hour—a triumph of engineering and something for the nation to be proud of. HS2 is not a “Mallard”; it is an albatross that will hang around the necks of the British people until 2033, costing over £100 billion. The Budget is just one week away and the NHS needs just £4 billion. We surely desperately need a review.
My Lords, I do not intend to follow the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, for two reasons. First, I have heard most of the arguments that he marshalled today previously. Secondly, I remind him of the guide to procedure in your Lordships’ House. I object to people reading out every word, particularly when, by and large, those words have been written by somebody else.
The noble Lord mentioned costs and benefits.
I have not finished with him yet. I will give way in a moment.
He mentioned costs and benefits but talked solely about the costs and not about the benefits. If the noble Lord is going to intervene with something impromptu, rather than something he has read somewhere else, I will give way.
My Lords, I am intervening on the noble Lord simply because of the word he used: “impromptu”. Every word I write and speak is my own. The noble Lord needs to understand that. I would be grateful for an apology, or at least an acknowledgement that what he said is not entirely accurate.
Then I acknowledge that and apologise, if the noble Lord wrote it all himself. However, I stick by the words I said. It is surely not necessary, either in Grand Committee or on the Floor of your Lordships’ House, to read every word in the way that he just did.
To go back to what I was saying, the noble Lord talked about costs and benefits but mentioned only the costs and none of the benefits. When it comes to the costs, my noble friend beside me will bring his analytical mind to bear and give the Grand Committee some proper information. I might not always agree with him but I respect the fact that he knows what he is talking about as far as the railway industry is concerned. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham.
The benefits of HS2 are manifold, and I will give one or two examples to your Lordships in a moment. First, let us look at any alternatives to HS2. The noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, skipped merrily past the situation of the existing railway lines because, like most of the opponents of this scheme, he has no alternative. He says that money would be better spent on upgrading existing railway lines but does not tell us how. As a former railway signalman, I can tell him that you cannot run the sort of service that we currently have on the west coast main line while carrying out modernisation of that line. In the 1960s—the last time the line was modernised, when it was electrified—there were numerous alternative routes between, for example, London and Manchester, London and Liverpool and London and Scotland. Because of the short-sighted nature of Governments of both political hues, most of those routes have since been closed. You cannot run 50 trains an hour in and out of Euston on an average day and spend time upgrading that line, It would be impossible.
I repeat: there are currently 50 trains an hour in and out of Euston for much of the day. Those trains are joined at Willesden by freight trains of the North London line and further north at Nuneaton by freight trains from Felixstowe on various cross-country routes. For much of the day, the west coast main line is operating at pretty near capacity. I say to noble Lords who glibly suggest that we can spend a few billion pounds modernising that line to stop HS2 going ahead: that is nonsense.
As far as the benefits are concerned, again, the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, skipped blithely over the fact that about 25,000 new jobs—many of them in the West Midlands and north of England—will be created by this scheme. Representing parts of East Anglia, as he did in the other place, perhaps he is not really interested in such benefits. If we are to create all the skilled jobs that HS2 will bring about, however, the project really must go ahead. Again, he mentioned in passing that two new apprentice colleges—one in Doncaster, one in Birmingham—are opening as a direct result of HS2. Do the future prospects of young people in the Midlands and north of England have no interest for the opponents of HS2—the noble Lord and the other 34 Luddites that joined him in the Lobby against this project a few months ago—a project perhaps uniquely supported by both parties in government? There really is no alternative.
I appreciate that there are problems and difficulties, but having served on committees that eventually gave the go-ahead for the Channel Tunnel and HS1, nobody appreciates more than me the damage suffered and concern felt by people who have to lose their homes because of these projects. They must be properly treated and compensated. It is impossible, however, to build such a vital project without people being adversely affected.
The fact is that we are talking about a two-track railway line. Listening to the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, one would think it was the fifth horseman of the apocalypse descending on middle England, rather than a twin-track railway. Are there no motorways in the parts of England he once represented? Did he not find motorways to be more intrusive on daily life than a railway line? By and large, people living alongside railway lines hear nothing—no matter how intensive the service—for about 45 minutes in every hour, because the train passes quickly, while people living along motorways suffer noise for 24 hours. That obviously does not bother the noble Lord or his supporters. This is a great project. It is needed in the West Midlands and the north of England. It is an attempt, at last, to tilt the economic axis slightly away from London and the south-east towards the rest of the country, which will not easily forgive those who try to block it.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Framlingham on raising this issue. I do not agree with him, but it is important that your Lordships not only debate it again today but on an annual basis—I do not know what the necessary procedure would be—to consider the progress made on the project in terms of controlling costs and analysing the benefits to come, which I will briefly touch on.
The arguments for the project are economic. I will not touch on the environmental issues that my noble friend has raised, because last year’s Select Committee—on which a number of colleagues here participated directly or indirectly—undertook the long process of considering more than 1,000 petitions. I believe, however, that it is important to concentrate on the issue of cost and that there should be a mechanism—which if necessary I will institute—that enables this House to look at the progress of the project and the control of its costs.
This is a long-term project, and it is very difficult to measure and estimate the total costs over a great number of years. As the Rail Minister responsible for HS1, I know that there was considerable concern at the outset about project cost and about the impact on households affected on the route from central London to the tunnel. But that process worked extremely well. It is a long-term project that has proved outstandingly successful, and it makes one of the key points that I wish to make. The regeneration around that railway line, particularly just outside London, across the river but also right down to the Channel Tunnel, is beyond all estimates that were made about the benefits of HS1. We need to bear in mind—and I shall come on to the benefits to the north of England in this regard—that it is very difficult to make an estimate of what those benefits are, but they have certainly outstripped the early estimates that were made by the Department for Transport.
I have read the report from KPMG, which estimates £15 billion of productivity gains over 20 years. That is to some extent a heroic estimate; it is very difficult for even a distinguished firm like KPMG to make the kind of estimates that have been bandied around. But for London to Birmingham, there is an overwhelming case for the high-speed line. Not only is the west coast main line pretty much at capacity but, looking forward even 10 years, let alone 50 years, we will need greater capacity, which means faster trains to connect London with the major city of Birmingham. Beyond Birmingham, in the second phase, the same applies. A number of local authorities, particularly in Manchester, Crewe, Wigan, Sheffield and Leeds—as well as with the trans-Pennine connection, HS3—have expressed their views about the future of this project, and they have all been positive, because it will bring a greater and faster connectivity between those great conurbations and the capital. That is an extremely important point. It is very difficult to forecast the actual environmental and economic consequences, but the initial reactions, particularly from Manchester, which I warmly welcome, should be taken into account.
I shall mention one aspect of the proposal that may not have been fully understood. The initial construction of the line is planned to call at Old Oak Common. That is quite important because of its connectivity to Heathrow. I am told and believe that trains will stop for only two minutes for those who wish to get out there before proceeding into Euston. That seems to me to be a real benefit.
Finally, HS1 has turned out to be a tremendous success, and the capacity provided seems to be improving and increasing all the time. It has done a great deal for tourism and business, and I believe that this new project, HS2 and, ultimately, HS3 across the Pennines, will make a tremendous contribution to the productivity and prosperity of this country.
My Lords, I start by making it clear that I am speaking in a personal capacity from the Back Benches and that I am not speaking, as I often can do, from the Front Bench. That is to reassure my noble friend sitting in front of me because he might otherwise be a little concerned. I also need to declare an interest as a soon-to-be former resident of a house very close to the line, which is a tunnel past where I live. I am not going to address the main points made by the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, although I agree absolutely with much of what he said. The questions that he put to the Minister are ones that need to be answered. I shall look at a point that was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Freeman.
Given that there are members here of the Lords Select Committee that toiled for a long time over the hot summer, I should say that some of what I am going to say bears on their work, which I salute and acknowledge as being fantastic and a great service to the House. I do this because I know from discussions outside this place that we are about to engage in a revision of the Standing Orders for hybrid Bills, which I think was called for by the chairman at the end of his period as chair of the Select Committee. The revision is to be done jointly with the other place. It is a long and cumbersome process to be done in two stages. The first stage is very much the low-hanging fruit and will result in some good changes that I will allude to, although more things will need to be done. In addition, both Houses need to think carefully about what we are doing when we get involved in this process.
When citizens or external organisations engage with a hybrid Bill, they are engaging with Parliament in a very unusual way. We do not do this very often, and it is important to bear that in mind. We have to make sure that our systems and processes, whether in writing or in person, are not archaic, devised as they were in Victorian times. The jargon and the procedures need to be thoroughly revised. The idea that someone who wishes to raise a point with the hybrid Bill Committee has to do so by praying in a strange way is the sort of thing I am talking about here. It is also important that the two Houses must establish without any doubt that they have co-equal powers, as they do on everything else except, apparently, on hybrid Bills, in order that both Houses can act as they see fit in the pursuance of public issues. At the moment it is sort of assumed that the second House has lesser powers. That is unacceptable and we must look at it.
The primary purpose of having a hybrid Bill process has moved on from when it was invented in Victorian times when largely it seemed to serve the interests and rights of the owners of large lots of land who were being affected by the railway revolution. Nowadays it is effectively a public planning inquiry, so we have to think hard about how we handle it. We should not be doing it as we currently do for all the reasons that everyone understands. I have suggested to the Bill team that is looking at how we deal with these Bills that the fact that this is a planning inquiry means that there is a good case for saying that it should be dealt with as if it were a planning inquiry, with all that means in terms of status, appearance, the right to representation and so on. It is very important that the system allows those who are affected by a project to be heard and to be more accepting of the various modes of address that individuals who wish to be heard would use. We have to think electronically and digitally as well as people appearing in private.
It is up to the individual to propose how they make their representations. More effort should also be made to ensure there is equality of arms actually in the hearings themselves, should there be the need for public hearings in the form that we have had them in the past. I think that a lot can be done by correspondence and would not involve any public appearance. If there are to be appearances, they have to be grouped, marshalled and conducted in a way that brings out the key points without disadvantaging those who wish to make them in the form they choose to do so. The corollary of that is that where a committee in either House finds that there is an issue that needs redress, the systems under which these redresses are documented, logged and approved must be looked at carefully.
Finally, there is a wider issue here about how we deal with what is called property blight. I do not think there is any doubt that the HS1 Bill team did as much as they could do within existing law, but I wonder if that is sufficient. We can all be affected by blight, in whatever form it comes, as can our infrastructure, whether it is gas pipelines, water, a road or a railway. There is merit in a case that was presented to me during the process of the Bill, but I was unable to get any address. I hope the Minister will take this away: if there was a thing called a property blight bond—attached to a property, not a person—it could build up a sort of mutual fund, like national insurance, which could be available to and drawn down by anybody affected by blight. That may sound like a very odd arrangement, but the proposal has come from the insurance industry, which thinks that there is some concern about how one might want to take that forward. I do not expect a positive response to this today from the Minister, although I raised it with her predecessor and did not get a response, so I know that it has been lodged in the department. That does not apply only to the Department for Transport, but to others as well. I hope that somebody will look at it and take it forward.
My Lords, the points made by my noble friend Lord Stevenson about the hybrid Bill process are very interesting. I will not speak about them today but I think they need further debate, starting from the basis of why building a new railway is so different from building a new road. It needs modernising; we have talked about it before but we will return to it sometime, no doubt.
As has been suggested by a few noble Lords, I will talk about the costs of HS2, because my noble friend Lord Snape talked about a lot of the benefits. I support the scheme—I have said it before, on the record, and I still say it—but I worry about the amount of money that has been committed and will be committed, whether it is good value and what can be done about it. It is interesting to reflect that the recent settlement of about £45 billion for Network Rail for the next five-year control period is to keep the whole of the network operational and safe, not including enhancements. Compare that with the cost of HS1 phase 1: £24 billion, which is about half that figure, or £48 billion if you include phases 2A and 2B, once the five-year period is over. In the Government’s figures, the cost of phase 1 is 50% of all the money given to Network Rail to keep the network going. We can debate whether that is a good balance, but the problem is that very few people outside the Government believe that £24 billion is the likely outturn cost of phase 1, as said by the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham.
I have spoken about working on useful alternatives before; I will not repeat them, but there are issues with Wendover, such as the cost of the trains and the speed of the line. The estimate that we came up with, which started off in the appearance of a friend of mine before the House of Lords Select Committee, suggested that the costs, if aggregated for the whole of phase 1, would come out at about double the cost that the Government were estimating for phase 1 of HS2—about £48 billion. Adding phases 2A and 2B would take us up to £100 billion. In the committee, we were never challenged by those at HS2; they said they did not agree, but I asked them where the evidence of their disagreement is and we still do not have it. I am still in discussion with Paul Maynard, the Minister responsible—I will come back to that—and I would like an answer on how the department came up with the cost estimate and where we differ. We must discuss that. It is surprising that the Government have spent £1 billion on consultants for HS2 so far, but cannot come up with a cost that can be looked at.
Compare that with Crossrail and HS1, as the noble Lord, Lord Freeman, said. Crossrail is on time and on budget, as far as I know; it is a very successful project. HS1 was pretty successful too, so there are ways to get the cost right. Since public money is being spent, it is reasonable to suggest that we should get that.
I have suggested to Ministers and officials ways of reducing the costs of HS2 without cancelling it. I do not want to see it cancelled but the costs need looking at. It is a bit of a vanity project. Initially it was said that trains would run at 400 kilometres an hour. They do not run anywhere in Europe at 400 kilometres an hour, and I do not think they do in Japan either. There is an argument for high speed in big countries—such as France, Germany and Italy—but we are not big. The cost increase of the technology needed to go up from the standard 320 kph to 400 is dramatic. Train manufacturers and the people who design and build the track are talking about something like 30% or 40% on costs to achieve that because it takes more power, the tracks have to be straighter and the tunnels have to be bigger, and we must not forget the extra maintenance cost. Once the trains are there and working, the track and train maintenance is much more expensive.
To be fair, the latest HS2 spec has brought the speed down to 360, which is an improvement. However, there are other ways of saving money, such as stopping at Old Oak Common in phase 1. We have all looked at that and agree it would work. Local people have come up with an alternative for the Wendover tunnel which will work very well. It is cheaper and would reduce the environmental impact. There are many other things which I have not got time to go into.
My real worry—I have had discussions with the Minister’s predecessor, the noble Lord , Lord Ahmad, on this—is whether it is acceptable for so many billions to be spent before there is a firm cost estimate. Demolition has started in Camden—people have been moved out and the ball and chains are starting to fly. We know that this is the kind of estimate at which the MoD is very good when it comes to aeroplanes and battleships and so on, but I am a civil engineer and I expect to get a reasonably firm estimate of a cost before there is a go-ahead to spending so much money.
I hope the Minister will be able to give me some comfort that this can be resolved. Perhaps we can have a meeting. I am due to have a meeting with the Minister, Paul Maynard. The cost needs nailing before it gets to the stage when Ministers say—this may well be after Ministers have changed and so they will no longer be responsible—“Well, it has started and it is too late to stop”.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, for initiating this debate on the biggest infrastructure project in the United Kingdom.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Freeman, I served on the Select Committee, which sat for many months hearing petitioners who believe they have an issue with the project. In the end, under the extraordinarily patient chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, we did a decent job within the limited powers that we had. I recall one petitioner who was so delighted with our decision that he declared, “It is what I have always said: the Lords do a wonderful job”. My favourite petitioner was an upright, well-dressed gentleman with a magnificent moustache—probably a retired military officer—who told us: “My Lords, my Lady, we do not want these things rattling past our homes”. I asked the sound expert, Rupert Thornely-Taylor, one of the top experts in the world, if the trains were really going to rattle. He thought for a moment and then replied: “Lord Jones, if they rattle they are in desperate need of maintenance”. Of course, these trains will go “Whoosh”, and when they are travelling at 330 kilometres an hour they will pass in seconds.
The shortening of journey times is staggering. I will give just three examples: Birmingham to Manchester in just 40 minutes compared to one hour 28 minutes; Leeds to London in one hour 21 minutes, saving 50 minutes; the Manchester-to-London journey time cut almost in half to just over an hour.
One of the greatest problems our country has is lack of productivity. Part of the problem is that businesses, with some notable exceptions, do not invest enough in technology and training. Another part of the problem is our transport system. We spend too much time stuck in traffic jams or travelling on slow-moving, overcrowded and often bumpy trains before we get to our workplace. By making it easier, faster and more reliable for people to move around the country, HS2 will allow individuals to achieve their full potential and give the regions and areas in which they live access to the critical mass of skills, professional services and markets they need to thrive and develop.
HS2 is already acting as a catalyst for change regionally and locally. The West Midlands Combined Authority estimates HS2 could boost the region’s economy by £14 billion and support 100,000 jobs. The east Midlands estimates £4 billion and 74,000 jobs. Manchester believes HS2 could bring 180,000 new jobs and 4,500 new homes are planned for near the station.
The current rail network is nearing capacity. Too many passengers have to stand when travelling by train. Not so long ago I caught a train from Euston to Milton Keynes to attend a Russ Ballard concert at the Stables. It was the Glasgow train, which was absolutely packed, with many passengers forced to stand. When we got to Milton Keynes it felt as though half the passengers got off the train. It took 20 minutes to exit the station.
The same is true in the opposite direction. I travelled from Birmingham to London and could not find a seat until we stopped at Coventry and many passengers alighted. Commuters are using trains aimed at long-distance travellers, resulting in an uncomfortable journey until the commuters get off. HS2 will put an end to that. More commuter trains will use the classic track, meaning all passengers should be able to find a seat. Long-distance passengers will get to their destination much quicker by travelling on the high-speed line.
The environment will benefit too. HS2 will create a new “green corridor” that will connect wildlife habitats through the spine of the country. This network of green spaces, spanning woodland, wetland, ponds, hedgerows, heathland, meadow and farmland, will stretch alongside much of the 345 miles of track from London to the West Midlands, through to the east Midlands, Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds. Some 1,350 hectares—that is 3,340 acres in old money—of wildlife habitats, ranging from woodland and meadow to hedgerows and wetland, will be created. This equates to the size of 4,676 football pitches and is a 33% increase in wildlife habitats along the line route. Some 7 million trees and shrubs will be planted—40 different species covering over 900 hectares. The Select Committee was keen to ensure that there would be no net loss of biodiversity.
Phase 1 of HS2 will emit seven times less carbon than the equivalent intercity car journey and 20 times less than the equivalent domestic flight. In 2030, carbon emissions from the operation of HS2 will form just 0.06% of the projected total of the UK’s transport emissions.
HS2 will create lots of jobs: 25,000 to build the railway, 3,000 to operate and maintain it and over 2,000 apprentices. More than 70% of the jobs will be outside London. Eventually, over 100 million people a year are expected to use HS2 trains when the network is fully completed. I shall follow HS2’s progress with interest.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, for providing us with this opportunity to discuss the progress being made with HS2. I appreciate that the noble Lord has a certain lack of enthusiasm for the project, but our policy, with which I know he does not agree, is to support completion of HS2 from London through Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester, then into Scotland. HS2 was initiated by the last Labour Government and neither the coalition Government in 2010, the Conservative Government in 2015 nor the present Conservative Government cosying up to the DUP have decided to do anything other than continue to make the case for HS2 and proceed with the project. The present Prime Minister may have had her doubts about Hinkley Point when she came into office, but she did not to the best of my knowledge demand a review of the case for HS2. Work on phase 1 of HS2 from Euston to Birmingham has already started, and a year ago the majority of the preferred route for phase 2B of HS2 was confirmed by the Government. Passenger services are planned to commence on phase 1 in 2026 and, subject to approval of the hybrid Bills, on phase 2A between the West Midlands and Crewe in 2027 and on phase 2B in 2033.
The strategic objectives of HS2 are to improve capacity and connectivity and, through that, to stimulate economic growth. A new high-speed network will also provide faster journey times and improved reliability. There is a need to ensure that our rail network has the capacity to meet the long-term demand which will arise not least from economic growth, an increasing population, and the continuing expansion of the UK as a major tourist destination. Our main north-south intercity rail routes are already facing capacity issues, primarily but not solely on the west coast main line. Further incremental improvements will not be sufficient to address those capacity issues, certainly not beyond the mid-2020s. On top of that, there is the reality that significant incremental upgrades result in prolonged and extensive disruption to the quality and speed of services on the parts of the current network being upgraded, which in itself has an economic and social cost.
Alternatives to HS2 have been considered but the conclusion has been reached that building new standard or classic rail lines would not be significantly cheaper than new high-speed lines, neither would their effects on the environment be significantly less than those of high-speed rail. They would also not deliver the same level of benefits as high-speed lines would through improved connectivity, bringing people and businesses together, and enhancing long-term economic growth.
Construction of the line will of course bring significant disruption to the communities affected, including where I live, in just the same way as the construction of our motorway network did or as additional runway capacity in the south-east would, assuming that the Government ever get round to making a final decision on that issue. The disruption from the construction of HS2 is all the worse for communities on the line of route because nearly all of them will get no future direct benefit from HS2 as there will be no stations on the new high-speed route anywhere near them.
The subject of this debate is the impact of HS2 on the economy and the environment. I am not quite clear where the Government now stand on rail improvements and the environment. One argument used by the Secretary of State recently when announcing the largest ever government programme for abandoning or delaying rail electrification schemes, to which that Government had previously been committed or supported, was that the overhead electrification infrastructure was unsightly, unpopular and a blot on the landscape. Will that same consideration, which seems to trouble the mind of the Government in general and the Secretary of State in particular, apply in the case of HS2?
The Chilterns, for example, is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Is the Secretary of State now going to say, consistent with his newly found distaste for overhead electrification infrastructure, that the fleet of new HS2 trains will be bimodal, with no wires or supporting electrification infrastructure, on the new line as it passes through the Chilterns? Is he about to announce that the line will now be in a tunnel right the way from West Ruislip through the Chilterns? That would presumably satisfy those advocating the Wendover short mined tunnel proposal, as well as addressing the issue of visible, unsightly overhead electrification structures which now appears to be a matter troubling the mind of the Secretary of State.
In our previous debates on HS2, reference has been made to those who have pressed for a link line in west London to enable HS2 services to connect with HS1 via existing south London lines. I am aware that there has been correspondence between advocates of this step and the Department for Transport; there may even have been a meeting. Perhaps the Minister could provide us with an update on what is happening on this issue. There are those who think it rather odd that we have managed to build HS1, running from the south into a terminal on the north side of London, and are about to build HS2, running from the north into an adjacent terminal, but have not managed to provide a connecting link between the two high-speed routes or make any provision for through-running of services.
In reiterating our support for HS2, I hope that the Government will be able to provide some firm assurances today that close attention will be paid throughout the construction process to the need to listen to the communities being adversely affected and to do everything possible to minimise the inevitable negative impacts on them that the construction process will involve. Indeed, along with the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, I would like to hear from the Minister that the Government intend to be actively involved in ensuring that this actually happens and that they do not simply intend to wait for problems to arise before doing anything.
My Lords, I start by thanking noble Lords for their contributions, and in particular my noble friend Lord Framlingham for giving us the opportunity to discuss this most important issue, the largest infrastructure project in Europe.
Your Lordships will know that I am a relative newcomer to this subject. I recognise the extensive knowledge and experience of noble Lords here today. I have listened to the criticisms of the project by many and welcome the expressions of support. I do not expect my response to satisfy my noble friend Lord Framlingham, as I am well aware of his long-standing views, but I hope to set out the Government’s assessment of the impacts of HS2 on the economy and the environment.
HS2 will transform the railways in this country, but of course I recognise its significant cost. The duty of this Government, and indeed this Parliament, is to ensure that we deliver good value for money for the British taxpayer. HS2 is not just about speed; it is about capacity, connectivity and supporting economic growth.
Our trains are becoming increasingly crowded. HS2 will form the new backbone of our national rail network, providing new capacity and better connecting our major cities. Good rail links bring our country closer together, and HS2 will help improve productivity and lead to a stronger, more balanced economy capable of delivering lasting economic growth and prosperity. Furthermore, people will not need to travel on HS2 to feel the benefits. Moving intercity services on to HS2 will free up space on our existing railways for new commuter, regional and freight services. This will create better connections and thousands more seats for passengers, and of course it will allow more goods to be moved by rail, helping to reduce congestion on the roads.
I turn to the impact on the economy of HS2 and will refer, first, to the important issue of jobs, referred to by many noble Lords. Around 25,000 jobs will be created during the construction, as well as 2,000 apprenticeships. Three thousand people will be employed on maintaining and operating the railway, and the investment around HS2 stations is expected to support 100,000 jobs. This is not just about when the new railway opens; jobs and skills are being created now. Several major contracts, worth over £7 billion, have already been awarded for the enabling and civil engineering works required to build phase 1. These contracts alone are expected to support 16,000 jobs and to generate thousands of indirect contract opportunities for the supply chain. HS2 is working with businesses, trade associations and local stakeholders across the UK, including many small and medium-sized firms, to ensure that they are ready to be involved.
HS2 is also about upskilling. A more skilled workforce is vital for the country. The National College for High Speed Rail, based in Doncaster and Birmingham, will open its doors later this year. The college will train young people to build HS2 and to work on other world-leading rail projects.
I now turn to the question of costs, which, understandably, is of concern to your Lordships’ House. The noble Lord, Lord Snape, raised the possibility of alternative schemes. At an earlier stage in the process, a number of strategic options were considered, but the decision was then made that none of the alternatives presented a better outcome—a point that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, acknowledged. They would not deliver the same scale of benefits as HS2. We are already upgrading the existing network, but this alone would never deliver the same level of capacity or journey time savings as HS2. As the noble Lord, Lord Snape, explained, it would be extremely disruptive to rail passengers, effectively closing key parts of the rail network for many years.
The current approach was decided and agreed by Parliament, and we must progress it. The Government’s responsibility is now to ensure that the project is delivered on budget and that it represents good value for money. The 2015 spending review reconfirmed the Government’s commitment to HS2, setting a long-term funding envelope of £55.7 billion. The Government are determined, and are on course, to deliver HS2 within this.
We have set HS2 Ltd ambitious targets which would see the programme delivered below the total funding envelope. For example, the Secretary of State has set target design costs reflecting internationally efficient benchmarks to incentivise HS2 Ltd and its contractors to deliver phase 2 below budget.
Many noble Lords have raised the issue of proper scrutiny. I share their desire to ensure that all our costings are accurate. The cost estimates are determined by industry experts, informed by international standards. We expect public scrutiny and have invited independent assurance and examination of HS2 Ltd’s cost estimates. They are examined periodically by the Commons Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office, and are regularly reviewed by the Secretary of State.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, made a number of points on the importance of clarifying the costs. We have recently published the financial costs as part of the HS2 business case, which I believe is an uncommon step. I know that the Rail Minister will come back to the noble Lord on the points that he has raised with him.
My noble friend Lord Framlingham asked about an independent Treasury review, but as he would expect, the project is already subject to an ongoing rigorous programme of external assurance reviews. The terms of reference for each assurance review are developed with the Treasury and the infrastructure and project authority, with reviews conducted by independent project delivery experts. Given this ongoing scrutiny by the Treasury, the Government do not believe that an independent review is necessary.
Many noble Lords have raised the benefits that HS2 will bring to the north. Economic growth in the north has been constrained by poor connectivity between cities. HS2 will help address this, making it easier for businesses to choose to locate in our great northern and Midlands cities. The majority of benefits from HS2 will be enjoyed in these places, outside of London. HS2 improves journey times between London and the north, but also transforms connectivity between many of our largest cities in the Midlands, the north and in Scotland. We are also committed to northern powerhouse rail—our vision for improving even further journey times and service frequencies between major cities in the north of England. Far from competing with it, HS2 is essential to delivering this vision. The Chancellor announced at conference £300 million of funding to future proof HS2 to accommodate northern powerhouse rail junctions. The Government have also provided Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, the east Midlands and Crewe with funding to develop HS2 growth strategies. They should act as a catalyst for growth and aim to maximise opportunities for new homes and employment.
We want HS2 to be more environmentally responsible than any other major infrastructure project in UK history. Despite it being one of the largest construction projects in Europe, we are committed to reducing its effects on the countryside and on communities. HS2 will play a key part in the UK’s future low-carbon transport system and support the Government’s overall carbon objectives. Noble Lords will be aware that in comparison with most other transport modes high-speed rail offers some of the lowest carbon emissions per passenger kilometre, significantly less than cars and planes. Of course, such a major project requires significant works—a point that many of your Lordships have raised today. We are fully aware of the potential detrimental effect this can have on the environment, so are doing all we can to mitigate it.
The route was designed to minimise environmental impacts wherever possible—the noble Lord, Lord Jones of Cheltenham, highlighted the environmental work that we are doing. We will create a network of new wildlife habitats along the HS2 route. This includes around 7 million new trees and shrubs in the first phase of the railway. We expect to plant the first of these trees this winter, with more than 100,000 new trees in the West Midlands area. In phase 1, we are creating nearly three times as much new woodland as the non-ancient woodland affected by HS2. Of course, ancient woodland is irreplaceable. Although we cannot fully compensate all impacts, we have committed to using best-practice measures such as enhancing linkages between woodlands, reusing ancient woodland soils and creating new mixed deciduous woodland. Over time, we will create a green corridor of connected wildlife habitats which will blend the railway into the landscape and support local species. In addition, we are keen to go beyond the immediate boundaries of the railway and take this opportunity to improve the wider natural environment, in partnership with local people. For example, we have introduced the £5 million HS2 woodland fund to help local landowners create new native, broadleaf woodlands and restore existing ancient woodland sites.
The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, made a number of points on hybrid Bills and the property bond scheme. I will have to read them carefully in Hansard and come back to him.
My noble friend Lord Framlingham asked about monitoring construction activity. HS2 Ltd has an extensive monitoring programme, and a code of construction practice for the scheme will set clear requirements for meeting environmental targets and minimising impacts.
Moving on to the effect this will have on communities, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, we recognise that the construction of HS2 is not always welcome. We have, however, tried to design the route as far as possible to avoid or reduce negative impacts such as the demolition of properties, excessive noise and impacts on our landscape and natural environments. The Government are committed to ensuring that people feel the widest benefits of the new railway and to compensating those directly impacted.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asks whether the Government will be taking a keen interest in having conversations with communities throughout the project, and I can assure him that we will do that. The noble Lord also asked about electrification. As the Secretary of State explained at the time, the decision to cancel the planned electrification schemes, including on the midland main line between Kettering and Sheffield, was made to deliver benefits to passengers sooner than would otherwise be possible.
The noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, asked about the departmental response to the report from the group of academics. I understand that some of the report’s authors have written to the DfT over the years and Ministers have responded to their queries and concerns, including many of the issues raised in the report.
I have endeavoured to address as many of the points raised as I can, but where I have not been able to do so I will write to noble Lords. More people are travelling on our railways than ever: since privatisation the number of passenger journeys has more than doubled, almost tripling in key intercity corridors. That is why we need HS2. While alternatives have been extensively considered, they do not provide the required capacity and would be too disruptive to the existing rail network.
I am sure that my response has not satisfied my noble friend Lord Framlingham, but the approach to HS2 has been decided and agreed by Parliament. Our job is now to ensure the successful delivery and cost effectiveness of phase 1. Your Lordships will, of course, have an opportunity to scrutinise and debate the phase 2A Bill after its passage through the Commons.
Our plan is to build a stronger, fairer country with an economy that works for everyone—one in which wealth and opportunity are spread across the country. Investment in economic infrastructure, in which HS2 plays an integral role, is a key part of this long-term vision.
Brexit: Least Developed Countries
Question for Short Debate
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what support they intend to provide to the least developed countries in relation to any adverse effects resulting from Brexit.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for answering this debate at a difficult time for DfID, and I can only wish the new Secretary of State well. I also look forward to hearing from old friends and campaigners today, including the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, who is just off an aeroplane, who has wide and continuing experience, especially in Africa.
There are several levels of discussion when it comes to the LDCs and Brexit. I shall focus on trade because it is widely understood that trade can be an effective form of aid. Changes in UK trade policy as a result of Brexit will have profound effects on all developing countries. There are existing concessionary arrangements such as the Everything but Arms agreement, which specifically helps the LDCs. I know that the Minister will not rest his case on the EBA alone, but a fairly strong press release this summer reassured us that the EBA will stay in place. Will it really stay? How can it? It is an EU initiative and there can be no absolute guarantee about anything unless and until we actually leave the European Union.
However, the new White Paper on trade promises duty-free, quota-free access for 49 LDCs, presumably under another form of EBA. It provides for full or partial Generalised Scheme of Preferences for 13 other developing countries and GSP+ for nine countries that are committed to implementing human rights and good governance. So will the Government establish a new category of vulnerable least-developed countries, “VDCs”, and offer them non-reciprocal, tariff-free access with more flexible rules of origin?
EU concessions currently help only about one-third of imports from the poorest countries. I remain concerned about the possible direct effects of withdrawal on the ACP group—the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries—which derived from the Lomé Convention and the Cotonou agreement. We will have to sign new economic partnership agreements and FTAs with these countries. Some are cushioned by minerals and cash crops that help to inflate their national GDP while doing little for their population. Commodity prices can appear to make all the difference to a country that, while remaining poor, may not qualify for any concessions. Corruption, the power of elites, and of course conflict can and do distort the economic profile. Highly indebted LDCs are in a category of their own and even potentially wealthy ones like Mozambique are still in default. A country such as South Sudan, the newest of the LDCs, is hardly in a state to be measured at all, yet we must and do make every effort to support it. Zimbabwe will now become another priority.
Some of the poorest countries that are not technically LDCs may suffer from Brexit if they are currently benefiting from an EPA with the EU. Exports to the EU from some middle income developing countries can account for half of their total exports, such as 57% in the case of Seychelles and 47% for Cameroon. Through tariff elimination, young industries in these countries could be exposed to competition. I expect the Minister will say something about EPAs and how we can continue or improve on the present EU arrangements, which are far from ideal, when we are outside the EU. The word “partnership” is used increasingly by the Government as though there will still have to be close trading arrangements with Europe, which must mean with the EU as well. If we are to end up close offshore like Norway we will still be associated with the existing EPAs and other EU trading arrangements.
Then there is the uncertainty factor. No one can yet accurately forecast what Brexit will mean even to citizens of the UK and Europe, let alone to the rest of the world, so this debate may seem premature. Changes are unlikely to occur until the UK is effectively out of the EU and beyond transition, but the same dilemma affects all departments. People directly affected by our decisions, whether they are EU citizens here or small farmers in poorer countries, need to have the answers as soon as possible.
It seems that many who voted for Brexit are now seeing the downside, although it is unlikely they will have the chance to vote again, short of a general election. What we do know is that currency fluctuations have not spared the poorest countries. The 10% fall in the pound in the week post Brexit, for example, along with the UK’s lower GDP, would have led to lower exports from the LDCs. Sterling has suffered again this week. I do not deny there will be opportunities ahead, but we must admit that the present UK economic climate is discouraging.
What of aid? What relationship will the UK have with the EU’s aid programme in the future? Priti Patel said on 18 October:
“An important part of the UK’s future development strategy will be to continue working closely with our European partners”.
Will the Minister spell this out a little? Will he say whether there will be a relationship with the European Development Fund and ECHO, the humanitarian agency? Will the EU become our preferred or most favoured partner in aid and development, as will need to happen in the fields of justice, security and defence?
Returning to trade, I know that the Government are strong supporters of free and fair trade and of the concept of aid for trade. Priti Patel has also said:
“Britain will lead the world in free trade, but, importantly, we will also help the poorest countries to invest in skills, technical assistance and capacity building and create new markets”.—[Official Report, Commons, 18/10/17; cols. 825.]
We can all agree with that.
The CDC, for all its failings—it is still monitored in Private Eye—will need to adapt its own style of investment to join DfID in reaching the poorest communities, not from the top down but from the needs of those communities upwards. This is something it still has to learn and we may hear more about that later. We should encourage DfID, through the various watchdogs and committees, to continue this trend and show that CDC can create new jobs directly.
One pathway frequently talked about at the UN, and in particular by the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, who could not be here today, is the focus on sustainable development goals. The whole point of sustainability is that whatever scheme is involved, it has to belong to the community and be viable and sustainable or it will simply fail like so many aid programmes. Trade can and should be an essential means of achieving some of the SDGs—notably numbers 8, 9 and 10—and the primary goals of eradicating poverty and hunger. Fair trade is an example which has already proved its own success. Microcredit, when it is properly anchored in loan and credit schemes, is another effective way of reaching the poorest.
Climate change—SDG 13—presents a serious challenge for the LDCs because natural disasters, both sudden and insidious, can overturn years of economic development. Both aid and trade are important because of the need to prevent these disasters through aid and subsidised input, sometimes through large-scale infrastructure and the control of carbon emissions, and targeted action at the micro level. This subject, including the need to implement the Paris agreement, is under urgent discussion in Bonn at the moment.
A question arises about the Sahel and Francophone Africa. Are we saying goodbye to countries such as Mali and Niger, currently an aid and security concern of ours through the EU, simply by pursuing Brexit?
The Commonwealth is, I am glad to say, gaining a higher profile because of the CHOGM in London next April. The Commonwealth is increasingly being mentioned as an alternative for Brexit, a vision of the wider world we need to embrace, but I am not sure that this vision goes very far when you look at the data. The Financial Times recently pointed out that the EU and the Commonwealth are not comparable if you consider the supply chain, for example, in the car-making, aerospace and machinery industries, where the UK is embedded in the EU network. Even countries such as Canada and Australia cannot make up for the components currently being supplied to industries in the UK at competitive prices. Brexit requires radical changes and some of these will impact on all the UK’s present trading partners, including those in the Commonwealth that may enjoy preferences. I look forward to the Minister’s assessment.
In closing, I would briefly like to mention two good friends we have lost who made huge contributions to international development—Lord Joffe, who was well known to this House, a former chair of Oxfam and a hero of South Africa, whose memorial service took place yesterday, and Andrew Hutchinson, head of education at Save the Children, another person of great integrity and moral purpose, who died last week and whose funeral is taking place at this moment in Southwark Cathedral. They will be missed by many.
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for tabling this important debate. I endorse practically every word he said. I shall refer briefly to the EU work in the Sahel. It is no good leaving that critical work uninfluenced by British foreign policy. This issue is not often debated in this House or another place and I hope that DfID will look with great care at what we can do to continue to support the work that the EU is currently doing in the Sahel.
I declare my interests as listed in the Register of Lords’ Interests. As colleagues know, I continue to be involved in matters in Africa—more so on the finance, trade and business side than on development. I too have always believed that the best way to help African countries, and indeed those LDCs in the rest of the world, is to help them into business, production and employment rather than give them handouts. I of course support the work that goes on in health, education and many other areas, but I believe it is critical to include the work on economic development. That is why I was glad to read the previous Secretary of State’s commitment on 24 June this year to help the world’s poorest by securing existing duty-free access to UK markets, as well as providing new opportunities to increase trade links. This will apply to the 48 countries that continue to benefit from duty-free exports to the UK on all goods, other than arms and ammunition.
It is worth reading DfID’s Economic Development Strategy. More than £20 billion-worth of goods per annum is shipped from these countries to the UK and, with that strategy, outlined by DfID earlier this year, that sum should increase steadily provided that the funding arrangements for training and business development in the LDCs continue. That has to underpin the national programmes for skills development, in which the EU—and other member states in the EU—have been much involved. They continue to help one another in this respect.
The serious co-ordination of cross-country assistance to the LDCs has to extend beyond Britain’s boundaries and we have to maximise the improving use of development assistance. I know that the UK has been a very positive contributor to the better use of funds with many of our development partners, and this needs to continue beyond March 2019. I hope that the new Secretary of State, Penny Mordaunt, will continue Priti Patel’s important focus on job-creating growth in our own development programmes, regardless of who originated the programmes. With a very much better budget than I ever enjoyed as the Minister for Development, it may be possible for us to put money into programmes paralleling those in the EU when we are no longer a member. Economic development and the training and skills from which so many LDCs benefit at present have to be protected if we are to be honest with ourselves in relation to what development is about. Thus, I urge colleagues to see that we continue the good things in the EU development programme beyond March 2019.
We also need to make sure that this sad departure of the UK from the EU will not be used as an excuse not to do things. I hear far too many pretty ignorant comments about what we will not do in the future. One thing that we will be doing is good development assistance. I am very glad to learn that Rory Stewart, who is a Minister for both the Foreign Office and DfID—something that I enjoyed on the Africa score for many years—has just set up a special review of development assistance in the event of our exit, which seems likely. I hope that this debate will be able to contribute to Foreign Office and DfID thinking on the changed situation that we will face.
I should like to say one word on Mozambique. It desperately needs our help. It is trying to find a way out of its debt situation but it is in some considerable difficulty. I hope that Britain will be able to help.
My Lords, I join the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, in congratulating my noble friend Lord Sandwich on bringing forward this very important subject. The noble Baroness and I shared many happy hours in the other place and, even then, more united us than divided us, and I am glad that that is still the case. We are talking about dealing with what we now call lesser developed countries. We used to call them underdeveloped countries; the jargon has changed quite a bit. I hope noble Lords realise that this is an extremely important issue.
People tend to speak about gross domestic product, the average wage and so on. I am going to take a slightly different approach. On 11 November, the Economist published a couple of very useful articles about Africa and the lack of capacity for people there to access electricity. That is a different approach but nevertheless quite useful. Some of the figures are astonishing. For example, in South Africa, which is arguably the most highly industrialised country in Africa, 28% of people still have no access to electricity. In Nigeria, the figure is between 25% and 49%. In Mozambique, it is between 50% and 70%. The astonishing thing is that the Cahora Bassa dam in Mozambique, which is a major power supplier, sends most of its electricity to South Africa. It does not stay within the country itself.
There is a conundrum as far as the future is concerned. Everyone wants industry to grow but it cannot grow without electricity, and the electricity supply cannot expand without businesses to buy the product. In Kenya in particular, a lot of work has been done on solar panels and innovative pricing methods for the product. Nevertheless, there will still be a need for large energy suppliers. We know from our own experience how difficult it is to arrive at a decision about when to build a new power station. If it is bad for us, how difficult must it be for countries without the capacity to do so? We have to grow these economies. Although the Kenyan experiment is useful, without large energy suppliers they cannot have the business. How are we going to square the circle and resolve that conundrum?
There is much to be done, possibly by the World Bank and other agencies, to take a risk and build the electricity supply before the demand is there; otherwise, things will never move. Unless we act soon and properly on the energy supply in what we call the lesser developed countries, we are in very great danger that in 10, 20 or 30 years from now, we will be in the same place, arguing the same questions but in a slightly different way. This is an extremely important issue and one which the Government need to take account of. When we go into the post-Brexit talks, a lot of technical matters will be involved. But much more important are the matters of principle and practice that need to be addressed. I unfortunately see no signs at the moment that the Government have any idea of how they are going to proceed. I hope that this debate helps to clear their mind.
My Lords, I too congratulate my noble friend Lord Sandwich on organising this debate. Much debate on Brexit is about what will happen over the next 21 months or so, and it is good to be able to look a bit beyond that. Indeed, it is good to look at some aspects of Brexit that might conceivably even be of some advantage to the United Kingdom, rather unusually.
The size and structure of the British aid programme has been rightly admired around the world, if, alas, not always in this country. The focus on aid to the least developed countries has been a key part of that, together with the very good work of NGOs, which has not been mentioned so far today and which deserves great praise. It has made a real difference to the lives of some very poor people around the world. I hope that the emphasis in the aid programme on the least developed countries will continue after Brexit. I cannot see why it should not; indeed, I can see every reason why it should. It would be good to have confirmation from the Minister that that will be the case.
Less than perfect administrative capacity is inevitable in the least developed countries, which means that the misuse of aid must be minimised. However, it will never be eliminated. We have to accept that, from time to time, there will inevitably be complaints about the way in which aid has been used; alas, that will not always go down well in the papers here, but it is an inevitable consequence of a focus on the least developed countries. There will always be tensions too between the wish to support the poorest people in poor countries and real concerns about supporting countries with questionable political systems.
The key here—I very much agree with what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker—is that the FCO and DfID should work closely together and complement one another. I am sure that they will do that in future, after the adventures of the past few weeks. For the avoidance of doubt, and as a Cross-Bencher, I should say that poor relationships between the FCO and DfID are not new and not a prerogative of any one particular political party. As Permanent Secretary to the Foreign Office, I remember calling on Prime Minister Meles in Addis Ababa to pass on the rather firm message from Prime Minister Blair and the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw that locking up the opposition was not the best way to burnish his social democratic credentials—only to find that the DfID representative in Addis Ababa had called on the Financial Minister the very same day and promised him a rather large sum of money. I did not feel that that enhanced the message I was trying to give. However, I am quite sure that that will not happen in the future.
As the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, has said, trade is important. I am glad that the Government have said that after Brexit they will, as a minimum, provide the same level of access to developing countries as the current EU trade preference schemes. That is a very important commitment. The EU has not been as generous as it might have been in its trade policy to developing countries. I hope that the Government, outside the European Union, may be able to devise more generous policies, especially to the poorest countries. I welcome anything the Minister can say about that too.
My Lords, I should remind myself and the Committee that I was in development for a long time, working for the Commonwealth Development Corporation. I am historical because I became its chief executive about 30 years ago. Subsequently, of course, my noble friend Lady Chalker was my boss, so I had to pay very careful attention. If I may make a personal remark, I much preferred it then. It would be better today if DfID were part of the Foreign Office; making it a separate department was a mistake, and remains so.
I will duck Brexit because I do not have the slightest idea what will happen after it, and in the life of CDC, it will not make any significant difference, whatever the agreement or whichever way it goes. We are in long-term economic development. We will have investments at the time and will be making more, so I do not think it will make any difference. Co-operation with our European and United States partners, such as the IFC, DEG in Germany and FMO in Holland, goes on all the time and will undoubtedly continue. We will have joint investments and so we will have to talk to each other in a quiet and friendly way, otherwise things will not go well.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that for the 70 years of its history, CDC has been investing in power stations and electricity distribution, using hydroelectric as well as conventional electricity. It is still doing that; at the moment, it is working very hard in Sierra Leone on power generation and distribution. Of course that is tremendously important. You cannot have economic development and you cannot increase trade unless you have things to sell—and you do not have things to sell unless you create the companies to produce things that people want to buy. In the long term, it is economic development that tells the story.
I want to illustrate that point by talking about three countries. The Comoros have 800,000 people who are Sunni Muslim and $1,500 of income per capita. They were French—there are three islands and the French kept the fourth one, presumably because it was the best—and 300,000 Comorans live in France. How do you do long-term development for those islands? They export vanilla, which you can synthesise—but still, they export natural vanilla—and they have a tourist trade, with very good snorkelling. They also have political instability.
Then we go to the other end of the scale and the countries that are the least developed. Ethiopia has $1,900 dollars per capita and 105 million people. It has a difficult history, but it is the country from which coffee came. Coffee has not been mentioned specifically, but the way in which the European Union behaves about coffee is scandalous. It debars the least developed countries effectively from processing their own coffee; it tells them, “You can send us beans”. So there are things that might get better after Brexit. In Ethiopia, 45% of the population are Ethiopian orthodox Christians—rather different from 98% Sunni. In the middle, you have Tanzania with 50 million people. It was German but then it became British.
When you are thinking about aid, trade and economic development, it is incredibly important to understand the complexity of what you are engaged in and the amount of information that you have to collect. The banners that are put up to say that we are going to do the same thing everywhere just do not work.
It is incredibly important that we continue with a development finance institution such as the CDC, which puts people on the ground and has technology, electricity generation and distribution, and mobile telephones, for example. It used to have—and I hope it will have again—a lot of sophisticated agricultural technology, and will continue with the business of long-term economic development. Please may we cease to argue about the relative benefits of aid, trade and economic development? They all have their place but, if you want to solve the problems, it is economic development that will do it.
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Sandwich for raising this debate and focusing our minds on this aspect of international development. For what it is worth, and as a fellow strong Brexit supporter, I hope that I may congratulate Penny Mordaunt on becoming the new Secretary of State, and wish her well.
One positive result of Brexit will be that we, this country, will be forced to address more carefully the merits and advantages of how we spend taxpayers’ money, which in the past we left to the EU, rather than handing over large sums and leaving it to the EU largely to decide the best way in which to disburse it. In theory, in the longer term, that should lead to the need for more parliamentary debate and input on this subject. However, in contributing to this debate, I realise that the immediate bridging on departure from the EU will lead to some difficult consequences, particularly in trade, that need to be addressed. Obviously, we should continue to co-operate closely with EU countries on the ground but, at the end of the day, crucial decisions will be ours. As the noble Lord, Lord Jay, said, we can be more generous.
Usually, and rightly, underpinning debates such as this are the sustainable development goals—and I shall come back later to what I believe to be important about that, if I have time.
We should congratulate the department on already having announced—as other Lords have noted—that on leaving the EU it intends to continue the EBA—Everything But Arms—scheme that provides the least developed countries with duty-free market access. The announcement went further, without many details, to the effect that improved market access would be offered to the next tier of countries. We should also be grateful to the NGOs that have been prompting DfID in this direction. For many countries, their narrow range of products, such as sugar or coffee, would not be competitive in our market unless such preferences were given. We understand that there is also a commitment to trade in a way that protects human rights and the health and safety of workers. Existing agreements and preferences could be improved in negotiating the new arrangements. However, given the pressures we will now be under in other areas to safeguard our own general position and interests, we will need to rely on the relevant countries to come forward, with their allies in this country—the NGOs and businesses affected here.
I come to the subject of support—the word in the title of this debate—that is given by DfID other than through trade, in financial assistance. For example, in the Government’s paper, Foreign Policy, Defence and Development—a Future Partnership Paper, mention was made of the positive leadership of the UK in calling a family planning summit in London earlier this year, along with seven other EU member states, in the build-up to 2020. In her introductory speech at the summit the then Secretary of State said that the UK would boost its support for family planning around the world by 25%, and that that commitment would last until 2022. We have been trying to lead other EU countries in this field for some time and I hope that we may continue to do that.
After the worrying withdrawal of the American contribution in this field, we are now the lead donor to the United Nations Population Fund, and it is vital that this continues, along with the contributions of other EU countries. In the opinion of many, and as stated in the SDGs, successful reproductive health programmes are one of the keys to sustainable development. It is accepted that such investment in that field yields a benefit to that society many times over. The Sahel, which has been mentioned by two noble Lords, is a region that needs much encouragement in the area of reproductive health.
I hope that, even in the uncertain times to come, DfID will find it desirable to prioritise such investment in reproductive health. In this field, and in much of what we have heard today, many fine words and good intentions have been expressed. I hope that we and the department can live up to them and deliver what we all hope for.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Earl for initiating this important debate. During my 25 years in Parliament, I have devoted some of my time to understanding and supporting the work carried out by the Department for International Development.
I also have an interest in spreading democracy, and have been to several countries in Africa, including Mozambique and Sierra Leone—two of the countries mentioned today as being most in need of help—and to the Palestinian territories, as an observer of their elections. Observing elections is always a fascinating and uplifting experience. The UK uses its international development policy to address a number of global challenges, including poverty, diseases, climate change, migration and state fragility. While we are a highly generous donor, we cannot hope to solve these problems alone and need to work with other donors and to mobilise them to pursue similar goals.
It is possible—indeed likely—that, as a result of Brexit, the EU’s development focuses will shift. The central and eastern European countries are keen on diverting EU aid from the poorest countries, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa, towards the EU’s eastern neighbourhood, something which the UK—quite rightly —has so far resisted. The migration crisis has also strengthened calls for diverting EU aid.
A potentially long and painful Brexit-induced recession may force the Government to make cuts and abandon the 0.7% overseas aid target. In September this year, the UK Government published a policy paper, Foreign Policy, Defence and Development—a Future Partnership Paper, which stated that,
“the UK will continue to use its international development budget through its international development partnerships, to advance global development impact or to tackle specific country problems”.
I was encouraged by that. However, the former Secretary of State, Priti Patel, said in October that leaving the EU would allow the Government to reclaim billions of pounds of annual aid funding currently diverted via Brussels. It could then be used not only for “humanitarian” work, but for,
“prosperity, Britain post Brexit, trade and economic development”.
She said this to the Commons International Development Committee. She added:
“There are a whole raft of opportunities”,
where we can use that money for,
“our national interest, global Britain’s interest, as well as helping to alleviate poverty around the world”.
The primary purpose of development should be lifting the poorest people in the world out of poverty, not serving the Government’s post-Brexit trade strategy.
When Hurricanes Irma and Maria tore through the Caribbean in September, the UK Government came under sharp criticism for a slow and seemingly reluctant effort—although they got there eventually—in the recovery of its Overseas Territories, including the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and the Turks and Caicos Islands. One of the excuses used by DfID was that, under international rules, those islands are too wealthy to be eligible for official development assistance. That may be so, but these are UK Overseas Territories. They are not independent countries; they each have a UK governor. They are our responsibility and we carry any liability caused by unusual and devastating events such as hurricanes. Frankly, neither France nor the Netherlands had any hesitation in getting support to their overseas territories.
I have a couple of questions for the Minister. What discussions have the Government had with the Department for Exiting the European Union to ensure that funding for British Overseas Territories is protected in real terms if and when the UK leaves the EU? What assessment have they made of the UK’s ability to commit to spending 0.7% of the UK’s GNI on overseas development assistance after we have left the EU?
My Lords, I too thank the noble Earl for initiating the debate. Over the weeks and months ahead we will have plenty of opportunity to debate even further. We will have more time.
A cliff-edge Brexit will have catastrophic consequences. As we heard yesterday in your Lordships’ EU Financial Affairs Sub-Committee, JP Morgan’s contingency plans include beefing up its operations in Ireland, Germany and Luxembourg in preparation for a hard Brexit. We see from reports this afternoon that that seems quite possible. There is no doubt that many in the development community fear the consequences of a cliff edge and face the need to make contingency plans. What discussions have DfID had with NGOs to address such fears? What will be the position of INGOs receiving funds from DfID on funding from DfID and the EU post Brexit? Will British NGOs have to register elsewhere, such as in Scandinavian countries, to secure and obtain EU funding?
According to the Minister, in Hansard vol. 783,
“the UK contributed £935 million in overseas development assistance to the EU budget in 2015 through core funding. In addition, DfID contributed £392 million to the European Development Fund”.—[Official Report, 4/7/17; cols. 783.]
That is significant, and in DfID’s multilateral development review the EDF was deemed among the most effective of any multilateral organisations. The noble Lord argued that decisions on whether we want to contribute or stay out of the EDF will be made as part of the process of exiting the EU, asserting,
“at least we have a choice”.—[Official Report, 4/7/17; cols. 783.]
Does that mean a choice not to support the most effective programmes—a choice not to augment our priorities through partnership in the EU?
I welcome the Government’s approach to trade policy towards developing countries, released by DfID, but it is not as generous as it may appear. As we have heard, the strategy addresses everything but arms agreements, which allows for the UK to negotiate agreements unilaterally, but it does not address the economic partnership agreements which are vital to many developing countries in terms of trade going into the UK and the EU. How are the Government going to address this issue in negotiating Brexit? Are we meant to be satisfied by the assertion that they will continue until Brexit? What about the requirement for planning, the longer term commitments, the 10-year plans? All we hear from the Government is that the details will be handled as part of the exiting EU strategy. We are told the UK strategy is a cross-government, cross-Whitehall approach about where our priorities should be. Is DfID there when crucial decisions are being made?
Under EU law, it is required that trade policy promotes sustainable development. Liam Fox commented that the Government are committed to helping developing countries grow their economies and reduce poverty through trade. However, the recently published Trade Bill has been described as a missed opportunity by the Fairtrade Foundation for the Government to place poverty reduction at the heart of future trade deals and to ensure open and democratic scrutiny of future trade negotiations.
We are told that the UK is committed to ensuring that when companies source from developing countries they do so in a way that protects the human rights of workers and their health and safety—we heard this in the debate from the noble Viscount—but I would like to hear from the Minister what steps the Government are taking to ensure that forthcoming deals being negotiated by his colleagues in the Cabinet are properly assessed to avoid unintended knock-on damage to poverty reduction and human rights.
My Lords, I join with others in paying tribute to the noble Earl for securing this debate and for the way he has set the scene. I particularly thank him for his good wishes to the new Secretary of State, Penny Mordaunt. She has already addressed staff at DfID stressing her priorities, one of which will resonate with many in this Room—disability. She was Minister for Disabilities at DWP, an area I know well and on which we are already doing a great deal of work. We can look for that to be enhanced in the future.
The focus of this debate is on the implications of exiting the European Union; our trading relationships with developing countries; our future development partnership with the EU; and annual UK development assistance. On the sums referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, this morning we had the timely publication of Statistics on International Development 2017, which gives the latest figures for 2016. These show that the annual development assistance channelled through the EU was £1.5 billion in 2016. This comprises 15% of the EU development funding and consists of contributions to EU Budget Heading IV instruments of £1.031 billion and to the European Development Fund of £473 million.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked what arrangements there might be going forward. We will continue to work closely and in parallel with the EU in many areas. I will come on to these later and particularly touch on the Sahel. However, there are structural changes that the EU will need to make. For example, the European Development Fund would not allow a non-member state to be a member. Although I accept that it is a well-performing fund, it would need to be opened up and made available to non-members if the UK was to continue to be part of it.
The EU’s development priorities are closely aligned with the UK’s—indeed, they have to a considerable extent been shaped by the UK during our EU membership. However, where the EU currently provides development assistance to more than 140 countries, UK aid is focused on 32 priority countries—the noble Earl referred to this, saying that where aid is needed most is in the difficult areas, in the tough areas. My noble friend Lord Eccles referred to the mission of CDC as being to work in the most difficult and challenging areas. That is where we focus our effort.
I join the noble Lord, Lord Jay, in paying tribute to the work done by British NGOs around the world. One of the most shocking statistics we see is that for the deaths of humanitarian workers. Sadly, in many conflicts humanitarian workers are targeted for delivering humanitarian aid. We should honour the sacrifice that so many of those NGOs make. I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, whether I had met the NGOs. I had a round table recently with the major NGOs that work with DfID, including Bond, where we discussed this very issue. I have relayed its concerns and we are working with the Department for Exiting the European Union to ensure that our world-class NGOs are not disadvantaged by any changes.
The question of how much will be reallocated to DfID is subject to agreement with the Treasury. DfID has a tried-and-tested resource allocation process that has enabled us to deliver the Government’s target of 0.7% of GNI for five consecutive years. I am confident that we would be able to absorb any additional funds allocated to us. Of course, it would be premature to announce detailed spending plans, not least because there are significant areas of uncertainty, such as the point at which the UK will stop making contributions to the EU—the noble Lord mentioned that many such contracts are long-term engagements. That needs to be fully clarified. Another area is how the EU will respond once UK funding ceases; specifically, whether member states will increase their ODA contributions to compensate for a 15% reduction in the EU’s development budgets. Finally, it is uncertain what the UK’s ODA budget will be in future years, as it is linked by law to gross national income, which by its nature fluctuates.
The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, touched on power supply, which is a crucial element. Just as with economic development in this country the maxim is that investment follows infrastructure, so it is true everywhere else. Where there is investment in infrastructure, it acts as a catalyst for investment. As my noble friend Lord Eccles mentioned, it is a prime reason why we are increasing the resource available to CDC. In some of the areas I work on, I am struck by how many incredible solutions—in education, for example—can come through use of tablets and computers, yet the absence of electricity makes them a non-starter. In economic development, mobile payment technology is liberating parts of east Africa through the TradeMark East Africa project, but some people are missing out simply because they do not have electricity. Therefore, the advance of solar power, particularly small-scale solar power, is revolutionising what we can do in those areas.
I remind noble Lords of our recent commitment to remain the largest donor to the International Development Association, which in its next cycle will double the resources going to fragile states, as well as of our decision significantly to scale up our contribution to CDC to support its job-creating investment activities. Together with our multilateral reform efforts, this will deliver a higher volume and quality of resources to the least developed countries.
We have incredible expertise here, including former Permanent Secretaries—I think that the noble Lord, Lord Jay, was at the Foreign Office at the time of the incredible Gleneagles agreement, which was certainly a landmark under the previous Labour Government. Our longest-serving Overseas Development Minister, my noble friend Lady Chalker, talked about close working between the FCO and DfID—a number of noble Lords, including the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, mentioned this as well. For the first time, we now have joint Ministers between departments in Rory Stewart and Alistair Burt. We have new cross-Whitehall funds: the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund; the prosperity fund; and the empowerment fund. They are distributing aid and, together, forcing that effort of co-ordination. I would like to be able to say, hand on heart, that the Addis Ababa experience will not be repeated, but I think the chances are reduced, especially now that when you visit a lot of these missions, we are co-located with the Foreign Office in buildings. That seems a very sensible way forward.
Turning to the future, it is in the UK’s interest that the EU remains a strong development partner after we have left, and that we work coherently on helping the world’s most vulnerable. On 12 September we published the future partnership paper referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, and the noble Lord, Lord Collins. In it, we expressed our desire for future co-operation with the EU that goes beyond existing third country arrangements, building on our shared interests and values. We look forward to formal discussions in phase 2 of the negotiations. In the meantime, as a member state, we are engaged in discussions with the European Commission and other member states on a successor to the Cotonou agreement. Through those discussions, we are pushing for more flexible EU development instruments after 2020 to allow greater co-operation with non-member states.
I turn now to a point made by my noble friend Lady Chalker and the noble Lords, Lord Jay and Lord Jones—the situation in the Sahel. The UK is one of the largest donors to humanitarian relief in the Sahel. Between 2015 and 2018, the UK will provide nearly £190 million of humanitarian assistance to support over 2.3 million people affected by conflict. To the noble Lords and the noble Baroness who spoke on this, perhaps the most encouraging part of this update is that, given the ongoing development of the humanitarian political challenges faced by the region, it is significant that the UK will have a new, permanent office in Chad before the end of the year, comprising a DfID/FCO joint mission. I hope noble Lords will be encouraged by that.
I want to make one point to the noble Lord, Lord Jones, on overseas territories. Of the £62 million that we provided immediately for those who suffered Hurricanes Irma and Maria, only £5 million was ODA-eligible, but that did not stop us—quite rightly, as the noble Lord urged—from recognising our responsibilities under law and under the UN charter to care for and protect those important citizens in the overseas territories. The UK Government share a responsibility with overseas Governments to ensure the security and prosperity of British citizens living in those territories. Part of the UK’s support to overseas territories is provided through the EU. The European Commission has already assured our overseas territories that they will receive their full allocation from the EDF.
I am conscious that time is running out, but I know this issue is of great concern. Perhaps I can close with some good news that I have heard through the usual channels: an additional debate in the name of my noble friend Lady Nicholson on the economic development strategy of the Department for International Development has been secured next week; on Wednesday, I think.
It might be on Monday the following week.
The usual channels are working in their wonderful way. It may indeed be on Monday the following week—yes, the usual channels have just informed me that it will be on the 27th. I hope that will be another opportunity to follow up on this, but I thank the noble Earl again for an informed, interesting and helpful debate.
Arts: Government Support
Question for Short Debate
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support the contemporary practice of the arts, including music, drama, dance and the visual arts.
My Lords, UNESCO in 2015 summarised its 1980 Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist, which refers to the legislation and public policies that a member state should have, by describing their two objectives: first, acknowledging the important role that artists play in society; and secondly, encouraging creative expression and ensuring equitable treatment for professional artists by developing appropriate measures which respond to their unique circumstances and the atypical manner in which they work.
As I will endeavour to show, these are fundamental objectives that we are in danger of losing sight of. As UNESCO recognises, the work of the artist is a contribution to society. That is its value. The arts as a project of contemporary work should not have to justify themselves economically, despite the money spent over the years at the behest of successive Governments in doing so and despite whatever the results of such surveys are. The artist, in whatever medium, needs living costs, time, resources and space to develop their own particular practice, often over a long period of time; and space, too, for display or performance.
What I am not sure about is where exactly in government the responsibility for support for this work lies. One of the reasons I wanted to have this debate was to pull the work of artists out from the position where it has sat uncomfortably within the creative industries grouping, which emphasises economic success—although, since the departmental reorganisation earlier this year, it appears to straddle that and a policy area that stresses the importance of tourism, including our national museums and galleries. Where precisely within the department does the responsibility for enabling the UNESCO objectives lie?
This is a vital question. If we went by the headline news, the success of the creative industries—remarkable capital projects such as the St Ives Tate extension, and the outstanding work that is produced—one might, as a consumer of the arts, particularly if you live in London, be led to believe that everything in the garden is rosy. The reality is different. The great majority of practitioners—whether in fine art, music, writing, theatre or dance—are finding it increasingly difficult to carry out their work properly.
From 2010 to 2015, Arts Council funding fell by 36% and in real terms is set to drop further. Local authority investment in arts and culture is down 17% since 2010. By and large, these moneys are not replaceable, despite government exhortation to find alternative methods of funding. This is proved through the reduced budgets of theatres, orchestras and dance companies. Local museums, galleries and performance spaces have had to reduce access or close their doors, while art centres have had to cut back significantly on mounting innovative work. This is exemplified too by the decreasing income amongst the majority of creators. The visual artists support organisation a-n, in its new survey, shows that 41% of its membership has a total income from any source of less than £10,000 a year. According to the London mayor office’s briefing, shockingly, most professional dancers earn less than £5,000 a year.
A concern for artists and musicians is fair remuneration for their work. In 2016, 28% of openly offered opportunities for visual artists offered no payment. A working group on paying artists has been set up by a-n to tackle the issue, yet clearly public spaces, the main target of the campaign, also need to receive the funding from central government to offer properly paid opportunities.
Many artists are self-employed and their incomes will fluctuate significantly throughout the year. As Artists’ Union England points out, the rollout of universal credit and loss of tax credits, as discussed earlier today in the Chamber, will have a hugely damaging effect on livelihoods. As Artists’ Union England says,
“the DWP should not penalise artists for being poor”.
The cuts have adversely affected women, especially those with family commitments. There needs to be greater encouragement of women as arts project leaders, something that the Arts Council can take a lead in. The more there is gender equality in the arts, including in hierarchical situations, the healthier our arts will be, and I ask the Minister to comment on this.
A particular concern is the increasing threat to spaces for the arts in our towns and cities—concerns flagged up by both a-n and Equity. In London, 30% of affordable artist studios are set to be lost in the next two years, while 40% of small-scale live music venues have been lost in the last 10. For artists, this adds on even more financial pressure. The problems are growing gentrification, cash-strapped councils, which are selling buildings for development, and now the problem of the loosening of planning regulations. Zoning is, in the end, not an ideal answer. A properly holistic approach to community development from our city governments and local authorities is desperately needed, and that requires a radical approach which must include rent capping. The effect in London is that many artists are leaving the city altogether. This is not a desirable outcome.
One of the more oddly disturbing effects of the cuts is the extent to which the use of new media in arts projects has stalled, as noted in this year’s report on digital culture by the Arts Council. This has, for example, been true for both the Norwich Theatre Royal and the Hull Truck Theatre, which say that they,
“often have creative ideas for digital projects which might support or enhance ... work on stage, but fail to realise them for reasons such as capacity, resource … or funding”.
In the current circumstances, the Arts Council has, rightly, this year got money to the regions, where it is needed, although by doing so one feels that it is moving into territory that should be covered by local authorities. It is high time that the damaging cuts to local authorities and the Arts Council were reversed, enabling artists throughout the whole country to carry out their work.
On a related funding matter, there is some concern over the future of the lottery. I ask the Minister whether the department is keeping an eye on this and in what way?
I will talk briefly about arts education in schools, not least because every area of the arts I have spoken to raises this as a major concern. Many of us would implore the department to have serious talks with the DfE about an education policy that is already being destructive not only to the arts but to all of the creative industries. As NESTA has said, the pipeline needs to be fixed for STEAM talent. From the point of view of arts practice, my fears are, first, that it will affect diversity, and we are seeing this already in the acting profession. Secondly, by turning those who study the arts into second-class citizens, we will be producing in a generation a less sympathetic environment into which new artists launch themselves. The effect of the EBacc is now significantly reducing take-up of many arts subjects, and there is anecdotal evidence in schools that this unsympathetic environment is already developing.
I end by saying a few words about Brexit. Many of the arts, including, for example, dance companies, share with the creative industries a huge concern over the potential loss of workers from the EEA. This is not just the loss of an employment pool; it is also about innovative collaboration and cultural exchange between artists. However, the particular concern of artists and companies is about movement the other way—into Europe. The loss of free movement would be disastrous for those often young British artists starting out on their career and wanting to develop their practice in other environments, often in a work situation. It will be disastrous too for those who make multiple visits abroad as part of their professional commitments. The Incorporated Society of Musicians notes that musicians may travel to Europe over 40 times a year. Dance companies too may give dozens of performances a year within Europe. Visas will be simply unrealistic. One Dance UK also points out concerns about possible increased freight costs, such as those involving the movement of sets and costumes.
The phrase that terrifies me most is “attracting the brightest and the best”, because if we leave the EEA and this is to be the reciprocated policy, then only the privileged—that is, the established and the salaried—will be able to move freely between the UK and the rest of Europe. We will need a workable non-bureaucratic solution that does not penalise the less well-off.
The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society makes the point that continuing concerns about copyright, transparency, contracts and fair pay for authors, which are bound up with the EU draft directive on the digital single market, are still to be resolved, and we need to grasp that opportunity to create a fairer deal. I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Ashton of Hyde, has displayed sympathy over those Brexit concerns. What we have not had from government, however, is any response that allays these fears.
On a more general note, the voices of artists need to be heard more clearly within government. What round-table talks has the Secretary of State had with artists and practitioners? Perhaps they should have membership on the Creative Industries Council; currently, there is no direct representation from creators, the council being made up of industry, grant-funding bodies and the commercial end of the sector.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for introducing this debate. I want to concentrate on museums and their possible role in relation to contemporary practitioners of art and craft. It may be time to have a bit of a policy think about this subject.
As we know, museums are rather arbitrarily divided between national museums and local government or provincial museums. I think that the division has probably got more to do with visitors to this country than anything intrinsic to museums. I want to give one example of funding. There is a small, very good national museum in London which has 120,000 visitors a year. It gets from the DCMS in core funding £1,750,000. In the north-east, in County Durham, is the largest provincial museum in the country, with arguably the finest collections of any provincial museum—the Bowes Museum. It is funded by a small county under great pressure, which has lost its coalmines and steelworks—not an easy place for local government to operate. The museum has £350,000 of core funding, and 120,000 visitors. So the finest provincial museum has the same visitor numbers as a small national museum in London—a very good museum, but I am not going to name it—but that London museum is getting five times the core grant that the Bowes Museum is getting. That does not seem to me easily defensible, with regard to a national policy towards museums. I would be most grateful if the DCMS and my noble friend on the Front Bench could take account of that matter. Perhaps I could suggest that we have a meeting to discuss this issue in more depth and detail, because it is a very serious one.
Another point about museums is that, when funding is tight, it is quite difficult for them to keep up with contemporary art, which is expanding at a rapid pace and in many different directions—digital was mentioned by the noble Earl. For example, if you go to the Ashmolean, a very fine museum, and look at its collection of 20th and early 21st-century studio pottery, you will see some very fine pottery, including pieces by Lucy Rie, a pot by whom sold for £125,000 in Christie’s about a fortnight ago. But it is a very small collection, absolutely nothing like the size of its 18th-century collection or 19th-century ceramics. How are those museums going to keep up? Frankly, with the funding situation and the challenge, I do not think they are.
Another serious policy position is around where museums have got to and where they are going. Will they have closed collections, like the Wallace Collection, never acquiring, lending or disposing anything? Those are big issues, and I think that they should be considered in some depth, which is not happening at the moment.
Museums need to think about life differently. We have started that at the Bowes Museum. We have created a centre for contemporary art, craft and design. Incidentally, it is currently privately funded. Its purpose is to work with practitioners in the north of England to see how we can support them and how they can relate to a museum and the collections we have. It is becoming more difficult to relate today’s generation to museums than it used to be because, again, of the way things have moved on. A minimalist approach to living is prevalent, but there are all sorts of other reasons.
I hope the DCMS will review the situation because it will not get any better. The fact of the matter is, however much we appeal for it, there is no more money available to be distributed. We have to find other ways. Surely they must include a policy approach, self-help and a functioning of the funding system, such as it is, that is more appropriate to the needs of today than the one that exists at present.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, who made an excellent summary of the issues facing artists and the difficulties placed on them following the Brexit referendum, with a squeeze on funding and a rise in the cost of living. In the time I have I will concentrate my attention on the visual arts. In doing so, I declare my experience as a fine artist.
As the noble Earl said, probably the most critical issue facing the visual arts is the shrinking of arts provision in state schools due to curriculum changes and the concentration on STEM. This, coupled with the Government’s doctrinaire support of the EBacc and the absence of arts subjects within its metric, is steadily eroding the number of students who might wish to consider a career in the arts as the opportunities to be exposed to creative and arts subjects decline.
Given the extraordinary success of our creative industries, our world-class art colleges, the international calibre of our visual artists and London being the second-largest art market in the world, you would have thought it an astonishing own goal not to fund creative arts subjects to a level that reflects their importance to our economy. Yet that is exactly what the Government are doing. Aside from the cultural benefits of the arts there are direct economic benefits for this country. We must act to defend them and safeguard the next generation of workers for our creative industries. It would therefore be good to know what steps the Government are taking to support arts provision at primary and secondary level.
When thinking about this debate, I was particularly struck by a stark statistic provided in a parliamentary briefing by a-n, the Artists Information Company, in its 2017 survey. This is, as the noble Earl mentioned, that 41% of visual artists have a total income from all sources of less than £10,000 and only 27% achieved a total income of more than £20,000. In reality, the majority of artists in the visual arts are scarcely getting by, despite 80% of them being qualified to degree level and above. Consequently, for many of the 35,000 graduates who leave art and design colleges every year, the high cost of living in cities, particularly London, and the lack of affordable workspaces is a real and growing problem. A constant theme I heard during my research for this speech is the drain or loss of talent, as more and more artists can no longer afford to spend time on their creative practice because they have to work on whatever they need to do to pay for their workspace and materials. This is particularly wasteful given the huge resources and effort we put into their training.
Investment in glamorous venues, such as Tate Modern and the V&A, where audiences can see new work has overshadowed a lack of investment in the building blocks of artistic research—the workspaces where artists create their work. If workspace for creative people is considered important and we wish to retain our position as a beacon of artistic practice, we need to address how we support this. But time is running out. A 2014 GLA report on artists’ workspaces in London, for example, stated that some 28% of artists’ studios are under threat within the next five years,
“as operators do not expect to be able to renew leasehold/rental agreements to secure their premises, demonstrating the precarious nature of affordable artists’ workspace”.
That helps explain why lately a steady stream of artists has been leaving London for towns on the south coast.
The experience of other cities, such as New York and Berlin, in addressing this problem has been one of tactical interventions, such as planning protection, direct investment in under-occupied buildings, reductions in business rates and core funding to subsidise rent. Similarly, many councils, such as Hackney, are trying hard to set policy to deliver affordable workspace. It would therefore be useful to hear what plans the Government are putting in place to protect these workspaces, especially when in recent years there has been a great deal of commissioned research yet as of today, it is still not clear what action has been taken to deal with the problem.
London’s escalating rents and increasing land values have had other knock-on effects. The rise of commercial rents has squeezed many small and emerging commercial galleries out of business. In recent years cutting-edge galleries such as Nettie Horn, Carroll/Fletcher, Vilma Gold and Limoncello have all closed, which makes it increasingly difficult for UK-based artists to enter the commercial gallery world. International galleries such as the Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth, David Zwirner and the Pace Gallery all tend to take on artists who have already established themselves. So we have a conundrum in that as cultural consumers, London has never given us more access to the world of contemporary art through these extraordinary international art spaces but, for artists, there appear to be fewer routes for our home-grown talent and, by extension, for our gallerists and curators. It would be good to know whether this has been recognised and understood as a concern by organisations such as the Arts Council and, if so, whether there are any strategies in place to address this, as they are a vital part of the arts ecology.
National museums and organisations funded by the Arts Council also need to play their part. Too often, publicly-funded galleries pay artists almost nothing as a fee when they have spent months making work for an exhibition and borne many of the costs, such as studio rent. In some cases, the galleries pocket the entry fees from the public to visit such exhibitions. This effectively keeps many artists in poverty. As the noble Earl said, galleries should pay artists proper fees for their work as set out by organisations such as Artists’ Union England. I hope the DCMS and Arts Council England will look to formalise these payments as a condition of receiving funding. At the same time, artists who have benefited from the publicity and acclaim of showing in public galleries should expect to contribute a percentage of the sale of any exhibited artworks to reimburse some of the gallery’s exhibition costs.
The other big issue is Brexit. There appear to have been few discussions about what impact Brexit will have on our access to culture, specifically museum exhibitions, and how this may inhibit European international opportunities for UK artists, as well as for incoming artists’ shows. There is a real danger that we will become inward looking, not only in terms of visual arts. Related to that is the issue of visas, both for museums and galleries wanting to attract international artists and for art schools wishing to continue to attract large numbers of international students, as well as international artists who can enrich their programmes. Although welcome, yesterday’s announcement of the doubling of exceptional talent visas from 1,000 to 2,000 is merely a sticking plaster. It remains to be seen whether that will have any impact on artists, but it does not begin to answer how we maintain Britain’s reputation as an open and welcoming cultural hub. It would be good to know what the Government’s plans are in response to that.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for securing time for this important debate. I am delighted that the noble Earl is so assiduous in reminding the Government that there are issues other than Brexit worth discussing, and particularly in reminding them of the importance of looking after the nation’s cultural well-being as well as its economic needs.
The noble Earl has a well-known track record in this regard. Almost six years ago, on 3 February 2011, I had the honour of delivering my maiden speech in your Lordships’ House in a debate that he introduced, “to call attention to public funding for the arts”. Since then, the noble Earl has introduced a large number of debates on public funding for the arts, and I hope that he will go on doing so for a long time to come.
In that speech almost six years ago, I said:
“We are very privileged in this country to have access to a world-class arts scene: theatre, opera, dance, music, museums, galleries and much more”,
and that this was made possible,
“through a combination of state funding and the generosity of a relatively small number of public-spirited individuals and corporations”.—[Official Report, 3/2/11; col. 1527.]
I pointed out that while it was normal practice in this country for supporters of the arts to complain vociferously about how little support the Government provides to the arts compared with other European countries, the truth is that compared with the United States, for example, the level of government funding for the arts is very generous. For this reason, I do not want to use today’s debate to argue for more public money for the arts. Instead, I want to make a modest yet practical proposal for how a small amount of government money might be used to achieve a number of important national artistic, cultural and social objectives.
To cut to the chase, there is an immediate and well-documented case for at least one, and preferably more than one, specialist school where boys and girls of secondary school age can receive high-quality professional training in an art form which is particularly attractive to them—contemporary dance. I have come to this conclusion as a result of a performance I attended a few weeks ago of BalletBoyz, a contemporary dance company founded by two former members of the Royal Ballet. This extraordinary company, which combines high-quality live performances with TV films, has reached more than 10 million people since it was set up in 2000. It is worth mentioning that while BalletBoyz receives funding from the Arts Council, it has earned an equal sum from ticket sales and has received a slightly larger sum from other sources, including fees and general support from private donors.
What struck me most forcibly about that performance was the composition of the audience. Unlike the Wigmore Hall, which is my favourite venue in London for music, the audience that evening in Sadler’s Wells included large numbers of young people and members of the BAME community. Discussing this after the performance with Michael Nunn, the company’s dynamic director and joint founder, I learned that the BalletBoyz audiences on their tours outside London and overseas were similarly diverse and that many of those watching the performance were attending a live dance performance for the very first time. Michael Nunn also told me that the members of the company, too, come from a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds.
This is not surprising because, when one comes to think about it, contemporary dance is perfect for athletic young men and women whose background makes classical ballet unfamiliar and unattractive but who simply love dancing. Sadly, however, there is at present no school in this country where young people of secondary school age—that is under 18—can learn this art form. There are good higher education colleges where contemporary dance is taught but there is no equivalent of the Royal Ballet School for those aged 11 to 12 who wish to pursue a career in contemporary dance at that early age. It is largely for this reason that of the 11 dancers in BalletBoyz, three were trained in Europe.
Contemporary dance is the most accessible art form for those who live in our inner cities and who come from the most deprived backgrounds. It opens an entirely new career opportunity to those who are not exposed to classical music or classical ballet but who love contemporary music and adore dancing. It is almost impossible to make a living as a dancer if one has not started training seriously until age 16 or 18. That is why I urge the Government to give serious consideration to establishing at least one specialist contemporary dance academy which would accept pupils of secondary school age. I say at least one such school because I believe that if we are to attract talented young people from across the country rather than focusing on one or two cities in some arbitrary way, we must establish a number of such institutions—for example, one in each of three or four of the largest metropolitan areas. These schools would open new career opportunities to hundreds of young people who have the talent for and the love of dancing but who would never consider classical ballet as something for them. These schools would significantly widen the pool of available trained contemporary dancers and thus enrich our national cultural life and enhance our already world-renowned reputation for this art form—an art form which can be enjoyed by people of all ages and all backgrounds.
I believe that the contribution of these schools to our society would extend well beyond the arts. They would make a major contribution to fulfilling the Government’s commitment to building a country that works for everyone.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Earl for initiating this debate. He is a true champion of the arts and I agreed with every word he said. I also thank my good friend Robert Henrit, who many—including the late John Lennon—regard to be the greatest drummer of the rock and roll era. He has given me valuable advice on how things used to be and how they have changed for the current generation.
The music industry is in trouble, simply because, by and large, the general public do not want to pay for music. The knock-on effect is that musicians and entertainers do not earn enough to keep going. People cannot afford to go to shows as they used to because of ticket prices, so they cherry-pick and do not expect to pay for music in a pub. Therefore, publicans do not want to pay for music at all, so you cannot blame young bands for doing gigs for nothing. This lack of bums on seats has meant that venues and some theatres are being forced to go dark for some of the week, or, worse still, to close completely.
It is now possible to make records on relatively unsophisticated laptop computers in a bedroom without the need to visit an expensive recording studio. This has meant, as we have heard, that our famous and cherished recording studios have been forced to close. It has also helped to devalue our music, because a band can make a record for the price of a few cups of coffee, not pay out as much as £100,000, as the Beatles did. The band does not need to get that money back any more, so if they are offered a pittance for their product they might as well just accept it.
Downloads have also devalued music. I understand that Pharrell Williams had 43 million plays of his record “Happy” but he earned and received only $2,700, because the going rate was less than $0.001 per download. Songwriters today are often paid pennies for successful tracks. As a result, for example, Nashville has lost more than 80% of its songwriters since 2000. The great British songwriter Russ Ballard tells me that his first royalties—I think it was for Hot Chocolate’s recording of his “So You Win Again”—resulted in a cheque for $99,000. He was very disappointed that it was not for £1,000 more, but he bought a house with it anyway. How times have changed.
Another issue that worries musicians, indeed artists across the entire sector—we have heard about it already—is Brexit. According to the Creative Industries Federation, 96% of its members support remaining in the EU. This is Gibraltarian proportions. The issue that exercises them most is freedom of movement. Robert Henrit described it to me thus: “In pre-EU days you needed permission to take away the livelihoods of the indigenous musical population in foreign countries—close neighbours or otherwise. If you were young and going to Germany in the early 1960s to play a minimum of nine shows a night—like the Beatles, me and countless others—and you were underage, you had to report to Bow Street magistrates’ court to formalise the affair. After the dreaded Brexit, what will be the situation regarding taking away jobs from the French, Germans or Italians? Will we be expected to pay a premium on our vehicle and other insurance policies every time we go there, as we were forced to do before we were in the EU?”.
Henrit goes on to say: “We musicians were simply too young and healthy prior to the EU, so never gave a thought to taking out insurance to cover our wellbeing. But what will happen to us now with the E111 card after we have been cast adrift from mainland Europe?”.
Henrit also talks about the trouble and hassle of crossing national borders. “Being musicians, we often ran late, and this trouble could take the form of prolonged interrogation and intense scrutiny of paperwork, to slow us up even more. Even though we were obliged to invest in a carnet in those days, if customs officers were feeling particularly malicious they would order us to unload our drums, amplifiers, guitars, Hammond organs and even stage suits, sometimes into the snow, as they ticked off the contents listed on that form. If they really did not like you they would dismantle the amplifiers or drums to bite-size pieces and leave you to put the equipment back together at your leisure. Oh how we laughed at their subtle sense of humour. The carnet was simply a list of the equipment you were exporting out of the UK, including drumsticks, and everything needed to be imported back within a year or there would be trouble. Fines would be levied and lots of duty would be payable. The carnet wasn’t exactly free and worse still you couldn’t easily add to it if you broke any of your instruments while you were away. The Who’s road crew must have had a difficult time since, for a while, it seems the band’s raison d’être was breaking as much equipment as possible. Speaking of fiscal issues, in those halcyon days it was easily possible to be taxed in the country we were working in and then again on the now considerably depleted ‘net’ earnings once we got home”.
Robert Henrit summarised the situation by saying, “It was something of a nightmare before we joined the EU. It was bliss after we joined. And I have a sneaking suspicion it will be a much more expensive nightmare after we leave”. So will the Government please address the issue of freedom of movement for our artists and their equipment?
Another of Russ Ballard’s songs, the anthem “God Gave Rock and Roll to You”, contains the words:
“If you wanna be a singer or play guitar
Man you’ve gotta sweat or you won’t get far”.
Somehow we need to get over to young people that the raison d’être for a musician is not making lots of money quickly, as Simon Cowell and his “The X Factor” friends would have us believe; it is about being in it for the long haul and enjoying it for as long as possible. Perhaps the Government could ask—and indeed remunerate—experienced musicians like Robert Henrit to go into schools and introduce youngsters to the real nuts and bolts of music.
My Lords, I am pleased to speak in this debate and, like others, I congratulate the noble Earl on bringing these matters to our attention, although not for the first time. I expect that during my time in your Lordships’ House I shall hear him bring them to our attention again.
In speaking at this moment it is not my intention to make the obvious points, as they have already been made. Of course the arts are important. Why do we have to say that? Of course they are underfunded. Why do we have to say that? Of course they are fragile at the moment. Space is difficult and so on, and we draw attention to that. Of course our museums need extra attention. I ran a museum until earlier this year, with two completely professional curators, 100 volunteers and a throughput of thousands and thousands of people per annum. I know what it is like to market. I know what it is like to change the exhibitions and attract new people or people who come a second time. So I do not want to state the obvious, because others who are far more qualified than I am have drawn attention to those facts.
We meet on a day when our news is dominated by two things that I heard about this morning. First, $400 million has been paid for a painting by Leonardo, and, secondly, fewer and fewer young people are going to football matches because they have been priced out. I speak as an Arsenal fan, and of course that is top of the range. While young people feel that it is too expensive to go to matches, the players they are going to watch, who get £200,000 per week, are pressing for half as much again. In a monetised economy where these aesthetic matters are quantified and measured in this way, we pitch our little debate into a context which we must not ignore.
A young Ghanean boy with good A-levels who did not want to go to university was asked, “Why, Kevin, don’t you want to go to university?”. The answer came back, “Because you’re going to tell me that I can become a barrister, a journalist, an accountant or something like that, but it takes time to do that. We know of five ways on the street to make quick money: crime, drugs, music, fame or football”. That was 15 years ago; he is now a tennis coach, although he did cut one or two CDs.
We must remember the context in which we are arguing this case. Fifty years ago, Jennie Lee was appointed by Harold Wilson as the first Minister for the Arts. She and Aneurin Bevan, her husband, were both the children of miners. How I remember working men’s institutes, the annual opera put on in the little town I came from, and all the other things done out of voluntary effort and by people who had sensed, somewhere, something that they would like to have a go at themselves. Jennie Lee was on to that. Is it not fantastic that she and Aneurin Bevan were husband and wife, one looking after a system for the bodily well-being and the other a system for the spiritual well-being of the nation?
Jennie Lee published a White Paper, like the one I have been reading in preparation for this debate, but she was also instrumental with Harold Wilson in setting up the Open University. My angle of view in this debate is from the bottom up, because all my life has been spent on the streets and in communities. If I have any expertise, or at least experience, that is where it is. However, I was a trustee for many years of Art and Christianity Enquiry, which I think we might know something about, and was involved in commissioning quite a number of works of art—and, with a Roman Catholic priest friend, several more. I could dilate on those; I see that your Lordships are a captive audience and I am very tempted. For all that, it is not in that area that I wish to make my point.
I must declare my interest. I am the chair of trustees of two secondary schools that come under the aegis of the Central Foundation Schools of London: a girls’ school in Tower Hamlets and a boys’ school in Islington. One of them specialises in drama and the other specialises in music. I have seen the boys’ school head teacher, because of the relationships that he has fostered at the Wellcome foundation at the Barbican, get his boys to exhibit their work in those prestigious places. Once a child has exhibited his efforts, he gets an idea of what the thing is all about. Similarly, I can never forget watching the girls at the Shaw Theatre on the Euston Road. Eighty-five per cent of the girls at our school are Muslim and wear the hijab. Of all the plays they might have done, they chose “Macbeth”—just imagine a macho play like that with Muslim girls. Their mothers were in the audience alongside me, whooping with joy when they saw their daughters coming on either as witches or as tyrants. It was most instructive.
We can do that because, as beneficiaries of the Dulwich Estate—we do not get as much as the big Dulwich schools, let me tell you; if I were a true subversive, I would want to do something about that—we have money that we can disburse to the two schools to help them foster their small group. We have just bought 10 pianos to help people learn to play, to form small groups and to help with the choral music and the rest of it. If you had seen our two schools at the Mansion House celebrating their 150th anniversary just last year, you would realise that you can tap into the energies and imagination of young people, and that is the prime task. It is important that this debate must relate to that. Of course we must have our institutions; of course we must take our kids to museums, artistic experiences, exhibitions, concerts and all the rest of it, because only when things happen like that can they relate what they are doing to a bigger and wider horizon.
I have been rather personal in this little speech of mine. Let me end personally too. I have a little grandson who is eight—or he will be in March, although he thinks he is now. I take him for a walk and he says to me, very simply, “Grandpa, you know I’m a chatterbox, but I’m going to be quiet for a minute or two and I don’t want you to be worried”. “Oh, Thomas, why?” “Well, you see, Grandpa, it’s like this. My head just at the moment is bursting with imagination”. We must have an educational system that is not merely utilitarian and functional. It is not only about measuring results through league tables and all the rest; it is about firing the imagination by helping a child to see the wider world.
This is my final remark. I used to live across the road from the grave of William Blake. I want all children to be able, as he put it, to see the universe in a wild flower, heaven in a grain of sand and eternity in a single hour, and to hold infinity in the palm of the hand. That is the challenge and our grand schemes must be seen to be organically related to the fundamental task of opening the minds of children and young people.
I thank the noble Earl for initiating this debate. He has been a champion of the arts for many years and we enjoy listening to his expertise and wisdom in this area. The arts, including music, drama, dance and the visual arts, make a huge contribution to our national life. I should like to assure the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and other noble Lords who have spoken that through their investment in the Arts Council, tax reliefs and capital investments, the Government are committed to supporting the continued development of this country’s arts and culture.
The 2015 spending review committed to continued Arts Council funding at its current level until 2020. Between 2015 and 2018, the Arts Council will invest £1.1 billion of public money from government in the arts as well as an estimated £700 million of lottery funding. Leading on from that, as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, mentioned in his speech about rural museums, the Mendoza review, an independent review of museums in England, gives the key priorities for the sector and commits an action plan to be published by September 2018, setting out how DCMS, Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund will work together more strategically to use public funding more effectively to address problems. Of course, I am more than happy to meet the noble Viscount to talk further on these subjects.
An additional £170 million will be invested outside London from April 2018. The Government believe that local authorities are best placed to decide how to prioritise their spending. Many local authorities continue to invest in arts and culture. The Government have incentivised local authorities to support culture through programmes such as the Great Place Scheme. By investing in arts and culture, we are supporting our communities and our creativity, as well as our economy. This was clearly demonstrated in the recent report published by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, which found that, in 2015, the arts and culture industry grew by 10% and contributed £8.5 billion to the UK economy.
The performing arts are also a key part of the creative industry, and as part of the Government’s industrial strategy, we are working with the Creative Industries Council as it creates a creative industries sector deal. We strongly welcome interest in the great work of the council. However, all final decisions on membership are rightly made by the industry to ensure that it stays representative.
The Government are committed to supporting a wide range of art forms, including music, drama, dance and the visual arts. Orchestras and large musical groups are supported by orchestra tax relief, which commenced last year, as well as regular Arts Council funding. The Government’s theatre tax relief continues to be embraced by the sector and, in 2016-17, some £46 million was paid out to 1,570 productions. The Arts Council invests in theatre companies across the country, including the award-winning Sheffield Theatres among many others. It also invested £69 million in 2016-17 to support dance. The Government have provided £5 million to support the creation of a new dance hub in Birmingham.
The noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, talked about dance education. In 2012, the Government and the Arts Council jointly created the National Youth Dance Company. It provides talented performers aged 16 to 19 with intensive training and performance opportunities led by world-leading choreographers. Over 80% of its former dancers have gone on to further dance studies, vocational training or professional work. In the summer of 2016, the company held 18 experience workshops and young people could engage with and audition for the NYDC.
Art Council national portfolio organisations reached nearly 600,000 young people in 2015-16 through its outreach work, and the 2018-22 portfolio includes a strengthened offer for children and young people. In addition, the Creative Case for Diversity invests in programmes across the sector and holds to account the organisations that it invests in.
Both the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, raised concerns regarding visual arts. As has been said, it is important that there are studios and facilities that allow our artists to develop and create new work. The Arts Council continues to support visual and combined arts organisations, including the AA2A Ltd and East Street Arts, which play a proactive role in supporting artist-led spaces. The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, referred to buildings, and the Arts Council’s capacity funding supports resilience in the sector so that artists can have the right buildings and equipment to deliver their work. At the moment, the Government are exploring a range of issues with industry and planning to make it easier for spaces to operate.
Attendances of visual arts organisations in the Arts Council’s national portfolio have increased from 15 million in 2007 to 35 million, demonstrating a growing appetite for this art form. Of course, ensuring suitable remuneration and conditions for artists is a vital part of developing and showcasing great British talent. The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, talked about income. As far as wages are concerned, Arts Council England’s policy is that individuals classed as workers must, in accordance with the law, be paid at least the full national minimum wage for their age range In its guidance for organisations applying to the national portfolio and grants for the arts, ACE makes clear its position on paying artists, interns and other workers fairly.
Education was mentioned by several noble Lords. Art and design and music are compulsory national curriculum subjects for five to 14 year-olds in maintained schools and, between 2012 and 2017, the Government have invested more than £580 million in a range of music and cultural education programmes. Pupils at state schools enter on average nine GCSEs, and taking the EBacc will mean taking seven GCSEs, which means that there will continue to be room for other subjects. However, this is a very important area and as the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, said so eloquently, it is among this age group that we have enormous enthusiasm for it. It is essential that we tap in to this enthusiasm of the young. The Government continue to support music education hubs and cultural education programmes that are designed to improve access to the arts for all children, regardless of their background, and to develop talent across the country.
Many noble Lords mentioned Brexit and the worries that they have on this subject. On Brexit, DCMS will continue to work closely with all of its sectors to ensure that they have a voice as the country now prepares to leave the EU. To this end, the Secretary of State has held two round tables with leading art sector stakeholders to discuss Brexit. She will continue having these round tables, to ensure that the arts are considered when it comes to Brexit.
The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, referred to the digital arts. The Government have demonstrated their clear support for the use of digital within the arts through the digital cultural project, which is currently under way and bringing the worlds of the arts and technology closer together.
I thank all those who have contributed to the debate. Arts and culture remind us of where we have come from and where we are going. They bring incredible stories to life, help us to step into someone else’s shoes and see the world through someone else’s eyes. Innovative, challenging and exciting arts and culture improves people’s lives, strengthens local communities, brings people together, benefits our economy and helps support local tourism. This country is a world leader in culture. It intends to stay that way and the Government are committed to supporting it.
Committee adjourned at 5.55 pm.