House of Lords
Thursday 21 December 2017
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Leeds.
Death of a Member: Lord Quirk
Retirement of a Member: Lord Condon
My Lords, I should like to notify the House of the retirement, with effect from today, of the noble Lord, Lord Condon, pursuant to Section 1 of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014. On behalf of the House, I thank the noble Lord for his much-valued service to the House.
My Lords, I would like to mention that this is the last day of service of the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod. There will be an opportunity for noble Lords to pay tribute in the new year, when his successor assumes the office. Until then, I would like to place on record my thanks and the thanks of the whole House and to wish him well for the future.
Brexit: Affordable Housing
My Lords, the Government are committed to achieving an ambitious EU exit deal and building the homes that this country needs. In pursuing its housing policies, DCLG engages widely with stakeholders across the housing sector. The Government are on track to raise housing supply, by the end of this Parliament, to its highest annual level since 1970 and then to 300,000 per year on average by the mid-2020s.
My Lords, I wish the Government the best of luck in that endeavour and will be happy to welcome it when it happens. Only yesterday, the Federation of Master Builders issued the result of a survey of small and medium-sized construction firm members, in which three-quarters of them said that it would have a negative impact on the health of their business if any of their EU workers returned to their country of origin. The figure for the value of these workers was much higher as well. What are the Government doing to make sure that workers from European Union countries working in the construction industry—many of them building houses—do not stay away, as is being suggested, even after this Christmas?
My Lords, the noble Lord is right to highlight the importance to the construction sector of workers from the EU; they constitute about 18% across the country, although obviously it is higher than that in some parts of the country and certainly in London. The Government are of course very much aware of this and it is part of our negotiations. The noble Lord will be aware that we have made a fair and serious offer to protect the rights and entitlements of EU nationals, which is all part of making sure that we extend a welcome to those people who are part of the fabric of our life and who are very important to our economy.
My Lords, I declare an interest, as on the register, as chairman of a bank. Does my noble friend agree that the decision by the European Banking Authority to increase the cost of capital for banks that lend to small and medium-sized builders from 100% to 150% has added hugely to the cost of building houses, and that, once we have left the European Union, the Bank of England will be free to set rules that reflect the interests of our economy and the policy of Her Majesty's Government to encourage more housebuilding?
My Lords, my noble friend is, of course, right about the adverse effect that the decision to raise those interest rates will have on the construction sector in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, and he is right to say that the Bank of England will have increased freedom once we leave the EU. However, of course, banks have to compete in an international environment as well.
My Lords, as Christmas is upon us we all think of those who are homeless, as was raised in the other place just yesterday. Last year, the European Investment Bank invested £1 billion in social housing projects in the UK. That made it the largest investor in social housing here at home. Yet now Article 50 has been triggered, it is saying that that investment will stop. What plans do the Government have to replace that investment, and how will the Minister address the plight of the homeless this Christmas and in the future without that investment?
My Lords, first, the noble Baroness is right that our thoughts, particularly at this time of year, are very much with the homeless and rough sleepers, which very much presents a problem in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. She is also right that the European Investment Bank invests significantly in this area, but other banks do too. We have obviously invested a lot in terms of our own domestic budget recently—with the social impact bond, for example, which is having an effect. I spoke yesterday to the noble Lord, Lord Bird, about an initiative that he is involved in in a parallel way. So there is a lot going on. But the noble Baroness is right to highlight the importance of ensuring that we plug the gaps of some investment that will not be there in future.
My Lords, does not my noble friend’s view on the housing market contrast somewhat with the threats we were given during the referendum campaign from the then Chancellor, backed by the Governor of the Bank of England, that interest rates were going to soar if we voted out—they have gone down—and that housing prices would drop like a stone, whereas they have gone up? Are we not actually rather blessed by Brexit, rather than the reverse?
My Lords, the Government are focused resolutely on the future as to how we ensure that we get a very good deal that is very much in the interests of the UK and the deep and special partnership with the European Union that we seek. As he will know, negotiations have turned a corner; we seem to be on a very firm footing to ensure that we get that deep and special partnership with the European Union, and negotiations go on on that basis.
My Lords, can I bring the Minister back to the question that my noble friend asked about the £1 billion that we get from the European Investment Bank? Unfortunately, he did not answer the question. How is he going to replace it, and what can we expect the mechanism to be for that additional social housing that we so badly need?
My Lords, the noble Baroness will know that it is not quite as simple as she makes it sound. It is not £1 billion that comes from nowhere; it comes in relation to the fact that we pay into the European Union as well as take out. So I remind the noble Baroness gently that it is not quite as simple as she makes it sound.
I did answer the question by saying that there was obviously a gap that needs plugging. We are doing that in terms of measures in the Budget that she will be aware of on homelessness. We have £1 billion committed to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping. That is a significant measure to tackle a deep-seated problem. She will also have heard me say that this is not just an issue for government; it is an issue for local authorities, our partners and for individuals.
My Lords, I am told by social housing associations in Yorkshire that the big building companies are deeply reluctant to take on apprentices and train our own people. They find it cheaper and easier to recruit directly from eastern Europe and that does not get in the way of the bonuses they offer their executives. Given that the big building companies are now extremely profitable, what can the Government do to bring pressure on them to increase the number of apprentices they take on and to train our own workers?
My Lords, the noble Lord raises a very interesting point. I have not seen the example that he mentioned. However, it is the case that we need to increase the take-up of apprentices up and down the country, which I think is happening in parts of the country. He will also be aware, of course, that in the Budget we took measures to ensure that there is movement towards encouraging small and medium-sized building enterprises rather than just the large builders. That element of competition will help address the problem that he raises.
Budget Statement: Social Housing
My Lords, this Government’s priorities are to boost housing supply and to build more affordable homes, supporting the different needs of a wide range of people. This is why we have recently announced £2 billion of additional funding for social rent in our flexible affordable homes programme, increasing the budget to over £9 billion, and a £1 billion lift to the housing revenue account borrowing cap in areas of high-affordability pressure. This allows providers to have the flexibility and agility to respond to local needs and markets, building the right homes in the right places. The precise number of homes and tenure types will depend on the bids received.
As this Government promised an increase in social housing in both the 2015 and the 2016 Budgets, but built less social housing last year than at any time since the Second World War—indeed, it has fallen by 50% in the last three years—why on earth should we believe them this time and this year, when every social home not built last year means another family homeless this Christmas? Why not lift the cap on all local authorities and allow council house building to begin again?
My Lords, first, the noble Baroness is right that this is a significant challenge. The reason that she and noble Lords should accept that this measure is genuine is the £2 billion uplift in the Budget. In the new year, we will announce proposals for how that will be spent, and what measure of it will be on social housing. The noble Baroness should also bear in mind that, although there is great pressure on social housing in areas of high affordability, we are able to build more affordable houses with a certain amount of money than social houses—so it is a question of getting the balance right. That is why we are focusing this measure on areas of high affordability rather than applying it across the country as a whole, as she suggested.
My Lords, as welcome as extra social houses are, will my noble friend and the Government ensure that we build attractive homes? Just because homes are affordable does not mean they have to be ugly. We should pay as much care and attention to the surroundings and well-being of those in social homes as we do to those in the private sector.
My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. As she will have appreciated, there is support from around the House for that very valid point. I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, led a debate on this very issue of design and the importance of the environment. The department is going through a process of appointing somebody who will take this very much on board. It is a subject very close to my heart. It is very important in terms of well-being and our environment that we do just as my noble friend suggested.
My Lords, the targets the Government have set will not be met unless more land is made available. Could the Minister say what the Government intend to do about making available public land in particular? A number of government departments are sitting on large amounts of brownfield land which could be made available for housing. Could it be made available at a price that housing associations and local authorities are likely to be able to afford so that they can build the social housing that is needed?
The noble Baroness is right, and I will write to her about the detail of this. However, there is a £45 million budget at the land release fund; we have had bids in relation to that and we will announce the progress of those bids early in the new year. I will write to the noble Baroness with details of the progress on that and will make the letter available in the Library.
My Lords, will the Minister agree that the first thing to do is to reduce the number of vacant dwellings, and, secondly, to increase the supply of social housing, particularly by local authorities and housing associations? Will the Government try to emulate the achievements of Prime Minister Macmillan in his day?
My Lords, on the first point the noble Lord made about empty properties, the Government have indeed been tackling that issue: in the last Budget we increased the powers for local authorities to charge more council tax for empty properties, which is an important move in that direction. However, I agree with the noble Lord about the importance of targets, and particularly about the record of Macmillan in the 1960s. As I say, the Government’s target would take us back to what seem like the halcyon days of 1970, when we were building far more houses than we are now.
My Lords, obviously there are building regulations that have to be complied with, which have been tightened in the past to ensure that they are greener—that is important. We have strict, ambitious and appropriate climate change goals following the COP 21 climate change conference in Paris some two years ago, which are very much part of the Government’s thinking—and again, I think that they have cross-party support from around the House, which is not always the case in other countries in Europe.
My Lords, on the related topic of affordable housing, will the Minister explain to the House how the Government propose to tackle—as I understand they do—the frankly disreputable practice of a lot of developers of adding onerous ground rent conditions to ostensibly freehold properties, and other practices which are not in the interests of people attempting to secure housing?
I thank the noble Baroness very much for raising that issue, not least because there is a Written Ministerial Statement on that subject today—so we are taking that forward. The noble Baroness will appreciate that we have been consulting on this; it has perhaps got lost in today’s news but it is certainly the subject of a Written Ministerial Statement, which will be available, and I encourage Peers across the House to look at that. We are taking it forward.
My Lords, I undertook a review of adult mental health in this country, which showed that too many people were stuck in mental health hospitals and that the single biggest issue was lack of housing. Can the Minister please let us know how the Government are aligning their policies on housing with their policies on mental health, and what they are doing to ensure that appropriate housing is available for people with mental health problems?
My Lords, the noble Lord raises an important question about helping those who have mental health issues, and he is right that many of them are inappropriately housed. The recent announcement we made, I think by Written Statement at the end of October, does things in relation to supporting housing grant that makes the position of people with mental health problems in supported housing much easier. We hope that that should lead to an uplift in the number of people in supported housing, as it is much more appropriate that they are housed there.
Brexit: Equalities Impact Assessment
My Lords, the Government will continue to comply with their obligations under the Equality Act 2010, including carrying out equalities analyses. We have published an equalities analysis alongside the EU (Withdrawal) Bill and have provided a detailed response to points raised by the Women and Equalities Select Committee report on EU exit. We will continue to fulfil our obligations under the Equality Act 2010 as policy relating to EU exit is developed.
I thank the Minister for that response. I tabled this Question when we were informed that impact assessments were being carried out. We know that certain groups—for example, ethnic minorities, women in low-paid service sector jobs and people with disabilities—are more at risk than others from economic impacts or a loss of rights and protections. What impact assessments, rather than analysis, will be carried out to assess the impact on equality sector by sector so that we will know whether certain groups will be more at risk than others? If and when the Government introduce new legislation, will they undertake to ensure that they produce equality impact assessments alongside it?
I thank the noble Baroness for her interest in this very important issue. We take our responsibilities in this area very seriously. Of course, we do not need to be part of the EU or be bound by EU legislation to have strong equalities protection. For example, our protections against discrimination, harassment and victimisation in the provision of goods and services to disabled people all go beyond EU law. We will continue to take our obligations in this area very seriously, and the noble Baroness need not fear.
There is widespread concern about the possible dilution of rights post Brexit. Therefore, will the Minister assure the House that there will be no regression of equalities and human rights, and that, should any changes be necessary, they will be addressed solely through primary legislation?
I know that the noble Lord takes a close interest in these areas. We are very proud of our record on equalities protection. One reason for leaving the EU is to take back control of our laws. Of course, there will always be a full discussion in this Parliament if we have any plans to go further on equalities protection, but at the moment I am not aware of any.
My Lords, we had the Equality Act 2010, which was amended; we have had the very important same-sex marriage legislation; and we have had the Modern Slavery Act—the first in the world. This is all very important equality legislation which has absolutely nothing to do with the EU. Surely the issue is one of adherence and enforcement where breaches are happening, particularly on social media platforms.
My noble friend makes a very important point, and we keep these matters under constant review. Some of the statements and issues that have arisen recently through social media are of great concern, and other members of the Government are taking forward policies in this area.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that the groups that have already been mentioned fear that they will be less protected without the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, which this Government are removing? They are not reassured by the bundle of extracts produced by the Government—this issue appears in umpteen different bits of legislation—and they cannot see why a charter setting out their rights should not be included in the withdrawal Bill. What sort of comfort can the Minister offer them?
I thank the noble Baroness for her question but they need have no fears. The European Charter of Fundamental Rights merely codifies existing rights; it does not provide any new rights. We have set out a detailed analysis of the rights and how they will be protected in UK law. As I said, we go much further than EU law requires us to do in a whole range of areas, including equalities protection.
My Lords, my noble friend Lady Hussein-Ece referred in her question to a number of disadvantaged groups. What work has been done to see what happens when a number of these protected characteristics overlap—for example, in the case of a pregnant woman from a minority in a low-paid job? This is called intersectionality, and we know that the people affected suffer disproportionately, but it seems to have been consigned to the “too difficult” box when it comes to measuring the effects of government legislation. Can the Minister undertake to look at how these extremely vulnerable groups are likely to fare post Brexit?
As the noble Baroness is aware, we publish a detailed equality analysis for every piece of legislation proposed. We have carefully considered the question of assessing the cumulative impacts of fiscal events on protected groups, and we will continue to do so. People need have no fear that their rights will be diminished.
Does my noble friend accept that there is great concern among our young people, on whom success after Brexit depends, about a lessening of opportunities after 2020? We have had mention of Erasmus until then but not beyond. Can my noble friend assure me that this will be at the forefront of his mind as we continue our negotiations?
My noble friend makes a very good point, but again I believe that those fears are groundless. The Erasmus scheme is very good, but it is one of many student exchange schemes that exist around the world. Lots of exchanges go on and young people benefit from these greatly. We have said that we are committed to the Erasmus scheme and we hope to continue with it.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, and if so when, they will publish the recent report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons on Her Majesty’s Prison Liverpool; and what steps they are taking to address the problems identified in that report in order to prevent serious harm to prisoners.
My Lords, the inspection report on Her Majesty’s Prison Liverpool will be published on 19 January 2018. A comprehensive action plan is being developed that will urgently address the inspector’s recommendations. Immediate action taken at Her Majesty’s Prison Liverpool since the inspection includes the appointment of a new governor, a review of prisoner accommodation to facilitate refurbishment and urgent work with the contractor to deal with the backlog of repairs.
My Lords, the situation in Her Majesty’s Prison Liverpool is the latest manifestation of the crisis in our prisons. It is a shameful litany of squalor, sickness and apparently even death. Instead of initially refusing to comment on the chief inspector’s leaked report, the Government should already have published it, together with their response. Will they in particular examine the apparent failure of contractors over a long period to carry out major repair work in a way that did not threaten the well-being of inmates and staff? In addition, will they review the performance, in Liverpool and elsewhere, of an overstretched and underfunded NHS in protecting the health and well-being of our prison population?
My Lords, very troubling matters were raised by the report, but I am not going to comment on the contents of a leaked report. What I can say is that the inspector debriefed the Prison Service immediately after and we have responded to that. Her Majesty’s Prison Liverpool was originally a Victorian prison, and there are indeed real issues with the standard of cell accommodation. It is worth noting that no expenditure—not one pound—has been spent on cell accommodation at Liverpool since 1994. In the intervening period, there was a Labour Government from 1997 to 2010.
My Lords, is not one of the most disturbing aspects of this troubling report the failure to respond to the mental health needs of inmates? Given the reported suicides or deaths of perhaps as many as three prisoners in recent weeks, and the absence of secondary screening, is not this a national requirement? How do these squalid conditions, in a prison overrun with rats and cockroaches, meet Churchill’s famous dictum that the treatment of criminals is,
“one of the most unfailing tests of a civilisation of any country”?
How does it encourage fundamental reform of those we have incarcerated?
The MoJ may say that it does not comment on leaked reports and the Minister has repeated that, but there is no doubting the authenticity or content of this one. The prison was the worst that inspectors have seen, with prisoners spending 22 hours a day in filthy, vermin-infested cells with exposed electrical wiring and blocked and leaking lavatories. Within weeks of inspection, two inmates killed themselves. Yes, the governor has been sacked, but that is not enough. Will the MoJ please now act urgently to establish a crisis task force to work with the inspectorate’s recommendations, there and elsewhere, to turn around the dreadful conditions in our failing prisons?
My Lords, we have replaced not only the governor but the deputy governor and the head of healthcare at the prison itself. We intend to establish a new unit in the Prison Service to enhance our response to the inspector’s recommendations, which will involve monitoring and auditing progress on the recommendations. This will commence in January 2018. In addition, on 30 November we announced the introduction of an urgent notification process. Unfortunately, the report took place in September and therefore did not trigger that notification process. Under that process, the inspector can go directly to the Secretary of State for Justice in cases where urgent reform is required, and the Secretary of State will undertake to respond publicly within 28 days of such notification.
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord practises insouciance in response to these questions, particularly in saying that he cannot comment on a leaked report. Perhaps he could comment on last month’s report of the Chief Inspector of Prisons, which highlighted conditions in youth offender institutions. It said that it was routine for young boys to be confined to their cells for more than 22 hours a day and that in 40% of the youth offender institutions inspected, education and medical visits had to be cancelled. That was certainly my experience a year or so earlier when I was reviewing the conditions in prisons. Is not the real problem the continued understaffing of our prisons and the failure, therefore, to provide the care that common humanity suggests is necessary for those in the care of the state as prisoners?
We are all concerned to ensure that where persons are placed in custody, whether youth custody or otherwise, their conditions should be decent, safe and secure and that they should have the opportunity for rehabilitation. We have taken steps over the past year or so to increase quite considerably the number of prison officers employed in our prisons. The goal is 2,500 prison officers and we are on course to achieve it.
My Lords, one of the most shocking sentences in the Chief Inspector’s introduction to this report, which is a shocking indictment of the way prisons are run, reads:
“We saw clear evidence that local prison managers had sought help from regional and national management to improve conditions they knew to be unacceptable long before our arrival, but had met with little response”.
Will the Minister please tell the House who in Prison Service headquarters is responsible and accountable for the oversight of Her Majesty’s Prison Liverpool and how that oversight is exercised?
I am sorry—I was concerned that the noble Lord had become unwell. I will not name individuals; it would be most invidious to do so. The Prison Service is responsible for the conditions at Her Majesty’s Prison Liverpool. I will not comment on the terms of a leaked report, but in response to the briefing, we have already taken 182 cell spaces out of use immediately to facilitate refurbishment. We have determined the level of remedial work required on accommodation and we have instituted an increased and improved cleaning programme, with robust management checks.
Independent Complaints and Grievance Policy
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Leader of the House of Commons. The Statement is as follows:
“On 6 November, the Prime Minister convened a meeting of all party leaders, to address reports of bullying, harassment and sexual assault in Parliament. All parties agreed to implement robust procedures to try to change the culture in Parliament, recognising that Parliament can, and must, set a good example.
In her letter to you, Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister made clear the need for a new grievance procedure. A cross-party working group on an independent complaints and grievance policy has been working hard over the last six weeks to consider evidence and draw up recommendations for new procedures. Excellent progress has been made, and during Recess there will be further discussion and consultation within the parties and among the staff bodies in order for a report to be made in the new year.
There are many examples of good employers and professional working practices right across Parliament; we seek to make sure that this is the case for all. The working group, chaired by myself on behalf of the Prime Minister, has been made up of two colleagues from Labour and one each from the SNP, Liberal Democrats, DUP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, plus the Leader of the House of Lords and the Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers from the other place. We also have three staff members on the working party representing MAPSA, Unite and the NUJ. They have led widespread consultation with staff to ensure that staff voices have been loudly heard. We are supported by a secretariat made up of Cabinet Office and parliamentary staff, including the tireless work of Alix Langley, Justine How and Dr Helen Mott—a leading specialist in sexual assault—each of whom deserves our enormous thanks for their dedication.
I am also very aware of the active interest that a number of colleagues from across the House take in this matter. For them, it is a personal campaign to improve the experience of those working here. I thank them for discussing their thoughts and concerns with me, particularly the honourable Members for Birmingham Yardley and Luton South, and my honourable and right honourable friends the Members for Eastleigh and Basingstoke.
The working group has so far met on 11 occasions and has heard from a wide range of experienced professionals, both in person and through written submissions. These include the Speakers of both Houses, Professor Sarah Childs, Rape Crisis, the clerks of both Houses, ACAS, the Parliamentary Commissioners for Standards and the chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Unite, legal experts from the business world and Health Assured. Importantly, the working group has also heard from a number of staff on their views of the culture of Parliament. We are grateful to those who spoke to the group about their experiences or provided anonymous submissions.
The working group identified three guiding principles for this work. First, Parliament requires an independent process, separate from the political channels. Secondly, much evidence was taken that claims of sexual harassment must be dealt with separately from those of bullying and other harassment. Thirdly, structures alone will not change the culture in Parliament. Other steps are also needed—including, crucially, an HR service for the staff employed by Members and an expansion of training provision.
As a result of the work of the group, with the support of the Speaker and the Commission, there are a number of immediate measures that have been put in place to increase the level of support available to staff across the Estate. First, there will be a new, interim provision of HR support and guidance for the staff of Members— beginning after the Recess—while consideration is given to the need for a broader HR service. Appropriate provision that acknowledges the employment circumstances of Peers’ staff will also be put in place. HR support will be accessible to Members’ staff working on the Parliamentary Estate and in constituency offices, and those who are collectively employed by the parties. In addition, new training will be available, addressing the range of needs identified by the working group. This is in addition to the expanded Health Assured helpline, which will be made available to the staff of Members across both Houses and a number of other passholders across the Estate. Mr Speaker, as you yourself requested, the individual political party policies and procedures for dealing with bullying and harassment have been published online and are accessible on the parliamentary website.
A great deal has been achieved, but we also have a programme of work planned into the new year. The working group has clearly identified the need for new policies and procedures to tackle bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment, which should be available to staff and Members across the Estate and which must be independent of the political parties. These proposals are the outcome of substantial evidence taken by the working group, and there is strong support from its members. It is the case, however, that further work, evidence gathering and consultation will be required before we put new processes in place. These processes must attract the full support and confidence of MPs, Peers and staff across Parliament.
Some of the new policies under consideration by the working group include a new behaviour code, to be consulted on, which will apply to all those who work in, or for, Parliament, including Members, Peers, and all staff, wherever they work. This behaviour code would sit alongside the existing parliamentary codes of conduct, which may also require amendment. They also include procurement of a new independent sexual violence advocate specialist service to provide a confidential helpline, and counselling support and advice to those making disclosures. This service would provide support to complainants in cases of sexual assault, including rape. The service would provide support for complainants to pursue a criminal justice route or alternative, strictly confidential support where the claimant does not wish to go to the police. The working group has also taken significant evidence on the need for an independent mediation service to provide a helpline, counselling and investigation into incidents of bullying and intimidation.
Finally, we discussed sanctions. These will of course differ according to the severity of the grievance and for different individuals across the estate. For lower-level complaints the range of possible sanctions could include training covering harassment and bullying, a full apology, as well as review, where appropriate, of the parliamentary pass. In serious cases, further work needs to be carried out to ensure that sanctions are appropriate, fair and enforceable.
The functions of both the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and the Standards Committee may need to be strengthened and reviewed to ensure fair representation and confidentiality. Considerable further work needs to be carried out before conclusions can be drawn and, of course, any changes to the relevant Standing Orders and to the code of conduct would require decisions by the House.
The working group’s discussions have been underpinned by a persistent theme—that while there are many examples of excellent employers and working relationships, there is a real need to improve the overall workplace culture of Parliament. One of the routes to this is proper independent HR support for Members’ staff to minimise the problem of contractual disputes, as identified as one of our principles. We need to work with the House authorities and staff to consider the best and most appropriate way of delivering this in the long term.
We also received a great deal of evidence on the need for voluntary and mandatory training for the staff and their employers. This would include proper induction courses for staff employed by Members. While this is not within the terms of the working group, it was made clear to us that enabling better support for employer/employee relationships could significantly improve the working atmosphere and engender a more professional culture. The working group will consider the evidence further.
Mr Speaker, we were grateful for your own contribution to the working group, where you made it clear that the House of Commons Commission stands ready to do what it needs to do to respond to any proposal from the working group, providing that the proposal combines independence and transparency. We recognise the need for both swift progress and careful consideration before taking action. Our next steps are therefore crucial. The working group will reconvene after Recess to agree how the work will progress. We will look closely at the policies we have identified as needing further work and consultation and begin to take further evidence and advice. There have been a number of proposals about how to take our work forward. These range from appointing a special bicameral Select Committee to maintaining a Member and staff cross-party committee. We will consider all these ideas carefully, but I make clear that the work of the existing group is ongoing. We will continue to involve staff, Peers and MPs collectively each step of the way. Excellent progress has been made in a short space of time and I express my gratitude for the strong commitment shown by members of the working group and for the expertise provided by our specialist advisers.
Finally, I will say this: this working group was formed to bring about change and I recognise that change is not always easy, particularly somewhere with such long-standing traditions and customs, where we live and work in the full glare of the media spotlight. But this cannot be an excuse. We should not rest until everyone working in Parliament can feel safe, valued and respected. We have a chance now to get this right for everyone on the Parliamentary Estate, including staff, MPs and Peers, and I hope to bring the working group’s final proposals here in the new year”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for bringing forward the Statement. I realise that it has been an intensive work programme for members of the working party and we are grateful to them for the work they have undertaken. However, it is important that the deliberations of the working party are confidential. Obviously there is a great deal of public and press interest in the outcomes, but that is not necessarily the same as the interest in getting things right. They need space to be able to do that. The task that has been set is to ensure that good policies and practice are in place so that problems can be deterred and a proper course of action is available where something goes wrong and deterrence fails. Wide consultation on this is important. I understand that there are still those who are being consulted, which I welcome.
Your Lordships’ House is less well represented on the committee than is the other place—that is a comment not on the quality of the representation but on its number, I hasten to add—with the noble Baroness and the Convenor of the Cross Benches, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, representing us. I hope that that can be taken into account, with wider consultation of your Lordships’ House as the working party progresses.
I reiterate the point—I made it when we discussed this matter previously—that there is a need for this work to proceed without any undue delay, but there is that responsibility to consult, to engage and to ensure the workability of the proposals. We also need to be able to monitor the effectiveness of what the working party comes up with and seeks to implement. I also reiterate how essential it is that an independent and qualified sexual harassment adviser is in place as soon as possible—I think that everybody would agree with that; it does not need to wait for the outcome of the working party.
Someone who makes a complaint needs support in doing so. I noticed the comments in the report about rape and about advice being given, including if somebody chooses not to go to the police. It is worth noting that very few women who are subjected to rape have as a first point of call gone to the police. They need an adviser and support to be able to do that. Harassment in any form is not something that people come across very often. When they do, they need advice and support to be able to report it and the confidence to do so.
I also welcome the independent HR service for staff. I would advise all staff to be in a trade union. I hope that there will be consultation with all the trade unions which represent staff across the parliamentary estate. I appreciate that one trade union and a staff association are on the working party, but many other staff are represented by other trade unions and they should be consulted as well. Can the noble Baroness confirm that HR advice will be available also to those who are employers, ensuring that best practice is available to them?
Can the noble Baroness say something more about “voluntary and mandatory training”? If training is to be voluntary, I am not sure how we can be confident that we have in place people who are trained in the process and understand it. How will such training be delivered? I have heard a reference to e-training. Those of us who have had any responsibility in this House for fire training will know that it is not always as easy as it sounds to ensure that Members undertake appropriate training. How can that be done?
On the code of conduct, I hope that our own commissioner and committee on standards will be consulted on this policy prior to it going forward. The position of Peers is somewhat different from that of MPs. We would want to ensure that we were fully engaged. Can I have an assurance that our commissioner and committee will be consulted, particularly with reference to sanctions?
As a party, we have found that policies cannot be static on an issue such as this; they can always be refined and improved in light of experience. We have sought that confidence by taking the advice of an independent QC with experience in these issues. Will the working party ensure that Parliament does the same?
Getting this right is very important for the confidence of everybody on the Parliamentary Estate and those who wish to work here in the future, as well as for the confidence of the public in the institutions of Parliament. A flawed policy would be the worst possible outcome. There has to be a policy in place that has the confidence of those who may be thinking of making a complaint and those who may be complained against. It has to have the confidence of everybody to ensure that it is workable.
I welcome this interim Statement. We want to support the committee in its further work and engage in further consultation to ensure that we have a policy that is fit for purpose, a policy that will inspire the confidence not just of Parliament but of the public as well.
I too thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement, but more significantly for the work she is undertaking, along with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, on the committee. I gather that the group has met 11 times so far and not all the meetings have been short. The members of the group have taken on a very significant commitment and we are very grateful for their work. I think they are finding that it is a lot more complicated than it looks, because of the plethora of employers and the different sorts of case that might arise. At one level it is relatively straightforward, although not totally straightforward, dealing with complaints that take place with a single employer, whether it is members of staff or members of an individual political party. The problem that arises here is when you have people involved from different areas—members of House staff and members of parties. This is why we are going to need a twin-track system in place under which the parties will retain disciplinary procedures but there is also an independent route for when a potential case of harassment involves a perpetrator and a victim from different parties. Getting that right is going to be extremely important.
I stress the importance in all of this of changing the culture of Parliament. It is vital, of course, that we put procedures in place to deal with cases that have occurred, but the main benefit of this whole process, we hope, will be to help to change the culture of Parliament. A number of proposals which are being worked up will help to achieve this: the behavioural code will help; the mandatory training will help, although I echo the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, that this must not be just e-training. I have tried three times this morning to complete the fire training, only to have the system block me. My response now is to question whether I am going to do it at all. In any event, there is inadequate assurance, in my mind, that people have got the message if they are just doing a cursory bit of e-training.
People need to understand that coming to work here requires a particular standard of behaviour, which at the moment, they clearly do not. The decision, for example, to close the sports and social club sends something of a message about the way we want people to behave, but that is only one of a range of things. My main plea to the noble Baroness as she and her colleagues continue their work into the new year is that we must put as much stress on the culture of the place, so that we have fewer of these incidents to worry about in future, as we do to making sure that the procedures for dealing with them are as good as they can be.
I thank the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for their comments. I shall keep my comments relatively brief because I am not sure how much longer my voice is going to hold out. Certainly, we want wide consultation. It is critical that we have everyone on the parliamentary estate brought into the new procedures, so I hope I can reassure the noble Baroness and the noble Lord that there will be further consultation. I hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and I have been giving a strong voice to your Lordships’ House in the committee. I accept that we are smaller in number than our colleagues in the other place, but of course we want to make sure that Peers are properly represented. There will be much further consultation to be done and quite a lot of this will be done in stages: some things can be done quite quickly but some things will take longer. There will be a lot of opportunity for other people to get involved as and when they can.
I certainly agree with the noble Baroness’s comments about the need for a new independent sexual violence advocate. Certainly, the majority of the evidence we have had from the experts is that many victims do not want to go to the police initially and they really do need support and help. That is absolutely critical and we are mindful of that. We are very keen to get that up and running as quickly as possible.
I want to stress how extremely valuable the staff representation on the group has been. We have had two unions represented—Unite and the NUJ, which is linked to the SNP—as well as MAPSA. They have been excellent in representing staff views and bringing them to us. They have undertaken surveys of members—
I am sorry, I meant that the SNP’s staff tend to be members of the NUJ. That union came in because the SNP staff in the other place are largely represented by it. The unions have been extremely helpful. They have undertaken surveys and have also brought staff members to give evidence to the committee. Their voice has been very strong. Of course, it is absolutely critical that the staff are brought into this process and will be consulted going forward.
The noble Lord and the noble Baroness both mentioned training. Indeed, there has been a range of views on this. They are right: it is how we encourage people to take up training and determine what kind of training is most appropriate. That is why that is something that we will be returning to. No doubt we will seek wider views to try to ensure that we get that training package absolutely right.
I can confirm that the commission will indeed be consulted. I think the hope is that I might be able to do a further update to the commission when we meet in January but certainly we will consult the commission. Obviously, if there are any changes to the code or any other procedures, the relevant committees in this House will be involved, as will all Peers where we need collective agreement.
Finally, it has proved extremely complicated, as the noble Lord said, but we have made good progress. But I entirely agree with the noble Baroness that a flawed policy would be the worst outcome. That is why we have been working hard. We will continue to work hard and we really hope to see some real changes being made in short order.
My Lords, while fully supporting the work of the working group and not wishing in any way to excuse those guilty of wrongful behaviour, I have some concern that the definitions of terms such as “bullying” and “harassment” in the survey that was recently circulated by the working group rely on a degree of subjectivity which makes them difficult to apply with precision; for example, in its use of expressions such as “unwanted” and “unwelcome” to describe conduct that is considered unacceptable. What is considered unwanted or unwelcome by one person may not be by another. Some people may be excessively thin-skinned. Does the Leader not agree that definitions of what is unacceptable need to be subject to some kind of test of reasonableness, and will the working group please take this on board in its ongoing work?
I thank the noble Lord and certainly take on board his comments. The definitions we used in the survey are official definitions. I am afraid I cannot remember if they were from ACAS or elsewhere. We used definitions of bullying, harassment and sexual violence that are accepted in practice.
My Lords, I, too, welcome the Leader repeating the Statement and all the work that is going on. I will make a couple of points. First, some of the women who are victims have come forward and quite bravely put their head above the parapet and said what has happened to them. Unfortunately and disappointingly, that has been picked up by sections of the media and they have been vilified; their lives have been picked over in an attempt to discredit them. What can be done and is the committee considering this? It will only act as a deterrent to women and other victims who want to come forward to report anything serious if they are going to find themselves in the media spotlight or on social media.
On the behavioural code, if it is a new code everyone must sign up to and is it a new code that everyone must sign up to and is it key to being a Member of Parliament, whether of this place or the other place? The Leader mentioned sanctions. Obviously, in the most serious cases, there will have to be an ultimate sanction—I suspect, suspension from either House. Will the committee be considering legislation to enable that? As I understand it, at the moment there are no grounds to suspend somebody permanently for that kind of misdemeanour. To change the culture, there have to be sanctions that will act as deterrents, and the ultimate deterrent would be suspension from this place. I should be grateful for answers to those questions.
Confidentiality is one of the key things we have been concerned about. Getting better processes and structures in place to make sure that when people have complaints they are treated confidentially—both the victim and the person being accused—has been at the centre of what we are thinking about. We want to make sure that this works for both parties to reach a good outcome.
On the new behaviour code, the noble Baroness is right about sanctions. That is why in the Statement I talked about whether we need to look at the functions of the parliamentary commissioner. Obviously that would need changes to the code, and they would be brought forward to the House. If it was decided that the ultimate sanction was needed, as the noble Baroness suggests, we would need to change our code of conduct et cetera to achieve that, but that would be for this House as well as the other place to decide.
My Lords, I, too, very much welcome the Statement and I am grateful for it. Does my noble friend agree that we must ensure that all complaints are dealt with speedily and that the turnaround time for any arbitration is quick, because justice delayed is justice denied? One of the problems I found as Legal Services Ombudsman was that complaints took far too long to deal with and redress needed to come a lot quicker.
I thank my noble friend, and I entirely agree with her. That is something that has come through quite clearly in the evidence. We need to deal with these things absolutely fairly but speedily so that all parties can see that the end is in sight.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for her clear personal commitment on this. As the noble Lord, Lord Newby, said, it is clear that a lot of time is being spent. We all appreciate how much the Leader of the House is doing. It is important to have a dedicated HR function. When I was chair of the now defunct information committee, I raised this issue, which is incredibly important, not least because of the outlying staff we have here who are not part of the career structure of the clerks. I felt that was a neglected area. Unfortunately I did not get anywhere, but it is important. That brings me to my last point, which is that all this will cost and I want some assurance that consideration is being given to that. Which budget will it come from? We all know that it is all very well to have agreements but we need a framework and an idea of the budget. I hope that the working group will at least give some consideration to this.
I thank the noble Baroness for her kind words. She is right about HR. In fact, that was one of the main issues raised by staff representatives on behalf of the staff they deal with, so we are extremely mindful of it. That is why we are trying to bring that in very quickly as an interim measure and then we will look at having a much more effective service going forward. The noble Baroness is right about cost, but the Government are committed to ensuring that we have proper processes. There will obviously be costs for this House as well as for the Commons, but I do not think any of us think that money should stand in the way of what needs to be done to make sure that all staff, Peers, MPs and everyone working on the Parliamentary Estate has access to the kind of support and services that they need.
My Lords, forgive me if this has already been covered, but can the Leader say whether the language being used will reflect the Henriques recommendations in relation to safeguarding by speaking about complainants and respondents rather than victims and perpetrators, so that justice is seen to be done all the way through?
I can certainly take that on board. We are being advised by a number of specialists in this area, so I am confident that we will get the right language. But I take on board the right reverend Prelate’s comments and will take them back to the group drafting of the final report.
Climate Change: Health
Motion to Take Note
“Climate change isn’t just hurting the planet—it’s a public health emergency”.
That is the conclusion of Christiana Figueres, chair of the Lancet Countdown, a collaborative research project which published a report in October that has shone a light on the damaging impacts that climate change is having on our health.
In 2009, the UCL-Lancet Commission published its first report on the relationship between climate change and health. It concluded, simply, that climate change represents the biggest threat to global health in the 21st century. Since that publication, the Lancet has continued to work on this topic, and instead of describing climate change as a threat, the most recent report concluded, optimistically, that climate change represents the biggest opportunity for global health in the 21st century. This change of tone reflects a growing recognition that action on climate change can bring about dividends for public health, a notion which empowers the health and climate community to capture these co-benefits. More recently, the Lancet has pioneered the concept of planetary health. The foundation of this concept is the growing body of evidence that the health of humanity is intrinsically linked to the health of the environment. But by its actions, humanity now threatens to destabilise the earth’s key life-support systems, with significant implications for the political systems and economies that run the nations of the world.
This year’s Lancet Countdown is the latest report in this field from a cross-sectoral partnership of universities and organisations from across the world. It is an accountability mechanism, using 40 indicators to track progress annually on climate action and health, and to catalyse political and scientific discussion about its importance. Today’s debate is proof that it has already succeeded in the second of those aims. The Lancet has committed to producing this annual state of the union report in order to try to sustain, in the interests of global health and stability, the momentum on climate change that was achieved with the negotiation of the Paris Agreement.
The key conclusion from the report is that climate change is damaging health worldwide. The multiple threats to human health of climate change are unequivocal, interacting and potentially irreversible: from direct impacts such as heat waves and extreme weather events such as storms, forest fires, floods or drought, to indirect effects on ecosystems, such as agricultural losses and changing patterns of disease, and effects on economies and social structures, such as migration and conflict. These effects disproportionately impact the most vulnerable populations, but every community will be affected. The World Health Organization agrees that climate change negatively affects the basics of life: safe drinking water and access to food and shelter. Here in the UK, the latest climate change risk assessment under the Climate Change Act 2008 includes heat waves, flooding and drought as aspects that risk UK public health.
According to Countdown, the critical issue at hand globally has been the delay in our response to climate change, which over the past two decades has jeopardised human life and livelihoods. However, the good news is that the past five years have seen an accelerated response, and in 2017, momentum is building across a number of sectors. The direction of travel is set, with clear and unprecedented opportunities for public health. That is why the tone of the latest report is more optimistic than before.
I am glad to note that here in the UK the Climate Change Act 2008 is legally binding whether we are in or out of the EU, and we will also continue to be a signatory to the Paris Agreement although we will have to submit our own submission separately from the rest of the EU. But even if all the signatories to the Paris Agreement achieve their commitments, it is estimated that there will still be an increase in mean global surface temperature of 2.7 degrees by 2100, resulting in significant environmental change, so the Paris targets are not enough. However, if the targets are not achieved, and the attitude of the current US Administration makes it likely that they will not, over 4 degrees is possible, with profound damage to the planet and human health.
So let us look in more detail at the impact of climate change on health. Annual weather-related disasters increased by 46% between 2000 and 2013, and scientists attribute this increase to climate change. These disasters have a monumental effect on the health of the affected communities. Droughts and flooding result in starvation and the mass movement of people, all of which are disastrous for health. Here in the UK, 1.8 million people are living in areas susceptible to flooding or coastal erosion. Although relatively few people die from drowning during UK floods, the psychological trauma and effects on mental health of having your home or business flooded are considerable. A UK study found that flood victims were more than six times more at risk of depression and anxiety and seven times more at risk of PTSD than the general population. So what are the Government doing to reduce the risk of flooding and protect vulnerable areas, and how are the planning regulations being used to discourage new building in areas susceptible to flooding?
Massive storms destroy people’s homes, and most of this damage worldwide is not insured. Again, these storms result in the displacement of people and major health issues, such as cholera, where populations are living close together in poor-quality temporary shelter. Accelerated efforts towards poverty reduction and sustainable development have helped to minimise harm to date. However, the Countdown report’s authors believe that limits to adaptive capacity will soon be reached, so we must address the root cause of these disasters, which is climate change itself, and I shall come to that in a minute. In the meantime, what are the UK Government doing to help populations that are displaced by such disastrous weather events?
Secondly, global warming has a direct effect on the livelihoods of vulnerable people exposed to heat-wave events. From 2000 to 2016, the global average temperature where people are actually living has risen by approximately 0.9 degrees Celsius, more than twice the global mean land temperature increase. Since 2000 the number of those vulnerable people exposed to heat-wave events has increased by around 125 million. This means more people dying from overheating and more people working on the land whose productivity is impacted. The report calculates that global physical labour capacity in populations exposed to severe temperature rises decreased by around 5.3% from 2000 to 2016. This reduces their income and has an effect on local and global food security. Of course, extreme cold weather also usually results in increased deaths, especially of older people through hypothermia, while the increase in the number of UK deaths due to overheating is projected to rise by a massive 250% by the 2050s, partly due to our ageing population, unless action is taken. Both these effects put major stress on the resources of our NHS.
Then there is the effect of global warming on communicable diseases. The geographical scope of some of the vectors of communicable diseases has increased considerably, and this is very worrying for us in the UK. We are already seeing Culex modestus, a vector for the West Nile virus, being found in south-east England. Higher temperatures in future will also increase the suitability of the UK’s climate for other invasive mosquito species. Plant diseases are already reaching us, with major effects on the countryside. For example, in the last few years many of our large and important trees have suffered from diseases that we did not see decades ago, and this has been linked to climate change as well as the increase in the cross-border sales of trees.
So are we doing enough to adapt to the effects of climate change? The report concludes that we are not. However, there are great opportunities. Mitigating climate change benefits health in many ways, but there are some areas where the two are particularly closely linked—for example, air pollution, which is a global health crisis. Seventy-one per cent of the almost 3,000 cities in the World Health Organization’s database do not satisfy WHO annual fine particulate matter exposure recommendations. That includes London and 43 other British cities. This poor air quality results in 40,000 premature deaths each year in the UK—and not just of those who suffer from lung problems.
The UK Government have identified poor air quality as the largest environmental risk to public health, being linked to cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity and changes linked to dementia. In the case of fine particulates, we also know that they particularly affect young children, including the brain development of infants.
It is the heating, transport, industry and energy sectors which are the source of man-made air pollution, producing most of the particulates, as well as carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming, so we need clean transport and clean energy production, but we have an economic system in which the full costs of climate change are not paid for by those responsible for the problem. Will the Government look at the real cost of the use of fossil fuels and consider carbon pricing as a means of getting the balance right? Will they take positive action to reduce the number of diesel vehicles on our roads? What action are they taking to encourage and enable people to insulate their homes properly?
Progress on coal phase-out has tangible benefits for air quality globally, and it is good to see that in 2016-17, the amount of additional coal capacity planned for construction halved. In addition, traffic emissions make a major contribution to the quality of the air we breathe, especially in cities. Sustainable travel uptake, such as walking and cycling, can mitigate climate change while at the same time encouraging healthier lifestyles and improving air quality.
In these ways, mitigation tackles climate change and reduces the harm to health from air pollution. When will the Government spend on sustainable travel reach £10 per head annually, as they have committed to do, and why are they planning to reduce the “active travel” investment from £287 million per year now to £147 million per year by 2020? As physical inactivity and obesity cost the NHS more than £1 billion a year, this seems a very unwise reduction.
I also draw the Minister’s attention to the need for a comprehensive carbon capture and storage strategy, as recommended in the report of the advisory group on CCS, ably led by the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh. Clean energy production is essential, but as we grow our ability to produce electricity by sustainable means, we expect to have to depend on fossil fuels for many years. In the light of that, it was very disappointing that the Government cancelled the carbon capture and storage competition. The noble Lord’s report is unequivocal that CCS is an essential component in delivering the lowest-cost decarbonisation across the whole economy, and there is no justification for delay in getting a national strategy up and running. His six recommendations provide a blueprint for how this needs to be done, yet the Government have not responded to the report. I hope that the noble Baroness can tell us why that is and when a government response will be provided.
Food and agriculture is also a sizeable contributor to climate change. The average dietary CO2 emissions per person in the UK are 5.6 kilograms per day, but if we ate according to the WHO’s nutritional guidelines, they would fall by 17%. The dietary changes would also save almost 7 million life years over a 30-year period, mainly due to a reduction in coronary heart disease equivalent to an average increase in life expectancy of just over six months. Here is another opportunity to improve health and address climate change by focusing on the links between the two.
What are the Government doing to promote healthy eating in line with the WHO nutritional guidelines, so that the health of the population can benefit while also reducing greenhouse gases? Are they putting into practice lessons learned from the success of the campaigns to reduce smoking and drink-driving and applying them to healthy eating? There is some good news from right inside the NHS itself. The NHS Sustainable Development Unit has had considerable success in reducing the health sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.
If noble Lords agree that our environment has a major effect on public health, they have to be worried about the life sciences part of the industrial strategy. In his evidence to your Lordships’ Science and Technology Committee, Sir Paul Nurse recently said that the strategy should really be called the health science strategy, because it completely leaves out the environmental and other life sciences, in which the UK has considerable strength. Do the Government plan to publish a separate strategy for life sciences that are not directly linked to health? The reason I ask is that environmental sciences are very much connected with health and there is a danger that they will be ignored. Unlike many other departments, however, the Department of Health has a very large research budget, which should be used in this area. Sir Paul also observed that a great deal of money is being spent on genome sequencing, but that there has been very little work on how the environment affects the expression of the genome on the health of our people.
In conclusion, I very much welcome the noble and learned Lord, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, to your Lordships’ House and look forward to his maiden speech; I am very honoured that he has chosen to use this debate for it. I also pay tribute to all the scientists and publishers who worked on the Lancet Countdown report, which has inspired this debate. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for securing today’s debate on the important issue of the global effects of climate change on health. I refer to my registered interest as chair of a health and well-being board.
In addition to health, people’s quality of life and well-being are now seen as an important measure of national progress alongside traditional economic measures, such as GDP. Quality of life and well-being are affected by a wide range of factors, have economic, social and psychological elements, and are linked closely to community cohesion and connectedness. Local neighbourhood factors are an important determinant of health and quality of life, too, particularly around whether people feel safe and secure in their surroundings and can take a positive stance on their well-being.
In the future we will possibly see extreme weather conditions. We all remember when many areas of the UK experienced flooding in 2007 and 2013-14, which had a devastating impact on homes, businesses and essential services in England. We witnessed the effects of the physical damage to people’s property and the disruption to transport, business and people’s work, which carried huge and real economic costs.
Flooding brings with it stress and anxiety for residents, with homes and treasured possessions ruined. I personally witnessed the huge toll that this placed on families and residents in my area; it was, in many cases, a life-changing experience. The effects on people’s health and welfare can be significant, with huge social and welfare problems that continue over long periods—well beyond the flooding. According to research, and as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has already mentioned, 1.8 million people in the UK currently live in areas with a change in river surface water or coastal flooding in more than one in every 75 years.
Higher summer temperatures are also likely to have a range of impacts on the UK population. Of course, some of these could be beneficial but, as specific thresholds are exceeded, the adverse effects of hot weather will increasingly be felt, unfortunately. Heat-related deaths are therefore likely to increase in the future. All types of buildings are at risk of overheating, including homes, hospitals, care homes, offices, schools and prisons. Around 20% of homes in England are thought to overheat, even in the current climate.
Warmer weather can bring about a positive effect: increased outdoor activities become more attractive and tourism could increase, with families visiting different parts of the countryside. There are also other aspects of physical activity, such as walking your way to health, joining groups, which can help to relieve loneliness for many people, and other outdoor pursuits such as cycling, which benefit health and well-being. It is about just being there and enjoying the countryside for what it is.
On the other side of the equation, cold temperatures bring with them a significant public health problem, with between 35,000 to about 50,000 cold-related deaths per year across the UK. Cold will remain an important climate risk, even with milder average winter temperatures, due to the poor thermal performance of the UK housing stock and the ageing population.
Trees and green spaces should be an integral part of flood risk and climate adaptation strategies. They play pivotal roles in adapting to climate change and reducing flood risk, including mitigating the impacts of urban conurbations, which have poor air quality and public health, and they help to reduce CO2 emissions while improving the energy efficiency of businesses and buildings. Energy efficiency, too, must be an integral part of new homes being built.
We need to protect what we have but support a campaign for the expansion of trees and woodland, placing an emphasis on trees. Trees planted in the right places can do much to help with flooding before it happens, helping to prevent soil erosion, particularly on hillsides or stream slopes; trees slow run-off and hold soil in place. I am particularly pleased that, in my authority in the last four years, we have planted over 17,000 trees. I have even got my spade and wellies out and planted some, too. Britain has lost 84% of fertile topsoil since 1850, and the erosion continues in some areas at between 1 centimetre and 3 centimetres per year.
There are also real benefits to be gained from strengthening public health systems, including emergency planning with the shift of public health into local government, which is a significant opportunity for collaborative action on climate change. But much more has to be done, because I feel that, if left, unmitigated climate change would undermine 50 years of public health gains, while responding to it could represent the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century. We want to see a better place for our children and grandchildren. So I am pleased that the Government are supporting woodland creation and tree planting, aiming for 11 million more trees over the next 10 years. Trees are not only a source of beauty; they create a restful environment, and are of value in welcoming visitors, while at the same time managing flood risk and preserving our habitats for precious species.
Finally, leaving the EU means leaving the CAP and taking back control of environmental policy—how important it is that we care for our land. The opportunity is placed with us, and we need to do more.
My Lords, I apologise for having arrived unavoidably about two minutes late, so I missed the profound opening statement from the noble Baroness.
We are discussing two very important subjects here: climate change and global health. But after listening to what has already been said, and having read much elsewhere, it seems to me that the relationship between those two is not always as clear as is claimed. The facts are not established, and get ignored or lost in generalisations. That is also a problem with the debate on climate change, which suffers from exaggeration, scaremongering and a lack of proper candour. Climate change is, of course, taking place—it has always taken place—and we are quite right to monitor it. But if you look at the facts, as opposed to the alarmist statements, basically—the figures were given—we are in a warming cycle. It is a modest one, but it is there, pretty consistently. In the 150 years since the cycle turned up, following the previous little ice age, I believe, the global climate has warmed by about 1%, as was said. That is not a very dramatic and alarming increase and it is not very surprising—
I accept that rebuke from the noble Lord. I trust that he will never in his life say 1% instead of one degree. It is 150 years since the cool cycle turned down, so it is not surprising if the climate turns up and gets a little warmer.
In the 21st century, the warming is virtually zero. Who knows what is going to happen? I certainly do not. Many alarmists claim to know, but I do not. Reason suggests that we are in a cycle, so warming will resume; I accept that. The question is whether it resumes at an alarming rate that will damage the planet and people’s health, as we are discussing. I do not deny that that may happen. However, the claims that it will certainly happen are based not on observational evidence but on 100-odd physical models making forecasts. They have not been successful so far in the 21st century. When they were published at the beginning of the century, they forecast significant warming during these first two decades, but that has not happened. However, as I say, it may.
On current observed facts, one sees modest warming—grounds certainly for concerned monitoring and for taking action as the facts emerge. We should monitor carefully and take measured mitigation measures. If the situation grows more alarming, I would be alongside the noble Lord in wishing to see urgent action taken. However, we do not see that situation now. When people talk about controlling climate change, I am always intrigued by how on earth they think they will do that. Climate change strikes me as a huge, dynamic force and I am not sure that we have the power to control it.
I know there is evidence that health issues arise in areas where the global warming cycle is having an effect, but global warming in itself does not seem to me—certainly in these early stages—to constitute a threat to health. For a start, it certainly does not increase mortality. It is estimated that in the United Kingdom three deaths per 100,000 of the population are heat related. That situation would presumably continue with global warming. However, 61 deaths per 100,000 of the population are cold related, so a cooling cycle, should it ever reappear, would be intrinsically more threatening to health than a warming one. Modest warming reduces temperature-related deaths. In the United States, a famous study at Stanford University concluded that warming there of 2.5 degrees centigrade would reduce deaths in the United States by 40,000 a year and reduce medical costs—
Is my noble friend aware of a recent modelling study by Forzieri, which showed that extreme weather events of heat and cold, including other weather events promoted by climate change, are now estimated to cause 50 times the current number of deaths from both those factors? Therefore deaths from heat, drought, floods and windstorms outweigh the reduction in deaths from cold that he has outlined.
I was aware of that study but we were discussing health today, and I was producing numbers on that.
In the United Kingdom, the forecast warming to 2050—if it continues at the present rate; if it increased it would be more—is forecast to cause an extra 2,000 heat-related deaths. However, we in the UK would of course benefit by 20,000 fewer cold-related deaths. People so far adapt better through technology to increases in heat than they do to increased cold, especially since the extra costs of renewable energy make heating for the poorer part of the population, who I should mention, pay the bulk of the cost for the climate change ventures, more than they can afford.
To get more particular, malaria is often referred to, and may be also today, as a kind of victim result of warming. In fact—I will try hard to get the fact correct in this case—deaths from malaria have fallen this century from 839,000 to 445,000 annually. My conclusion, shared by many who have studied the subject, is that malaria, like other diseases primarily in underdeveloped countries, is linked most to economic welfare—to GDP per capita. That being the case, the UK’s opulent overseas aid programme is perhaps a little misdirected in that it concentrates so much on renewables when it might go more to improving economic growth and the institutional provision of health.
The Lancet magazine recently joined the band wagon in blaming fossil fuels for global pollution. Those two articles have been subject to serious criticism, which noble Lords may wish to pursue, and they seem to ignore the research, especially by Lelisfeldt and others, which shows that the main cause of pollution, which is strongly related to health, in the main areas of the world where it is a problem—the Asian cities, China, India, and so on—is nothing to do with the source of your energy generation, such as fossil fuels, but due to domestic cooking and the burning of wood in that area.
On pollution, London is particularly concerned about this, and we certainly have a major problem here, which is of course more linked to diesel. As I said, when I was in government, I was aware of the pressures from our green friends, who tried to persuade the Labour Government to incentivise diesel vehicles.
Malnutrition is another major health problem, but it seems to derive more from the use of animal manure than it does from the source of energy generation.
I am aware that my views are not held by the majority in the House, but that gives me mild pleasure.
My Lords, climate change models have been shown to be amazingly accurate. Although one should not look at individual instances, I should mention that a couple of years ago I was privileged to chair the House’s ad hoc Select Committee on the Arctic. When faced with a temperature rise of 4 degrees and a spectacular diminishing ice sheet, one might find it difficult to dismiss climate change.
With regard to energy bills, I think that the noble Lord should remember that most heating is by gas or—if you are off the gas grid, as I am—oil, and there are no green charges on either of those fuels. There is a charge purely on electricity, which is generally not used for heating, so in general that does not affect heating bills. However, I agree with him that man-made climate change is not certain. In fact, it is only about 95% probable, but with a 95% probability, if anybody is looking to the future then action is exactly the right thing to take, and I look forward to the next speech, which will be made by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. He has probably already changed what he was going to say in response to some of the previous speeches. I note that he is listed as the early Lord Krebs on the speakers list. I am glad that he is not the late Lords Krebs—that would be a great loss to the House and to the environmental community generally.
Two weeks ago I attended a meeting on climate change held at the other end of this building. It involved a group of people who were really concerned about the environment and about climate change and its implications. Funnily enough, they were not a band of eco-warriors; they were not even 1970s liberals in sandals. The meeting consisted, at its core, of two admirals and a general, who were very concerned about climate change from a national security point of view. In fact, they were not even from a minor European nation; they were from the United States. They were very concerned about climate change, and I am sure they are even more concerned now, given the Trump presidency’s removal of climate change from the strategic concerns of American foreign and defence policy. That showed me that this is not in any way a minority issue; it is something that affects not just business people generally but also what we think of as those hard-nosed people in the military and defence areas who are not in any way sentimental in their beliefs.
What also came over was that climate change has moved well beyond environmentalists, not just to defence but to issues such as biodiversity, migration, invasive species, world development goals and, not least—this is why I was so delighted that my noble friend Lady Walmsley brought this subject forward today—health.
The area on which I want to concentrate—we have already heard speeches on a fantastic range of subjects—is housing. In just a moment, I will be agreeing with the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, because housing is a key area in terms of health. I am not a health expert but I know that people’s living conditions in this country and elsewhere are fundamental to their health and personal development.
We know that 2.5 million households in this country live in fuel poverty because they cannot afford their energy bills. As a result, we have something like 34,000 premature deaths each year due to temperature. That is one issue that climate change might start to solve in the short term, but the other side of the balance sheet is that in this country we already have around 2,000 premature deaths because of heat. Paradoxically, in looking forward at that we should look backwards to 2003, when a heatwave in Europe saw some 70,000 excess deaths due to heat, 17,000 of which were in France alone. Such exceptional climate events will increase significantly and statistically have already increased, having doubled, I think, over the last one or two decades. This is a real issue.
As my noble friend Lady Featherstone has mentioned many times, it was a tragedy when, in 2015, when the Cameron Government took power, they took away the regulations for zero-carbon homes by 2016. Quite frankly, this was an act of vandalism in setting aside the right standards for new builds, especially as the industry was ready for it. In effect, what that means is that the 200,000 or so houses that have been built since the regulations were supposed to come into force will, over the next three or four decades, have to be retrofitted at extraordinary and avoidable expense. Getting efficiency right in housing is key, not just for health but for climate change, as one-third of our carbon emissions are presently linked to space heating. I remind the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, that we have all sorts of ways of solving climate change if we concentrate our minds, including the one I have just mentioned, which would deal with health and climate change at the same time.
I looked at the Government’s recent clean energy strategy, and although it was late, I look forward to reading all of it and in many ways support it. Page 13 of the strategy gives us an idea of what they are looking at for homes. On the positive side, there is support of,
“£3.6 billion of investment to upgrade around a million homes through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO).
It is good news that that is being extended, although of course that £3.6 billion is not government money but comes from the electricity bills that we consumers pay. However, I suggest that ECO is a scheme that has run out of steam in many ways and requires a severe redesign.
Otherwise, I feel that the aspiration is not good. The Government wish all fuel-poor homes to be,
“upgraded to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C by 2030”,
which is 12 years ahead. They go on to say that, “our aspiration”—and it is only an aspiration—is for,
“as many homes as possible to be EPC Band C by 2035”,
which is almost 20 years ahead. On rented homes, they again want to see energy performance standards going up to band C by 2030, but only where “practical, cost-effective and affordable”. When it comes to social housing, the Government are seeking only a consultation on meeting similar standards over this period. On new and existing homes, we are back to only consultation. But we had consultation and strong work with the industry before 2016. We know what we need to do—surely we need to get on with it.
I wanted to stress in this debate the link between housing, health and climate change. It is potentially, just as clean air is with motor transport, a win, win, win in terms of health and climate change policy. What I see at the moment is not much better than aspiration from the Government. They have set out a strategy in terms of clean growth and part of that is improving homes. I welcome that, but for goodness’ sake let us have some real action. Let us stop the consultation and the half measures. Let us get on with it and solve this, and save not just energy poverty in this country but prepare ourselves for the heat that is to come.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on securing this timely debate. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, hinted that I might want to change some elements of my contribution in light of the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Donoghue. I would inject one additional fact, since we are on to facts. It is a fact that 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have been during the 21st century. The notion that climate change has somehow stopped or slowed down is just not borne out by the evidence.
I declare two interests. Until 1 February this year, I was for eight years chair of the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change and also a member of the Committee on Climate Change. At the moment, I work part-time for the Wellcome Trust on its planetary health research programme, which includes funding the Lancet Countdown to which the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, referred.
The topic could not be timelier. Even though the noble Lord, Lord Donoghue, doubts that the link between climate change and health is serious, others certainly take it seriously. In making his speech when he accepted the post, the director-general of the World Health Organization, Dr Ted Ross, announced four priorities for the WHO, one of which is the health impacts of climate change. He said:
“While health emergencies hit quickly, climate change is a slow-motion disaster. WHO must play a strategic and decisive role not only in adaptation but also in mitigation”.
In quite a different domain, on 6 November this year, Pope Francis produced a papal declaration on planetary health which states:
“Health must be central to policies that stabilize climate change below dangerous levels, drive zero-carbon as well as zero-air pollution and prevent ecosystem disruptions”.
The WHO estimates that approximately 12.6 million deaths each year are attributable to avoidable environmental risk factors, and climate change exacerbates those factors, which include access to clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. The WHO states that climate change is projected to cause 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050 if we do not act to mitigate and adapt.
The effects will be felt by everybody on the planet—everybody in this Room, if they are still around in those decades, and certainly our children and grandchildren. But people living in island developing states and other coastal regions, in large cities and mountainous and polar regions will be particularly vulnerable. The effects of climate change will interact with other risk factors in affecting health. The very young, very old, very poor and the sick will be most vulnerable. Although it is not possible precisely to attribute morbidity and mortality to the climate signal, there is no doubt that climate change is a significant risk factor now and in the future. The effects will be through many routes. For some populations, as we have already heard, heat stress and air pollution will be the biggest risk and for some it will be the spread of new diseases. For some it will be undernourishment because of lack of water or fertile soil to grow food, and for some it will be the consequences of dislocation from their homes through flooding. These risks, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, so clearly articulated, have been set out in detail in Lancet Countdown’s 2017 report on climate and health, and I do not intend to repeat what has already been said.
Instead, I wish to turn from the global scale to the national one. As has already been said, the Climate Change Act 2008 places a legal obligation on the Government to both assess the risks from climate change to the UK every five years and prepare a national adaptation programme that addresses those risks. The Adaptation Sub-Committee, of which I used to be chairman, has a statutory duty to advise government on the risks and report to Parliament every two years on whether the national adaptation programme is adequately addressing the risks.
The first national adaptation programme, published in 2013, looked very impressive at first glance: it contained 31 objectives and no fewer than 371 actions, most of which have been, or are being, implemented. However, closer inspection reveals that it did not contain any significant new proposals or reprioritisation of resources. On the whole, the objectives and actions were vague, unmeasurable and did not have any timescales for delivery. In short, it is not possible to evaluate whether this country is preparing for the effects of climate change, including impacts on health. If I am asked to score the 2013 national adaptation programme on a scale of one to 10, I would give it about three. I hope the Minister can reassure the House that the second national adaptation programme, due to be published next year, will contain measurable, specific and outcome-focused priorities with specified timelines.
In its 2016 climate change risk assessment evidence report, the Adaptation Sub-Committee pointed to six urgent priority areas for the UK in which more action is needed now to adapt to climate change. All six risks carry implications for human health: flooding, high temperatures, water shortage, impact on natural ecosystems, impact on food production, and the potential spread of new diseases. As has already been said, an estimated 1.8 million people live in areas at significant risk of flooding; that number is predicted to rise to 2.6 million by 2050. The number of heat-related deaths, although smaller than that of cold-related deaths at the moment, is projected to rise by 250% by 2050. New insect vectors for diseases such as West Nile fever, dengue and chikungunya are likely to arrive in this country. Importantly, the majority of our most productive farmland in the eastern United Kingdom is projected to become less suitable for growing crops due to a combination of lack of water, soil loss and sea level rise. That could have a big effect on our food security.
Are preparations in place to head off those risks? As has already been said, the good news is that we are doing well in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, thereby playing our part in helping to reduce the magnitude of future climate change. The bad news is that we are not preparing ourselves for the inevitable impacts on health of the climate change to which we and the rest of the world are already committed as a result of the greenhouse gases we have pumped into the atmosphere.
Let me illustrate with a few examples. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, gave me a convenient lead-in by talking about housing. We are not ensuring that new homes and businesses are resilient. The noble Lord referred to zero-carbon homes. I want to refer to flood resilience. When I, together with other noble Lords, attempted to incorporate into what is now the Housing and Planning Act 2016 a requirement for flood resilience in new housing developments, the Government rejected our amendments as they were deemed unnecessary or too onerous for builders. Now, over a year on, can the Minister assure us on behalf of future occupants that the 300,000 new homes to be built per year, as announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, will be resilient to the impacts of climate change, particularly flooding and overheating?
As we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Redfern, the design of a large proportion of our hospital spaces—according to the Adaptation Sub-Committee, more than 90% of hospital wards—makes them prone to overheating, an example being large windows that cannot be opened. Are the Government taking steps to tackle this problem in both existing wards and new builds? The noble Baroness also referred to urban green space, which is crucial to countering the urban heat island effect. We know that urban green space has declined by 7% since 2001. We heard recently that the Mayor of London has announced that 25,000 new homes per year should be built in so-called convenience spaces, such as London gardens. Is the Minister satisfied that this plan to fill in the small amount of remaining green space will not exacerbate the urban heat island effect and make London less resilient to climate change in the future?
Finally, I want to ask the Minister about noise. This may seem irrelevant, but it is not. Many homes in this country—I declare my own as one of them—are close to busy roads and railways. Some degree of protection from environmental noise is achieved by double glazing, but as the climate changes, people will need to keep their windows open at night to cool their houses or flats. Can the Minister tell us, either now or perhaps in writing afterwards, what scientific assessment the Government have made of the health impacts of chronic noise now and in the future, as well as how climate change might alter those impacts?
Once again, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for her timely debate. I look forward to the Minister’s answers to my, and other noble Lords’, questions at the end of the debate.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for introducing the debate. I also associate myself with the importance of the Lancet project, to which she referred.
The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, mentioned the papal declaration. I was privileged to be part of the conference in Rome that produced it. Interestingly, the conference was called “Health of People, Health of Planet”. It is a very precise equation, which we must step into. I want to offer a few remarks on that very broad theme. What does “health of people” mean for the political ordering of our society, in terms of our culture and our responsibilities in a House such as this?
We face the massive challenge of the difference between having the right attitude and translating that into action, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who said that people are seeing that there is an issue and getting the right attitude. One of the challenges is the great emphasis in our culture on the individual: individual rights and individual identity. Although that is important, the danger is that we will step into a world that the Pope calls the “globalisation of indifference”, saying, “I am concerned about myself and my little bit of the world, but I am not too bothered about other people. They can get on with their lives as they want”. We have shifted from a healthy toleration of others to ignoring others if they do not get in our way in our space. That will make the challenge of not just attitude, but action, in this area enormously difficult, in tackling the globalisation of indifference.
Health is a public issue. If we look at the briefing paper for the debate—there is also a note in the Library about global health inequalities—the issue of climate change is looked at through the lens of the individual. We aggregate individual illnesses, looking at how many people have died from a particular illness. If we are to order this in the political sphere, we need somehow to help individuals to join up in a common set of values and responsibilities that translate into common actions and what the noble Baroness, Lady Redfern, called common lifestyles. That is a huge challenge in a world where we have allowed so many people to dissolve into their private spaces through the globalisation of indifference.
One of the tragic outcomes of the globalisation of indifference and disturbance of communities of people through climate change is the great increase in modern slavery, an issue with which I am quite connected. Part of the Church of England’s response—a thing called the Clewer Initiative—has as its strapline, “We see you”. We need to notice what is going on in the climate and how it is affecting people: are they being disturbed out of their environments and taken to criminal environments to be exploited? We need to talk up the importance of noticing, being connected and having common action together to push back against this disaster—I use that word, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue—that is coming towards us very quickly.
I will point to a couple of further challenges and ask some questions of the Minister. One challenge is that research shows that older generations are not convinced of the importance of the issue in itself. There is a demographic thing about older generations—the principle of what is happening and noticing and reaching out with others to respond. The same research indicates that younger people do get it, but feel their responses as an individual lifestyle choice, not a joined-up, societal response. Such is the magnitude of this challenge that we must have a joined-up, societal response. That is the challenge to us in a political Chamber such as this.
I will raise a couple of points that the Minister might like to comment on. The market drives so much of how we behave and where our values come from. The market looks for technological solutions to these issues. My plea, as noble Lords heard, is that there need to be lifestyle changes. It is not just technology, but how human beings live: how we use heat and coal, how we travel and all those things. Technology is an important part of the answer, but there is a lifestyle issue that comes much closer to home for us all.
That is why, like the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, I welcome the Lancet’s emphasis not on presenting a problem that people make an individual response to, but on an opportunity to become a kind of society where people together have certain values about how to travel, behave and use resources. That is an enormous challenge in our fragmented political world. It would be interesting to know how the Government think we might get on the front foot with a positive opportunity to step into together as a society, rather than expecting individuals to make their private decisions and somehow hope it will add up to change the whole scenario.
The NHS employs, I believe, more than 1 million people. We present health as a private matter. We provide the NHS so that any of us can go as an individual and have our health looked after or be made healthier. But if health is a public matter, there is the whole thing about the atmosphere and what it indicates. As some noble Lords know—as a Christian I read the Bible—Genesis says that human life comes from breath. Breath—air—gives us life, and the pollution of breath damages our bodies, our souls and our minds. We know that. Whether you are a person of faith or science, it is the breath that is important.
Air pollution is something that does not discriminate. You cannot make an individual choice about it. You have to do something together, whether it is in Africa or Asia, where people are dying at very young ages because they are cooking over wood and coal, breathing in the smoke. I was at a conference where a heart specialist from New York talked about the major problem for her as a heart surgeon being the effect of the bad air on people’s bodies and hearts. It is not fatty foods or this or that, but air pollution. I sometimes spend time on Putney High Street, which I think is rated as a pretty terrible area in London for pollution. Air pollution affects all of us.
I look to the Minister for an answer on this: we have 1 million workers in the National Health Service who can help people begin to see this. People would not just go for private health treatment. These employees need to be advocates, for health is a public issue, about the environment we live in, the air we breathe and the way we treat it. Therefore, we are part of the solution. It is not just about giving people drugs and therapy, but about giving them the confidence to live a lifestyle together that would reduce emissions, change the way we travel and all the things that together would make a huge difference. The Minister might like to comment on the travel policy that a Government might have that will help us fight back together as a society in the way we travel, not just in terms of diesel emissions, but public transport and how it is driven.
Finally, I invite the Minister to comment on how we will develop and use indicators of public health—not an agglomeration of private cases, but what the public health of our society looks like in terms of its air quality, its travel patterns and the values people live out together, rather than retreating into their private indifferent spaces, which we will be for ever trying to shake them out of, making no progress at all. Our task in a political Chamber is to create the ordering of a society where those values can be recognised, owned, shared, lived out and acted. We need policies and encouragement about things such as transport and air quality, which will get people looking for an opportunity to live in a healthier environment and a healthier planet for healthier people.
My Lords, climate change has undoubtedly put an end to many species, most famously the dinosaurs. I am in your Lordships’ House as one of the last members of a species whose extinction is attributable to rather a different sort of change, namely constitutional change. In other words, I am a judicial dinosaur: one of the 12 Law Lords—or, more properly, Lords of Appeal in Ordinary—who had sat dispensing justice as the voices of legal infallibility in this House since the 1870s. Then, in 2009, pursuant to the Constitutional Reform Act, the Law Lords jumped across Parliament Square to their new home in the Supreme Court—12 Lords a-leaping, as you might somewhat seasonably say.
Since then, I have been successively Master of the Rolls and more recently President of the Supreme Court, and, as such, excluded from this Chamber. I hope that that explains my near 11-year delay between introduction and maiden speech. It does seem a long time, but it is what we lawyers would call a de minimis compared with the age of the earth—4.5 billion years. It is clear that, throughout that period, the earth has been undergoing climate change, sometimes pretty extreme change. So human activity is by no means the sole potential cause of climate change. I should add the fact that climate change was occurring long before humans existed most certainly does not even begin to cast doubt on the notion that human activity can cause climate change.
Identifying the present and, even more, predicting the future extent and effects of climate change, and identifying the actual and potential causes of climate change, all involve experts, such as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, making scientific assessments based on evidence, logic and experience. Uncertainties are inevitable, owing to many factors, including the enormous amount of available evidence, inevitable variations and apparent inconsistencies in the evidence, and the vast numbers of potential causes and effects, all of which can fairly be said to be the sort of problems one encounters when seeking to analyse or predict the behaviour of a highly complex system.
Accordingly, it is inevitable that any such assessments will end up involving judgments, that any such assessments will be probabilities rather than certainties, and that any timeframes will be imprecise. It is for this reason that the precautionary principle was developed. The principle should strike a chord with those who are familiar with risk registers. Once the possibility of a specific serious problem occurring reaches a certain level of likelihood, it becomes appropriate—indeed, it becomes a duty on those responsible—to do something about it.
Some people, no doubt including some Members of this House, have serious doubts as to the correctness of the scientific consensus as to the extent to which human activities cause or contribute towards climate change. However, I respectfully suggest that it is hard to quarrel with the notion that the possibility of the consensus being correct, coupled with the seriousness of the problem if it is correct, must mean that something should be done, if possible, to mitigate or eradicate the risk.
Because of the nature and importance of the topic, it would seem obvious that any assessment as to the existence, cause and likely effect of climate change must be made, received and reviewed dispassionately. Very sadly, that is not how much of the most accessible public discussion on the topic of climate change is conducted. Views from experts are routinely not merely simplified but regularly exaggerated and often positively misrepresented. Many newspapers, many articles and many discussions on the topic leave one with the strong impression that the opinion of the writer or speaker on climate change is founded on quasi-religious dogma or blind faith rather than on any genuine attempt at dispassionately analysing the evidence.
Many writers and commentators approach the issue by reference to a visceral opinion as to whether climate change is occurring and, if so, how it is caused, an opinion which they then seek to justify by selecting or slanting the evidence and attacking the opposition. For example, when virtually all respected and experienced scientists in the field agree on a certain fact or prediction, someone who opposes the consensus will simply convict them of group thinking and dismiss their conclusions simply on that ground, without seriously addressing the argument on its merits.
In a sense, this is an extreme example of a more general problem. People do not naturally think scientifically; indeed, it is no exaggeration to suggest that scientific thought is close to the antithesis of the way in which public opinion is formed, at least by most people. A natural human instinct which governs most people’s thinking is confirmation bias, the search for and interpretation of data with a view to confirming one’s beliefs. But that is precisely the opposite of the attitude adopted by any good scientist or sensible policymaker, which relies on falsifiability and the null hypothesis. Most people want a definitive answer to complex problems, preferring a clear, if meretricious, analysis to an honest and measured analysis.
During the past three months, I have had the benefit of listening to informed and rationally conducted debates in your Lordships’ House, exemplified by the impressive contents of the preceding speeches, as well as by the kind welcoming comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. I have also had the experience of observing and taking part in friendly and constructive discussions between Members of this House outside the Chamber. Accordingly, this seems a very fitting forum in terms of its open-mindedness and expertise as well as its constitutional character for a discussion of this important, complex and potentially contentious and divisive topic
I turn, finally, to the specific question of the consequences to the United Kingdom of the effect of climate change on human health. It seems clearly accepted by the great majority of reputable scientists in the field that, at least partly as a consequence of human activities, climate change is already occurring and posing a serious risk to human health, and that, unless drastic steps are taken, this is likely to get worse, possibly much worse.
The risk will continue to manifest itself in various ways, which have been touched on and summarised in the speeches preceding mine, including infectious and other diseases arising from extreme temperature changes, poor air quality, shortage and contamination of food and water, and other geographical occurrences. Some think that the United Kingdom will get off relatively lightly. Enjoying a temperate maritime climate, being an island and having a plentiful supply of natural water are all said to be beneficial factors, as is the quality of our medical and public health services. The position is said to be very different in other parts of the world, particularly in those countries near the equator. But we cannot be sure. On the contrary, as is clear from what has been said, based on evidence, in speeches preceding mine, there is no reason to be confident that we will be relatively unaffected. Even if we are relatively unaffected, that is no reason to sit on our hands. The fact that other countries will suffer more than the UK does not mean that we will not suffer. The fact that someone else may be hurt more than you in an accident is scarcely a reason for not trying to avoid the accident.
In any event, if people in other countries are going to suffer badly as a result of climate change, and bearing in mind this country’s unrivalled record in scientific advances and discoveries and consistent with our commendable record on foreign aid, this country should do its best to help the other countries. Not only would it be humane but it would be a source of soft power. Quite apart from that, even in the unlikely event that the UK was immune from the effects of climate change, it would be in our own interest to prevent or mitigate its effect in other countries.
Four hundred years ago, John Donne famously wrote that no man is an island. Had he been writing in the 21st century, with its ubiquitous and instantaneous means of communication, its speedy and accessible means of transport and our knowledge of the speed with which disease and pollution can spread, Donne may have written that no island is an island. As we look at climate change and its effect in other areas of the world, which may become uninhabitable due to risks to human health and human survival, migration and the spread of disease and pollution from those areas to all parts of the globe, even those rather less affected, seem likely.
I end by echoing what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, quoting from a report; namely, that while climate change is a threat, it is right for those on whom there is a duty to do something about it to regard it also as an opportunity.
My Lords, it is a huge privilege to welcome on behalf of the House the maiden speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, and to say that we understand entirely why it has taken him 11 years to prepare his speech. He has had a glittering legal career, culminating as President of the Supreme Court. Now that he is all ours, his experience will be a major resource for this House, especially as we wrestle with the task of transferring 50 years of complex European legislation into UK law. His forensic powers of analysis, illustrated precisely in the way he expounded today, are tempered by his personal commitment to fairness and equality. They will be beacons for us all in this post-truth era, and I am hugely privileged to be able to respond to his speech. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and declare an interest as chairman of the Woodland Trust and vice-president of BirdLife International, Flora and Fauna International and several other international biodiversity and community organisations.
The global effects of climate change on health will not only impact globally; the UK is part of the globe and they will have an effect here. I want to cover three areas: first, climate change and population movement; secondly, adaptation to the impacts of climate change in the UK; and, thirdly, as many of your Lordships know, my favourite hobby-horse: the importance of trees and woods in responding to climate change and its health impacts.
The world’s population is predicted to reach 9.1 billion by 2050. Growing populations endanger human development, the provision of basic services and poverty eradication, and weaken the capacity of poor communities to adapt to climate change. Significant mass migration is likely to occur in response to climate change. Many people will move from the arid zones to more temperate zones, and towards the bread-baskets of the globe. The majority of environmental migrants have so far come from rural areas within the least developed countries, but in the future there will be an unprecedented level of environment-induced migration out of urban areas as rising sea levels threaten to inundate densely populated coastal areas. One-third of the world’s population currently lives within 60 miles of a shoreline.
Such migration has two major health impacts. Migrant groups are more vulnerable to a range of health stresses and this impact is complicated by poor access to healthcare. Migration pressures will impact on Europe and the UK, including pressures on water, land availability and open space, with knock-on effects for physical and mental health, particularly in the south-east. Though we may be welcoming to populations moving as a result of environmental pressure from abroad, we still have not found a way of spreading them evenly across the land surface of this country. It is like rolling rocks uphill to suggest that population will move further north than Watford.
We really need to tackle what is quite a sensitive issue. Linking population dynamics with climate change raises many hackles in many directions. Population dynamics have simply not been integrated systematically into our climate change science or policies, either globally or locally. The contribution of population growth, migration and urbanisation, and the impact on green space and the countryside and on other mitigation and adaptation programmes, need urgent investigation and swift action. What plans do the Government have far more effective forward planning in relation to services, housing, land and property in the face of the expected changes in migration patterns in response to climate change and the potential health impacts of those changes?
I turn to a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. I commend the work of the Adaptation Sub-Committee, under his former leadership, on adaptation to the impacts of climate change in the UK. Climate change poses a range of health risks from heat and floods, which have a particular impact on the vulnerable and the elderly. It is anticipated that there will be future increases in both mortality and the number affected by extreme weather events across Europe and the UK. Recent modelling, which I commend to my noble friend, shows that extreme weather events—heat, cold, drought, floods and windstorms—could affect 60% of Europe’s population annually between 2070 and the end of the century, compared to the current 5% so impacted.
The report to Parliament of the climate change Adaptation Sub-Committee in 2017 showed that the overall state of the natural environment in the UK is reducing its resilience to climate change. The sub-committee called for, among other measures, increased attention to the need to enhance protection of biodiversity in soils and for the national adaptation programme to be more ambitious and have clearer mechanisms. You heard it here today: the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, gave it only three out of 10. That is a fairly clear message to the Government. Will the Minister tell the House how the 25-year environment plan, which the Government are allegedly planning to publish in January, will take the opportunities to provide more robust action for adaptation to the impacts of climate change in this country? It is called the 25-year environment plan because it looks forward 25 years, but we have been waiting now for more than two years, so I am earnestly hoping that it is not called the 25-year environment plan because it is going to take 25 years to emerge.
I shall finish with my usual commendation of the importance of trees and woods in responding to climate change and its health impacts. If we did not have trees, we would have to invent them. They combat climate change both in terms of mitigation and in terms of adapting to the impacts of climate change. They are excellent at sequestering carbon, they help reduce heat effects in urban areas, they are excellent trappers of pollution, particularly in an urban pattern, and they are good at helping to manage floods. Woods and woodlands are nice places for people to go walking and to get their levels of activity up to help with their health and we know that mental health is improved by exposure to green spaces and trees. The evidence is there in a clear way for all of those impacts.
Deforestation increases climate change. The world is currently estimated to be losing 10 billion trees a year. In the UK, tree cover is also reducing, which is pretty crazy since we have all worked our socks off for the last 15 years to get it to slowly creep up—but, as a result of post-Brexit uncertainty, dysfunctional tree planting grants and a complex grants system for carbon credit planting, which is putting people off, we as a nation have failed to meet even the modest government targets for tree planting in 2016 and 2017. The Government have announced a target of planting 11 million trees over the next 10 years, but at current rates of planting they simply will not make that target, which anyway is not enough. Yesterday I celebrated Sainsbury’s, a supermarket, planting 3 million trees in the last seven years. If a supermarket can plant 3 million trees I am sure that the Government, with all of us working with them, can plant more than 11 million.
What needs to be done if we are to see trees play their full potential role in helping with climate change? Globally, BirdLife International, with WWF UK and the Wildlife Conservation Society, has launched a trillion tree initiative to encourage ethical investment in forests, find new sources of funding for protection of existing forests, including community management of its forests, and work with corporations to develop plans to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. In the UK, there are a number of things that we absolutely need to see, including enhanced protection for our ancient woodlands, 800 of which are currently threatened by development. The national planning policy framework is currently going around Whitehall before being relaunched for consultation in the spring and could produce much more effective protection for our ancient woodlands.
We need swift delivery of a simpler and more effective grant system to increase planting so that the Government, with all those who plant trees in this country, can approach that 11 million target and, I hope, go well beyond it. We need local authorities to require developers, as planning gain as we build the 300,000 houses per year, to make sure that green areas for health and mental health well-being are integral parts of those developments. And we need to create a substantial new forest for this country, spanning the M62 from Liverpool to Leeds and the east coast, which will be a major new resource for carbon sequestration, resilience of landscapes, and recreation and health for the people of the northern powerhouse.
All of these could also figure in the 25-year environment plan and I ask the Minister whether they will. We also need agricultural policy reform in order to make sure that, when we come out of the common agricultural policy in Europe, our domestic policies promote carbon reduction and reward farmers for planting trees. I would be delighted if the Minister would tell us that all of those propositions will be committed to by the Government in the near future in the 25-year plan and the revision of the agriculture strategy to enable trees and woods to play a substantial role in mitigating the health impacts of climate change. Climate change means that we need to think global and act local.
My Lords, it is good to follow my noble friend Lady Young, and the excellent, forensic maiden speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Neuberger. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for introducing the debate. We are all grateful for her introduction of the Lancet project, which is certainly very impressive. I declare an interest as a director of a consulting company and an adviser to Tokamak Energy, which is interested in long-term clean energy.
It is important to understand the interconnection between the global and local effects of climate change, and how climate change has direct and indirect impacts, now and for the future, on the human population, the whole biosphere and the geosphere. The most important of these impacts include deteriorating human health in critical areas of the world, the loss of forests, increased floods, problems with agriculture, a deteriorating atmospheric environment, rising temperatures, and pollution. The water environment in rivers and oceans and along coasts is also at risk. These impacts have direct and indirect effects on human health.
Some of the most critical situations occur in urban areas. This is mainly because of the concentration there of air and water pollution, which is significantly higher than in rural areas, as is clear in health and mortality statistics. However, large areas of burning forest contribute to high rural and urban pollution levels, and chronic health problems in urban areas in south-east Asia, for example, notably in Indonesia and Singapore. Rising temperatures, flooding and landslides are also associated with climate change. The growth of airports is also producing new areas of very high pollution where motor vehicle and aviation pollution combine, as is shown in the studies at Heathrow. Recently India and China have experienced such bad air pollution in their cities that healthy sportsmen have collapsed on cricket pitches and in sports stadia. Some Governments have responded by taking special measures to close down industry and traffic for special events. Fortunately, we did not have to do that in the UK for the Olympics but some other countries have had this problem.
The effects of climate change further damage health due to temperature rises in cities and sometimes hundreds of kilometres downwind, as we have seen in southern China. These long-distance health effects of climate change are also associated with pollution from shipping, which is now being studied by the International Maritime Organization, based here in London. I hope the UK Government will play a very strong role in that, given our significant contribution to world shipping.
As desert areas expand in Africa and Asia, dust storms are created, which further damage health. Of course, local measures such as tree planting, which has been mentioned, mitigate these effects—what we see in parts of China is quite impressive—but they cannot prevent the increasing effect of dust. In winter periods in Asia, as I have experienced, the combination of traffic, dust and gases produces stable atmospheric conditions, which have adverse effects on health.
The consequences of climate change and population growth in Asia, which is particularly affected by the combined impact of flooding and landslides, are dangerous. The rising sea level is also an important problem. The Philippines experiences a simultaneous combination of these hazards. In some areas these have coincided with geophysical risks such as earthquakes. Protective measures are needed to deal with all these impacts, and it is impressive to meet local officials and hear about their self-help programmes.
UK organisations have helped countries experiencing these hazards through many scientific and technical programmes—I have participated in some—funded by BEIS, Innovate UK, the Newton Fund and DfID. But the experience of some countries has also provided knowledge and technology that can be of value to UK programmes dealing with climate change effects such as flooding. The rapid construction of houses has been explored elsewhere, and we perhaps need that. Through the modelling and prediction of air pollution in megacities with tall buildings, I believe London can learn something from the experience of some other countries. One of the biggest causes of poor health in developing countries is contaminated water in rivers, along coastlines and in offshore fishing areas.
I will end by briefly reviewing the prospects of reducing global climate change and environmental pollution through technology. It is encouraging that some countries, including the UK, are demonstrating how carbon emissions can be and are being reduced, and at least that emissions increase is slowing. The scientific reasons for this are well understood and the technologies for producing lower and zero-carbon emissions are well established. These include wind energy, solar energy, carbon capture and storage, nuclear fission and, for the future, nuclear fusion. Mostly these systems generate electricity, which is then used for various purposes such as industry, transportation, heating and so on. But in some systems thermal power can be applied directly and more efficiently than through the generation of electricity.
One such example is desalination, leading to greater availability of fresh water, which is one of the best ways of improving health in developing countries. A new application of low-carbon thermal power via fission may be possible for cleaning polluted water. This and other techniques were reviewed recently by Mr Pearce in the New Scientist. This has become a more complex process for dealing with soluble chemicals and solid plastics, about which there has been much discussion recently. The new technology of modular fusion may well lead to local power generation, which can have environmental as well as power uses.
Finally, we should perhaps remember that education of the public and in schools is really important. The Government need to realise that they will not have political support in future without popular understanding, which is very important. One other important issue we have to think about in the context of climate change and the environment is nuclear fission. France has the lowest carbon emissions because it uses nuclear fission, but the radioactive waste is then stored in the ground. Euratom has proposed processes by which we deal with this waste. It will be in the ground for a long time—perhaps thousands of years—so we need to find new technologies to deal with it. One may well be nuclear energy fusion, which I am working on myself.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Walmsley on securing this very important debate. It has been a very good debate, ranging widely across the multifarious health impacts of climate change, both globally and domestically. My noble friend and many noble Lords across the House referred to the Lancet Countdown report, which is the basis for this debate. Its conclusions were supported and echoed around the Chamber, and are reinforced by the World Health Organization, among others.
My noble friend Lady Walmsley started with the conclusion of the Lancet Countdown report: climate change is not just hurting the planet, it is a public health emergency. She forcefully laid out the case made by the report and highlighted the critical issue globally: the delay in our response to climate change, which has jeopardised human life and livelihoods. She also reminded us that the tone of the latest report is optimistic and that over the past five years we have seen an accelerated response.
My noble friend Lord Teverson concentrated on housing as being key to public health. He pointed to the fuel poverty that results in 34,000 deaths per year; the devastating heat-related deaths that were experienced in Europe during the great heatwave a few years ago; and the unbelievable short-sightedness of the Government in doing away with the zero-carbon homes standard.
Obviously, we bow to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and his expertise in these areas. I would not like him to mark my work. His score of three puts the Government fairly and squarely in their place.
The right reverend Prelate is very exercised that we have become a world full of individuals thinking about ourselves and not thinking about everybody else. He wants us to understand that, as a community, we have to find a solution for all of us.
What can I say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury? He made a stunning maiden speech. He is clearly not an extinct species. He pointed us to some very good ways through life—evidence, logic and experience—and said that the precautionary principle should be used when we are not sure about our actions.
I have stood here several times in debates on climate change and talked about my experience of climate change during two years as a Minister in DfID with responsibility for Africa. I have talked about having felt desertification under my feet and seeing the disasters that result from too much water in Asia and too little water in Africa. Those extremes are increasing. I am very sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, is no longer in his place so that I am unable to educate him on the error of his ways.
As the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, pointed out, the World Health Organization has stated that between 2030 and 2050 climate change is expected to cause 250,000 extra deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress. To anyone who has spent time in the most challenging places in Africa, this is not a surprise of any kind. For the vast majority of those populations, already battling weak health infrastructure, the increasing levels of ill health will be insupportable. Those countries cannot improve their health systems fast enough to keep up with the pace of climate change.
When I was in Nigeria, I saw poverty, violence, conflict, disease and violence against women. They will all intensify with climate change. They already are. Lake Chad is a freshwater lake that provides water to more than 60 million people living in the four countries that border it, including Nigeria, and it is shrinking. The Nigerian part of the lake has diminished by 95%. It is called an ecological catastrophe by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The farmlands and villages surrounding what was the lake have desertified and died. That desertification led to the migration of the people who had lived there, causing conflict and pressure in the areas to which they migrated. There has been heat-related mortality, dehydration, the spread of infectious diseases, malnutrition, damage to public health infrastructure and the migration of both man and animals.
In Uganda, the glaciers at the tops of the Rwenzori mountains are receding at an unprecedented pace. The mean temperature has increased by 1.3 degrees. Trends in annual rainfall are significantly decreasing in the rainy season of March, April and May. Uganda is already experiencing health impacts: outbreaks of malaria, dengue fever, water-borne diseases, such as cholera and dysentery, diseases associated with floods, respiratory diseases and food insecurity.
Sierra Leone already had the highest rainfall in Africa. An average of 539 centimetres of rain falls on the capital, which is used to flooding, but it has a hugely dense population living in informal settlements—if you are being polite—in the slums of Freetown, which are an absolute horror. Large families are squeezed into tiny homes on river banks, the sides of mountains and the edge of the sea.
We heard from the noble Baroness about planting trees. Deforestation is destabilising the soil, as is the dumping of waste into drainages and the clearing of trees. There is a lack of political will. All these issues are challenges to dealing with climate change. In 2009, the Unjust Waters report found worsening floods in Ghana, Uganda, Mozambique and Kenya.
Kenya is so beautiful. It has an equatorial tropical climate which is hot and humid at the coast, temperate inland and very dry in the north and north-east. It has hot, dry lowlands and temperate highlands. It has two annual rainy seasons. It is prone to cyclical droughts and is expected to experience climate-driven events of increased intensity and frequency. There, climate change will increase malaria which will spread into new locations. There are already reports of increases in acute respiratory infections in the arid and semi-arid lands and the emergence and re-emergence of Rift Valley fever, Leishmaniasis and malnutrition. Adaptive capacity development is being targeted with the improved use of weather forecasting, which can provide the data needed to predict malaria epidemics, improved disease prediction capacity, early warning systems, improved epidemic preparedness and improved outbreak response.
In the Congo basin—noble Lords will be relieved to know that I am not going to take the House on a tour of every country in Africa that I visited, although I could go on and on. Health policy in these countries must ensure that all programmes incorporate climate change issues in their plans. It is a reality. They must adapt to minimise the consequences. As has been said, the greatest effects of climate change will devastate the poorest and most vulnerable in the world. The poor and the vulnerable are, as I have described, already suffering the effects of climate change. Adaptation and mitigation cannot keep pace. That is why our commitment—the world’s commitment—to signing up to the Paris agreement is vital. However, it is not just signing; that was not the point. Having a national plan that keeps us to 1.5 degrees is the point. My fear is that the signing may be the apex, the zenith, but we in this country, where our word is our bond, must act. Listening to noble Lords’ comments across the Chamber, I have to say that I have seen no change of pace since that awesome signing, no sense of urgency and no new measures that will deliver on the promise we have signed up to. That is unforgivable because we have been the cause. The countries that suffer most did not cause it; the poor of the world did not cause it.
We rich nations have a super-responsibility to the world, but also to ourselves. We are suffering health impacts too. Poor air quality, mentioned by my noble friend Lady Walmsley and the right reverend Prelate, is just one example. The main culprit for it is fossil fuel air pollution, which is not helped by the discovery that diesel is equally bad. We are not on course to meet our commitments in the fourth and fifth carbon budgets and, extraordinarily, the Government are still licensing more exploration for North Sea oil and gas and are encouraging—nay, reliant on—the shale gas industry filling the gap left by their lack of policy boldness. What are they thinking of, creating a new fossil fuel with one hand while signing the Paris agreement with the other? According to the Health and Environment Alliance, the health cost of fossil fuels in the UK every year is £23.2 billion. This Government must stop subsidising fossil fuel, as must Europe. Although as a Liberal Democrat I am obviously a Europhile, it is not perfect in this and has just made some decisions with which I disagree. It is a first.
It is absurd for Greg Clark to launch the Clean Growth Strategy and say we are leading the world in fighting climate change when the facts on the ground, such as the scrapping of the £1 billion competition, which has been mentioned, the measures in the Budget and fossil fuel subsidies scream the absolute opposite.
Again, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Walmsley on bringing this important topic to the Floor. The health impacts across the world and at home are overwhelming and faster and further action, not words, is the only hope we have.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of a clinical commissioning group and a health and well-being board. I also join in the congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on initiating this timely and important debate. We have heard some excellent and expert contributions, as one might expect, particularly from my noble friends Lord Hunt and Lady Young and the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. I also congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Neuberger. I realise that he is going to be a very valuable addition to your Lordships’ House and our proceedings. I do not know about the Minister but, as is so often the case with these debates, the people on the Front Bench are the least expert in the matter and just have to do their best.
I have a personal interest in this subject because I am one of the thousands if not millions of people in London whose breathing is affected by the atmosphere and local pollution here in our capital city. I worry greatly for my little granddaughter, who is growing up and going to school near a main road in London. In my remarks, I intend, like the noble Lords, Lord Krebs and Lord Hunt, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, to go global and then to come local, which seems to be the appropriate way.
I agree with that great woman Mary Robinson when she says that climate change is a human rights issue. It is notable that in recent years she has chosen to establish the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, which is a centre for thought leadership, education and advocacy on the struggle to secure global justice for people vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, particularly women. Her intervention alone tells us yet again that the world is surely facing its biggest challenge. I think my views and those of my party somewhat diverge from those of my noble friend Lord Donoughue, who is of course one of our beloved contrarians in the Labour Party.
Perhaps more than any other problem humanity has faced, climate change confronts us with the reality of our interdependence, which I think the right reverend Prelate referred to in his remarks. No country alone can protect its citizens from the impacts of dangerous climate change. The impacts of climate change already affect people’s enjoyment of their human rights, and the right to an environment that promotes good health surely lies at the centre of that. Left unchecked, climate change also has the potential to wipe out the development gains of recent decades.
As Mary Robinson said in the Madeleine Albright lecture last year:
“The injustice of climate change is that those who are most vulnerable in society, no matter the level of development of the country in question, will suffer most. This means that people who are marginalised or poor, women, indigenous communities, slum dwellers and migrants will be disproportionately affected by climate impacts”.
Dear to my heart is the importance of the inclusion of women in decision-making and consultation on climate issues, because I believe that that will greatly improve the effectiveness of those climate policies.
Noble Lords have already referred to the World Health Organization and the key facts about climate change on health, including that between 2030 and 2050, there will be approximately a quarter of a million additional deaths per year due to malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress. There are direct costs to health—excluding health-determining sectors such as agriculture, water and sanitation—of between $2 billion to $4 billion a year by 2030.
Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases through better transport, food and energy-use choices can result in improved health, particularly through reduced air pollution. I agree with other noble Lords that the Paris Agreement is vital on the international stage, so the words and actions of the current US President are of great concern not only for citizens of the United States but for all of us across the world. Would the Minister please update the House on whether and how the UK is encouraging the current US Administration to change their mind about the Paris Agreement? Secondly, on the issue of climate change, when will the Government update the carbon budgets to enshrine the Paris Agreement?
Turning to the local—to how we are doing and what we are doing in the UK—I will concentrate on air quality. The Government’s latest air quality plan for tackling nitrogen dioxide, published in July 2017, acknowledged poor air quality as the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK. The Royal College of Physicians estimates that the annual cost of health problems resulting from exposure to air pollution in the UK exceeds £20 billion. This includes costs to society and business, health services and the individuals who are affected. We have heard from several noble Lords about the contents of the Lancet Countdown report of 2017 with the Royal College of Physicians—on which I congratulate and thank them.
The UK’s continuing failure to meet air quality targets has led to ClientEarth, for example, taking the Government to court successfully several times since 2014 over the lack of an effective plan to reduce nitrogen dioxide levels. The UK is also subject to EU infraction proceedings for failure to meet those targets, as the noble Baroness referred to earlier. We are not a world leader in this area. The UK is obliged under international treaties to reduce overall emissions of certain pollutants, but local air quality targets are contained in EU legislation. I welcome the fact that the Government have given a commitment to maintaining air quality targets after Brexit. However, as they have not said what they are, I will welcome the targets only if they are robust and effective.
Here in London, the air quality problem is on a unique scale. Unlike anywhere else in the country, nearly all of central London, most of inner London and all major roads in outer London exceed the legal limits for nitrogen dioxide. No part of London meets the World Health Organization’s recommended guidelines. In London, the mayor has been using what powers he can to achieve legal compliance. Quite rightly, he wants to minimise the impacts on drivers, residents and businesses, which is why he is asking for the Government’s help, including for new powers and a diesel scrappage fund. This is in the context that road transport is responsible for around half of the emissions in London, and around 88% of these emissions are caused by diesel vehicles. As buses and taxis become cleaner, it is estimated that the road transport pollution contribution from diesel cars will increase dramatically, from 24% in 2013 to 40% in 2020. Clearly, any approach to tackle pollution in London needs to address diesel vehicles, including cars.
However, road transport is only roughly half the problem in London. It is also essential to tackle emissions from buildings, construction and the river. Pollution has real and proven effects over the course of our lives, from smaller lungs in our children to a greater risk of dementia and strokes as we get older. Earlier this month, the BMJ published research led by Imperial College which says that air pollution from road traffic is having a detrimental impact on babies’ health before they are born, leading to low birth weight and them being born small for gestational age. The impact on London’s children is severe, with more than 400 schools in London located in areas with illegal levels of pollution. One in 10 Londoners under the age of 18 has asthma. It is estimated that a London child born in 2010 and exposed to the same level of pollution over the course of his or her life would lose around two years of life expectancy due to pollution here in our capital city. The estimated annual cost of the health impacts associated with long-term exposure to poor-quality air is estimated to be £3.7 billion in London alone.
The Government acknowledge these impacts and have taken some limited action to start to address them in recent years. However, this has mainly been in response to legal challenges or the risk of financial penalties. As happened following the great smog of the 1950s, the Government should do more to take account of the health and environmental impacts of poor air quality by adopting more ambitious policies.
Londoners cannot wait for action, although the mayor is doing everything he can where he has powers to act. Against the backdrop of air quality as a public health crisis, the approach proposed by the Government so far is woefully inadequate. The mayor’s approach to tackling air pollution is set out in his draft environmental strategy, which is more comprehensive and ambitious than that of his predecessor and aimed at reducing the exposure of Londoners to harmful pollution across London. As a Londoner, I am grateful for this activity and have two questions for the Minister. Why is London being barred from access to recently announced funding on air quality? London is being barred from accessing the result of the new VED diesel surcharge announced in the Budget. Surely this is essentially a fairness issue, given that Londoners contribute through the new VED diesel surcharge but are not able to benefit from it.
Secondly, will the Government help provide support for emergency services to clean up their vehicles? A particular ask in London is support for emergency service vehicles such as fire engines to be retrofitted so that they can meet new emissions standards in the most cost-effective way. To achieve this, eligibility for the existing £100 million bus retrofit fund needs to be expanded or further funding made available to London. To reduce the administrative burden on government, retrofit funds could be administered locally. TfL has an excellent track record in doing this for buses. We need support from the Government in London to reduce our air pollution.
This has been a really rather excellent debate, particularly at this late time of year—I wish all noble Lords the season’s greetings. We have urgent and huge challenges ahead of us in the world, in Europe, in the UK and in London.
My Lords, I am very grateful both to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for securing this important debate today, and to all noble Lords for their contributions. I would pick out in particular the wise words from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Neuberger. It was a fine maiden speech and I feel that he has set the bar very high.
Climate change is one of the most urgent and pressing challenges that we face today, and it demands an urgent and strong response. It is clear from the evidence and from the discussion today that climate change is not just a threat to the environment; it is also a threat to global health. By taking action, we can protect our natural environment and safeguard human health. An overwhelming majority of scientists agree that climate change is happening, that it is being driven by human activity and that we must act urgently to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if we are to avoid increasingly dangerous impacts in future.
There is a large body of evidence showing that climate change will directly influence human health. This evidence has been laid out in the Lancet Countdown report, which has been referred to extensively today, as well as the latest assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I will not repeat the evidence here as time is short.
The case for strong global action to tackle climate change has never been clearer. The UK was the first country to introduce legally binding emissions reduction targets through the Climate Change Act, which set a target of at least an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 from 1990 levels. However, we cannot act alone. Only through collective international action can we succeed in keeping temperature rises within manageable levels. The UK played a leading role in securing the agreement of 195 countries to sign up to the historic Paris climate change agreement. This is an unprecedented multilateral partnership, demonstrating a real commitment and collective responsibility for our planet. The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, asked about our conversations with President Trump at the current time. The UK is aligned with European partners; we did that at the G7 Environment Ministers meeting and the EU foreign affairs and environment affairs councils in June. We welcome the continued support that the Paris agreement has received from other countries and subnational and non-state actors in the US and around the world, and we will continue to work with the US to encourage it to show the leadership that it has done in the past on reducing carbon emissions.
In 2018 we will continue our efforts to drive action by others. We will continue to play a major role in UN climate negotiations, and climate change will be a major focus of discussion and further action at next year’s Commonwealth summit—the largest Heads of Government meeting ever hosted in the UK.
As well as supporting greater action on climate change mitigation, the Government are also supporting countries to adapt to and manage the consequences of climate change. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, mentioned helping populations displaced by disastrous weather events. DfID’s team of dedicated humanitarian logisticians is often first on the ground, providing immediate lifesaving action through the rapid response facility. Government support following severe earthquakes and flooding includes deploying our UK international search and rescue team and the emergency medical team.
The noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Neuberger, in his outstanding speech, referred to migration as a consequence of climate change. The UK recognises the role that climate change plays in exacerbating the key drivers of migration: conflict, instability and the loss of livelihoods. The UK is supporting greater co-ordination and efforts to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries. For example, DfID has invested over £1.8 billion in the climate investment funds, including the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience, the world’s largest active adaptation fund. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said:
“There is also a clear moral imperative for developed economies such as the UK to help those around the world who stand to lose most from the consequences of man-made climate change”.
Recent extreme weather events have devastated the lives of many across the world, and the impacts of climate change do and will infringe on many more people’s ability to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health—which, as noted by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, is a human right. DfID’s efforts to improve health outcomes have seen health systems in developing countries become stronger. Deaths from malaria have halved while polio is on the verge of being eradicated.
In parallel, UK-backed climate projects are tackling the root causes of instability and poor health, making the world safer, healthier and more prosperous. The UK is working closely with countries in the Caribbean, Asia and Africa to build resilience against natural disasters and climate extremes, and we will provide an additional £53 million of funding to extend this work. Vulnerability will be a key priority for the UK as one of the strands of the Commonwealth summit in April 2018. DfID has already supported 34 million poor farmers and low-income workers vulnerable to drought or living along affected coastlines, with more reliable water supplies and insurance in case their crops fail.
Programmes on the development and use of cleaner energy have helped 12 million people to access clean energy while reducing or avoiding emissions that cause climate change. Government funding has installed more than 400 megawatts of clean energy capacity. The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue—who, disappointingly, is not in his place—noted that DfID funds would be better focused on economic growth than on renewable energy, but the two are not mutually exclusive. Renewable energy provides reliable energy for business, providing economic growth in the developing world.
I was very taken by the comments of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby, and I would like time to go back and reflect on them. He talked about the values that drive our response to climate change and the lifestyle choices that the Government may encourage. He also briefly mentioned modern slavery, which can be a consequence of climate change. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has called modern slavery one of the greatest human rights challenges of our times, and has said that the UK will take a leading global role in ending this scourge. DfID is currently spending £45 million on modern slavery programmes, including £10.5 million through the Work in Freedom programme in south-east Asia.
The UK is not immune to the negative health implications of climate change. The Government use evidence such as the Lancet Countdown report and the IPCC reports to assess the risks of climate change to national public health. As the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and many others mentioned, the adaptation sub-committee of the UK Committee on Climate Change advises the Government on adapting to climate change and assesses how well the UK is preparing for its effects. Every five years the Government publish the UK climate change risk assessment, which sets out the main priorities for adaptation in the UK. The latest risk assessment concluded that the priorities for action in the next five years from a health perspective are the risks to health and well-being from high temperatures, flooding, drought and the disruption of health services and care delivery by extreme weather. Indirect impacts in the UK also include the threat of new diseases—for example, those carried by non-native species of mosquito—poor air quality, changes to food and water security and population displacement.
The UK is a leader in facing up to the challenge of climate change. That is why the Prime Minister joined world leaders in France last week to mark the two-year anniversary of the Paris agreement. There, she reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to climate action while setting out our leadership on challenges including phasing out coal and zero-emission vehicles. We recognise that actions to cut our emissions can be a win/win. We can cut consumer bills, drive economic growth, create high-value jobs and help to improve our quality of life, including our health. We have shown the world that you can cut emissions while creating wealth: between 1990 and 2016 the UK reduced its emissions by 42% while growing the economy by two-thirds. We are continuing that legacy: our recently published clean growth strategy sets out our ambitious proposals for continuing progress through the 2020s. Meanwhile, we have also placed clean growth at the heart of our modern industrial strategy, which aims to make our country one of the best places in the world to develop and sell clean technologies.
The Government are taking steps to ensure that the UK public are protected against the climate change risks to health. For example, a heatwave plan has been published annually since 2004 after the severe heatwave of 2003. This plan raises awareness of the dangers of severe heat and describes actions to reduce harm for individuals and services such as the NHS and social care.
The Government also produce a cold weather plan to raise public awareness and prepare for the effects of winter weather on people’s health. It also aims to support NHS providers to consider the internal environment where care is given and how winter weather will affect buildings, infrastructure and services.
The Department of Health works with NHS England, Public Health England, the Sustainable Development Unit and the Environment Agency to plan and maintain healthcare facilities that are resilient to flooding and extreme temperatures.
The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, noted the apparent absence in the life sciences strategy, which is not related to health. All these disciplines will be brought together better to understand the health impacts of climate change as part of the national adaptation programme. The national adaptation programme was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, but, sadly, not in the most glowing terms. I commit to him that we will try harder. It contains a number of objectives to address the risks of climate change to the UK.
The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and my noble friend Lady Redfern all raised the issue of flooding, the associated psychological trauma and flooding resilience within buildings. The Government are taking action to improve our protection from and resilience to flooding. We are spending £2.3 billion between 2015 and 2021 to strengthen the country’s flood and coastal defences, better protecting 300,000 homes.
The magnitude of events in recent years means that it is important to reassure ourselves that we understand the scale of the risk and to take more immediate steps to improve resilience. The Government set up the National Flood Resilience Review last year. It looked at our flooding risk from extreme weather over the next 10 years and assessed how we can be better protected. It also provided recommendations on how we respond to flood incidents, including through new temporary flood defences.
The National Planning Policy Framework is clear that inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding should be avoided by directing development away from those areas. Where development is necessary in flood risk areas and where there are no suitable sites available in areas with a lower probability of flooding, it should be made safe, resilient and not increase flood risk elsewhere.
Other government priorities also have a positive impact on climate change. Take, for example, healthy eating, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. The Department of Health launched Childhood Obesity: A Plan for Action in August 2016. This world-leading plan will help children and families to make healthier choices and be more active. The Eatwell Guide aims to assist the population in choosing a varied and balanced diet to meet latest dietary advice. Choosing alternative protein sources such as beans and pulses reduces meat consumption, which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Another question raised by several noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby, is how the Government are getting on the front foot to promote change in society. For example, Stoptober has driven almost 1.5 million quit attempts since it began in 2012. We continually refine the campaign based on evaluation and share learning across government for departments to incorporate into their work as appropriate. The Government are applying lessons from one public health campaign, such as this one, to messaging in other areas such as air pollution. The Department of Health and Public Health England are in discussion with Defra on how best to support the goals—
I thank the noble Lord for his intervention. I will write to him, as I am not entirely sure that the direct link to climate change is wholly valid. It is indeed a cause of death, but perhaps not from climate change.
The Department of Health and Public Health England is in discussion with Defra on how best to support the goals of the clean air strategy with effective public health messaging on air pollution.
The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, also mentioned fossil fuels and carbon pricing. The clean growth strategy underlined the Government’s commitment to carbon pricing as a tool to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. At the Autumn Budget 2017, the Government announced that we are confident that the total carbon price, currently created by a combination of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and carbon price support, is set at the right level, and will continue to target a similar level until unabated coal is no longer used. This will deliver a stable carbon price while limiting cost on business. This stable price will provide certainty to the electricity sector as well as limiting costs to business.
The noble Baroness also mentioned diesel vehicles, and many noble Lords mentioned air quality and air pollution. The Government committed to ensuring that almost every car and van is a zero-emission vehicle by 2050, as stated in the Conservative Party manifesto 2017 and in line with meeting our targets under the Climate Change Act.
This means that we will end the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040. We are clear that meeting the 2040 commitment should be industry-led, with the Government monitoring developments closely. Against a rapidly evolving international context, we will seek to maintain ambitious targets and our leadership position, and intervene firmly if not enough progress is being made.
On the health impact of air quality, Public Health England has been asked by the Government to review the evidence of effective interventions and provide practical recommendations for any action which will significantly reduce harm from air pollution. These recommendations will be published in 2018 and will be stratified by their health and economic impact.
Several noble Lords mentioned trees and woods, specifically the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I am struck by the image of spade and wellies from my noble friend Lady Redfern. The forestry sector plays an important role in adapting to ongoing climate change, reducing the net release of greenhouse gases to minimise future climate change and, as mentioned by my noble friend, helping to mitigate flood risk.
We will continue to work closely with a wide range of key stakeholders, including the forestry sector. Furthermore, leaving the common agricultural policy will give us more opportunity directly to address the impact of climate change. Meanwhile, woodland expansion is a policy objective of all four countries of the United Kingdom—in part, to deliver greenhouse gas abatement through sequestration in growing biomass.
Turning to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, about the 25-year environment plan, it sets out how the Government will deliver our ambitious goal to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited. The plan will use insight of natural capital thinking to develop an approach which helps to guide us. The plan will be with us shortly.
Turning to comments by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, the best long-term solution to tackle fuel poverty is to improve home energy efficiency. That is why 70% of the £640 million per year energy company obligation is focused on low-income households. We intend to consult on increasing this to 100% from 2018. We also recognise that low-income households need immediate support each winter. We have retained the warm home discount, which provides more than 2 million vulnerable households with £140 rebate off their energy bill each winter.
As for why the Government have not replaced zero-carbon homes, the clean growth strategy has an ambitious set of proposals on homes, and we have commissioned an independent review of building regulations and fire safety, which is being led by Dame Judith Hackitt. The review will report shortly.
I fear that I have far more information here than I will be able to impart to your Lordships in such limited time. I hope that you will bear with me if I feel a letter coming on; it will be with you in the new year.
Briefly, addressing the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, about the response to the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, I believe that my noble friend Lord Henley stated in the House this week that he will be writing to him very shortly.
This has been a fascinating and wide-ranging debate. Once again, I thank all noble Lords for contributing. The Lancet Countdown report acknowledges that in recent years, action to respond to the challenge of climate change has accelerated, with clear and unprecedented opportunity for the public. It comments that the health co-benefits of meeting commitments under the Paris agreement are potentially immense. Further research involving the Met Office shows that by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we will also reduce the number of mortalities from air pollution and poor air quality and avoid up to 90% of the potential worldwide impact of heatwaves.
The UK is leading the world on global action, but the climate challenge will require ambitious co-operation from all Governments, organisations and individuals across all sectors.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her valiant defence of the Government’s record. I will leave noble Lords to decide how many marks out of 10 it should get. I also thank all those who have spoken in this debate. It was a particular pleasure to hear the maiden speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Neuberger. Early in his speech, he mentioned that he had had to do a lot of risk assessments in his career. If I found that there was a 95% chance of something I was doing causing a negative effect, I would stop doing it. I am glad to see that the vast majority of the Members of your Lordships’ House are on the side of the 95% rather than the 5%. I believe it is in fact 99% of scientists who believe that it is human activity that is causing climate change. Indeed, they also tell us that, even if we stopped this very day all the activities that cause climate change, global warming would continue. It is a bit like an ocean liner: you switch off the engine but it still carries on for several miles. So the sooner we stop doing those things the better.
I was very struck by the comments of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby about how, as a community and a country, we need to take action, but also how we have individual responsibility. Some years ago, I made a new year’s resolution that, the next year, I would live more lightly on the planet. My most recent effort in that respect has been to build a passive house—a highly insulated house—and it is very gratifying to see how many public housing projects are now being built to that gold standard; it is terrific. I recommend such a new year’s resolution to all noble Lords. If we all take a step every year then we will be moving in the right direction.
Finally, I wish all noble Lords a happy Christmas and a green and healthy new year. I beg to move.
Motion to Take Note
My Lords, I am very pleased to have secured this debate, timed as it is to air the issues around the trade in ivory and the protection of endangered species ahead of the closing of the Defra consultation on 29 December. I recognise that, because of the consultation, my noble friend the Minister will be constrained in what he can say in reply. I look forward to the contributions from all your Lordships and, in particular, the maiden speech by the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, who has experience second to none of the problems of law enforcement.
I start, perhaps surprisingly, by making it clear that I have no interests to declare. I am not involved in the antiques trade, nor am I active in the conservation sector. In common with many people, however, I own some small items made of or decorated with ivory. Their value is minimal and the proposals in the Defra consultation paper would not materially affect me.
There is no question but that the first priority has to be to protect elephants and the other endangered species which are hunted for their ivory in Africa and Asia. The figures are stark, as laid out in the Defra consultation: the number of elephants has declined by some 30%, from 480,000 10 years ago to an estimated 144,000 on the latest count. There is little doubt that this has been driven by the demand for raw ivory to be carved, principally in China and Vietnam. I understand that China is soon to introduce a ban on ivory carving, but it remains to be seen how effective this will be and whether Vietnam will follow suit—there are some indications that Vietnam is in fact expanding its carving industry.
There has been a ban on the sale of new ivory for over 40 years under CITES. The UK has a ban on the sale of any ivory that is post 1947. The problem is that, as can been seen from the decline in the elephant population, this ban has not worked. One reason is that there is a demand for ivory carvings in the Far East, but it is not only a Far Eastern problem. New carvings—often passed off as old carvings from prior to 1947—seem to be readily sold on the internet and elsewhere in countries that, like the UK, have a ban. The problem is that the ban as it stands does not work. Everyone is agreed that we need a more effective ban and most people, as well as the WWF, agree that there will need to be exemptions from the ban.
The consultation suggests that museum-quality items held in museums could be traded between museums and that there would be an exemption for musical instruments and for items whose ivory content is minimal compared to the totality of the object—the so-called de minimis rule. There is also increasing acceptance, notably from the WWF, that miniatures should also be exempt. As I am sure your Lordships know, miniatures are small painted portraits that were popular in the late 18th and early to mid-19th centuries. They were often, but not always, painted on to thin ivory discs. However, ivory was used for many religious, decorative and household objects right up to and beyond World War II, when plastics increasingly took over most of the uses of ivory.
Some items are of important heritage value, possibly of museum quality or near museum quality. Take, for example, a medieval religious ivory carving, of great cultural and historical importance: few would argue that it should not be preserved for posterity. However, where it belongs to a private individual, as many do, under the present proposals it could not be sold unless it met the very restrictive definition of the,
“rarest and most important item”.
It could be donated to a museum, although, in many cases, this is not practical as museums want only the best, not the second best, and often only one of a particular type of object. Museums do not see their role as being to provide storage of many duplicate or near duplicate items. Indeed, many museums, when offered a collection of any sort, will accept it only if they can sell the items which they do not need for their own collection, usually in the open market and rarely to other museums. So, if no museum can be found to accept a fine medieval ivory, the only way to dispose of it would be to destroy it, since it could not be sold. I have taken a medieval carved ivory as an example, but many thousands—probably millions—of objects made of or incorporating ivory were created in 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and not just in Europe but in India, China and, most wonderfully, Japan, where some of the greatest artistic treasures were carved from ivory from the 17th century onwards.
Ivory was used as decoration, as inlay and as veneer on furniture; it was used as insulation on silver coffee pots by the finest makers; and it was used to make handles and knobs on clocks, barometers and furniture. The knobs were often detachable and so would cause difficulties over whether they should be considered part of, say, a barometer and are therefore covered by the de minimis rule, or as a stand-alone item and therefore, under the proposals, destroyed. Ivory was used for the heads and arms of dancers in the fine statuettes made in the art deco period of the 1920s and 1930s. Ivory was used for more mundane items, such as for handles on knives and forks. It was even used for tickets to theatres and opera houses in the 18th century—little discs about 25 millimetres in diameter and 3 millimetres thick, with the date of the performance and the name of the person who purchased the ticket on the face of the disc. That is a specialist interest, but of very real cultural and historical value. It is hard to see that there would be any interest in using new ivory to reproduce those tickets, whose value is typically about £300. The ivory content in that little disc would not be of any interest to an ivory carver in China to re-carve into something more commercial. Given the increasing acceptance that portrait miniatures should be exempted because the amount of ivory they include is so small, it is hard to see why other small ivory objects should be destroyed.
I could expand the list endlessly, but I hope I have given enough examples to show the scale of the problem and the difficulty of defining which items are of museum quality, as museum quality is not confined to those items in museums. Then there are the problems of defining where the ivory content is a minimal part of the whole fabric of the item and therefore covered by the de minimis rule. Is the ivory inlay on a piece of 18th-century furniture covered by the de minimis rule, even though the amount of ivory used is greater than that in a Japanese 17th-century netsuke? As the Japanese netsuke is a solid piece of ivory, although weighing less than 200 grams, it would be destroyed whereas the piece of furniture would not be.
There is one further problem that I want briefly to mention. We would all see the sense in stopping the export of unworked ivory, such as the elephant tusks used by the Victorians to support dinner gongs in country houses. We would also see that ivory billiard balls—and virtually all were made of ivory until quite recently—can be re-carved to produce Chinese ball carvings, and that these new carvings of old ivory could be used to pass off new carvings of new ivory as being the same. In other words, new ivory could be laundered as old ivory. The problem is in the antique restoration business. Antique ivory often needs restoration, like most antiques. If a museum-quality carving needs to be restored, this can be done only with a source of ivory to carve the replacement piece. The source is typically from old billiard balls so, if the sale of billiard balls is banned, the restoration of ivory items becomes much more difficult, if not impossible.
My argument is that this is a complex problem which needs to be solved sensitively. We need a solution which stops the trade in new ivory, stops new ivory being passed off as old ivory and does not lead to the destruction of beautiful, culturally valuable items of historical interest. I suggest that the difficulty comes down to identifying old ivory from new and to ensuring that only a highly controlled and limited trade in ivory heritage items is allowed. Identifying old ivory from new is a specialist business, but one that is done all the time. For larger items, it is possible to carbon-14 date the ivory. It requires taking a piece of the ivory and subjecting it to radioactive treatment. That does not work for smaller items because of the size of the piece of ivory that is destroyed in the dating process. But specialists in ivory can identify old carved ivory from new, partly by the colour, partly by understanding the effect that time has on the deterioration of the ivory, and partly by the quality and type of carving, as well as the evidence of the carving tools used. That is a skill learned from handling many ivory items over many years, which rests in the upper echelons of the antiques trade and auction houses.
Vetting items is a regular part of what happens when an object is taken by a dealer to one of the better antiques fairs. Indeed, much of the value of an antique relies on the item being vetted for its genuine and original state. But vetting would not be enough by itself; it would be open to abuse by rogue experts. I would suggest that it could be coupled with a licensing system, so that the people doing the vetting have to be licensed to perform this task. That in turn could be expanded so that only licensed auction houses and dealers could sell antique ivory. That might sound expensive to administer, and I can quite understand that my noble friend the Minister would quail at the thought of adding that complexity and expense to the Defra budget. However, I suspect that the auction and antiques trade, through the trade bodies, might be prepared to administer and pay for any vetting and licensing scheme under the supervision of Defra.
Of course, any item of ivory, which, for whatever reason, failed the vetting and any possible carbon dating, would not be able to be sold and would probably be destroyed. The vetting system could be coupled with a total ban on the export or import of any type of ivory item, something we will have the power to implement once we leave the European Union—although this might lead to smuggling and just drive the international antiques market into less regulated countries, rather defeating the purpose of protecting elephants and hippopotamuses. Vetting and licensing would depress the value of ivory items domestically, but that might be a small price to pay, compared with a total ban.
I hope I have explained the problems to be overcome, and suggested a workable solution to how they can be overcome, while at the same time achieving our united objective of stopping the sale of new ivory masquerading as old ivory. If we do not find a solution to this problem, the consequences for anyone who owns an ivory item, from fine pieces to everyday items, would be serious, and the consequences for our artistic, cultural and historical understanding of the past would be tragic. I believe this problem is capable of solution, and that we can save the elephants while at the same time saving our history. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington of Fulham, for securing this debate on an extremely important subject. I agree with the majority of what he has just said, and congratulate him on a tour de force. I am looking forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe.
When I was a young woman in my first job, I frequently walked past the shop that had the interesting necklace in the window, made of silver leaves and ivory beads. I saved from my wages until I had enough money to buy it. I loved it but, as time went by, realised that perhaps ivory was not the wisest ornament to wear around my neck. So I painstakingly removed all the ivory beads and keep them hidden away in the back of a drawer. Today, I am wearing that necklace, minus the beads; I believe that it looks just as good without the ivory ornament.
The plight of animals who have the great misfortune to have ivory as part of their anatomy is a very precarious one indeed. We have all seen television programmes about poaching elephant ivory and rhino horn for profit. We have seen the devastated carcasses left strewn around. We have sometimes seen the pitiful picture of an elephant calf left by its mother’s body, mourning her loss. I have had the great privilege of visiting the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Kenya. This was an extremely moving experience—seeing the elephant calves transferring to their keepers the affection and attachment they would have had for their mothers. Each had their own keeper who stayed with them all day and slept with them at night, covering them with a blanket in the heat of the day so they did not get sunburn. In the wild, they would have been shielded from the sun by the shade of their mother.
Some of you will have watched the television programme earlier this year about the last male black rhino and Poland’s conservation efforts to preserve this species by impregnating female white rhinos with fertilised eggs. The black rhino species has been poached to near extinction, with only one male and three females left at the time the programme was made. Elephants must not suffer the same fate.
While in Kenya, I was able to see the majesty of the African elephant in its homeland and to stand in a clearing with a white rhino. To say that I was terrified and did not move an inch is an understatement, but it was an experience I would not have missed for the world. I want my children, grandchildren and other people to have this opportunity, if they are able to. We have to devise a strategy to which all can sign up to stop the hunting of these creatures to extinction.
Today, approximately 20,000 elephants a year are still being slaughtered for their ivory at an unsustainable rate. That is one every 25 minutes. There is global consensus that legal domestic ivory markets contribute to the illegal wildlife trade and the poaching of elephants. This fuels the demand for ivory items and provides the opportunity for illegal modern ivory to be laundered through the legal market, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said.
In this country, we have one of the world’s largest domestic ivory markets; ivory items are widely available for sale, subject only to certain licensing restrictions on post-1947 ivory. Independent reports have found that the UK market plays a role in the illegal wildlife trade, providing cover for the trade in illegal items. Trade data indicates that the UK is the world’s largest exporter of legal ivory pieces, exporting more than any other country to the world’s largest illegal markets in Asia.
The poaching and selling of ivory has to be stopped. In their 2015 general election manifesto, the Conservatives committed to a total ban on ivory sales in the UK. I welcome Defra’s consultation on this ban and look forward to the outcome when the consultation finishes on 29 December. Can the Minister update the House on when a total ban on ivory sales will be brought forward?
The consultation at the beginning of this month showed that 85% of the UK population supported a ban on ivory sales—most supported a ban with no exemptions. There is a case to be made for antique ivory in some instances. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, made such a case. Needlessly destroying existing antique ivory pieces will do absolutely nothing at all for the current plight of the elephant, and I would not support such a move. However, a ban on the current commercial trade in ivory would be much more effective.
It seems to be the current culture to destroy and remove anything with a history that has fallen into disrepute. The statue of Cecil Rhodes is one such example. In the case of antique ivory, surely it is better to marvel at the craftsman’s skill of carving or scrimming than to destroy the item so that others may not have the same opportunity. We should learn from the past and move forward.
There are those in the antiques trade who oppose a ban on trading ivory and would prefer a licensing system instead with self-certification, as we have already heard. This would involve the auction houses certifying the age of the ivory themselves as pre-1947. Most do not have the expertise to do this, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said. The extreme difficulty of assessing the age of ivory is allowing new poached illegal ivory to enter the market alongside pre-1947 products.
A study of these auction houses by the research group Two Million Tusks examined 820,000 lots advertised by 301 auction houses from around the UK during three months from the spring to September of 2017. It found that only 0.76% of listings were for objects containing ivory. Of a sample of 133 items, 91% sold for £400 or less and 61% sold for £120 or less.
I believe that any form of self-certification would be deeply flawed. Auction houses selling antique ivory are already failing to satisfy a legal requirement to demonstrate proof of age for pre-1947 ivory. Seventy-two auction houses were contacted with questions about 180 ivory lots, and they were unable to provide satisfactory proof of age for 90% of those lots. Therefore, I do not believe that self-certification is an acceptable way forward and hope that the Minister will agree.
Making it illegal to trade ivory and clamping down on poachers and export is only part of the solution. To be completely successful, the solution to this abhorrent practice will need to involve educating the communities that share the landscape with these magnificent beasts and providing an alternative source of income for those who carry out the poaching and their families. We cannot enforce our standards on them unless we help them to understand the importance of preserving ivory-bearing animals to the landscape, their tourism industries and the wider world. A ban on trading ivory is a start, but it is not the whole story. There is much, much more to do. Preventing poaching at source is an essential part of any strategy to save the elephant, but I hope that the Minister will fully support the proposed ban.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Carrington for initiating this debate and for what he said, with which I agree. Like him, I look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe.
Despite a ban on the international trade in ivory, tens of thousands of elephants are killed every year for their tusks. There has been an upsurge in poaching in recent years, which has led to steep declines, particularly in forest elephant numbers as well as some savannah elephant populations. It is a tragedy, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, said.
Thriving but unmonitored domestic ivory markets continue in a number of countries. Insufficient anti-poaching capacity, weak law enforcement and corruption compound the problem. I served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from September 2012 to May 2015. During that time, among other things, I was lucky enough to have ministerial responsibility for the United Kingdom’s efforts to bear down on the poaching and trafficking of wildlife. We were fortunate to be granted several million pounds specifically to fund projects around the world which contributed to this effort. That money was wisely and effectively spent. We also organised a conference at Lancaster House in February 2014, convened by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and attended by both his sons as well as—I think I recall—four heads of state and government Ministers from over 40 countries. This conference was followed by one the following year in Kasane in Botswana, which I attended on behalf of the British Government, and one a year later in Hanoi. There will be one again next year, again in London.
Our commitment should be in no doubt, and we have made some progress. Savannah elephant populations in parts of southern Africa are even now expanding, with almost 300,000 elephants now roaming across the sub-region. Enforcement is now better co-ordinated and punishments have been made stricter—but more, of course, must be done. Consumer countries such as China and Vietnam have become engaged. Indeed, the Chinese Government this year announced plans to ban their domestic ivory trade, with exemptions for cultural relics. However, there is much still to do.
I am now chairman of LAPADA, the art and antique dealers’ trade association. TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring organisation, has published a survey which found that the number of market stalls offering ivory for sale had declined by approximately two-thirds since 2004, and that the number of items offered for sale had halved. No new or raw ivory was seen in any of the physical market outlets or online platforms. The Government now propose a total ban on sales of ivory, with targeted exemptions. Incidentally, I assume that the Government have an answer to those such as the US Government’s Fish and Wildlife Service, whose website says:
“We know those items created long ago aren’t threatening today’s wild elephants”.
Assuming that the Government’s ears are blocked to that point, the exemption on the grounds of historical, cultural and artistic significance seems reasonable, and, if enacted as currently proposed, should protect the interests of owners of works of art who would otherwise be deprived of the value of their possessions by an indiscriminate ban. However, the proposed de minimis exemption warrants further consideration. The question has to be: where does the cut-off level fall, and how is it to be measured? There are many valuable and precious items which it is technically feasible to date so as to demonstrate that they have had no effect on recent or current populations of elephants, but which may nevertheless have a significant ivory content.
I can show the Minister a number of examples of such items: for instance, a 1720 George I games table in respect of which the de minimis level would need to be set at 20% for it not to be caught, or an 1890 ivory inlaid hardwood Anglo-Indian octagonal table, where the de minimis level would need to be set at 50% for it not to be caught. Above those respective levels these items would need certification as being deemed of genuine artistic, cultural or historic significance, which they might well not qualify for, which would mean they would be unsaleable and therefore worthless, and which could ultimately lead to them being destroyed. That would be an act of vandalism. Unless the cut-off is set at a meaningful level, many thousands of these sorts of items may go the same way. There would also be a question over whether the Government would be breaching the human rights of those who owned them.
The Government have said that they do not want to continue to rely on the current 1947 cut-off date, after which worked ivory cannot be sold, but this could offer the key to resolving what might otherwise be a thorny problem. I urge the Minister to consider the fact that 1947 is now 70 years ago, and that it is technically feasible to age—and then certificate—ivory.
I strongly encourage everyone on all sides of the argument to respond to the consultation, which closes on 29 December, providing as much detailed evidence as they can, to enable the Government to assess the impact of the exemptions. It is vital that they are precise, proportionate and workable. If they are, the impact on objects whose significance depends not on their ivory content but on their status as works of art should be limited. However, the far more numerous ivory carvings of no recognisable artistic, cultural or historical significance, generally produced in huge numbers for a tourist market, should not fall within any of these exemptions and should therefore be banned from sale. My concern, as I have said, centres on items which fall between the two.
I will say a final word on portrait miniatures, in which I declare a personal interest, having a small collection. Dating from about 1700 until about 1900—when a celluloid substitute replaced the need for ivory—they were typically painted on wafer-thin slivers of ivory. They are numerous in British private collections and there are dealers who specialise entirely in them. I hope that the idea of an exemption for these, which would obviate the difficulty of attempting a judgment as to whether a miniature falls within one of the other exemptions when the volume of ivory is almost impossible to assess without damaging the piece, would not be too controversial. The ivory element in portrait miniatures is of no possible application to any alternative use.
I completely share the Government’s objective of eliminating the poaching of elephants and indeed other rare wild animals. However, the kind of works of art that my trade association’s members are involved in selling are unconnected with the illicit market and it would be disproportionate to prevent the sale of such works of art simply because they are associated with ivory as a substance. This point is acknowledged by those in the NGOs with whom my colleagues have been in discussion.
My Lords, I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, on bringing this Motion to the House and on this debate, and I welcome my ex-colleague, my noble friend Lord Hogan-Howe; we await with interest what he will say in his maiden speech.
Nobody who has been to Africa and has seen the distinction of the noble beast, the elephant, and then seen how their tusks have been torn from the body, could fail to be moved. Unfortunately, I have seen that on a number of occasions and have seen the difficulty faced by the anti-poaching squads as they try to enforce the law and restrict this type of activity.
The debate over the total ban versus the strict structure of exemptions for the sale of ivory in the United Kingdom is fraught with some credible arguments on each side, some of which we have already heard. The international trade in ivory has been illegal since 1990, but currently United Kingdom law allows trade in “antiques” carved before 1947 or items worked before 1990 that have government certificates. In September 2016, the then Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom pledged to ban the sale of items carved before 1990 but not before 1947, although to date no progress has been made on implementation.
In October 2017, the Government bowed to pressure to prohibit the sale of pre-1947 ivory. As we have heard, Defra is currently running a three-month consultation on the ban, with current proposals by the Government to include exemptions on the sale of ivory for a number of antique items such as musical instruments, items of significant cultural value and those containing only a small amount of ivory.
A recent poll carried out by Kantar TNS and commissioned by a group of nine non-governmental organisations found that 85% of the British public support a ban on all sales of ivory. As we have heard, the United Kingdom is the biggest exporter of legal ivory in the world. Some argue—quite rightly, I guess—that shutting down the trade will help prevent illegal ivory being laundered by criminals. We might hear a little more about that from my noble friend Lord Hogan-Howe. However, to put it in another way, and as we heard early on, 50 elephants are killed every day by poachers, and the population of African elephants plunged by a third between 2007 and 2014 alone, leading, as we heard, to fears of extinction. That is an absolute fact.
Those who support the continued sale of antique ivory, including the British Antique Dealers’ Association, agree with the Government that a proposal of a system of certification for antique ivory is the way forward. This system is favoured by some collectors as it would allow genuine antique artworks to continue to be sold, and they say that the system of certification would raise funds to contribute to the fight against elephant poaching. Antique dealers have claimed that a licensing system would take “90% of the junk” out of the sales in auction houses at present.
Critics of this system argue that modern or faked ivory artworks would still be able to be sold in the United Kingdom, just without a certificate, thereby defeating the purpose of the system as a means of banning the sale of modern ivory. Furthermore, it would be difficult to administer due to the difficulties which have been shown in distinguishing genuine articles from fakes. We have already heard a bit about that. Therefore, a total ban of all ivory sales appears a far simpler and cheaper option to administer.
Some who support a total ban argue that the sale of antique ivory boosts the profile of the commodity as a luxury and valuable status symbol, thus driving people to invest in modern ivory pieces. Antiques experts dismiss this claim as they say there is no evidence that the demand for modern ivory carvings is inspired by the price of antiques. However, it could be argued that it appears to be common sense that the value of these objects is circular to some extent, and the historic value of the commodity is surely part of the allure for those who are perhaps beginning to build a private collection with modern ivory.
Those who support a total ban also claim, following a study they commissioned, that there is a lack of expertise in identifying and dating ivory, and that much newly poached ivory is slipping through the net and being sold as antique. Certainly, on a recent visit to Vietnam, I could see some evidence of that taking place in that country. Antiques experts concede that, although there is perhaps a lack of expertise in some provincial areas of the United Kingdom, the main auction houses and specialist dealers, mainly based in London, have confidence in dating procedures, which will allow people to know the date and age of the ivory. The question is: what happens if the certification route is taken? The answer is that it will be absolutely essential that the expertise already in London is allowed to percolate to other parts of the country so that those involved are educated and empowered to be responsible for the classification, if that is the route that the Government wish to take.
Campaigners argue that the demand for ivory is fuelled in part by the UK’s legal ivory market, and that this encourages the poaching of an estimated 20,000 elephants per year. As I have said, the results of opinion polls suggest that a total ban on the sale of ivory should take place. Campaigners argue that if a ban is taken forward, any antique piece of ivory that is historically and culturally significant and which the public want to see should be placed in a museum. However, I think it will be quite hard to pursue that line.
As has been said, globally there has been significant progress in the last few years in the attempt to reduce the demand for ivory. In December 2016, China, home of the world’s largest legal and illegal ivory markets, announced that it will ban the domestic trade by the end of 2017. We watch this space to see whether that takes place. In June this year, Hong Kong, the largest city market for ivory, published a Bill to ban the ivory trade by 2021. In October, as we have heard, there will be a very important major international conference on the illegal wildlife trade, bringing global leaders to London to put forward their views. Surely the Minister will agree that this is an opportunity for us to take the lead in setting the standards and outlining in detail where we are going in terms of the domestic laws that need to be put in place. Surely this country needs to take the high ground in relation to this disgraceful butchery—I do not hold my words back, having seen the butchering of magnificent animals.
My Lords, I rise to speak for the first time in your Lordships’ House. Many noble Lords may remember feeling as I do now, but without fear there is no courage, and therefore I shall plunge on. I should probably have made sure that my maiden speech was not preceded by the maiden speech of a former President of the Supreme Court, variously and accurately described as “brilliant” and “excellent” and as having been delivered with great flair. Again, I will plunge on. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for this important debate on the impact of the trade in ivory on animal welfare.
Recently, during my first appearance on the BBC’s “Question Time”, a poor woman collapsed just after my contribution. The programme ended early for the first time in 30 years. Your Lordships can rest easy on their Benches—I will be neither contentious nor lengthy.
I thank many people for assisting me in my introduction to this House. My supporters, the noble Lords, Lords Alton and Lord Dholakia, are different men with common traits of sincerity, courage and judgment. I hope that noble Lords will understand if, first, I need to thank the police who keep us safe here. I also thank the doorkeepers, our catering staff, and Black Rod and his team—in fact, everyone who has helped me to negotiate my first steps through the maze of these corridors. I have found it a warm place. I find myself surprised to be standing here at all, and I am sure that many of your Lordships will have a similar feeling—perhaps even about their own elevation.
I was born in the great city of Sheffield, the proud son of a single unmarried mother. I grew up initially in a slum clearance house adjacent to the stainless steel works that made Sheffield’s name, followed by various council flats in the city. I mention my start only to emphasise that I have never judged people by their wealth, their status or their start in life—only by how they treat other people. A privileged start is no guarantee that a person will have a happy life; nor will a challenging start inevitably make someone caring or socially aware.
After school, I worked for a short time for the National Health Service in a histopathology lab. However, I was hungry for challenges and, looking for excitement, I joined the police. The police were and remain my heroes, stepping in to confront bullies. The routine is never predictable. Every day one meets new people and crises. I loved my 38 years as a police officer. I have walked the streets of Sheffield, Liverpool and London. I found I was good at arresting thieves and burglars. I have never lost the thrill of arresting the bad guy to protect the good guy.
I remember one night being angry at being taken away from my foot patrol to sit with a prisoner. The night before I had chased and caught a car thief. I was sure I would do so again that night. Little did I know that the man whom I sat with for a few hours was the Yorkshire Ripper. An interesting conversation took place.
I have arrested someone at every rank. I was the only chief constable in Merseyside to accompany the winner of the Grand National on horseback. In the Met, I uniquely patrolled with mounted branch at every London football ground—even Millwall, which I have to say I found to be incredibly peaceful, with caring staff and supporters, and I wrote to the chairman to point that out.
The police supported me through an education at Merton College, Oxford. I will always be grateful and will be their champion, but not without seeing their flaws at times. My colleagues and friends will always agree that one of my traits is to be challenging—and sometimes they mean it in a kindly way. I hope to bring that skill to this House, combining it with the ability to listen, enabling me to be both passionate and caring in my judgment.
We need to apply forensic judgment to the trade in ivory. At present, the bad guys are getting away with it. As we have heard, the poachers are slaughtering an elephant every 25 minutes—equivalent to 20,000 elephants a year. The largest demand for ivory worldwide is from China, Thailand and Vietnam. However, as noble Lords have already said, we must accept that legal domestic ivory markets contribute to this horror in two ways: by fuelling demand for ivory and by providing a hiding place for illegal modern ivory to be laundered through the legal market, and the UK is a significant trading place for legal ivory.
In those circumstances, I want to make it clear that I support a total or quasi ban on the trading of ivory in the UK for both domestic sale and export. I could support a total ban on ownership but there are still so many unanswered questions, as has been sketched out here today, about how to implement such a ban. In this connection, I would like to make the following points.
First, if it were only the UK that implemented a ban, how could this be effective worldwide? Until 2015, the UK had the largest amount of ivory exports in the world by a very significant degree. This unexplained trend started in 2010. Even today, we account for four times more ivory trading than the next country on the supply league table. So, both practically and symbolically, our effort would have a significant worldwide effect.
However, as we have heard, innocent owners of antique and modern ivory could at a stroke lose significant assets and might have a reasonable claim for compensation from the state. Great works of art might be lost or destroyed. Therefore, until I hear clearer answers to how a total ban on ownership might be implemented, I will reserve judgment.
I support the government proposals to ban the trade in ivory in the UK, but with three considerations that are important for me. First, the proposals talk entirely of banning sales but not gifts. If gifts and exchange are still allowed then a ban may be harder to police. It also provides a potential defence to allow a suspect to claim that they transferred the ivory to a new owner but did not sell it to them.
Secondly, I would want to see far more emphasis placed on recovering criminal assets from ivory poachers and those they sell to. I know from experience, as will police officers here and those I have worked with, that organised crime is always about profit. Criminals may trade in drugs, sometimes human beings, firearms or, as we have heard today, ivory, but always for profit. Take out the cash and you stop the crime; follow the cash and you will find the criminal.
Finally, I am concerned by one of the four exemptions to banning the sale of ivory, which proposes continuing to allow the sale of items of artistic, cultural or historic significance. In my view that is too subjective and too broadly drawn. I worry about the ability of the trade entirely to police itself.
I thank your Lordships for your patience and support in this, my first speech in this place. I greatly look forward to contributing to the important work that the House undertakes to keep our people safe, healthy and economically strong.
My Lords, it is my pleasure to congratulate my noble friend Lord Hogan-Howe on his most impressive and thought-provoking maiden speech. I assure him that there is no chance of my collapsing. My noble friend is well qualified in opening his innings in your Lordships’ House given his very distinguished career as former Metropolitan Police Commissioner. As he mentioned in his speech, law enforcement is pivotal to the debate on ivory. A major challenge in the ivory trade is clearly to distinguish and identify between legal and illegal ivory. We look forward to my noble friend’s future contributions in your Lordships’ House and we warmly welcome him.
I join others in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Carrington of Fulham, for introducing this topical debate. I declare a strong interest, having served as a trustee of Tusk Trust for over 20 years, and now as a member of the international advisory board. With the Government’s consultation on the proposed ban on the sale of ivory closing on 29 December, this debate is extremely opportune. The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, mentioned the importance of education. One of the core objectives of Tusk is not just to try to reduce illegal poaching but to educate local communities on the important of ecotourism.
The staggering statistics of the decline in elephant populations over the last 10 years, caused in the main by poaching, are extremely chilling. As all noble Lords have mentioned, approximately 20,000 elephants a year are being killed in Africa alone for their ivory—that is one every 25 minutes. Just as alarming—I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, mentioned this—10 years ago there were 150,000 forest elephants in Africa; now, 70% have been killed, with Gabon being the last stronghold. I will return to talk more about Gabon. The tusks of forest elephants are more in demand than those of savanna elephants, as the ivory is more durable and easier for the carvers. If remedial action is not taken now, the forest elephants of Africa could soon be extinct in many countries.
There is global consensus that legal domestic ivory markets contribute to the illegal wildlife trade by increasing the demand for ivory items and providing the opportunity for illegal modern ivory to be laundered through the legal markets. Therefore. I warmly welcome the Government’s proposals to ban ivory sales in the UK, with the few exemptions that several noble Lords have already outlined. I support the exemption for sale of items containing a de minimis amount of ivory, particularly furniture, along with the exemptions for musical instruments and sales to and from museums. Clearly there needs to be a pragmatic approach. I am not advocating a ban on sales of all antique ivory, nor the destruction of existing ivory pieces, nor a ban on ownership or on inheritances. I take the important point of my noble friend Lord Hogan-Howe that as far as gifts are concerned, there could be a grey area for illicit trade. However, I do not support the licensing system, which I believe is open to abuse and likely to be vague, subjective and complicated to administer and enforce.
As my noble friend Lord Stevens mentioned, it is noteworthy that in recent polling at the beginning of December, 86% of the UK public supported a ban on the buying and selling of ivory in the UK. As royal patron of Tusk, the Duke of Cambridge has played a pivotal role in highlighting the crisis facing elephants and other species that have been decimated as a result of the illegal wildlife trade. There is no doubt that the diplomatic efforts of Her Majesty’s representatives, including the Duke of Cambridge, in China in 2015 contributed to the bold decision by President Xi Jinping to implement a ban on the ivory trade from the end of this year. Sadly, our diplomatic efforts in Vietnam last year have not been as fruitful.
I would like to revert briefly to the situation in Gabon. The country is facing an increasing number of highly armed militarised poachers, who are linked with human trafficking and drug trafficking. Our Army has recently developed a relationship with the Gabonese Government to provide training for anti-poaching. I urge that this training be scaled up from short courses to long-term sustained mentoring, with training embedded in Gabon.
In conclusion, next October, the UK will be hosting the next international Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference. It is pivotal that we implement the ban on ivory sales in the United Kingdom, with the proposed exemptions, as soon as possible. If we do not take a leadership role and send a strong signal, there is a real danger that we shall run out of time. We do not want to be the generation responsible for the extinction of elephants in many countries in Africa.
My Lords, I am very glad to follow the noble Lord, and I agree entirely with him and everybody else who has spoken about the importance of the African elephant, the Asian elephant and the despicable crimes committed by poachers. I saw an item on the “ITV News” earlier this week, and the most chilling aspect was the proof of collusion between the wardens and the poachers.
We have to put this debate in some sort of perspective. It is very easy to jump to the conclusion of banning everything. A friend of mine used to have a little notice on his desk: impossibilities I do at once, miracles take a little longer—doubtless the Bishops would agree with that. However, just because we have a difficult problem, we should not necessarily panic and rush to what seems the obvious conclusion: a total ban on everything. I am very glad that the Government have acknowledged that in their consultation. I took part in the consultation. I wrote to the Secretary of State and had a very courteous reply. It is very important that we look at the picture in the round.
Of course, it is right to exempt great works of art. Some of the greatest carvings of the Middle Ages are in ivory. Who would wish, should another set appear, to destroy the Lewis chessmen? It would be totally absurd and ridiculous. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, indicated when she spoke, destroying an antique item of enormous worth does not bring any elephant back to life. It is right for the Government to recognise that in items of high museum quality. But the history of this and every other nation—I am talking primarily in the context of European nations—is not merely encapsulated in what we can admire in museums any more than the great features of my wonderful Lincoln Cathedral, which I look at every day when I am at home, are typical of every parish church. There are literally tens of thousands of items carved in ivory or painted on ivory, which are part of the warp, weft and fabric of our civilisation.
Of course, I am delighted that the Government seemed to have indicated, and the WWF has done likewise, that miniatures should also be exempt, but I would take it a stage further. I was musing only the other day on a moment that I had in the city of Caen many years ago when I picked up in an antique shop an exquisite carving of the Virgin Mary. It was attributed to the Dieppe school. The largest museum of carved ivory in the world is in Dieppe. During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries—indeed, going right back to the end of the Middle Ages—Dieppe was where some of the finest ivory carving was done in Europe. The other place was Paris. Many of those items were made for domestic adornment or as objects of devotion and veneration. They help to tell the story of our civilisation. To say that there should be no opportunity to acquire those things in the future would be a foolish response.
Another aspect of our civilisation is illustrated. There was a great carver of ivory called David le Marchand, born in Dieppe. He left Dieppe shortly after 1685 when Louis XIV revoked the edict of Nantes, which withdrew protection from, and toleration of, French Protestants. He came over here and many of his finest works were here. Many of his ivory portraits were of great Englishmen such as John Locke, Isaac Newton and many others. We would fail future generations if we connived at the simplistic, total ban that would prevent the sale of those things as well as their ownership. I am glad that no one at the moment is advocating a ban on ownership, but it is the next step on a slippery path if we are not careful. I urge noble Lords to take that most carefully into account.
No words can explain fully how much I deplore the destruction of these noble beasts and the pernicious activities of those who destroy them. But in the past there were those who did carve exquisite and wonderful things. We could move from high art to folk art and the scrimshaws carved by sailors who were often whalers. We do not approve of whalers now—I certainly do not—but this is part of our maritime history. Without knowledge of these things, our young people cannot fully understand our cultural history. It has been said that we should never trade. I am delighted to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, to the House. He cast doubt on gifts. He knows better than anyone that a crook can get around anything. Many of these things have passed through families. They are part of the story of the family. What if the family comes to an end? I heard of a man who had a collection of miniatures, not one of which was probably worth more than a couple of thousand pounds, but they were his sole assets. Are we seriously saying in your Lordships’ House that he cannot do what he wishes with his own? That verges on intellectual tyranny.
I favour a licensing system. Any licensing system will be imperfect. A Leonardo was sold the other week for hundreds of millions of dollars, and there are many, and I am one of them, who doubt that it really is entirely the work of the master. But even though there may be certain problems with the licensing system it should not be beyond the wit of man to draw up a licensing system that calls on only the greatest experts, which certainly restricts the number of outlets through which ivory can be sold. But it does at least allow a legitimate traffic in that which was carved or from centuries ago. I hope that the Government will take time, when the consultation period is over to recognise that the immediate knee-jerk reaction, which may be a total ban, is not necessarily the right reaction. We have the duty not only to preserve the flora and fauna of the present, but to preserve the art of the past. I rest my case.
My Lords, I do not feel well qualified to speak on this, given the knowledge that has been poured out, but I want to make a couple of points and thank the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for this useful debate. I have certainly learned a huge amount.
First, I agree with all the stuff that has been said about the destruction of the world’s cultural heritage. That would be a terrible thing. It would be an irreplaceable waste of hours of work and also skills that have been lost in some cases. We may not appreciate until later what skills they are. Two things really worry me. One is that it is impossible to set rules that cover every single artefact. It is often a case of artistic opinion. Flexibility will be required. We have heard how one table might require one proportion and another might require another. There are so many exceptions. In a complex world and with the complexity of the stuff out there, we must be careful not to have very strict rules—which is the opposite of what one noble Lord said earlier. They need to be highly flexible and we need to have a method of making flexible judgments.
The other trouble is that experts have their own biases, and tastes change as life moves on between the generations. Looking back, Georgian things were thought of as great and people turned their noses up at art deco and more recent things; there were times when some of the art was regarded as pretty nasty. I will be very interested to see what happens to the modern art that some people think will not be looked at in 10 or 100 years’ time and will disappear. We just do not know what will happen in future generations. I do not know whether the scrimshaw mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, is regarded as something that we should preserve. I can think of many experts who would probably say that they are just little carvings of unknown sailors and ask why they are of interest.
The second thing that worries me is effectiveness. Will it work? Will it help the elephants? The whole point—with which I entirely agree—is that we are trying to preserve a great, noble species that is currently being poached out of existence in the most horrendous ways. It worries me that sometimes the cry of “something must be done” leads to things that do not quite work, because people cannot think of anything better to do and feel powerless. What will this do? Will it move markets abroad to countries that do not really care and create a market there? Will it drive things underground, so the situation does not get any better? If anything, ivory could then fall into the hands of criminals and the criminal fraternity, which would make things worse.
A typical example of that is the war on drugs, which has not worked. I will not go into that, but some of these things put things in the hands of criminals and make everything worse. That is what is happening at the moment because, by creating scarcity, we make things more valuable and expensive. Then suddenly there is an incentive for criminals to spend a lot of money on doing something with it. I wonder: is there no way of farming ivory in such a way as to create a glut on the market and push down its value so that it is not worth financing gangs of poachers? I suspect there is not, or people would have done it. But is there a way for us to incentivise local people when they own herds of elephants by giving them intense support and letting them keep the profits, thus giving them a real reason to guard their animals? Sometimes destruction is not the way to create scarcity; we often see that a glut pushes the price of things down.
As for burning ivory, a brilliant artist said to me last night that, historically, burnt ivory was one of the great black pigments and it has properties that cannot be replaced by burnt bones and other such things that have been tried since. She asked us, if we are going to burn the ivory, to at least use it to make great black pigment, so the animals will not die for nothing.
My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for bringing this subject to us as the final full debate of 2017. As contributions to the debate—and the noble Lord’s excellent and nuanced opening contribution—have shown, this issue is complex. Perhaps if there had been a simple solution, such as the removal of one trade in one good by an act of regulation, it would have been done and been successful. However, the fact that we are debating this and that the Government have a live consultation on UK government policy, which Parliament will debate fully, shows that this issue touches on great complexities. We are grateful to the noble Lord for bringing the issue forward.
The issue touches on interrelated issues that perhaps sum up some of our ethical questions in this early part of the 21st century: the growth of human development in Africa and Asia; greater understanding of the fragility of nature and wildlife; the success of conservation; conversely, the recent growth in illegal hunting and poaching; and the connections with organised crime. The connections between all these things exist in many vulnerable economies in Africa and Asia. The associated trade of materials sourced from the death of a now heavily protected animal touches on ethics and history.
As the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and other noble Lords said, we see ivory in the historical aesthetic and decorative arts. We also see it in all classes, from some of the items described by the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley—the most beautiful and expensive and valuable products—to what in many respects are humble objects, such as the Sheffield steel cutlery with ivory handles that my granny had, which was brought out only when family guests came round because she thought that was the posh cutlery. From the most lavish households to the most humble, it is a ubiquitous product—perhaps even including on the Clerks’ Table in this Chamber, where I see an ivory product.
I have seen that complexity in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, which is full of breathtaking ivory ball carvings. As the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, and others indicated, the sight of carcasses of a beautiful animal in Africa also touches on some of the elements and contradictions of humanity. Since this is a complex issue, perhaps it is understandable that the Government’s consultation has taken time to be brought about; it will not be easy for the Government to bring forward legislation. I reiterate the question posed by my noble friend Lady Bakewell: I hope that in his response to the debate the Minister will outline the timeframe post completion of the consultation on 29 December, and indicate when legislation and proposals are likely to be brought forward. The Government are committed to going beyond what we signed up for in the 1976 CITES agreement and existing EU regulations, which themselves go beyond the original legislation from over 40 years ago.
Few debates in this House can avoid Brexit and this is no exception. Perhaps only a Liberal Democrat can bring Brexit into an issue such as this. Nevertheless, if the Government do not bring forward legislation on the ivory trade that will be passed before we leave the European Union—if we leave the European Union—there will need to be clarity as to whether our commitments under the Control of Trade in Endangered Species Regulations 1997 will be covered in the withdrawal legislation and absorbed into UK legislation, or whether we will be able to amend our legislation prior to Brexit, which will then supersede the 1997 regulation.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, outlined the depressing fact that while activity to reduce poaching has increased, the level of illegal killing in Africa in particular has also increased. As many Peers across all Benches said, CITES shows, in a 2016 audit, the real decline of the African elephant. There are considered to be 111 fewer animals now than there were 10 years ago. This is over 37 African elephant ranges, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, but 12 elephant populations are reported to have been lost in their entirety over the last decade. While the Asian elephant population is about a 10th of the size of the African population, there remain areas of great vulnerability too.
Development support is therefore needed, not just on trade, policing and law and order. On policing, the UK has taken a considerable leading role in anti-poaching technology, as the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, said. I have seen this for myself in southern Africa. Also, those economies, populations and communities have been affected not only by the positive element of tourism to see these animals in their natural beauty, but by poaching and illegal activity.
That has led Zimbabwe and Namibia in particular, which have relatively healthy elephant populations, to argue within the African community that there is a different approach from an all-out ban. They had an attempt last year during the CITES COP to argue a different case—that they were able to sell a surplus of ivory from natural death or accrued from poaching so that funds raised can have a positive impact on communities close to elephants themselves. I had the fortune to be in Namibia in February and met a parliamentary committee making that case. This is an issue not simply to do with the markets where this ivory is traded, but the communities affected by elephants. However, it is the case that that attempt through the CITES process was unsuccessful. The grouping of 29 African countries now has a unanimous position when it comes to supporting a trade.
Even in India, where I had the benefit of being in communities affected by elephant populations last year, there is again a complex relationship with the elephant. Some communities see them as providing a net damage. There have been killings not through poaching, but through human development. Part of the growth of the deaths of elephants—in particular females, which do not produce ivory—has been because of human development and conflict. Therefore, we should not lose sight of development issues. For any solution or proposal that the UK can bring on our domestic trade, I hope there will also be a development argument. As the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, said, one of the benefits of the UK’s leadership has been that we have not separated out trade, crime and development. We have integrated them all together.
When we think that illegal trade in wildlife in its totality is valued at around $20 billion a year, according to CITES, this is a massive issue—one where, depressingly, as we have heard, the UK plays a significant role. It is depressing because, as we have heard, exports of ivory items from the UK is, as the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, said in his excellent maiden speech, four times higher than the next highest exporter, the United States. As the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, said, there is movement with China and Hong Kong, so there are some elements of positive news, but as he also said—I agree entirely; perhaps only a copper can say this— we have to make sure that they keep by the rules. Therefore, the pressure needs to be maintained. As the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, said, follow the money. In many respects, it is linked to organised crime. When he made that point I was able to reflect on when I was in Namibia. At the time there was an open letter from the grouping of environmental charities in Namibia to the Chinese embassy, in particular asking the Chinese Government to stop turning a blind eye to those coming from China to trophy hunt elephants in the African southern hemisphere. It is a case of not simply passing new regulations but ensuring that they are enforced and adhered to.
To conclude, in a very good contribution, the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, cited the influential work of UK soft power. He did so by referencing the very good work of the Duke of Cambridge. It is worth repeating a contribution the Duke made to the Tusk Trust last year so that it is on the official record. He said:
“In my lifetime we have seen global wildlife populations decline by over half. Africa’s rapidly growing human population is predicted to more than double by 2050—a staggering increase of three and a half million people per month. There is no question that this increase puts wildlife and habitat under enormous pressure. Urbanisation, infrastructure development, cultivation—all good things in themselves, but they will have a terrible impact unless we begin to plan and to take measures now”.
He went on:
“There is a global conversation happening about how to make our world more liveable”.
It should be liveable for humans but also for animals.
Whereas in the past, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and others have said, we could admire and marvel at the beauty of human creativity and artistry in these materials—as I have myself appreciated—I hope we can move beyond admiring the beauty of what we as humans cleaved and wrenched from the elephant to admiring ivory, now and in the future, in its most beautiful form: on the animals themselves.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for tabling this debate today and for giving us the opportunity to discuss how best to protect the dwindling elephant population from illegal poachers. I, too, welcome the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, who made a passionate maiden speech and is clearly going to make an important contribution to shaping our policy on this and other issues in the years ahead. I look forward to working with him.
I had hoped that this last debate of our winter term would be an opportunity to discuss something about which we could all agree, but, as it has gone on, I have found myself mired in the complexities and nuances that a number of noble Lords have raised. It has led me to conclude that the only way in which we will address the need to have some sort of ban on the ivory trade and to stop the slaughter of elephants is to have something that is operable, simple and deliverable. The more I listened to noble Lords, the more I felt that the Government’s initial approach, which was to have a simple answer on this, is the way forward; otherwise, we will end up with something that simply cannot be policed. This is the real challenge for us.
On that basis, your Lordships will not be surprised to hear that we are very much in favour of the ivory ban that is now the subject of the Government’s consultation. It is an issue that we have championed for some time and we very much welcome the Secretary of State’s determination to act on this cruel and unnecessary slaughter and the terms in which he has so far expressed the debate. As a number of noble Lords have said, this is an issue that also has huge popular support, with a recent survey showing that three-quarters of the UK public want a ban on the trade in ivory.
As a number of noble Lords have recognised, we are facing a crisis of elephant conservation, as elephant populations across Africa continue to decline. The Great Elephant Census, published in August 2016, showed that 144,000 were lost to ivory poaching and habitat destruction in less than a decade. Many of those elephant killings are carried out by illegal poachers. It has become big business for criminal gangs, who do not countenance local people or conservationists getting in their way and often have their own ways of dealing with them when they come across them. So they are not nice people. They are drawn by the huge profits available from the growing south-east Asia market and by those who successfully manage to disguise new ivory for antique ivory, which is creating an ever growing demand. That is the crux of the problem: how do we differentiate between the two? There is a real concern that, if this trend continues, African elephants will no longer exist in the wild and sightings for our next generation will be reduced to zoos and safari parks. I do not think that anybody wants that. It would be a tragedy for such magnificent and intelligent animals.
We welcome the new determination of the Government to take action on our domestic ivory trade and to play our part internationally to halt this cruel trade. Of course, as a number of noble Lords have said, this is a global issue, which can ultimately be resolved only on the international stage. I am sure that our Government will continue to play a role in the various multilateral discussions that cover this trade, particularly the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
However, we know that a number of African countries, including Zimbabwe and Namibia, are keen to reintroduce a trade in ivory. I hope that our Ministers will continue to resist this pressure. I also hope that we have learned the lesson from the previous CITES decision to permit two one-off sales of ivory stocks, which subsequently reignited a poaching crisis and made matters worse. Next year’s international conference on the ivory trade is a critical opportunity for the UK Government to show leadership; it is a one-off opportunity for us to take leadership on an international stage and set the scene for how this issue should be dealt with globally.
I hope that our Ministers will congratulate the Chinese Government on taking a heroic stand in banning ivory sales despite the country’s historic cultural identity with carved ivory art. At the same time, I hope that Ministers will send a message to President Trump that they abhor his decision to reverse the ban and allow big game trophies, including elephant heads and tusks, to be imported into the US again. Of course, it is no coincidence that his sons have been pictured with big game that they have killed, but it is a huge setback to the cause of animal conservation.
In the UK, the Government’s current consultation on the ban is due to finish in December, as we know. I am sure that the Minister will be able to update us on the progress being made and I hope that he can reassure us that the Government have received widespread support for the initiative and that their commitment remains strong. It is clear from today’s debate that all noble Lords recognise the need to protect our dwindling elephant population through a ban on imports of new ivory. The issue of debate is what, if any, exemptions should remain for the trading of existing ivory stocks. For our part, we support a clear ivory trade ban and the end of the distinction between ivory carved before and after 1947. As noble Lords will know, this proved impossible to police and ended up distorting the ivory market, with an influx of fake antiques.
We know that some auction houses are still unaware of what is legal and illegal under the current framework, as illustrated by the fact that Christie’s was fined in 2016 for offering unworked elephant ivory for sale. The truth is that many auction houses do not have the skills or the training to identify the age of an ivory carving. Examples were given of some auction houses that have that expertise, but it certainly is not true of all auction houses and dealers around the country. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, said, in a recent survey of 72 auction houses, about 180 ivory lots, 90% were unable to provide satisfactory proof of age. This is going on all the time and the skills simply do not exist at the moment.
At the same time we expect rather too much of the National Wildlife Crime Unit and UK police forces in terms of the skills that they need to detect and eliminate fraudulent activity in ivory sales, including imports and exports. We believe that we need a simple and clear set of rules that does not allow ambiguity or loopholes in order to prevent the UK market from being a transit for illegal export to Asia. It is only by closing the markets that we can stop the poaching.
We understand the need for some small, practical exemptions, such as antique items with less than 5% ivory by volume, musical instruments containing less than 300 grams and antique miniatures. We also support the proposal that museums should be allowed to acquire and exchange ivory items, provided that they are not able to find their way back into private ownership and hence back on to the market: that is another challenge for us.
However, we cannot support the view expressed by several noble Lords today that items of artistic, cultural or historic value should be exempt. That is a real challenge: who is to determine which pieces meet that description? Self-certification is clearly open to fraud and a licensing system, as some noble Lords attempted to describe, would be cumbersome and would rely, again, on skills that auction houses simply do not have.
Other noble Lords talked about trying to define a work of art, but again, the case has been made that that is a subjective judgment. Very often it is about fashion—what is on trend or is valued in one year or one decade may change in the next. We feel that such a definition would be rather too vague and would make the ban meaningless in practice. At the end of the day, artistic merit is surely in the beholder’s eye and could be ascribed to any piece of carved ivory: we would have a real problem trying to police that definition.
I am also not sure that I accept that a trading ban would lead to the pieces being destroyed. If, as noble Lords have argued, they are of artistic value, then surely they will continue to be admired, regardless of any monetary value. Indeed, they will be passed down the generations or, if that is not possible, offered to museums, where they can have a wider audience and a wider enjoyment. On this issue, unusually, I tend to agree with Michael Gove, who said in launching the consultation:
“Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol”.
That is at the heart of the matter.
I know that this is not what a number of noble Lords want to hear, but sometimes we have to make tough decisions—decisions that can be implemented and policed. We believe that a ban on the commercial trade in ivory is a necessary prerequisite to tackling the slaughter of elephants. Anything less than that will create new loopholes which will undermine the whole point of the legislation.
It is great that the Government are thinking about taking action on the ivory trade, but I am still unclear, as were several other noble Lords, what mechanism will be needed to take the ban forward. If the consultation goes well, as I am sure it will, would such a ban need primary legislation or can it be enacted via secondary legislation? Can the Minister shed some light on what the timescale would be to follow this up? I do not wish to put a dampener on this point, but the Government have form on making promises on animal welfare issues that are not followed through. I am sure that the Minister will disabuse me of this, but I hope that he can reassure me that, if the consultation goes well, it will be acted on.
However, in closing, I reaffirm our support for the Government’s policy as declared so far and very much hope that they will hold firm to a complete ban, with a small number of exemptions of the kind that I have mentioned. I look forward to working with the Minister to make that ban a reality.
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for securing this debate on ivory. The protection of endangered species around the world is a priority for this Government, as we reaffirmed in our manifesto earlier this year. Key to protecting endangered species is tackling the demand for wildlife products such as ivory.
The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, showed his humanity, courage and experience during his maiden speech. I am sure your Lordships would all agree that it is no surprise that the noble Lord is a Member of this House. His experience will be invaluable on so many matters.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said, the illegal wildlife trade is a serious criminal industry. The illicit nature of the trade makes it challenging to value precisely. However, it is estimated to be worth up to £17 billion a year globally. It not only threatens some of the world’s most iconic species, such as elephants, with extinction, but damages economic growth and sustainable development. It is fuelled by corruption, which in turn undermines good governance and the rule of law.
The UK is committed to playing a leading role in tackling the illegal wildlife trade and the trade in illegal ivory, and we are working with our international partners to protect endangered species. The proposed ban on UK sales of ivory, and on its import and re-export, should build on the range of actions we already undertake across Africa and Asia, both to protect elephants and to tackle the demand for ivory. Already, as a matter of policy, we do not issue export permits for raw ivory—in other words, tusks—of any age. Our proposed ban will go even further than this. We want to bring an end to the poaching of elephants, and our proposed ban demonstrates that we are willing to take direct action in the United Kingdom.
Elephants are an important and iconic species that are revered by many people both in this country and across the world. They are extraordinary and emblematic creatures, playing a key role in the ecosystems of their range states. They disperse seeds crucial for new plant and tree life to grow. In forested areas they create gaps in the canopy, encouraging tree regeneration, and in the savannahs they clear tree and shrub species, allowing grass to grow which in turn provides food for other species. They are, therefore, essential to the very essence of the countries where they live.
The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, spoke of the forest elephants, yet every year the population of African savannah elephants alone declines by 20,000, primarily due to poaching. If this rate of poaching continues, elephants could become extinct within decades in some African countries. It is surely our duty to act to help protect this iconic species and assure its future in the wild. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, and the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, spoke movingly of their experiences. Indeed, I shall never forget seeing families of elephants in Africa in happier circumstances.
The noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, spoke of the economic issues. The loss of elephants would deprive some of the poorest countries in the world of an invaluable natural asset, affecting economic growth and sustainable development. Research suggests that around £25 million in economic benefits each year for local communities has been lost because of the effects of poaching on tourism, especially in the savannah areas of east, southern and west Africa.
We must do everything we can to make sure that future generations do not inherit a world without elephants. It would be the worst of indictments on the human race and our generation if elephants no longer roamed in the wild. That is why, on 6 October, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced proposals to ban the sale in the UK and the import or re-export of items containing ivory that contribute directly or indirectly to the poaching of elephants. The proposals, on which we are currently publicly consulting, are designed to put the UK front and centre of global efforts to end the insidious trade in ivory. The Government are currently consulting on our proposals to ban UK sales of ivory. The consultation will end on 29 December, and I hope your Lordships will accept that I am not in a position to comment on the final scope of the proposed ban or, indeed, on how any exemptions could be defined at this juncture.
Turning to our proposals, as a starting point we aim to implement a total ban on UK sales of ivory where such sales could continue to contribute directly or indirectly to poaching today. We believe that only by taking robust and decisive action can we play our part in ending this appalling trade. My noble friend Lord De Mauley spoke of the 1947 cut-off date in the current regulations. We set out in our proposals that our intention is to ban all sales of ivory, regardless of age, unless an exemption applies, and that we intend our ban to go further than present rules.
We also recognise that there is a case for some items to be exempt from the ban, where the sale of such items would not contribute to the continued poaching of elephants and where a ban would be unwarranted. We have proposed four categories of exemptions: musical instruments; items containing a small amount of ivory; sales to and between museums; and items of historic, artistic or cultural significance. There have been suggestions today about how we might define these exemptions, such as a de minimis exemption defined as a specified percentage of the item by volume. My noble friend Lord De Mauley spoke of this. My noble friends Lord Carrington of Fulham and Lord De Mauley also spoke of portrait miniatures as a potential exemption. I hope noble Lords will understand that it is not possible for me to respond on these points, as the consultation is still ongoing.
My noble friend Lord Carrington of Fulham raised the important issue of protecting cultural heritage and suggested that items may be destroyed as a result of the proposed ban. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Cormack spoke of many examples of artistry. The proposed exemption for items of significant historic, artistic or cultural value would recognise that some items which contain, or are made of, ivory have an intrinsic value unrelated to their ivory content, be it the artistry or the historical provenance.
Through the consultation, we are working with the arts and antiques sectors, museums, environmental organisations and other interested parties to define the scope of the exemptions, such as our proposed exemption for items of historic, artistic and cultural value. I commend the constructive engagement that we have had from all of these sectors so far.
My noble friends Lord Carrington of Fulham and Lord Cormack spoke of a vetting or licensing system as a way to make sure only rare and important items can be sold under this exemption. We will consider all these proposals, of course, alongside those arising from the consultation.
I must emphasise that our objective is to protect elephants, and we want our ban to support that aim. We recognise that certain items cannot be said to fuel the modern-day demand for ivory that in turn fuels poaching, and we want to define our exemptions through the consultation so that they do not detract from our overarching objective. Similarly, we wish to work with all interested parties to develop effective and proportionate compliance and enforcement arrangements so that loopholes cannot be created or exploited.
We are not proposing to ban the ownership of ivory or that items should be destroyed. Many people will continue to use items containing ivory regardless of the ban on sales, and the gifting, bequeathing and inheriting of items that contain ivory will continue. We also do not intend to affect the ability of museums and other institutions to display ivory items to the public if they so wish.
By implementing a ban on the sales of ivory in the UK, we will help to lead global action to protect this iconic species. We will send a clear signal that the trade in ivory should be consigned to history and that we will not tolerate the trade in items that could fuel continued poaching. It will confirm to our partners around the world that we support their actions to stamp out the trade and, we hope, encourage others to follow suit. To our partners in the elephant range states of Africa and south Asia, it will confirm our support for their work to tackle poaching.
The majority of the modern-day demand for ivory comes from east Asia. Banning all but a very limited number of sales in the UK will greatly reduce the amount of ivory exported to this region, ivory which may serve to reinforce the status of the material or which may even be recarved to suit local markets. The proposed ban should also remove the opportunity for criminals to launder new or freshly poached ivory through the UK’s legal markets.
I very much register what the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, said about the need for global action. We welcome measures taken by other countries—a number of your Lordships mentioned China, currently the world’s biggest demand market for ivory, and its forthcoming restriction on the domestic ivory markets. It is only through such international commitment and global co-operation that we will end this brutal trade. Our proposals will be among the toughest in the world.
The noble Earl, Lord Erroll, raised the question of prices. There is early evidence to suggest that ivory prices have already started to fall in China since the announcement of the ban.
The noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, also mentioned China and the demand in markets. It is absolutely correct that the UK needs to exert all diplomatic pressure and soft power in this area. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary raised this very issue with his Japanese counterpart only last week, and we continue to fund projects aimed at reducing demand in a number of east Asian countries.
I should also say to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defra will be speaking at a parliamentary reception with the Chinese embassy next month to mark the implementation of China’s ivory ban. This is an example of collaboration, which is absolutely essential.
A number of noble Lords—particularly, on the Opposition Front Benches, the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch—asked about next steps. As has been said, our consultation will end on 29 December, and we will look to publish a response to it shortly afterwards. I shall ensure that Defra considers the contributions that your Lordships have made today when finalising our proposals. We will need to implement our proposals through primary legislation, so there will need to be a Bill as soon as parliamentary time allows.
Our proposed ban should be seen not in isolation but as part of a comprehensive response to protect elephants and other endangered species. I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord De Mauley, my predecessor at Defra, whose experience of these matters has been very real. Four years ago, the UK held the first conference of global leaders on the illegal wildlife trade, IWT, in London. It was a marked success, and every attending country committed to a combined attack on the driving forces behind the illegal trade in wildlife, including ivory. Leaders agreed to recognise poaching and illicit trafficking as serious crime within national legislation. Several countries also introduced strict measures to halt the flow of illegal products, such as ivory, into their markets.
Our approach to tackling IWT includes supporting sustainable livelihoods, strengthening law enforcement and legal frameworks, and reducing the market. To support our global leadership on tackling illegal wildlife trade, Defra is investing £26 million to tackle IWT in countries that are most affected. We are providing funding to Interpol to expand its work on tracking and intercepting illegal shipments of ivory, rhino horn and other illegal wildlife products.
The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, referred to Defra funding the British military to provide tracker training for park rangers in key African countries, helping to ensure their effectiveness and safety while working to prevent elephants being poached for their ivory. I thank the noble Lord for his appreciation of the sterling work undertaken by members of the British Army in training rangers in Gabon, and we should be proud of their work and their achievements.
As my noble friend Lord De Mauley and a number of your Lordships said, next October we will be hosting the fourth international conference on tackling IWT. To be effective in tackling IWT, it is vital that Governments work with the private sector, academia and civil society. The conference will be a key opportunity to bring our combined expertise, innovation and technology to bear on this issue, and to maximise support for and action by countries directly affected by this criminal trade.
I hope it is clear from what I have said that tackling the illegal wildlife trade is a priority for the Government. The UK has been at the forefront of driving global efforts to safeguard the world’s most vulnerable species. This Government’s proposed ban on UK ivory sales reflects our continued commitment. We recognise the case for some limited exemptions from the ban, including in relation to the cultural heritage of certain ivory items. We are specifically inviting views on that as part of our current public consultation. The Government cannot predict the outcome of the consultation, but we are clear that the purpose of our ban is to the stop the brutal assault on these iconic creatures.
A ban would help to close legal ivory markets and therefore help to reduce the price of ivory and thus the incentive to poach, helping to prevent the killing of thousands of elephants each year. I hope noble Lords will agree that this is the right thing to do and will demonstrate the UK’s commitment and leadership in our efforts to conserve one of the world’s most iconic, beautiful and threatened species. Surely that is our first priority.
My Lords, we have had a very interesting, indeed an excellent debate. I thank all noble Lords who have participated, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, for his exemplary and excellent maiden speech. I took two things away from it. One was his comment about the difficulty of policing gifts, on which we all need to reflect, because it bears directly on whether ivory can be passed down from one generation to another successfully. The other is that he is from Sheffield. Sheffield was one of the great users of ivory in the 19th and the early part of the 20th century. There is barely a set of cutlery from that age which does not have ivory handles, as did that of the grandmother of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis; some are of very fine quality indeed.
There is unanimity across the House on the objective of protecting the elephant and other endangered animals that are sources of ivory. The question is how that can be achieved. I hear the doubt expressed about whether the ivory trade can be regulated in a way that will be effective in achieving our joint objective. I believe it can; I know that others believe it cannot. We need a proper study of whether a process of vetting—as I said in my speech, it is well practised in the antiques trade—coupled with a rigorous licensing system that takes out all the small auctioneers without expertise and the small dealers in trinkets, could achieve the objective we all want: preserving the elephant. With those comments, I commend the Motion.
Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2017
Motion to Approve
My Lords, the threat level in the UK, which is set by the independent Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, remains at severe. This means that a terrorist attack in our country is highly likely and could occur without warning.
While we can never entirely eliminate the threat from terrorism, we are determined to do all we can to minimise the threat to the UK and our interests abroad, and to disrupt those who would engage in it. Recognising that terrorism is a global threat that is best tackled in partnership, it is also important that we demonstrate our support for other members of the international community in their efforts to tackle terrorism wherever it occurs. Proscription is an important part of the Government’s strategy to disrupt terrorist activities.
The four groups we propose to add to the list of terrorist organisations, amending Schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000 are, first, al-Ashtar Brigades. This includes a number of aliases of this group: Saraya al-Ashtar, the Wa’ad Allah Brigades, the Islamic Allah Brigades, Imam al-Mahdi Brigades and al-Haydariyah Brigades; secondly, al-Mukhtar Brigades, including Saraya al-Mukhtar; thirdly, Hasam including Harakat Sawa’d Misr and Harakat Hasm; and Liwa al-Thawra. This is the 22nd order under the Act.
Proscription sends a strong message that terrorist activity is not tolerated wherever it happens. Under Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary has the power to proscribe an organisation if she believes that it is concerned in terrorism. If the statutory test is met, the Home Secretary may then exercise her discretion to proscribe the organisation. The Home Secretary takes into account a number of factors in considering whether to exercise this discretion. These include the nature and scale of an organisation’s activities and the need to support other members of the international community in tackling terrorism. The effect of proscription is that a listed organisation is outlawed and is unable to operate in the UK. It is a criminal offence for a person to belong to, invite or provide support for, or arrange a meeting in support of, a proscribed organisation. It is also an offence to wear clothing or carry articles in public, such as flags, which arouse reasonable suspicion that an individual is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation.
Proscription sends a strong message to deter fundraising and recruitment for proscribed organisations, and the assets of a proscribed organisation can become subject to seizure as terrorist assets. Proscription can also support other disruption of terrorist activity, including, for example, the use of immigration powers such as exclusion from the UK where the individual is linked to a proscribed organisation and their presence in the UK would not be in the public interest. Given its wide-ranging impact, the Home Secretary only exercises her power to proscribe after thoroughly reviewing the available evidence on an organisation. This includes information taken from both open sources and sensitive intelligence, as well as advice that reflects consultation across government, including with intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The cross-government Proscription Review Group supports the Home Secretary in her decision-making process. The Home Secretary’s decision to proscribe is taken only after great care and consideration of each particular case—but, given the impact the power can have, it is appropriate that proscriptions must be approved by both Houses.
Having carefully considered all the evidence, the Home Secretary believes that al-Ashtar Brigades, al-Mukhtar Brigades, Hasam and Liwa al-Thawra are currently concerned in terrorism. As noble Lords will appreciate, I am unable to comment on specific intelligence, but I can provide a summary of each group’s activities in turn.
The first group that this order proscribes is the al-Ashtar Brigades and its aliases. The al-Ashtar Brigades is a Bahrain-based Shia militant organisation that was established in 2013. Its aim is to overthrow the Bahraini al-Khalifa ruling family through violent militant operations. It lists the ruling al-Khalifa family, Bahrain security forces and Saudi Arabia as targets for attack. The group has been responsible for numerous attacks in Bahrain for which it has claimed responsibility, including a jail-break of 10 convicted terrorists which led to the death of a police officer in January this year; an IED attack in a bus station in Sitrah, which was claimed by the group under the name Wa’ad Allah Brigades in February; and an attack on a police vehicle near the village of al-Qadeem in July. More generally, the group has promoted violent activity against the Bahraini Government, as well as the British, American and Saudi Arabian Governments on social media.
The second group is al-Mukhtar Brigades, also known as Saraya al-Mukhtar. The al-Mukhtar Brigades is also a Bahrain-based Shia militant organisation that was established in 2013. It lists the al-Khalifa ruling family, Bahraini security forces and Saudi Arabia as targets for attack. The group’s activities include the continued promotion and glorification of terrorism via social media throughout 2017.
The third group to be proscribed is Hasam and its aliases. Hasam is an extremist group targeting the Egyptian security forces and the overthrow of the Egyptian Government. The group announced its creation on 16 July 2016 following an attack it conducted in Fayoum governorate, Egypt. In September 2016, the group claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination of assistant prosecutor General Zakaria Abdel-Aziz, and the attempted assassination of the former Grand Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa, a month earlier. The group has claimed responsibility for over 15 attacks. Between March and September this year in Cairo, it carried out small-arms fire attacks in March, May and July and IED attacks in March, June and September; the latter exploded close to the Myanmar embassy in Cairo.
The last group to be proscribed is Liwa al-Thawra, which is another extremist opposition group using violent tactics against Egyptian security forces, and seeking an end to the Egyptian Government. It announced its creation on 21 August 2016, following an attack in Monofeya, Egypt. The group has claimed responsibility for attacks, including bombings and assassinations. They include an attack in Monofeya, Egypt, in August 2016; the assassination of Egyptian Brigadier General Adel Regali in October 2016; and, in April 2017, the bombing of the Egyptian police training centre in Tanta, Egypt.
In addition to adding these groups, we propose to remove Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin, which is an offshoot of the political Hezb-e Islami Party, formed in 1977 in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. HIG is anti-western and desires the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state in Afghanistan. Since 2001, its main objective has been the removal of western forces and influence in Afghanistan, as well as restoring Islamic law. HIG has been proscribed in the UK since October 2005. However, on 22 September 2016, the group agreed a peace deal with the Afghanistan Government. After careful consideration, the Home Secretary has concluded that there is not sufficient evidence to support a reasonable belief that HIG is currently concerned in terrorism as defined by Section 3(5) of the Terrorism Act 2000. Under Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary also has the power to remove an organisation from the list of proscribed organisations, if she believes that it no longer meets the statutory test for proscription. Accordingly, she has brought forward this order and, if approved, this means that being a member of, or providing support to, HIG will cease to be a criminal offence on the day the order comes into force. The decision to de-proscribe HIG was taken after extensive consideration and in light of a full assessment of available information.
The Government do not condone any terrorist activity, and takes a cautious approach to de-proscription. De-proscription of a particular group should not be interpreted as condoning any previous terrorist activities of that group. The British Government have always been clear that HIG was a terrorist organisation. Groups that do not meet the threshold for proscription must remain within the law and are not free to spread hatred, fund terrorist activities or incite violence as they please. The police have comprehensive powers to take action against individuals who engage in such activity under the criminal law. We are determined to detect and disrupt all terrorist threats, whether home-grown or international. Proscription is just one weapon in the considerable armoury at the disposal of the Government, police and security service to disrupt terrorist activity. The Government continue to exercise the proscription power in a proportionate manner, in accordance with the law. We recognise that proscription potentially interferes with an individual’s rights, in particular the rights protected by Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and should be exercised only when absolutely necessary. The order before the House today demonstrates that, when proscription is no longer necessary, we are prepared to act to de-proscribe groups that are no longer concerned in terrorism.
In conclusion, I believe it is right that we add the four groups, the al-Ashtar Brigades, al-Mukhtar Brigades, Hasam and Liwa al-Thawra, and their aliases, to the list of proscribed organisations in Schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000. Equally, we believe that it is proportionate to remove HIG from that list. Subject to the agreement of this House, the order will come into force on Friday 22 December.
My Lords, noble Lords will be pleased to hear that I will be brief. However, these are very serious matters. As the Minister just outlined, this measure can interfere with people’s human rights. Therefore, I have to ask: can she tell us any more about the four organisations being proscribed? I understand that the first group has been involved in attacks in Bahrain and is suspected of financing terror in Qatar; the second group has also been involved in attacks in Bahrain; the third group has been involved in attacks in Egypt; and the fourth group has been involved in attacks on the army and the police in Egypt. However, clearly, this order primarily has effect in the United Kingdom. Is the Minister able to say whether there is any evidence that these groups are active in, or have supporters in, the United Kingdom that would require such draconian steps to be taken? However, I understand that it may not be possible to give those details for security reasons, as she said.
As regards the group being de-proscribed, again it is good to see that the Government are actively considering groups that have been proscribed in the past, and are prepared to de-proscribe where the evidence suggests that is merited. My only concern is that the reasons the Minister gave for de-proscribing the organisation to which she referred raise questions about the amount of evidence available to support the proscription of the other organisations, bearing in mind the alternative measures that can be taken against individuals, in particular, who might be supporting terrorism in the United Kingdom.
I thank the Minister for her explanation of the purpose of, and reasons for, this order, which we support, and which proscribes four groups based in Bahrain and Egypt, and removes one group from the list of proscribed organisations. Fortunately, I do not have to go to the same lengths as the Minister in giving the full names of these organisations.
The order, which is the 22nd proscription order under the Terrorism Act 2000, went through the House of Commons two days ago and will come into effect tomorrow, subject to it being passed by this House today, as the noble Baroness said.
The effect of proscription is that a listed organisation is outlawed and unable to operate in the UK, with it being a criminal offence for a person to belong to, invite or provide support for, or arrange a meeting in support of, a proscribed organisation. The assets of a proscribed organisation can become subject to seizure as terrorist assets. As I understand it, some 51 people have been charged with membership of proscribed groups and 32 have been convicted.
I also thank the Minister for the letter she sent to me at the beginning of this week setting out the reasons why the Home Secretary had come to the conclusion that each of the four groups is concerned in terrorism. As the noble Baroness said, having reached that conclusion and belief, the Home Secretary then has to decide whether to exercise her discretion to proscribe each organisation, which she has decided to do in each case. One of the factors that the Home Secretary takes into account in considering whether to exercise that discretion is the need to support other members of the international community in tackling terrorism. There are, however, four other factors the Home Secretary has regard to in deciding whether to exercise her discretion to proscribe: the nature and scale of the organisation’s activities; the specific threat it poses to the UK; the specific threat it poses to British nationals overseas; and the extent of the organisation’s presence in the UK.
In the case of the four groups or organisations covered by the order, which of those five factors, which are also set out in the Explanatory Memorandum, were key to the Home Secretary deciding to exercise her discretion to proscribe? I am not clear whether this is being done primarily to support international partners in the fight against terrorism, or primarily because of the threat that these groups pose to the UK and the extent of their presence in the UK, or indeed whether one or more of the remaining five factors have been crucial in the Home Secretary’s consideration. It would be helpful if the Minister could throw some light on this matter, particularly as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, also raised it and, in particular, the issue of involvement in this country.
We are satisfied, though, that evidence available to us shows that the four groups in question, Hasam, Liwa al-Thawra, the al-Ashtar Brigades and the Al-Mukhtar Brigades are concerned in terrorism. The order also removes Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin from the list of proscribed organisations. It has been proscribed in the UK since October 2005, but in 2016 the group agreed a peace deal with Afghanistan’s Government. In this instance the Home Secretary, following a request for de-proscription three months ago, has come to the conclusion that the statutory test for proscription is no longer met and that there is insufficient information to conclude that the group is currently concerned in terrorism, as required by the Terrorism Act 2000, if the proscription is to be maintained.
As the Minister said, proscription does not solve combating terrorism, but it is an important tool. The effectiveness of and support given to our security and intelligence forces and our police is crucial, as is the level of public involvement in reporting suspicions that they may have or which otherwise come to their attention.
In conclusion, I raise just two points on this de-proscription. First, how many organisations have been de-proscribed under the terms of the Terrorism Act 2000? Secondly, is any check subsequently carried out to ensure that some members of deproscribed organisations do not simply transfer their allegiance to another existing organisation not yet proscribed, or a new organisation, which is in reality also concerned in terrorism?
I thank both noble Lords for their comments. I think they will absolutely understand that the information I have given at the Dispatch Box is the information I can give, and that obviously, for national security reasons, I cannot go into further detail.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about the deproscription mechanism, to which the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, also alluded. Two other groups have been deproscribed under the Terrorism Act since 2000. On deproscribing, under the legislation, any group must be considered for deproscription following the receipt of a valid application—which we received for the deproscription of the HIG. In addition, on proscribing, the noble Lord asked about the various criteria. I would also not like to say under which specific criteria these groups were proscribed; suffice it to say that the Home Secretary takes the various criteria into account, and that one may significantly outweigh another in her determination. Therefore, I hope the noble Lord will understand that I am not being particularly forthcoming at the Dispatch Box.
Finally, the activity of deproscribed groups, just as that of proscribed groups, is kept under review, as noble Lords would expect. If the test for proscription is met in the future and it is appropriate for the Home Secretary to exercise her discretion in favour of proscription, she will lay an order to reproscribe the group, and the order will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, also talked about the loss of human rights when proscription is enacted. He is absolutely right. That is why, in the round, proscription should be a proportionate response, given the restrictions it places on people’s human rights.
I do not want the noble Baroness to regard this as a challenge to what she has just said; I am merely asking for confirmation. Is it really regarded as a security issue to give any indication of which of the five factors set out in the Explanatory Memorandum weighed with the Home Secretary in her decision? I ask that in the context of the noble Baroness’s opening statement, when she referred to supporting international partners in the fight against terrorism, which is one of the five factors. One could take it as a pretty good hint that that was a factor, but that would then be inconsistent with the noble Baroness’s statement that she cannot say which of the factors weighed in the mind of the Home Secretary on this issue.
My Lords, perhaps I can assist. I do not know whether it is beyond my pay grade to suggest something to the Minister but perhaps she could consult after today’s proceedings and, if there is any other information that she can possibly put into the public domain, perhaps she can write to us.
That is a very helpful suggestion from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, will understand that I am cautious on these occasions. I would not want to breach national security at the Dispatch Box, but if there is any further general information that I can give, I will give it.
My Lords, it is the custom of this House before we adjourn for the Christmas break that the usual channels have an opportunity to pay tribute to the staff who support the work of this House with such dedication. With so many supporting us every day, it always seems invidious to single out particular individuals, but we can rightly pay tribute to some of the more long-standing staff who have reached the end of their careers during the year.
Most noble Lords will know enough about the first retired member of staff of whom I speak to be sure that he would not want to be singled out, but I am afraid that he has no choice in the matter. I refer to Brendan Keith, who retired as Registrar of Lords’ Interests in April after 44 years of service as a House of Lords clerk. Brendan insisted on retiring with such little fanfare that it was tantamount to the sort of secrecy that my noble friend has had to employ in presenting her order.
As noble Lords know, Brendan dealt with a number of cases for this House. He had a long and illustrious career in all the main clerkly offices. In 2002, he became Clerk of the Judicial Office and the House’s second ever Registrar of Lords’ Interests, responsible for advising on our code of conduct. In the former capacity, his role was of historic significance, but I will not dwell on that because the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, observed his work in that regard at very close quarters and is much better qualified than I am to comment on it. I will leave it to him to do so.
In my view, it is Brendan’s work as registrar for which this House owes him its greatest debt. It was Brendan who led the work on investigating Members alleged to have been willing to misuse their position in the House in return for payment. He dealt similarly with the cases of alleged wrongful expenses claims. In both instances, the House had to break new ground in order to deal effectively with these allegations. In this, Brendan’s intellectual rigour, fair-mindedness and work ethic were central to ensuring that these cases were dealt with appropriately by the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Interests and the Committee for Privileges and Conduct.
Brendan’s demanding work in these high-profile cases went alongside his more discreet role in advising Members on their compliance with the Code of Conduct. I know how much noble Lords valued the quality and pragmatism of his advice. The Code of Conduct that we have today owes more to Brendan Keith than to any other person. We wish him, and his wife Catherine, who has a similarly distinguished career of public service, a long and happy retirement.
Another Member of House staff noble Lords will have seen on a regular basis is Tara Dawarka, whom we always went to see when we had to settle up as we left the Peers’ Dining Room. Noble Lords may not know, but she loved to do a great deal of travelling in her spare time, and was on one of Concorde’s last flights to New York. She is looking forward to—and here noble Lords will be jealous—spending much of her retirement in Mauritius, perhaps even enjoying a sunny Christmas. We wish her a long and happy retirement.
I close by saying a word about the staff who support us more widely, in particular in keeping us safe. It seems longer ago than nine months since that Wednesday in March when the Estate was attacked as part of a terrorist incident. But we will never forget the commitment and professionalism of the staff of both Houses, the security officers and of course the emergency services in responding to that attack. We wish all of them a peaceful and happy Christmas. In doing so, we reflect on the families of those who died in the attack, including the family of PC Keith Palmer, who gave up his life preventing the attacker from entering the Palace. Our thoughts are with all their families and friends at a difficult time of year.
Much of this House is like a theatre. Those of us with speaking parts on the stage, even if perhaps only occasionally, are supported by many, many people working to make this House an effective Second Chamber. We think of them at Christmas and thank them for all they do for us.
My Lords, it falls to me to follow the Chief Whip, and I am very grateful to him for his very kind, warm and generous words about our staff. He was quite right to draw attention to the bravery of PC Palmer and all the staff who were involved in resolving that incident. They did their very best for this House and our Parliament in extremely trying and difficult circumstances. Our staff serve us very well indeed.
It is perhaps appropriate that my tributes this year go to two of our esteemed doorkeepers who have chosen to draw their time in our service to a close. Most colleagues will, I am sure, remember Mr Michael Pinchen, who began his service to the country by serving seven years in the Royal Marines, for which he still writes articles and publications. On leaving the Marines, he joined the London Fire Brigade and served a full and fulfilling career in that service. He rose to the position of station officer. Michael Pinchen, better known to his friends and colleagues as Mick, joined the doorkeepers in May 2005 and became a Senior Doorkeeper before retiring last summer.
I well recall spending an enjoyable half hour in Mick’s company because we share an interest in the Arts and Crafts movement. He told me on that occasion that he was preparing a history of public buildings in London focusing on the impact of the Arts and Crafts movement on things such as school buildings and, in particular, fire stations. We mused delightfully on the terrific Arts and Crafts example of the fire station along the Euston Road, which I am sure colleagues will be familiar with. Mr Pinchen has retired and he now lives in Chislehurst with his wife Sheila. A lot of his time is spent looking after his grandchildren. I am told that they exhaust him.
The other notable retirement this year was Mr Phipps. Mr Dave Phipps was the first non-military person to join the doorkeepers. At the time he saw the advertisement, I am told that he was repairing Royal Mail vans, so we could say that it was something of a complete change of career—from making sure that the wheels do not come off to making sure that the wheels do not come off. Mr Phipps joined the doorkeepers in 2003. He soon settled in and became one of the team. I recall that nothing was ever too much trouble for him. He would often go out of his way to assist your Lordships and I know that many Peers have missed him since his retirement in the summer due to health problems.
Colleagues will know that we had at one point two Mr Phipps on the staff. I well recall having a conversation with Dave Phipps about the difficulties of mistaken identity. He told me on that occasion that there was never a problem between him and the other Mr Phipps because he was the tall, handsome one. Today, I spoke to Mr Keith Phipps. He assured me that there was never a problem with mistaken identity because he was the short, handsome one. They really have to talk to each other. Now Mr Phipps lives in Bromley with his wife Shani and he spends his time walking his dogs and riding his motorbike. Many colleagues who saw him striding in in full kit wondered how long it would take him to prepare to do the job of the day.
In paying tribute to these esteemed doorkeepers, I also thank the other staff who support us—the Hansard staff, the clerks, the admin staff, cleaners and kitchen staff all do a fantastic job on our behalf. They keep us fed, watered, happy and content and, more importantly, safe and secure.
This will be my last tribute-making speech in your Lordships’ House because I plan to stand down from my post in the new year, for reasons that will be well known to most colleagues here. I hope noble Lords do not mind if I indulge myself a fraction and pay thanks to some of those colleagues who are here present and others who are not. I thank my colleague the Chief Whip, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach—John—for his friendship and role in making this House work. I have enjoyed my time working with him, as I did his predecessor. Our Chief Whip does a great job on our behalf collectively and it has been a pleasure to work with him over many years. I also thank for her friendship the Leader of the House, the noble Baroness Lady Evans of Bowes Park—Natalie—who is again a very good example of the best of politicians on our Front Benches.
It has been a delight to work with two terrific Leaders on the Labour side, my noble friend Lady Royall—Jan—and my noble friend Lady Smith of Basildon—Angela—who are excellent in their roles and have been for a long time. They have shown great leadership skills and talents. In recent times, I have been well supported by Denis Tunnicliffe and Tommy McAvoy, as Deputy Chief Whips. I wish them both well for Christmas and the new year.
I want to pay tribute to the staff team that has supported me during my long term in office and on the Front Bench, particularly Ben Coffman, Catherine Johnson, Ian Parker, Jonathan Pearse, Molly Critchley, Dan Stevens, Grace Wright, Hannah Lazell, Nicola Jayawickreme, Rob Newbery, Sarah McGuire, Byron Orme, Gary Klaukka, Melissa Chinna, Sarah Owen, Sophie Davis, Helen Williams, Jessica Levy, the lovely Muna Abbas, and Beth Gardiner-Smith. They have all been amazingly helpful, kind and generous to me and extraordinarily supportive in the work that I have undertaken. It has been a pleasure to work with such a crack team.
It is nearly time for Christmas. I wish everyone well for Christmas and all the best in the new year.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to join my colleagues in the usual channels in thanking staff before Christmas. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Taylor and Lord Bassam, for reminding us of the incident in March and the family of PC Palmer. I join noble Lords in thinking of them.
I pay tribute to three members of staff: Tom Mohan, Sandra Creegan and Linda Brown. Tom Mohan had a long and varied career in the service of this House. Latterly his most senior posts were clerk of the European Union Committee, where he served from 1996 to 2002, Clerk of Public and Private Bills, from 2002 to 2011, and human resources director from 2011 to 2017. Earlier in his career, he was clerk to various committees of the House, including the influential ad hoc committee on murder law.
Many members of your Lordships’ House will have worked closely with Tom during his tenure as Clerk of Public and Private Bills. All of the staff in the Public Bills Office are invaluable to Members in helping this House to fulfil its important role of scrutinising and revising legislation; under Tom’s leadership, new and innovative technology was brought into the office at that time. Tom’s personal dedication to the role and the House was perhaps most evident during the long session of ping-pong on the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, when the House sat continuously to discuss the Bill across two days at 11.30 am, 10.15 pm, 5 am, 11.40 am and 6.30 pm. During this long, protracted sitting, Tom and his staff were constantly on hand to provide advice, support and guidance to individual Peers and the wider House. That stands as a testament to Tom’s commitment and loyalty to this House.
For the last six years of his career, Tom was human resources director and will have been less visible to Members other than those involved in the governance of the House. In that period, he was performing a role that is crucial to the running of the House in ways Members tend not to see, other than in their reflection in the committed, talented and effective teams of staff who support every strand of its work. As HR director, Tom was a driving force on the management board for modernising and rationalising the Administration as a place to work. His efforts supported the Clerk of the Parliaments in embedding the diversity and inclusion agenda and fostering better career development for staff at different grades across the House, including the creation of a new management development programme. Tom also masterminded the first complete overhaul of the Administration’s pay system in two decades—a very risky operation, in my career experience. He also oversaw significant modernisation of HR services.
Tom is a very talented musician. The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Winchester, tells me he could have been a professional. Instead, we can count ourselves very fortunate that he joined your Lordships’ House. His love of music did not diminish though, and here Tom also made a valuable and lasting contribution away from his day job, through his work as custodian of the magnificent organ in the crypt Chapel of St Mary Undercroft. Tom, himself a skilled organist, played an important role in acquiring and installing the organ; we are delighted to find out that he will continue to take an active role in its stewardship in his retirement from the House. We wish Tom, and his wife Johanna, a long and happy retirement.
Sandra Creegan worked as a housekeeper in the Department of Facilities for 17 years before retiring in March 2017. In her time there she worked in most parts of the House estate. She was originally based in the outbuildings in Old Palace Yard and Fielden House, before transferring to the Palace of Westminster in 2013 with the rest of her small team. Before she retired Sandra had the responsibility for cleaning a number of Members’ offices in the South East Return, as well as the Royal Gallery and Sovereign’s Robing Room. She was always a very conscientious and diligent housekeeper who took great pride in working for the House. She had very mixed emotions when she decided to retire, but she is now enjoying her time looking after her grandchildren and travelling with her family. We wish her well for her retirement.
Anyone who had reason to be in the House of Lords from 7 am every morning would have remembered and recognised Linda Brown, housekeeper team leader. Linda was always a very bubbly, larger-than-life character who loved to share her thoughts with all her colleagues. She joined the House of Lords in the late 1990s in what was then Black Rod’s Department. Such was her familiarity with the Palace and its occupants, she was always the first person that newcomers went to if they needed to know anything about an office or short cut to another part of the building. During her time as a housekeeper, Linda had cleaned most of the offices in the House of Lords. She gained promotion to team leader and always took an interest in the welfare of her team. She retired from the House in July 2017 so that she could spend more time with her family. We wish Linda and her family all the best for a very happy retirement.
Finally, in wishing everybody a very happy Christmas, may I, with the encouragement of the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Winchester, thank all the staff, particularly at Peers’ Entrance, for their thoughtfulness and understanding for the help they give, particularly to disabled and frail elderly Peers? All of the staff around the House are very caring to all who need help. We are extremely grateful for all that you do. Thank you.
My Lords, it is a privilege for me, as Convenor, to associate myself on behalf of these Benches with the very well-earned tributes that have just been expressed from across the House. I will add a personal word of thanks to the noble Lords, Lord Taylor, Lord Bassam and Lord Stoneham, for all the help that they have given me during these past 12 months. It has been a real pleasure for me to work together with them all in seeking to do the best we can to ensure that everything in this House works as smoothly as possible.
Of course, we could not have achieved what we have without the support of the many members of staff who have supported us in so many ways and in so many places over so many years. That is why it is so important that we should pause for a moment at this time of year to express our gratitude. It is always a pleasure to hear the tributes that are paid in the maiden speeches of recently introduced Members, of which there have been two today from the Cross Benches, to the kindness of the staff and all the help that they have given them in coming to terms with their new surroundings. We know from our own experience that these words of thanks are not empty, and that all the tributes are sincerely meant and very well deserved. We really are very fortunate, and it is entirely appropriate that we should recognise what the staff do for us.
It is a particular pleasure for me to have been invited to add a few words to the tribute that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, paid to the work done by Brendan Keith. I so much agree with the noble Lord that he was somebody who would not want to be singled out at all—but it is quite right that we do, whatever he thinks. He not only retired from his position as the clerk in charge of the Register of Lords’ Interests but was previously, to give him his full title, the Fourth Clerk at the Table and Clerk of the Judicial Office. I worked with him very closely as one of the Law Lords throughout his time in that office. I was already a member of the Appellate Committee when he began in 2002 and I was still there when his time came to an end as the appellate jurisdiction of the House was transferred to the UK Supreme Court in the summer of 2009.
I recall the meticulous way in which he ran the Judicial Office. But, above all, I recall the selfless way in which he worked with me as we struggled to react positively to the sudden announcement in June 2003 that the Law Lords were to be removed from the House and that there was to be a new Supreme Court—of which neither of us had ever heard. He had had every reason to expect to complete his career in this House as Clerk of the Judicial Office. Now his entire future was thrown into doubt, especially as it became clear that it would not be possible under Civil Service rules for him to move over to the Supreme Court with the rest of us. Nevertheless, with admirable commitment to his responsibilities as our clerk, he continued to run our business to his own exacting standards to the very end. He also played a significant role in the planning for the transfer of that business to its new home. The object was to achieve a seamless transfer. The fact that this was achieved when the time came owed everything to his guidance and attention to detail.
However, our time together was not without compensations. In April 2005, we travelled together to Bahrain to represent the House of Lords at the opening of its newly constituted constitutional court. We were taken to our cars on our arrival at the airport. We were each ushered, at our hosts’ insistence and despite our protestations, to our own personal Mercedes limousine, each with its own Arab-costumed driver. So it was that, in that unaccustomed style, Brendan was driven around the city for the entirety of his visit with his own car and his own driver.
Two-and-a-half years later, we were together in the Caribbean at the invitation of the Government of the Bahamas. We were at a resort on the island of San Salvador, resting after our transatlantic flight before a week’s sitting in Nassau of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. We took the opportunity together to go on a two-and-a half hour bike ride to explore the island. At the furthest distance from the resort, the chain suddenly came off Brendan’s bicycle. As I helped him to put it on again, trying to recall skills not practised since childhood, we reflected on the fact that we were faced with a very long and very boring walk if we had to go back to the resort on foot. Then, a year later, he was with us at a resort in Mauritius, making preparations for the first visit of the Judicial Committee to that island. Like the rest of us, he must have found it very difficult to persuade those at home that, as in the case of our visit the Bahamas, we were there to work and not to enjoy ourselves.
Even though the later stages of Brendan’s time were more than tinged with sadness at the cutting short of his career with the Law Lords, there were moments of real pleasure and enjoyment which, in view of all he did for us, he so much deserved. I know that I speak for all the Lords of Appeal whose judicial business he so carefully organised over those years in wishing him and his wife, Catherine, a long and happy retirement. For our part, we are reminded of him every time we go into Committee Room 1, where he so often worked. We can admire the painting on the wall behind the chair. There he is, seated at the table in the Chamber in wig and gown, as the Law Lords delivered their last judgment in July 2009. That painting would not have been complete without him.
I should like to end by adding my own thanks to all the staff who are still with us and wishing them, and all noble Lords, a very happy Christmas and a safe and peaceful new year.
House adjourned at 5.18 pm.