Thursday 18 January 2018
Education: Modern Foreign Languages
Question for Short Debate
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the importance of modern foreign language teaching in schools and universities, and of the impact of the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union on the sustainability of that teaching.
My Lords, I start by declaring my interests as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages, which is supported by the British Council, and vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Linguists. I thank all noble Lords in advance for their contributions and look forward to the Minister’s reply. I am also grateful to the House of Lords Library for its excellent briefing pack.
Her Majesty’s Government have a great track record of saying positive things about learning foreign languages and of taking important initiatives to back up their fine words. As recently as last November, Schools Minister Nick Gibb said that the Government were committed to,
“remaining open to the world after we leave the EU and to becoming even more global and internationalist in our outlook. Improving the take-up and teaching of modern foreign languages in our schools … is an important part of achieving that goal”.
He added that there were,
“business, cultural and educational benefits to learning a language”.—[Official Report, Commons, 30/11/17; cols. 579-80.]
I would only add diplomacy, defence and security to the Minister’s list of benefits.
Important initiatives taken include making a foreign language part of the national curriculum for key stage 2; the EBacc has boosted take-up of language GCSEs; over 100 language teacher trainer scholarships have been awarded; and £10 million of government money has been invested in the Mandarin Excellence Programme. But—and I am sure noble Lords could all hear that but coming—despite all this, language teaching and learning in our schools and universities are in deep crisis. In 2004, languages became optional after the age of 14, reducing GCSE take-up from nearly 80% to half that. A compulsory language as part of the EBacc managed to get that back to 49%, but that may now be in reverse as entries fell in 2017 by 7.3%, and EBacc has had little, if any, impact on continued take-up post-16. Numbers taking French A-level have declined by one-third and for German by one-half. Just in case any noble Lords should think that that is not such a bad thing these days, when we need Mandarin more than we need French, I draw attention to the recent report from the British Council, which said that the top five languages needed by the UK for our prosperity and influence post Brexit are Spanish, Mandarin, French, Arabic and German.
The decline at A-level has the obvious knock-on effect for applications for MFL degrees at university, which have dropped by 57% in 10 years. Over 50 universities have scrapped some or all of their MFL degree courses. Uncertainty over the UK’s continued participation in the Erasmus+ programme is one reason for the drop in applications. I cannot emphasise strongly enough how important this scheme is for giving students of all disciplines, not just the linguists, the opportunity to improve language skills and develop an international and cross-cultural mindset. A study in the US and British Academy research show that that employers rate these skills at least as highly, or even more highly, than expertise in STEM subjects. Graduates who have spent a year abroad are 23% less likely to be unemployed than those who have not. Will the Minister give an assurance that after Brexit the UK, along with Norway and Switzerland, will continue to be part of Erasmus+ beyond 2020, especially as the European Commission plans to double participation in this scheme by 2025?
Erasmus+ is also a vital part of the supply chain for MFL teachers. The existing shortage risks becoming much worse because an estimated 35% of MFL teachers and lecturers are non-UK EU nationals, as are 85% of language classroom assistants. Unless they are guaranteed residency status post Brexit, MFL teaching in our schools could collapse. We are not producing enough languages graduates ourselves to meet the shortage, which the Department for Education estimated at 3,500 if the Government are to meet their EBacc target. We know that EBacc figures would shoot up if only more pupils were doing a language at GCSE, so it is very much in the Government’s own interests to protect and improve the supply of MFL teachers. Can the Minister say whether the Government have any firm data on the numbers of current MFL teachers from the EU? What proportion of applicants for initial teacher training in MFL and what percentage of MFL teachers leaving the profession are EU citizens? We have heard an awful lot recently about the dramatic reduction in the number of nurses coming from the EU to work in the NHS; it would be sensible to have equivalent data on MFL teachers to help shape the kind of training and recruitment programmes we might need to plug the gaps.
Can the Minister comment on the conflict between the EBacc and the Progress 8 system for measuring schools’ performance at GCSE? Languages are not compulsory under Progress 8 and there have been reports that some schools are using Progress 8 to avoid doing languages at all. That undermines the EBacc. Can the Minister say what specific action the Government can take to address this? I would also like to know how the Government intend to respond to evidence, most recently from the latest Language Trends Survey, that pupils in state schools—especially those in deprived areas, and including primary schools—are benefiting least from the advantages of learning a foreign language. Lower take-up at GCSE correlates with regions of poor productivity and low skill levels. For example, in the north-east in 2016, only 43% of pupils sat a GCSE in a language, compared with 75% in some London boroughs. Only one-third of state schools employ a language assistant, compared with 73% of independent schools. Only 30% of state schools still run exchange trips with a host family; 77% of independent schools do so. There is a correlation between pupils on free school meals and low MFL take-up, and pupils in deprived areas are increasingly allowed to drop their language after only two years in secondary school, or even withdrawn from language classes altogether. How does any of this help the social mobility that the Government say they are committed to?
I believe we need a cross-government national languages recovery programme, because the crisis is not just for the DfE to sort out. Many departments have a critical stake in making good our languages deficit as a nation: Justice, Health, Foreign Affairs, Defence, Media, International Development and, of course, Trade and Industry. We need more home-grown linguists and to rely less on importing our language skills. This challenge predated the EU referendum, of course, but the reality of Brexit, with the Government’s ambition for the UK to be a leader in global free trade and more influential on the world stage, makes it all the more urgent. As I said last week in the debate on the industrial strategy, speaking only English in the 21st century is as much a disadvantage as speaking no English. Language skills are a key enabler of success and need to be woven into all ages and stages of education and training, including apprenticeships and technical education.
Finally, will the Minister undertake to initiate discussions across government to kick-start a new strategic plan to rebuild the UK’s language skills? Will he support the proposal to designate a Minister with cross-government responsibility for languages, to ensure that, this time, decisive leadership achieves a step change in language learning in schools, FE and HE? The education sector could learn a lot from looking at the positive initiatives already being taken by the Foreign Office and the Army, for example. The Government could do a huge amount by selling the case for languages to students, parents, head teachers and employers alike. By no means does everyone need to be a specialist linguist, but the soft power advantage in the 21st century belongs to the multilingual citizen and nation, not the monolingual Brits of the past who thought that all they had to do to be understood was shout more loudly in English.
My Lords, we should all be grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, for introducing the debate and giving us an opportunity to consider this issue. At a time when there has never been more need to communicate internationally and globally, I was appalled to learn that entries for GCSE modern foreign languages have almost halved and that 50 modern foreign language departments across higher education have closed in the past 15 years. The noble Baroness has given us more detailed statistics on that. It was always a problem to recruit sufficient Brits to work in the European Union institutions because of the lack of adequate language skills. For this reason, in recent years we have fallen well below our quotas in those institutions.
Now more than ever we need foreign language skills, not only for the important and wide-ranging trade negotiations that lie ahead in the post-Brexit world— because of my particular interest in Latin America, I emphasise the importance of Spanish and Portuguese in this context—but also to sustain the tourist industry on which I foresee the United Kingdom becoming more and more dependent. I hope therefore that my noble friend the Minister will be able to reassure us that his department has taken on board the checklist created by the APPG on Modern Languages, chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, and of which I am a member, and that it will be pursued.
In the short time available I wish to raise two specific issues. The first is one I have raised before as a suggestion to encourage young people to acknowledge the benefit of studying foreign languages. It is not only to use them directly as teachers, interpreters and translators, but as an additional asset to other professional qualifications. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers and many other professionals can add to the value of their work if they speak another language or languages reasonably fluently. As a lawyer, I am an example of that. I believe that the Government could give a lead on this by ensuring that application forms for Civil Service jobs in all departments include a box asking which other languages the applicant can speak. This would at least enable people to realise that the ability to speak another language is a plus factor. Can the Minister indicate whether this happens across the board, or indeed in any department other than the Foreign Office?
The second issue relates to what I consider to be a hidden treasure in the United Kingdom. It is a fact that millions of British citizens living here speak, for example, Gujarati, Hindi, Bengali, Farsi or Arabic as their first language. In any assessment of modern foreign language teaching, do the Government take this into account and in what ways are they building on that resource?
I would like to have pursued other aspects which were raised in the excellent briefing and in the noble Baroness’s introduction, in particular emphasising the importance of the Erasmus programme, but I feel sure that many of these issues will be raised during the debate.
My Lords, I also congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, for introducing the debate and for her ongoing commitment over many years to this subject. I think that we are making progress, but there is still a lot more to do. I accept absolutely the premise of the debate, which is that whatever happens to our relationship with the European Union, we are going to need more mastery of languages, not less.
It is now almost two decades since the Government of whom I was a member transferred the power to decide whether key stage 4 students should learn a modern foreign language from central government to head teachers. To be honest, I did not think that 16 years later we would still be in this position, and that is what I want to address today. The vision we had when making that change was not to be where we are now. It has often been seen to be a battle whether modern foreign languages should be made compulsory right through school. A lot of time and energy has been wasted on that which might have been better used to address other issues. The evidence for that is twofold. The EBaccs arrived. Given the consequences of not getting EBaccs for the school, it was almost compulsory to have modern foreign languages. Fewer than 50 per cent of students have actually taken a language. Even though we have got almost compulsory modern foreign languages in key stage 4, the drop-off at A-level is quite significant. If you look at other difficult and challenging linear subjects, such as maths, physics, the science subjects and computing, we have not seen that. We have seen either a steadying of A-level entrances, or a slight increase over recent years. I have come to the conclusion that solving this is not a battle about whether it is compulsory, it is about what we are doing in the classroom and how we are teaching modern foreign languages. One thing in the briefing that quite saddened me was that secondary school students saw the need for modern foreign languages but chose not to study them because they did not like the lessons. They were not enjoying them. That is not a criticism of the brilliant teachers who try to do their best in difficult circumstances.
My points to the Minister are that I absolutely still believe that the emphasis should still be on primary level. When you look at primary level, the lack of consistency guarantees that secondary level does not stand a chance of getting it right. In every other national curriculum subject, they link with primary. They know what they are building on. They know what the next stage is. I really like the idea of a language recovery programme. That is because it implies we are going to do something different, that we have got the determination but we are not looking back—we are learning from what is taking place.
My final comments would be: concentrate on primary level. I would make it compulsory for primary. I would not make it an entitlement. There is a big difference between the two. I would concentrate on pedagogy. What did we learn from the Mandarin experiment where it is eight hours a week rather than 30 minutes a week? Is that a better way of teaching modern foreign languages? As ever, we should invest in the professional development of those who are working with our key stage 1 and key stage 2 children.
My Lords, I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, for initiating this debate. My mother was German. She met my father at the end of the Second World War. He was in the Royal Scots Fusiliers. My mother came from a large family with sisters and brothers who settled all over Europe. I have cousins in Switzerland, Holland and Austria. My cousins and their children all speak immaculate English. Why? Because it is compulsory at school. They start learning a language at the age of five. That spreads all the way through. We can be quite negative about the facts and figures. Let us remind ourselves of those, because they need to be reiterated quite often. GCSE entries have almost halved since 1997. Fewer than half students entered for maths take a modern foreign language. The noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, made the point that those doing sciences or professional degrees are less likely to do a modern foreign language. This has led to an inevitable 57% drop in undergraduate numbers and—this is the most frightening figure—an average of three modern foreign language departments closing each year. Over 16,000 UK students are involved in the Erasmus programme. I hope the new Universities Minister in the other place will be more enthusiastic about sustaining our participation than his predecessor, Jo Johnson.
The decline in the number of students taking A-levels has reached a dangerous level. But let us be positive. Primary schools are now teaching modern foreign languages. Teachers are, in many schools, reporting great successes. But if we are to really make that work, it has to start at the age of five. It also has to link in with secondary schools. What happens is that you get children from primary schools up to a proficient level in, say, French or Spanish. They transfer to the secondary school and the secondary school does a different subject. All that work in developing the subject does not get realised. I do not have an easy answer, but I do know that is one of the major problems. The other problem in primary schools is, as the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, said, the need to have more graduate teachers who have a modern foreign language as their degree. As we have heard previously, that is becoming less and less likely, because departments are closing down. There needs to be a training programme for those teachers and also for teaching assistants. Many primary schools use teaching assistants to do conversational work with groups of children. Whatever happens in any dreadful Brexit process, it is important that for the future prosperity of the country, we get this right.
My Lords, I am grateful for what has been said in the previous four speeches, particularly by the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins. I am a fellow officer of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages. We are very proud of the noble Baroness because of her leadership and all the unstinting work that she has done with the British Council to promote this issue. It is very easy and tempting still for foolish people in Britain to regard it as a marginal subject of no consequence whatever; it is extremely important. Even if we want the subject just for cultural and intellectual reasons, there is also the reality that we lose business at the margin all over the world because we do not bother to have proper language teaching and learning in our schools and universities, and in business.
That is unlike in other countries. I admire the supreme modesty and efficiency of the German population, most of whom speak better English than we do when we go over there. When I try to insist that I do a speech in German—because I speak German myself—they always say, “Oh, no, do it in English because we can follow it easily”. It is a remarkable achievement in a country like that, of 82 million people, that they have been so caring about this subject.
I personally am lucky because—like the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, and others, I think—I always found languages extremely easy. Therefore, I mastered at a very early age the main European languages plus Russian and did not find them difficult for some bizarre, rather nerdy reason; I found them very easy and exciting. I started quite late, being six, seven or eight before I started reading some French. Even infants, if they get the access through their parents, can start learning languages as if they are games, puzzles, contests and competitions. They really enjoy that. It is one reason why children in Britain are learning Mandarin with incredible proficiency at a very young age. Spanish is a very easy language. As we know, it is completely phonetic, except where it is indicated with an appropriate symbol. It is therefore easier for those languages to be grasped at an early age.
However, they are all important. Those mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, show the priorities but also the need not to neglect other languages—I am glad that she and others in this debate have mentioned the Indian subcontinent as well. It is interesting to see how the Chinese have dealt with learning English. It is now a huge learning system in China, a country that need not have bothered because it was very committed to its own activities.
It is important for business to take these things up inside companies and with the trade unions. It has always been difficult to persuade people when they say, “Oh, well, it is not my subject. I’m concerned with the job and the work we do”. But languages is not just at the margin; it is intrinsic to the very salvation of this country. Bad effects are coming along from this Brexit nightmare—and it is not just a debate about interesting possibilities and options; it is a total nightmare for this country. Therefore, one of the best things to do is to stay in the EU and encourage a language learning programme with it as well as with others.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins. I want to say something about the general importance of the subject, and then some specific things about business and primary. The noble Baroness has set out a lot of the data, which is the foundation.
In my tradition there is a myth called the Tower of Babel, which many of your Lordship will know, which points to the reality of the human condition being that we live in a massive number of language groups. That is either a challenge for conflict or an opportunity for co-operation. The key is for language therefore to be used creatively.
The late Helmut Schmidt, the former Chancellor of West Germany, wrote that nobody should go into politics unless they can speak at least two languages—so they would have to join the noble Baroness’s group. That is important because he meant that we need to understand not just our own culture but how other people think through their language, so that they can look at you, your business activities and your political values—whatever it is. Communication depends on understanding language not just in your space but from somebody else’s point of view.
Before we just think, “Well, we’re all English; we just speak one language”, as the noble Lord has just referred to, we should remember that we are all linguistic anyway. We speak the language of the head and the language of the heart, the language of consciousness and the language of unconsciousness. There is a universal language, which religion, sport and compassion unite us in, across spoken languages. We are all linguistic creatures, so we can aim high. We do not have to think this is just about a few people patching the thing up as we try and struggle against collapse.
I will give a little example of why it is so important, again from my own discipline. In medieval times, a word in the Bible was translated as “do penance”, meaning in relation to an institution. The Reformation discovered the word actually means not “do penance” but “repent”, which is a state of the heart. That is a totally different understanding of the language, from an institutional frame to the individual having values and aspirations. That is why it is important to get language right and to understand it.
We need a strategic policy to put languages at the heart of our learning. I support everything that has been said about primary schools. I have a granddaughter called Lila, who at nursery school, at the age of three or four, was learning Spanish and was so excited about it. She could say the words. There is something in all human beings that can be developed for language, and we have to press on and do that.
I hope the Minister will be able to reassure us that there could be a strategy that puts language at the heart of learning, both to grow human beings more fully and to equip us to take our part in an international world of business, politics and values. Without that, we will be very impoverished.
My Lords, first I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, who is tireless on this subject. I also want to follow her in giving credit to the Government for what has already been achieved. But as all noble Lords have said, there are huge challenges still to overcome.
I have one big point to make here, following what the right reverend Prelate said. Why does this matter? First, the idea that English is the international language is a massive exaggeration. There are billions of people who do not speak English. It is actually shocking arrogance to say that everyone else should learn our language because we cannot be bothered to learn theirs. But above all, speaking a foreign language does much more than give you the linguistic ability. It opens your mind to other cultures and opens a door to other mindsets and to understanding how other people live and think and act. It is this which lubricates international trade and international relations.
This is absolutely vital in today’s world, with rapid globalisation in trade, finance and investment, with growing nationalism, with the emergence of great economies in China, the Indian subcontinent, Latin America and Africa, and of course with Brexit now taking place. We cannot afford to be inward-looking and insular. The UK has a population of 65 million people. Russia has 140 million. The other 27 members of the EU have 270 million. South America and Latin America have over half a billion. Africa has more than 1 billion, India 1.2 billion and China 1.3 billion. The UK has to wake up.
My message to the Government and to the Minister is this. Yes, please carry on doing all you can in your school reforms to embed still further the learning of foreign languages in our schools and other institutions. But on top of that, we have to think big. So many of our young people are by instinct internationally minded. It should not be difficult to engage with them so they see the benefit, the stimulus and the joy of going to another country and talking its language, sharing their experiences and creating relationships and bonds of mutual understanding. So let us get some of Britain’s most creative minds on to this.
This is the challenge that has been raised by the noble Baroness—we have to change our thinking big time. It cannot just be the responsibility of the Department for Education or of the Government alone. Britain is at a pivotal moment in its history. The world is going to change in ways we cannot even imagine. Yes, we need practical policies, but we also need inspiring leadership, imagination and passion.
My Lords, I am very pleased to be able to join in this debate on the teaching of modern foreign languages. I too have been a language teacher, not just of foreign languages but of English. Having heard others speak, I can certainly support the fact that in trade and in doing work with people in other countries, it is essential to have a foreign language. As somebody said to me the other day, you can buy in English but you cannot sell in English, so I hope that we will take this forward.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, has already said, provision has dramatically reduced in schools, universities and higher education. I heard what the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, said, and I agree that it is particularly concerning that so many children in schools were discouraged from taking foreign languages and that those schools were in some of the most deprived areas of the country. It seems to be a huge injustice that, as we have just heard from the noble Lord, the values of learning a foreign language have been denied to many children not only because they were not encouraged but because they were discouraged from taking a foreign language as part of the drive to raise standards.
In addition to what has been said already, I support compulsory language learning in primary schools. However, if we are to have a national language recovery programme, we will have to move very quickly, increasing capacity within schools and universities, increasing the number of teachers and changing the culture that somehow we in this nation do not really need to speak foreign languages. As someone who has taught adults, I would also say that we need to incentivise people in work. I think that employers are very keen to have their employees speak foreign languages—more so in view of Brexit. Something like £45 billion is lost to GDP through the lack of language learning skills.
When I taught English as a foreign language in France, there were many incentives to learn a foreign language. Employees were given the time to do so by their employers, they were given help with payments, and the Government backed a national scheme. That was some time ago—lots of people in France now speak English. However, people took that up, and it is a fallacy to say that people in adult life cannot learn languages. The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, talked about methodologies in schools, but there are now many ways of learning languages. I know many adults who have learned foreign languages online, doing it in their spare time. That is particularly attractive to young people, who I understand are more and more motivated to learn foreign languages because they do not believe that they were very well taught in school.
Therefore, I would definitely back a national language recovery scheme. I very much hope that the Minister can give us some encouragement on that but, from my point of view, I would add: do not let us just leave it to schools and teachers; let us get the adults learning as well.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, on enabling this important debate. I endorse what has been said by previous speakers about the importance of language teaching in the light of Brexit and the potential challenges to sustaining it. I particularly pick up the point made about our security and defence interests, which are definitely reliant on our ability to communicate and understand other countries. Without a language base, that becomes a very difficult proposition.
I want to draw particular attention to the international baccalaureate in this context. The IB is most familiar to many of us as a stretching curriculum and examination for sixth formers, but in fact it is very much more than that. There are IB programmes for all stages of school education, from primary right through to sixth form. I am pleased to declare an interest as a governor of a state academy that uses the IB to good effect throughout the school, using the middle years programme and the sixth-form programme, and moving towards using a primary school programme for the IB.
The UK is moving out of the EU and into a new relationship with countries in Europe and beyond. In that context, the educational philosophy and principles of the IB—a global outlook supported by strong language teaching, and the development of open-minded and inquiring thinkers who are equipped with the critical skills to succeed in the world—are more important than ever. We need that approach if we are to succeed in this new and challenging environment. The IB curriculum provides that in a way that is acceptable to children right through the ability spectrum, from the less able to the most academic.
I very much hope, therefore, that the Government will encourage more schools, including those that serve less-privileged communities, to see the importance of IB principles and take the opportunity to promote them through adopting IB programmes. The school where I am a governor started as a school in serious difficulty. It rebooted itself, including by adopting the IB principles and has now moved to having an outstanding status. Part of the reason for that, I think, is the aspiration and the vision that the IB gives of being part of a global community of learning. That outward-looking approach is something that many of our schools would benefit from in the current climate.
My Lords, as a modern language graduate and one-time teacher, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, for this timely debate and for her energetic support for modern languages. It is an enthusiasm which I share.
The UK does not have a proud record of speaking other languages, although our diplomatic and security services have been world leaders, often in somewhat obscure languages, and we have certainly seen excellence in academic departments and in parts of business, which have proved that the British do have the capacity, if not the will, to enjoy languages other than English. The position in schools and universities—as we have heard—is close to critical, as various school initiatives reduced the importance of languages, which fed straight through to diminished university departments and thence into fewer committed language teachers. The discouragement of EU national staff will make the situation even worse.
As members of the EU, we have been sheltered to a degree on the need for European languages, as English was deemed one of the languages of choice. But there will be no need for our European neighbours to continue to give such priority to English if it is no longer one of the member languages. A while ago, I asked a Business Minister whether linguists were included on trade trips and received the answer, “It isn’t necessary; they all speak English”. Maybe that is true around the table, but what about the informal talk and exchanges away from negotiations and the snippets of gossip or insight which might be deal-makers? What about the courtesy of speaking to people in their own languages, as the noble Lord, Lord Sherbourne, said? And what about Willy Brandt’s famous saying, mentioned by my noble friend Lady Janke:
“If I am selling to you, I speak your language. If I am buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen”?
Research by Professor James Foreman-Peck for UK Trade & Investment demonstrated that deficient language skills cost the UK economy 3.5% of GDP per year, which is around £48 billion each year—a sizeable sum.
If and when we leave the EU, it will be essential for our citizens to be able to engage in conversation, in negotiations and in talking personally or professionally with our neighbours in their own languages. Take-up is not helped by the view that it is more difficult to get high grades in languages than in other subjects. Surely this should be a matter for exam boards and examiners to address, by bringing grades into line with other subjects. It seems an unnecessary hurdle to put in the way of language learning. Can the Minister say what the Government are doing to address the issue of language GCSEs and A-levels having lower grades than other subjects? This seems a crucial question if we are to raise the attraction of language learning. It is a matter of urgency that we encourage more young people to learn and to enjoy the way others communicate and, in doing so, to understand better our international neighbours. I applaud the work of the British Council and British Academy in their research and I hope that the Government listen to and support their recommendations on modern language teaching.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, deserves our gratitude for initiating this debate on a subject of real importance— much greater importance than can be reflected adequately in a three-minute contribution. Many noble Lords have highlighted the figures that demonstrate that foreign language teaching in our schools and universities is—as the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, said—in crisis.
The introduction of the EBacc was designed, in part, to promote greater take-up of French and German, but it does not seem to have made an impact. There are a number of contributing factors, most of which have been referred to today by noble Lords. In part, it is caused by complacency, with young people feeling they have no need to learn a foreign language because English appears to be ubiquitous. They need to be made aware that only a quarter of the world’s population speaks English, which means around 5.5 billion people do not. It is also in part due to a lack of suitably qualified teachers of languages for schools and that there are fewer teacher education opportunities, especially in the lesser-taught languages. Another factor is cuts to school funding, resulting in a reduction in school libraries and their resources.
The decline in young people studying languages is less likely to be reversed while the Government persist with their rhetoric, as they have since the referendum, deliberately fostering what the Home Affairs Select Committee described in its report published this week as “a hostile environment” to immigrants. In addition to fostering negative impressions of people who are “not like us”, and hence their languages, such hostility has caused foreign nationals to leave the UK while deterring others from coming here. That policy is particularly demonstrated by the Government’s senseless determination to include overseas students in the immigration figures, when in fact they make a decisive net contribution to this country. There is already a shortage of modern foreign language teachers, yet the Government’s unwelcoming tone ignores the fact that, as has already been stated, currently around one-third of them are non-UK EU nationals. We need more of them to plug the gap, particularly from France, Spain and Germany, but the generally inhospitable atmosphere—perceived or real—since the referendum makes that much more difficult.
The effect is also seriously concerning for the ability of young people to prepare themselves for the fast-changing demands of the economy in the years ahead. At a time when global connections matter more than ever, it is worrying that the UK is facing a languages deficit, because that restricts access by young people to overseas work experience, a vital part of preparation for them to develop a career in international business. Needless to say, the very real threat to the ability of UK students to access the Erasmus+ programme after we leave the EU is an issue that the Government simply must resolve through negotiation. Failure to do so could only lead to a further reduction in the number of undergraduate language courses. This is one of the recommendations in the British Council’s excellent recent report. I would highlight also the call for minimum time requirements for language teaching—I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Storey, that that should start at key stage 1—and for further education and higher education providers to integrate language modules into more of their courses.
I hope the Minister will have had the opportunity in the two months since it was published to study the British Council report in sufficient detail to respond today to its recommendations, because it is a clarion call for action that is absolutely necessary.
My Lords, I am pleased to answer this Question for Short Debate and thank the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, for her passionate advocacy of the importance of teaching modern foreign languages. When the national curriculum was first introduced, it was compulsory to teach at least one language to all pupils in key stages 3 and 4. However, it may be that the true value of languages was not widely embraced, as the Government of the day removed this requirement in 2004, as the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, mentioned. We know that there is much more to be gained from studying a foreign language. It can build cultural and global understanding, and improve the ability to think laterally and creatively. It can also bring benefits from a career perspective: languages are important for those working as translators and in the diplomatic service, but also for those working in petrochemicals, engineers, banking and any profession that can lead to working overseas or with international partners.
I would like to chip in at this point to answer a question raised by my noble friend Lady Hooper. She asked whether civil servant applicants are routinely asked about any foreign language skills. As far as I am aware, the Civil Service does not ask applicants directly about language skills unless it is relevant to the role. That is something for us to mull over.
As the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, said, we know it is a myth to believe that, as English is spoken fluently by many around the world, there is no need for us to converse in the languages of our international business partners. My noble friend Lord Sherbourne put it rather more starkly and succinctly. I was interested also to hear what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby said. He made an important point about the commonality of language to cross religious and country values.
We have never been an insular nation, and, in leaving the European Union, it is important that we adopt an even more global outlook. In support of this concept, the British Council’s Languages for the Future report, published in November 2017, said that we must,
“initiate a bold new policy to improve foreign language learning for a transformed ‘global Britain’”.
I agree, but we are still far from achieving the levels of uptake and proficiency in languages that we need to, and those points have been made today. Only 47.3% of pupils entered a languages GCSE in 2017, and in too many schools only the most academic pupils are encouraged to study languages to GCSE level. Yet taught well, all children can become fluent. Maintained schools must offer languages at key stage 4, although it is not mandatory for pupils to take up that offer. We need taking a GCSE to be an option that all pupils might want to take, in the knowledge that it will be enjoyable, is of value and that quality teaching will enable them to make good progress.
What action are we taking to improve the take-up of languages? I start by saying that I absolutely read the view of noble Lords including the noble Baronesses, Lady Coussins and Lady Janke, and my noble friend Lord Sherborne about the interesting idea of a national language recovery scheme. I will be taking that back to the Department for Education as an idea to look at.
In September 2014, we made it mandatory for maintained primary schools to teach a language to pupils at key stage 2, a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris. Maintained secondary schools must also teach a language to pupils at key stage 3 and offer it at key stage 4. An important point about continuity was made by the noble Lord, Lord Storey. The noble Lord, Lord Watson, asked what was being done to encourage students beginning language study as early as key stage 1. Schools are free to teach languages to children at key stage 1 if they choose to, and a wide range of resources are publicly available to support teachers who wish to teach languages to younger children. However, this is not a mandatory requirement, and we have no plans to make it so.
We have introduced the English baccalaureate performance measure, which shows how many pupils entered a GCSE in English, maths, sciences, a language and history or geography. The noble Lord, Lord Watson, asked why the EBacc has not stemmed the downward trend in those studying languages in school and whether the English baccalaureate affects teaching of other creative subjects. Pupils who took GCSEs in 2017 will have made their subject choices in 2014, before the publication of the EBacc consultation. We therefore were not expecting language entries to rise significantly this year. In July 2017, we published the outcome of the EBacc consultation, which sets a clear direction of travel for the EBacc, and we expect schools to respond to it. Entries to language GCSEs are now higher than they were in 2010, but we have always said that the EBacc should be studied as part of a broad and balanced curriculum.
In July, we announced our ambition for 75% of year 10 pupils to be studying the EBacc by 2022. This is an indication of the importance that the Government attach to languages, as these aspirations cannot be met without pupils taking a GCSE in a foreign language. But there is much more to do, and the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, eloquently set out most of the challenges in her speech. Although the proportion of pupils taking the EBacc has risen from 22% in 2010, only 38% of pupils in state-funded schools were entered for GCSEs in all five EBacc subject areas in 2017.
Take-up of languages GCSEs has been the biggest obstacle to achieving high EBacc entry rates. In 2017, of those pupils who entered GCSEs in only four of the five EBacc subject areas, 80% had not been entered for a languages GCSE. These figures serve to highlight the extent of the challenge facing us.
The noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, reported that schools are using Progress 8 to avoid MFL and that the EBacc and Progress 8 are in conflict, but we believe that these measures are in fact complementary. It is true that a people does not have to do MFL to get a good Progress 8 score, but the EBacc’s subjects are given emphasis. What is more important than relying on performance measures is to ensure that pupils want to take languages because they see the value and are well taught—a point I made earlier.
We have considered practical steps to help schools. First, Mandarin is cited by Languages for the Future, along with French, German, Spanish and Arabic, as one of the five most important languages for this country’s future. The Mandarin excellence programme, which began in September 2016, will see at least 5,000 young people on track towards fluency in Mandarin Chinese by 2020. Schools on the programme provide four hours’ direct teaching time to pupils, supplemented by another four hours’ study. This has led to pupils making great progress in that language.
Secondly, the recently published social mobility action plan outlined plans to improve access to high-quality modern foreign languages subject teaching. Expert hubs will see schools with a good track record in teaching languages sharing best practice in pedagogy.
Thirdly, there is a need to step up communications by highlighting the importance and value of languages to parents, pupils and teachers alike. Our future communications will highlight the role that languages can and must play in improving pupils’ achievement across subjects. These actions to increase the number of pupils entering languages GCSEs will build a larger pool of potential A-level and degree students.
The noble Lord, Lord Watson, asked a question about the Government’s plans to address the causes of the decline in modern languages degree courses in universities—and he asked what we think the cause is. We think that the key factor impacting MFLs in higher education is the decline in the take-up of languages at GCSE level. I have already referred to the positive steps we are taking to address that, but there is some evidence that a substantial number of students continue to develop language and intercultural skills during higher education, evidenced by an upswing in students choosing to study language modules alongside their non-language degree subject. The annual UCML/Association of University Language Centre’s survey of institution-wide language providers in UK higher education institutions suggests that the numbers have more than doubled in a decade.
I thank the Minister for answering some of the questions I provided in advance, but there seems to be an element, if not of complacency, at least of just leaving it at young people being encouraged to take up more languages. It may happen or it may not happen, and at the moment it is not happening. I have heard nothing which suggests that what the Government are doing or planning to do will suddenly create the step change that the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, said is necessary in her introduction. As the noble Lord, Lord Storey, said, in countries such as Germany it is compulsory. We really have to grasp the fact that language teaching in this country, certainly in the early years, has to become compulsory or there is no reason to believe that the figures will improve.
I thought that the noble Lord might want to make that point, but that is the next step, is it not? We are not at the stage of wanting to move towards the compulsory angle. I have set out clearly the actions that we are taking, but I did say at the outset that this debate, along with other debates which might be held, will feed into the department. Perhaps new ideas will emerge, particularly those raised by the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, in their speeches.
I would like to move on to teacher supply and retention. We cannot grow this pool without enough high-quality teachers in our schools. That is why we are working to grow a strong pipeline of teachers from within England. But let me be clear: there are more teachers than ever before in our schools—15,500 more than in 2010. The number of teachers returning to the profession has risen by 8% since 2011, and we are encouraged that the number of people starting initial teacher training in 2017 was up on the year before. However, in case I am accused of being complacent, we know absolutely that the recruitment landscape is tough. We are alive to the challenges that the improving economy and the pressures of rising pupil numbers pose. Recruitment in priority subjects like languages has historically been challenging, and that is why we have put a package of measures in place to support the recruitment of trainees and the retention of existing teachers. We continue to offer generous financial incentives, including scholarships and tax-free bursaries, which are typically worth up to £26,000, for trainees in priority subjects, including modern foreign languages. We have also developed a number of measures to encourage more specialists into initial teacher training, including targeted marketing campaigns and providing support to potential applicants across priority subjects.
I should like to move on to the recruitment of teachers from overseas. As we grow the domestic pipeline of teachers, we are exploring international recruitment initiatives in the short term. For example, we have worked with the Spanish Government to expand their visitor teacher programme to England. While most teachers are recruited from this country, schools have been able to recruit staff from overseas to fill posts that cannot be filled from the resident workforce. As we recruit more teachers nationally—this is a point mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins—and work to increase retention, we expect a reduction in the need for these initiatives.
We fully appreciate the valuable contribution that EU nationals make to teaching languages in our schools and universities. In December, the UK and EU negotiating teams issued a joint report on the first phase of the Brexit negotiations. This has helped to provide certainty for those EU nationals, including MFL teachers, who will be living in the UK when we exit the EU. It sets out a fair deal on citizens’ rights that allows UK and EU citizens to get on with their lives broadly as they do now, continuing to enjoy rights such as access to healthcare, benefits and education.
I realise that time is against me and know that a number of other points were raised, notably by the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, and the noble Lords, Lord Watson and Lord Evans. I shall write to all noble Lords and put a copy of the letter in the Library of the House answering those queries.
To conclude, I have heard certain messages from noble Lords today, and it is clear that we are at a crossroads in the future of languages teaching in our education system. Doing nothing is not an option and the Government are taking positive steps through the initiatives I have outlined. There may be more to do, but I am encouraged by the passion and support your Lordships have shown today for improving the profile of languages within our education system.
Question for Short Debate
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they intend to conduct a full defence review, in the light of the capability of the Armed Forces to meet global defence needs.
My Lords, I respectfully remind your Lordships that the time in which to speak is limited to two minutes. I am sorry about that but if noble Lords could honour it, I would be very grateful.
May I be allowed to ask whether that includes breathing time?
My Lords, I am most grateful to have the opportunity to address this crucial subject in your Lordships’ House. In Her Majesty’s Loyal Address on 27 May 2015, the Queen used the word “re-engage”. I tried to find out who put that word in—No. 10, the Foreign Office or the palace? I never nailed it down.
That word says it all. We have been disengaging for years from many countries—and, crucially, from those of the Commonwealth. They are fast coming to the conclusion that we are becoming part of yesterday. We all know that to recover respect and standing is a hard hill to climb.
Early last year I, and others, called for a fully up-to-date SDSR, as it had become more than clear that not only had the world become a vastly more dangerous place but our withdrawal from the European Union—not Europe—added a major global dimension to our needs and responsibilities. Circumstances in 2018 are light years away from those in 2014-15.
As many of us who were involved at the time knew, the 2010 SDSR was, frankly, an unmitigated disaster from which the Ministry of Defence has still not fully recovered. The 2015 review was carried out in a much more professional way, the result of which substantially improved the hardware and kit for our armed services, but the financial resources needed were heavily under- estimated. Ministers are still instructed to keep to the government line—namely, the now famous “2% NATO”, and so on and so on—yet they must be more than aware of the lack of resources leading to the dangerous hollowing out that is taking place daily. This is known not just by our allies—in particular, the United States—but by our potential enemies.
What is most worrying is that our people and their families and, of course, all those involved in our defence industries are only too aware of our known weaknesses, and so increasingly are the public at large via the media in their many forms. Is it therefore a surprise that the quality of those we are trying to recruit is faltering? And worse, some of our best are leaving. I am sure that other noble and noble and gallant Lords will spell out those needs during this short debate.
The men and women who serve and wish to serve in our armed services are by far the key construct, and it is vital that they and their families are fully confident that the necessary resources will unquestionably be available so that not only can they fight to the best of their abilities but they are provided with the finest protection. Of course we accept that we are not trying to emulate our world role as it was in the Churchill days of the Second World War, but in the years to come we must have a fighting force of the necessary strength which will in itself be a deterrent—the finest equipped and the finest trained, led by forward-thinking, innovative leadership that can respond immediately to possible expected threats and, most of all, the unexpected. Our armed services have always played a key role in responding to catastrophic events that take place from time to time throughout the world.
As recently endorsed by our Secretary of State for Defence, the right honourable Gavin Williamson, our Armed Forces should be the “best in the world”. Much needs to be changed if this goal is to be achieved, but many act as though we have all the time in the world—we need it like yesterday.
On Thursday of last week, 11 January, I went to the Commons to observe and listen to the Back-Bench defence debate led by Vernon Coaker, MP, the distinguished former shadow Secretary of State, who made an excellent opening speech and closed with passion. If you have not read it, it is a must. What is more, it is better to watch it live, as Hansard does not do justice to the experience of seeing the body language, the passion, the eloquence and the deep knowledge of the subject among our Members of Parliament. James Gray MP, chairman of the APPG for the Armed Forces, pointed out that in the past, there were five government-called debates on defence every year, and the House was packed.
What was also splendid was the non-partisan participation from all sides of the House, covering the whole of the United Kingdom: Labour, Conservative, SNP, and other MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland et cetera. It was also clear that unless the right levels of resources were forthcoming, there was and would be grave disquiet behind the Government Benches. I am sorry to have to have to inform my noble friend the Minister that I would totally share that sentiment.
The debate lasted nearly five hours, and I only wish the public and the media were aware that they have such calibre of MPs trying to do their duty on behalf of the nation for the defence of the realm. They should be truly grateful for their efforts. I am sure my noble friend the Minister would strongly agree that this House, with all its knowledge, experience and wisdom, has the same unquestionable sense of duty.
It is has been known for at least three years that much greater resource was needed to support both present and future defence needs, taking account of course of the increasing roles of cyber, intelligence, technology et cetera. It was hoped much would result from the security review which was started by our National Security Adviser, Sir Mark Sedwill, last June. It consisted of 12 strands, but with only one strand covering the Ministry of Defence.
However, that review has to be fiscally neutral. It does not make sense. Surely, the outcome should be fully costed in order to decide the total resources needed to decide the way forward. I was a founder member of the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy some 12 years ago, and we all agreed then that the National Security Council should be a key organisation for this country, but that it did not have the right structure to achieve this objective. I am afraid the jury is still out. It should be a strategic body and much more widely represented, with the direct involvement of the Chiefs of Staff with their own strategic input.
Dr Julian Lewis, the chairman of the Defence Select Committee, stated in the Commons debate that in times past, in particular during World War II and later, their strategic views were given direct to both Prime Ministers, Winston Churchill and then Clement Atlee. Sir Mark, as National Security Adviser, must be allowed to be more independent—to have more independence and therefore influence—more like his counterparts in the United States.
We are dangerously running out of time. I personally find most frustrating the length of time it takes for decisions to be made and implemented. If we were on a war footing, much of this bureaucratic baggage would immediately fall away. Many of us in both our Houses wish to see a properly funded foreign service delivering a clear long-term foreign policy, itemising both risks and opportunities. A proper defence review should clearly identify value for money, not just cost, and demonstrate clearly the financial resources needed for both our short-term and long-term needs in cash-flow terms.
As we speak, some £2 billion is most urgently needed just to complete the present programme. As Dr Lewis and many others in both Houses have stressed, and continue to stress, we should unquestionably allocate at least 3% of our GDP—which is still a low percentage in comparison with the past. Many billions would flow back into our own economy through sovereign purchases, and it will unquestionably be of economic benefit. This level of funding would send a powerful signal to our NATO allies and certainly help our negotiations with the European Union.
The First Lord of the Treasury is the Prime Minister, so surely the Treasury does not have the final word. Following her powerful speech at Lancaster House, I would like to think that the very strong views expressed in both Houses will convince the Prime Minister that she has the quality of support which would enable her words to become a reality.
On a different subject, President Trump—I reiterate President Trump, not Trump—released the US national security strategy just before the Christmas break. As usual, television, radio and other media immediately panned it in a most superficial way. Later that afternoon, I discussed the release and the document itself with a very senior officer in the Department of Defense and we both agreed that it was not only a most interesting document but the declaration of a confident country— I stress the word “confident”. It is a country that is further strengthening its already extraordinary economy and which, not surprisingly, puts “America first” but, unlike President Obama who was becoming increasingly isolationist, intends to return to its former world role of defending and protecting western values throughout the world. It is totally understandable that the President considers it only fair that the rest of us share the bill.
Our relationship with the United States through history—our key military ally, our expectation to be major trading partners and our shared culture—is unique. Therefore, I find it extraordinary that the Government, despite the degree of anti-feeling, were not more robust months ago to warmly invite the President of the United States of America to visit the United Kingdom. Historically, this country was famous for its realpolitik; both Germany and France, who are not known lovers of the United States, are more than prepared to use it to the full. Personal views should play no part whatever.
Today, sadly, this country could not release a national security strategy with the same confidence of that of the United States but, with powerful leadership and the support of parliamentarians, that day can come. We will have done our duty.
My Lords, I shall focus on the importance of continuing to develop soft power and the UK’s contribution to UN peacekeeping work. Our Armed Forces play an invaluable role in securing our national influence around the world and delivering on our security and economic goals. The expertise of the UK Armed Forces is, as my noble friend has said, both legendary and highly valued. I witnessed this when I was the Prime Minister’s special representative for the preventing sexual violence in conflict initiative and the Foreign Office Minister responsible for UN peacekeeping. I visited the British support team in Kenya, and was impressed by their teaching courses for police and security personnel from across the region. Last year alone, 9,000 military, police and civilians were trained in specialist areas, ranging from protection of civilians, through numerous types of tactical training to high-end weapons technical intelligence and counter-IED courses. It is essential that we enable that work to continue in future.
The UK’s contribution to UN peacekeeping was enhanced in 2015 when David Cameron announced that, in addition to our financial support, we would send personnel as a troop contributing country to South Sudan. There, I met our Engineer Regiment-led task force, stationed in the north of South Sudan, which provides engineering support, such as the construction of a jetty on the River Nile, a vital temporary field hospital in Bentiu and helicopter landing sites. I was therefore delighted when my noble friend the Minister announced last November that the UK is extending its deployment in South Sudan until April 2020. It is, indeed, a demonstration of our commitment to international peace and security. We need to be sure that any review of spending and of our forces demonstrates a commitment to do much more in future.
My Lords, we are deeply grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sterling, for giving us the opportunity for this debate today, as well as for giving the House the opportunity to respond by showing the pent-up demand for a proper defence debate that lasts all day. I hope that the powers that be have taken note of that response. I am left with about one and half minutes to make three points.
The first point is that, like everybody else, and any responsible citizen of this country and Members on both sides of the House, I hope to heaven that the Government are not planning any more defence cuts after the terrible way in which our defence capability has been run down over the past seven or eight years. It would be utterly unjustifiable; the world has not in any sense become a less dangerous place, and there is no justification whatever for that.
My second point is that, on that positive assumption that the Government do not have those plans—it really would be horrific if they did—I hope that they will put an end to the uncertainty by making a clear statement that there will not be any further defence cuts. The moment that comes up in any conversation that anybody has with serving military personnel, officers or other ranks, there is a real worry on that subject. I am sure that many colleagues have had such conversations in the past few weeks and months. This is really affecting morale, and it must be affecting recruitment. This is a quite unnecessary cost to impose on our military, on top of everything else. I hope, therefore, that clarity can be established very quickly.
My third point is this: I gather one reason why the MoD has run into financial problems recently has been the devaluation of sterling, and the higher sterling price as a result of procurement from the United States and, to some extent, the European Union, of the A400M programme. I suppose that the F35 is the major issue here. I hope we can have a statement on this from the Minister to put our minds at rest, because one thing that is absolutely clear is that under no circumstances should the military be made to pay the price for that devaluation. In no sense whatever is it the military’s fault. This is a direct result of government policy to hold the referendum and, afterwards, to decide—quite gratuitously, in my view—to understand it as excluding us from the single market and the customs union. This is having a devastating effect on the economy, of course, but it is nothing to do with the military, and the military should not be made responsible for it or have to suffer for it. That would be utterly unjust and irrational.
My Lords, I have a few brief points. I have great respect for the noble Earl, Lord Howe, but I say this in the nicest way: if he chooses to remain in office, he has to bear some responsibility for the financial situation that is ongoing at the Ministry of Defence. It is clear from the exchanges earlier in the week that the review has been nobbled and is being dovetailed, as was said earlier, into the existing budget. I strongly support greater NATO-European co-operation, and welcome the Anglo-French announcements today. Sadly, such greater co-operation is not helped by the tragedy of Brexit. We live in an increasingly dangerous world: China and Russia are modernising their forces and increasing defence expenditure, and the underwater threat is a particular concern. In my view, the current ratio of 3:1 defence expenditure to overseas aid is unsustainable. I favour a reduction in overseas aid from 0.7% to 0.5%, which would provide at least £2 billion annually for the defence budget.
I want to finish with a brief question to the Minister. Will he inform us of the latest position on the propulsion systems for the Type 45 destroyers?
My Lords, the Treasury-mandated starting point for the 2010 defence review was a reduction in the MoD’s budget of between 10% and 20% to be achieved over the first three years. The measures necessary to achieve such savings so quickly proved unpalatable, even to a Government focused wholly on the elimination of the deficit over the span of one Parliament. But even the savings that were eventually made, of some 7.5%, inevitably left a strategically incoherent defence programme. The best that could be done was to reach a position in 2015 from which coherence could be rebuilt, provided that substantial real-terms increases were made in the defence budget in each of the succeeding years.
In the 2015 review, the MoD produced a plan to restore coherence, although more slowly than envisaged in 2010, but the plan was inadequately funded. It relied on wholly unrealistic assumptions about the savings that could be made through efficiency. When, unsurprisingly, these failed to materialise, the plan was in trouble, and the subsequent fall in the exchange rate only exacerbated the problem.
The Government now face a choice: they can provide more money and fund the plan properly or they must come up with a new plan. I, of course, urge them to adopt the former course, not least because this is the minimum action that is required. Let it be remembered that the 2015 plan was about achieving coherence, not about restoring our defence capabilities to where they should be in this challenging and dangerous world. That would require an annual expenditure of more like 3% of GDP. Alas, I do not expect the Government to go so far. However, I trust that the Minister will, in due course, be able to confirm that they will at least do this bare minimum. I, like many other Members of your Lordships’ House, would view anything less with the gravest concern.
My Lords, I confide in you. Priests—even bishops, perhaps particularly so—are inclined to repeat themselves. I imagine noble Lords might have noticed. I have heard it said that we have only one sermon in us and just dress the message up differently each Sunday. I will be repeating my message today, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sterling, for the opportunity to do so. I am just as grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, for listening to my repetition with the grace, care and attention that we all appreciate.
My message is that I applaud the Government’s ambition for defence, which is about British power for good in the world—but as things stand, I doubt that we have the capability, or the defence budget to deliver the capability, to meet that ambition. Things could be about to get worse, judging by what we read in the media. So, if we are to meet the Government’s ambition, we must also review our ability to do so.
My second point is that the present state of uncertainty is not helpful, and that is an understatement. The media is not the forum in which to conduct discussions on defence expenditure. We should have discussions in private, followed speedily by clarity in public. That would be fair to those who are affected, so they know where they stand. The current lack of clarity creates uncertainty, particularly among the servicemen and women we value so much.
My final point is also on morale. The noble Earl may have an inkling of the direction in which I am heading. I hope that he will be able to respond to my question on whether he can commit to a debate on the Floor of the House on the Armed Forces covenant—an opportunity to pat the Government on the back for all that has been done and to look forward to all that might be done. When it comes to defence, our greatest riches are the commitment, sacrifice and professionalism of our Armed Forces. We need to provide them with resources and end this ghastly uncertainty.
My Lords, like other Members of your Lordships’ House, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sterling. Oh, have I jumped ahead? I am so sorry.
My Lords, I wish to raise a very specific point for the Minister, concerning the Royal Navy and maintaining its reach.
Her Majesty’s Ship “Queen Elizabeth”—a carrier—is most welcome, and shortly she will enter into full service, but she needs substantial support. For example, she needs submarines underneath her, destroyers to protect her, frigates and, obviously, supply ships and landing craft et cetera. My main concern about the veritable naval armada that is contained, or implied, by these two great, new carriers is the implication for the existing service provided by the Royal Navy, in terms of protection in the Gulf, South Atlantic and Pacific. How will we maintain the proper servicing for an aircraft carrier—indeed, we will have two, with one always at sea—and how can we maintain our worldwide reach, as I believe we should?
My Lords, first, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Freeman, for jumping the gun. I was so keen to put my stopwatch on and make sure that I did not do more than my two minutes that I will misuse a few of my seconds now in apologising. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Sterling, for making sure that your Lordships’ House keeps coming back to the question of defence and defence expenditure. As he said, in the other place last week there was an excellent debate on defence where all the contributors, from whichever part of the other place, made clear their commitments to the Armed Forces and defence expenditure.
For slight reasons of getting the list wrong—it is not just me today—I do not speak as the Liberal Democrats Front-Bench speaker at the end of the list. However, on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, I want to reconfirm that we are still committed to 0.7% of GDP going to development aid. My noble friend Lord Lee made very good points about defence expenditure, but he maybe is not putting forward the party line on development aid.
We are deeply concerned about expenditure. I seem to recall that in the aftermath of the referendum the Minister repeatedly told us that defence expenditure was essentially hedged and would rise in real terms, yet that is not the advice that we seem to be given now. What commitment can he give us that defence expenditure will be ring-fenced in real terms? The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth rightly mentioned morale in our Armed Forces. What is the Minister doing about the offer in terms of pay and pensions, and to what extent does he think morale is in the right place? Can more be done? In particular, can he reassure us that adequate training will be given, including extreme-weather training for the Royal Marines, and that the Royal Marines’ position in our Armed Forces remains absolutely secure?
My Lords, deterrence is not just having Trident invulnerable at sea; it needs national resolve, with conventional defence and hitting power, too. A tripwire alone will not sustain deterrence credibility.
If diplomacy fails to avert conflict, or there is a bolt from the blue, what next? First, indicate determination not to give in and fight back with conventional force. If not, face the starkest of choices: immediate surrender or press that nuclear button.
Since the 1990s, we have had complete air superiority over opposing forces. That was not so in the Falklands. The opponent could not be denied airspace. Our losses mounted: six fighting ships and landing craft sunk; others knocked out of action; more than 30 air assets gone; nearly 1,000 dead or wounded, all in a mere three weeks. Only victory brought salvation, a halt to these setbacks and escape from disaster. After the conflict, we had enough in strength to make up for what had been lost.
Not so today. Losses at those rates now could soon leave us conventionally defenceless. The forces are too weak in manpower, equipment and weapons to absorb such losses and still fight on. So stop gutting and hollowing out the services. Let us build up numbers. If not, the national deterrent will be derided as mere political tokenism—the country an emperor with threadbare clothes. The deterrent lacks full credibility without more conventional clout to underpin it. Reviewers, please take note.
The way in which the noble Lord, Lord Sterling, has put his Question together is fairly open-ended, which gives a lot of us a chance, so I have lost two pages of what I was going to say by now.
I picked up the Times newspaper last week and was rather delighted to read that our national shipbuilding strategy has gone to work. It has recognised the challenges faced by the MoD and the UK industry and set out an ambitious plan to improve the way in which the MoD goes about procuring warships and how industry responds to the MoD. Procuring Type 31e through a competitive process within UK shipyards and with a capped cost of £250 million per ship will not only ensure that the Royal Navy can afford to buy enough of the ships it needs to meet its global commitments but will deliver value for money for taxpayers and strengthen UK industry, including through exports. We can do that because, right now, no other shipbuilding can match the price tag for our frigates.
I was also very tickled to read in the article that it looked like the end of BAE’s monopoly after all that time. Here we have competition back again. So I am a little more optimistic about what is going on. I am rather keen on us all having these fights every now and again. If we keep doing it, we will eventually feel that we are where we need to be. The man that we had involved with this is Sir John Parker, the industrialist and veteran of shipbuilding. Such men and women will take us to our next fight.
My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register. The 2015 defence review set out our strategic priorities and a vision for how defence should contribute to our country’s global ambitions. That review was under-resourced to the tune of half a billion pounds and that, added to the current adverse pound/dollar exchange rate, defence equipment inflation versus headline inflation and the failure of some efficiencies measures, results in today’s serious underfunding of the defence budget. Thus cuts are under way now. Incidentally, I take issue with the Minister in saying in our November debate that I was “completely wrong” regarding cuts having to be found to compensate for efficiencies not properly delivered. I am not wrong on that.
In addition to today’s cuts, further drastic savings measures are being considered. The Minister will say that this is all speculation and that no decisions have been made, but I suggest that he cannot deny that some very serious capability measures are being costed. If they are taken, that will have a dramatic effect on our ability to meet our SDSR 2015 mission requirements, and the Armed Forces will certainly not be able to deliver properly on contributing to the Government’s aspirations to be a global player, aspirations frequently articulated by the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Defence and, indeed, the noble Earl himself.
We cannot continue gaffer-taping up our disintegrating defence. We must either fund properly the capabilities set out in SDSR 2015, or we should have a proper defence review to recalibrate our country’s requirement for defence. If that suggests that our defence capability should be largely as now, let us see it resourced properly. If there is not the will to do that, cut cloth and recognise that the Government’s global ambitions are a wish too far.
My Lords, the noble Earl’s Statement on Monday left me with more questions than answers. In response to my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe he said that the SDSR 2015 did not sufficiently predict the intensification of the threats that Britain now faces. What specific steps will be taken to ensure this error is not repeated? What is covered by a security capability review that was not covered by SDSR 2015? He told us that the Government had to be realistic in how they configure the defence budget over the next few years. Does not that mean even more cuts? He said that the capability review was fiscally neutral, adding that that may mean enhancing resources for certain capabilities and reducing them for others. He said that spending more on defence was not currently the reality that the Government were working on in this review. So can we deduce from the Minister’s comments that his Secretary of State has given way in his battle for more money from the Treasury?
The noble Earl said that plans to support the national security strategy would be as effective and efficient as possible—and this from a Government that spent £16 million on refitting RFA “Diligence”, our only at-sea repair ship, in order to scrap it, then spent £65 million on refitting HMS “Ocean”, our only vessel capable of allowing marines to deploy using landing craft and helicopters, only to scrap that, too, then announced that a further £20 million would be spent on adapting one of the carriers to carry out the role that “Ocean” carried out. Certainly “efficient” and “effective” would not be the words that I would use—but then that comes from a Government who attempted to sell HMS “Ark Royal” on eBay.
Today our Prime Minister is meeting the French President, hoping to agree further defence co-operation. Will the Prime Minister explain to Monsieur Macron why, since 2010, this Government have overseen a 50% reduction in our military capability, a point made by my noble friend Lord West of Spithead? It would be a welcome start if Mrs May called a halt to Britain’s descent into becoming a second-rate military power, and that rather than a piecemeal stab at a national security capability review, the Government should have a top to bottom review of our defence and security needs based on our foreign policy objectives, then provide the resources we need.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Sterling of Plaistow on introducing this timely, yet too short debate. As General Sir Nick Carter acknowledged recently on the “Today” programme, the security threats faced by this country have never been greater during his 40-year career. We are one of only five countries, including Greece and Estonia, which observe the NATO guideline to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence. I am not sure that we do still meet the 2% guideline, because we used not to include the intelligence and security budget within defence spending. Over the last several years, we have progressively moved the intelligence budget into defence, making it hard to compare present spending with that of 10 years ago as a proportion of GDP. Perhaps my noble friend the Minister could inform the Committee what is the current level of defence spending as compared with that of 10 years ago, on the same basis as we used to measure it? I suspect that it is more like 1.7% than 2%. Of course, I understand that we now conform to the NATO rules for measuring spending—so perhaps the Minister alternatively could tell us what defence spending would have been 10 years ago, if we had already at that time started including the intelligence budget within defence.
My noble friend referred to Mr Vernon Coaker, who expressed concern that, if the current national security capability review is to be fiscally neutral, and if spending on cyber and intelligence capabilities is to be increased, then it follows that the Government must be considering cutting pure defence expenditure or the capabilities of the Armed Forces. That would be extremely dangerous in the current climate. Could I ask my noble friend the Minister if the Government are still firmly committed to increasing pure defence spending in absolute terms, and as a percentage of GDP?
There are several reasons why the United Kingdom still punches above its weight around the world. Our country’s much-envied soft power does not depend only on the excellent quality of our foreign service personnel, highly skilled and effective though they are. Our soft power is considerably augmented by our hard power, or at least the perception that we still possess the highest-quality Armed Forces in the world—by no means the largest, but the most effective and well trained, man for man, in the world. Perhaps nowadays I should say “person for person”, which leads me finally to ask my noble friend the Minister whether he shares my concern that the attempt to recruit more people from different backgrounds, religions and orientations, and also to pander more to the emotional well-being of personnel at the expense of the traditional emphasis on physical fitness, threatens to backfire and may be counterproductive? Does he not agree that this new, politically correct approach may put off those potential recruits from traditional backgrounds, and that the Armed Forces may lose more than they gain? Does he not think it very important to continue to exhort our soldiers, sailors and airmen—I cannot bring myself to say air persons—to be the best? That would optimise the recruitment of suitable personnel from both traditional and the more diverse new backgrounds.
My Lords, we must now determine our future contribution and place in the world, while balancing the protection of our national interests and achievement of our foreign policy goals. Developing conventional capability partnerships for comparative advantage, disregarding vanity projects and matching critical requirements to budgetary constraints are fundamental. I would hope to hear today of much-needed tightened departmental guidelines on contract awards, spending procedures and budgetary control, as well as enhanced in-house scrutiny and delivery capabilities.
Political masters have an unenviable challenge to fund and deliver the effective tools and processes for each of the four strategic needs: ground, sea, air, and cyber. The fourth, the new threat of cyber, represents the biggest challenge. Is the Minister satisfied the United Kingdom has the resources and capabilities to counter current and future cyber threats? In order to ensure maximum necessary capability in our cybersecurity arsenal, we must know the extent of future co-operation on software vulnerability with ENISA, the EU cyber- security agency. I understand that a proposal to set up a certification framework, with ENISA as the hub, is in the offing, so from that point we can calculate our needs and costs. Are the Government addressing this with ENISA, or is this subject to the ongoing Brexit negotiations?
Her Majesty’s Government might wish to consider hosting a state-level global conference to map out political, security and cyber dialogues and responsibilities and to co-ordinate necessary scrutiny and enforcement mechanisms.
My Lords, the Question put by the noble Lord, Lord Sterling, is: should we have a full SDSR? It seems to me that the response to that depends on the effectiveness of the present process, which we were told about on 15 January. The affirmation then was that the threat was as in 2015 or worse, and another was that there was no more money. Another affirmation was that there would be no more muddling or hollowing out—call it what you like—with training cuts, a reduction in spares, ships tied up and repairs deferred. Frankly, those three statements are incapable of delivery. There is at least a £2 billion per year gap and it is necessary to do something about that.
So there is muddling—we know that there is. That is why morale is falling—the morale figures from the last review were dreadful—and it is why we are failing to recruit and maintain the numbers. It is inevitable that there will be cuts. Can we have an assurance from the Minister that when, sadly, there are cuts, there will be detailed explanations of the security and defence threats that we are leaving exposed in our foreign policy? We will know of such threats only at the end of a full SDSR taking place. I believe that the consensus view that we will need a lengthy debate at the end of that process is sound, and I will certainly be working through my channels to see whether we can have such a debate.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Sterling on securing this important debate. As the debate has proved, his Question undoubtedly reflects the considerable interest in the subject across the House, and rightly so.
Before I address my noble friend’s Question directly, I shall set the context. As noble Lords are aware, the National Security Adviser has been leading work on a national security capability review since July. It has been an important opportunity for the Government to conduct a thorough analysis of intensifying threats to national security and to consider their impact on the implementation of the 2015 national security strategy and strategic defence and security review.
Defence has played a major role in the capability review, contributing a huge amount of work. There can be no doubt that we will continue to build on elements of that good work after the review has drawn to a close, further exploring the opportunities for modernisation that have been identified.
However, it is important that I do not pre-empt the completion of the capability review. Ministers will discuss its conclusions in due course and will consider what needs to happen next. Precisely because of that, and because we believe that the last SDSR is a sound basis for the work that we are doing, I am sure that my noble friend will appreciate that I cannot stand here today and commit the Government to conducting a full defence review.
The substance of my noble friend’s Question is the capability of the Armed Forces to meet global defence needs, as he well articulated. Those defence needs, and indeed our wider foreign policy, begin with the three national security objectives set out in the 2015 national security strategy: protect our people, project our global influence and promote our prosperity. The Armed Forces, and the wider defence enterprise, make an expert and admirable contribution to the fulfilment of those objectives. That will not change.
The protection of our people is clearly at the very heart of what defence exists to do. At home, the Armed Forces contribute to the resilience of the UK. They support the police under Operation Temperer and hold 1,200 troops at very high readiness under government winter preparedness plans. Their outstanding support to UK overseas territories in the Caribbean last year, following Hurricane Irma, offers a remarkable example of their capabilities in this latter regard. In UK airspace and territorial waters, the Armed Forces keep a constant guard against threats. The recent images of HMS “Westminster” shadowing Russian warships through the Strait of Dover will be familiar.
Beyond our borders, the Armed Forces protect us through their potent deterrent effect. We tend to think first of the UK’s continuous at-sea deterrent, and more recently of our developing carrier strike capability. But every force element in our Armed Forces makes a vital contribution to our ability to deter. Wherever they are deployed, whatever task they are undertaking, the Armed Forces’ world-leading professionalism and skill send a powerful deterrent message to any would-be adversaries, and allow us to project our global influence.
In the latter context, our troops are building the capacity of our allies and partners across the world. In Iraq, the UK Armed Forces have helped to train over 60,000 Iraqi security forces. In Ukraine, the UK has provided defensive training in medical skills, logistics and counter-IED. We are training the Libyan coast guard, the Afghan security forces and the Nigerian armed forces, among very many more examples. Of course, the UK’s contribution to NATO and the UN reinforces international security and the multilateral institutions by which it is upheld. The UK is leading the NATO enhanced forward presence battle group in Estonia, commanding a significant proportion of NATO’s standing naval forces, and as my noble friend Lady Anelay reminded us, contributing to the UN Missions in South Sudan and Somalia.
Finally, defence makes a very large contribution to the prosperity of the UK. In December, the Secretary of State announced a huge £6 billion contract with Qatar for 24 Typhoon aircraft, a huge boost to UK aviation. Equally, contracts emerging from the national shipbuilding strategy—for the Type 26 and, as my noble friend Lady Wilcox rightly mentioned, the Type 31e—support thousands of UK jobs and hundreds of UK suppliers, as does the Ajax armoured fighting vehicle programme. The defence industrial policy was published in December. It sets out measures to help the UK defence sector to thrive on the global stage, including by supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, reinforcing critical skills and training, and increasing investment in defence innovation. I encourage noble Lords to seek it out.
These are our global defence needs. It is clear that the Armed Forces are meeting them. But changes in the global strategic context require changes in the way we conduct the business of defence and security. I have spoken in recent debates about increasing threats faced by the UK and its allies. I do not propose to repeat myself—I think we all agree that we have entered a period of sharply increased complexity and risk. The boundaries between competition, confrontation and conflict are becoming blurred, and the use of military and non-military capabilities is being blended. Our adversaries are investing heavily in traditional capabilities and in non-traditional tools, such as cyber and subversion. They are taking advantage of the proliferation of cheap yet sophisticated technology to exploit our existing vulnerabilities and to try to create new ones.
I will need to write to a number of noble Lords to give full answers to the questions put to me, but let me address at least some. First, there is the perennial question of the defence budget. Of course we must provide defence with sufficient resources to meet the country’s needs. But passionate as we may be about defence, we must do the same for health and social care, for education, for welfare and for civil infrastructure. Balancing those competing demands is the difficult business of government. I can, however, assure the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and my noble friend Lord Trenchard that the defence budget is rising in real terms: £35 billion last year, £36 billion this year, £37 billion next year and £38 billion the year after that.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, raised the subject of resilience. The need to maintain resilience—the ability to absorb the losses that you may suffer in theatre—is of course one that we fully recognise. I assure him that, as ever, it informs all deliberations on the structure of the UK’s Armed Forces as we go forward.
In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, in particular, the purpose of the NSCR is precisely to ensure that we have the right capabilities for the intensifying threats that we face, but also that we deliver those capabilities in the most appropriate ways.
The noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, raised the important issue of cyber. He will know that the National Cyber Security Strategy was published in the summer of 2016. It was largely welcomed at the time. It is being delivered through £1.9 billion of investment in the national cybersecurity programme. Investment from that programme is helping the MoD to deliver the new cybersecurity operating capability, and a defence cyber school will open this year. GCHQ and the MoD are working in partnership to deliver the national offensive cyber programme, so that we really do have a world-class offensive cyber capability.
My noble friend Lord Freeman spoke about supporting the aircraft carriers and asked how we would maintain both carriers and maintain worldwide reach. I assure him that operating both aircraft carriers is affordable. Work is being conducted as we speak to plan the most effective and coherent way to operate the capability.
In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Lee, who asked me about the propulsion systems on the Type 45, I can reassure him, I hope, in part, that Project Napier is addressing the reliability and resilience issues in the Type 45 destroyers. It is a programme that is progressing well and, if I may, I will write to him with further details.
We cannot and we will not allow the UK’s long-held military edge to be eroded, but maintaining our ability to meet those global defence needs and contribute to the national security objectives does not mean maintaining the status quo for our Armed Forces. It means upholding a long tradition of British innovation, harnessing new technologies and techniques. It means reinvigorating and reinforcing NATO, which maintains the bedrock of UK defence. It may also mean reprioritising how we allocate our resources to emphasise the most effective capabilities for the world in which we operate. We must consider the new threats that we face and the new opportunities for modernisation available to us. As the NSCR draws to a close, defence will continue to ask itself those questions and to build on the firm foundations that the review has laid down.
Dental Health: Children
Question for Short Debate
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to ensure that children receive regular dental examinations and any necessary treatment.
My Lords, it seems appropriate that the Committee should be discussing this subject today, as it fits in well with the British Dental Association’s campaign aimed at creating a greater public awareness of the need to ensure that children’s teeth receive the necessary care. In my view, preventive care is at the forefront of this.
I no longer need to declare a financial interest, as I retired from dental practice after about 35 years as a national health dentist on the fringe of the City, in Old Street, now known as the Silicon Valley of London, which underwent complete redevelopment of the 200 year- old small redbrick houses that were there in our day. The local residents were not keen on dentists, and came only when they felt their problems had become urgent. Patients were often not seen until their pain had become intolerable, and emergency extractions under local anaesthetic were fitted in for them between appointments—historically, at half a crown a time.
Sadly, local parents were unaware of the fact that permanent teeth, the first molars, erupt behind the baby teeth, and sometimes they were so badly decayed before they brought the child to the surgery suffering such severe pain that extraction was the only possible treatment. This was the worst possible start for a dentist-patient relationship.
Children who have regularly attended for dental check-ups or treatment are not upset at the thought of a dental appointment and have a much better prospect of taking an interest in their dental health throughout their lives. The system of school dental check-ups for pupils was of value, although one survey established that only one-third of those seen and advised to have necessary dental treatment followed that advice.
Sweets and sugary drinks have always caused damage to teeth, and I recall those vicious dummies—or comforters, as they were called—filled with sugary syrup, bathing the deciduous baby teeth with that damaging liquid. Sweets still seem to be blamed for most dental problems, but I do not intend to spend time on that aspect today, as I am sure others will. As a mother, I know how rapidly sweets become an addiction for children, and years ago I used to give advice that it is the 15 minutes after the sweet that matters, so it may be better for children to have a specific sweet time once a week, when they could have as many as they wanted, rather than the deceptive “just one” doing damage more often. Sweet drinks including an acidic element are a further problem.
In 1968, I was the first woman dentist ever appointed as a member of the Standing Dental Advisory Committee for England and Wales, and I served until 1976. I was an elected member of the General Dental Council from 1984 to 1986 and a governor of the Eastman Dental Hospital. I say that simply to make clear that I have never had any academic dental role, but was very involved as a basic national health practising dentist.
In 1988, I had the privilege of joining your Lordships’ House. I was particularly interested in the passage of the Health and Medicines Act 1988, and I moved Amendment 30 to retain free national health dental examinations for all. Realising that many Members of the House might not know much about the workings of national health dentistry, the day before the debate I spoke to as many Peers as I could find, asking that they attend and listen to the contributions before deciding how to vote. The responses were good and the debate was wide-ranging. My dental colleague, my noble friend Lord Colwyn, made an excellent contribution—I am grateful to him for speaking again today. Other speakers in 1988, the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, and the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, were both very supportive in helping to draw attention to the fact that all forms of health screening were free for national health patients. The amendment to retain free national health dental examinations was carried by 118 to 97, a majority of 21.
Following this, the Deputy Chairman of Committees called Amendment 31 and I intervened to say that he had told us that if Amendment 30 were agreed to, 31 could not be called. His reply was somewhat revealing:
“That is quite right. I was so surprised at the last result”.—[Official Report, 19/7/1988; col. 1239.]
Sadly, when this went to the Commons, the amendment was reversed by 300 votes to 284 and financial privilege was attached, so we were not able to re-debate the matter. I believe that this was the beginning of the end of national health dentistry as we knew it. My husband did beautiful crown and bridge work and patients would often ask him, “If I paid more, could I get a better crown?”. His reply was always, “No, everyone gets the best crown I can do”. He was a gifted silversmith, with his own hallmark and a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. He was one of many dentists with successful general national health dental practices really caring for their patients.
All national health dental treatment for children up to the age of 18 remains free now, but there are so many areas where there are very limited, if any, national health dental practices. The children no longer go along with their parents and are examined at the same time, as the parents are not going. There are, as I say, whole areas where NHS dental practices hardly exist. Last year, I was shocked to read that no NHS places for general anaesthetic surgical beds were available in Manchester, as all were taken by children requiring full clearances of their deciduous teeth.
Over some years, I have been asking both Written and Oral Questions on the difference in health patterns between Birmingham and Manchester, and the toothy answers are referred to as DMF—decayed, missing and filled. Birmingham has the best DMF and Manchester the worst. Apart from that—and I emphasise this—there is no difference in the health pattern. Birmingham has had a fluoridated water supply since the 1960s, so it has certainly been tried and tested over a long period. I emphasise that there is an optimal level which has to be constantly monitored and adjusted by the water authority by either adding or removing fluoride from the water supply to maintain this optimal level.
Australia has generally had fluoridated water supplies for many years. I visited a nephew of mine, a Sydney dentist who looks after the pupils at one of the big schools. He told me that he could tell by looking at their mouths the boys that came from country areas where the only water supply was rain water or river water. There was a markedly worse dental condition in those not benefiting from the controlled optimal-level fluoridated water supply. Time has moved on and there are now many fluoride toothpastes which help to maintain dental health, but optimal-level fluoridation of drinking water would be much more effective.
For a number of years, I have tabled Questions, usually for Written Answer, to establish the difference in general health and dental health between Manchester and Birmingham. I have chosen these cities as large successful cities which aim to provide their residents with the best possible healthcare. Birmingham has had a fluoridated water supply since the 1960s and Manchester has not. All health conditions in the two cities follow similar patterns. The one major exception is dental health. DMF in Birmingham is 0.8 and in Manchester—where it is the worst—it is 1.3.
Last year, I found it very disturbing to read that children in Manchester were taking up all general anaesthetic beds in order to clear their deciduous teeth. Apart from the pain and discomfort that these children would have suffered to reach this sad dental state, it will continue to cause problems, even when those teeth are all out, as the presence of the primary teeth maintains the space as the jaws enlarge to receive the larger secondary teeth. Many of the children who have had premature extractions will require lots of orthodontics to enable the secondary teeth to come into normal alignment.
My time is limited, so I shall conclude by quoting the recent statement from Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council following a comprehensive study which makes clear the optimal and proper level of fluoridation for dental benefit without any adverse effect on general health. The statement that the council has put out is very strong and, as an Australian, I think I am entitled to quote it:
“It shows that community water fluoridation, as it’s used in Australia today, is effective at reducing tooth decay and is not associated with any general negative health effects”.
The headline states:
“With 60 years of data and 3000 studies”—
more than considered anywhere else in the world—
“Australia declares fluoride ‘completely safe’”.
I hope that we will really encourage the authorities here to look into this, as it would help children so much.
My Lords, I declare my interests as a retired dental surgeon, a fellow of the British Dental Association and vice-president of the British Fluoridation Society.
I thank my dental colleague, my noble friend Lady Gardner, for securing this debate. This is very timely, considering the extensive coverage that children’s tooth extractions received in the media just last weekend. This came after the number of youngsters admitted to hospitals to have rotten teeth removed hit a new high. Despite tooth decay being an almost entirely preventable disease, we now see 170 children undergo an unnecessary general anaesthetic because of it every single day. Such operations have cost the NHS £165 million since 2012. As someone who performed thousands of tooth extractions under a general anaesthetic in my dental career, I know as well as anyone that the cost of these procedures goes far beyond the financial impact on our health service: think of the pain and distress for the child, the lost sleep and school time, and the stress and time off work for the parents. Children in many parts of the country have to wait up to a year for their operation, and many kids end up spending months and months on painkillers and antibiotics. This really is not good enough in the 21st century in one of the richest countries in the world.
As the Minister will know, Scotland and Wales have achieved unprecedented improvements in their child oral health outcomes in recent years by introducing the pioneering national programmes, Childsmile and Designed to Smile. The British Dental Association has been calling for England to follow in the devolved Governments’ footsteps for years so that English children can benefit from these simple, tried-and-tested solutions.
Dentists welcomed the first step made in England with the recently launched Starting Well programme, but I share the BDA’s concerns that this new scheme is currently limited to some 13 local authorities in England. I understand that in London only 12 practices in Ealing are taking part in the scheme. This is in the context of well over 4,000 national dentists practising in the capital. So, although the scheme will reach some children in the areas with the worst outcomes, there will still be millions of others across England who will miss out. Will the Government look into expanding the scheme beyond the 13 initial sites so that more children in England can benefit from it?
The other scheme that has recently started is Dental Check by One, which is being championed by the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry and is supported by the Chief Dental Officer. As the name suggests, the scheme aims to ensure that young children are taken to see a dentist before their first birthday. This is important so that the child becomes comfortable in a dental environment from an early age and so that parents can be given advice on how to take care of their offspring’s teeth. If a child’s first visit to a dental practice is traumatic—if they need a filling or an extraction—in many cases this will deter them from going to the dentist later in life. Therefore, it is crucial that their first check-up is a positive experience. With just 20% of children under the age of two having been to the dentist in the last year, it is certainly important that we raise awareness among parents of the importance of taking them as soon as their first teeth come through. However, we need to remember that the total amount of NHS dentistry commissioned in England is limited, and in fact NHS England commissions only enough of it to cover just over half the population. In many areas of the country, people are still struggling to find a dentist who is able to see new NHS patients.
According to a recent study by the BBC, 48% of NHS practices in England are not accepting new adult patients while 40% are not accepting new child patients. Saying that all parents should take their children to the dentist as soon as their teeth erupt is a great idea, but it will not become a reality until the Government ensure that enough NHS dentistry is commissioned for those who need it.
It is important that any national preventive programme is properly and sustainably funded. I understand that the Starting Well initiative will not be receiving any new funds, with all the money coming from existing dental budgets. Underfunding NHS dental services is similarly pointless. NHS dental budgets have gone down in real terms by 15% in the past seven years while patient charges have been going up at an inflation-busting pace. The effect is that every year hundreds of thousands of patients waste precious NHS resources seeking free help with dental pain at GP surgeries and A&E departments, along with an ever-increasing bill for children’s hospital tooth extractions.
Finally, I should like yet again to point out to the Committee that a cost-effective way of improving outcomes and reducing oral health inequalities is the wider use of water fluoridation. Colleagues will know that I have favoured this solution for many years, and we have heard about it from my noble friend Lady Gardner. The evidence for fluoridating water supplies is indisputable. It is safe and good for teeth, particularly in childhood. While the ultimate decision on whether to introduce fluoride into the water supply lies with local authorities, central government could do much more to facilitate local conversations about this and assist those councils which think that this is a measure that would work well in their area. I know that the Minister will have heard all these arguments before, but I hope that she will take them on board and pass them on to her colleagues in the department. Child tooth decay is preventable and it is high time that we started doing a better job of preventing it.
My Lords, 15 years ago, as I sat in the dentist’s chair for my annual check-up, my dentist said despondently that the patient before me had been a three year-old whose teeth he had extracted. Today this is not an out of the ordinary occurrence among children across the country. Children’s oral health has become a major public health issue, so I congratulate the noble Baroness on securing this important debate.
As we have heard, 90% of child tooth decay is preventable, but it is an issue that affects 25% of five year-olds across England, and in some parts of the country it rises to more than 50%. Last year nearly 43,000 hospital operations were carried out to remove teeth in children and teenagers, which is equivalent to 170 operations a day. The excessive consumption of sugary food and drinks combined with poor oral hygiene is a major cause behind these cases.
Good oral health can help children to be more confident and perform better at school, and it can make a significant difference to their long-term oral health. Children with high levels of disease in their primary teeth run an increased risk of developing disease in their permanent teeth, so addressing this issue early can make a real difference to children’s lives. Visiting a dentist on a regular basis is essential to maintaining good oral health. It helps to ensure that oral health problems are identified at an early stage and is an opportunity for dentists to provide advice to parents and children about maintaining a good oral care routine and managing their diet. However, the statistics around dentist attendance are concerning. Many children aged between nought and 17 never see an NHS dentist. This is despite Public Health England’s advice that children should start having dental check-ups when their first teeth appear, normally at around six months.
What can we do to improve this situation? The first thing is to get the message out as widely as possible that not only should children be visiting the dentist but, crucially, NHS dental treatment is free for all children under the age of 18. Equally, if we are encouraging parents to take their children to the dentist regularly, we must ensure that dental practices themselves are welcoming, friendly places where parents feel comfortable. The oral heath profession has to play its role too. To tackle the problem of child tooth decay, everyone needs to work together: health visitors, midwives, community nurses, early years workers, pharmacists and others all have the opportunity to engage with children and their parents. It is essential that they all provide consistent and accurate advice about maintaining good oral health.
Among others, the Faculty of Dental Surgery has called for oral health to be included in health workers’ training and professional development. This is not about training health visitors to be dentists, but about enabling them to identify signs that a child may have an oral health problem and to signpost them to further help. Perhaps the Minister can indicate what the Government are doing to ensure that the public health workforce is properly trained in the importance of oral health and how they can support children and parents in maintaining it.
We need also to address the variation in dental access across the country. Last year, the media reported on the difficulty that people in some areas have in accessing treatment—areas such as Cornwall, where more than 14,000 people are on a waiting list to register with an NHS dental practice. While NHS dental treatment is free for children, if parents themselves do not go to the dentist, for whatever reason, this can be a significant barrier to children’s attendance.
Public Health England has given direction on a range of evidence-based oral health activities that local authorities should be implementing, as demonstrated in Scotland’s Childsmile initiative. However, there appears to be limited national momentum to ensure that all LGAs are undertaking their responsibility for child oral health and prevention. What action are the Government taking to ensure that all LGAs are actively implementing Public Health England’s recommendations at local level? How many LGAs have sustained programmes for tooth brushing and toothpaste distribution, community-based fluoride varnish programmes and supervised tooth brushing in nurseries? What are the Government’s plans to improve oral health education so that parents and children understand the impact of sugar on teeth and the importance of a good oral health regime?
The good news is that child tooth decay is a problem we can all solve, if we work together and get simple things right to prevent the appalling suffering, anguish, loss of school time, depression and unnecessary pain that children are going through today.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Gardner for bringing this debate to the Grand Committee today. I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the important issue of children’s oral health. I refer to my interests as listed in the register of interests.
Looking back over a number of years, I see that attention has continued to be drawn to the impact of sugar on children’s oral health, together with the interlinked growing problem of obesity facing our young children. I wish to take up the issue of advertising, particularly where young people are a captive audience at popular programme times. Good advertising would certainly help to promote the importance of good oral hygiene and support lots of winning smiles.
I welcome the improvement in children’s oral health over the past 20 years, but, unfortunately, 12% of three year-olds still experience tooth decay. We know all too well that dental decay is the top cause of childhood hospital admission for five to nine year-olds, with hospital trusts now spending £35 million on extractions of multiple teeth for the under-18s. It is a massive cost to the NHS. To put it in context, twice as many under-10s have to have extractions as young people who break their arms—that speaks volumes. Significant oral health inequalities continue to exist for children who live in deprived communities when compared with those who live in affluent areas, and this must be addressed. I highlight also those children with disabilities, who have even poorer outcomes.
Unfortunately, young children who have to undergo tooth extraction, and those with high levels of disease, have an increased risk of disease in their permanent teeth. Local authorities are now responsible for commissioning public health services for children and young people, and have the power to consult on proposals, such as water fluoridation schemes and intervention. That does not require behaviour change by individuals, and as such, choice should be offered.
What can be done to improve children’s dental attendance? An important strand must be to work with and support external partners collectively in continual preventive care, especially for looked-after children and children from families living in poverty. It is vital to raise awareness of the fact that children should visit the dentist at least once a year and to make sure that everybody realises that it is free and that children should have check-ups in the first 12 months of life. In particular, I refer to the new “Dental Check by One” campaign, which should have more widespread and prominent advertising.
Close ties with primary and secondary schools are vital. They should promote good oral health and highlight any issues around reducing sugar consumption in food, snacks, drinks, energy drinks and fruit juices. It is estimated that children consume around three times more sugar than the recommended maximum amount. Importantly, teenagers have the highest intake of all age groups, consuming some 50% more sugar on average. For awareness, surely clear teaspoon labelling is needed from our manufacturers, who we hope will come forward in support and give a real step change to their packaging.
The Government have set out a pilot scheme in 75 practices, looking at incentivising care, but many families wish to see a much bigger and quicker rollout, together with a hard-hitting media and advertising campaign that does not only focus on oral health, but targets the obesity challenge. Both of those represent major public issues facing the UK, which could be incorporated into a coherent national strategy.
I want to take the opportunity to thank the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord O’Shaughnessy—who is not here today—for answering my Written Question on what plans there are to introduce new initiatives to improve dental health in areas of deprivation. I thank him for his reply, referring to the “Starting Well” programme. I wonder whether the noble Baroness, the Minister, has any information to hand with the latest number of dental practices now wishing to join that programme.
Finally, even now, it is sad that 41.5% of children aged nought to 17 did not visit an NHS dentist in the 12 months up to 30 September 2017 and 78.7% of children aged between one and two did not visit a dentist. As I referred to earlier, in 2015-16, the cost to the NHS of tooth extractions in young children aged nought to 19 was £50.5 million; that amount must be reduced as quickly as possible. I hope therefore that the Government will consider investing more—not only in prevention, but in earlier intervention.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, for tabling the debate. I have a number of interests to declare: I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association; I am the chair of ukactive; and last year I published a report on duty of care in sport, which I was asked to complete by the right honourable Tracey Crouch MP, the Minister for Sport in another place, where oral health was reported to me from several different groups of people. I also spoke at a periodontology conference last year, as declared on my entry in the register of interests, where I met Professor Ian Needleman from UCL. That sparked an interesting conversation about the oral health of athletes, which led me to consider the wider impact it could have on the future of elite sport. In my personal experience—without going into too much detail—I found it hard to eat or tolerate any food in my stomach on race days, so I travelled everywhere with a toothbrush. It was not always possible to clean my teeth after I had been sick; my teeth show signs of decay because of that.
Every major Games I have attended has a polyclinic, which includes doctors, opticians and dentists. At the London Games, the polyclinic was designed and built to treat 200 athletes a day; from seven in the morning to 11 at night, it was full. In 2012, it had 3,220 “encounters” with athletes. The biggest proportion—52%—of those were for musculoskeletal issues, but second on the list was dental issues, which affected 30% of athletes. That number is very similar to previous Games, as well as Rio 2016. In their research study, Needleman et al found that 300 athletes showed high levels of disease, and 20% reported that this had had a serious negative impact on training or performance. It is often assumed that athletes will be at the peak of physical fitness, so those numbers are quite shocking. In this context, future consideration needs to be given to the consumption of sports or energy drinks, gels and other products which are invaluable for athletes in training, but come with unforeseen consequences. As an older athlete on a programme, you may get advice on what to use, but as a young person you may not. There are some sports programmes that have quite young athletes and I wonder whether lessons on oral health should be specifically included in the induction process for young athletes. While lots of athletes are checked for various health issues before they go to the Games, my teeth were never looked at. What consideration has been given, beyond the soft drinks levy, to whether children should be allowed to purchase energy drinks, and what encouragement could be given to help them to understand the products they contain?
The figures on the number of children going into hospital for extractions are, quite frankly, shocking—not just because of the numbers, but the cost that has on the NHS and the long-term impact on children’s health. It is not just about cleaning your teeth or going to the dentist; it is also about what you consume. I am very supportive of the Government’s childhood obesity strategy and the soft drinks levy. It could be incredibly useful, but many companies are changing their products to just go under the limit of what they would be taxed on.
In a chance discussion, a friend who is a governor of a primary school said that they have a large number of children on free school meals. More than 15% of children in state schools are eligible for free school meals. When they introduced a breakfast club to increase attendance, they found virtually all those children had very poor oral health. Now they fundraise to buy toothbrushes to keep in school, so children clean their teeth after the free breakfast, and they also encourage them to clean them at lunch time.
We also need to think about children’s activity. If you are eating a poor diet and drinking too many fizzy drinks, you are not going have the energy to be active. This has a huge impact on our children’s health. I would like to draw your Lordships’ attention to the research on what happens during school holidays. For children on free school meals, many do not eat in the summer holidays. It is also very easy to eat a poor diet of pre-prepared meals, which can be high in sugar or salt, or to eat fast food. A charity called StreetGames has set up a programme called Fit and Fed, which ensures that children have access not only to activity but to free, nutritious meals. I chair ukactive, which has produced research showing that, in the summer break, there is a much greater divide between the fitness levels of children from poorer socio-economic backgrounds and those who are more affluent. The poorest 25% of primary school children experience a drop in their fitness levels 18 times greater than the richest 25%. So it is not just oral health—it is what we eat and what we drink—and ukactive is working with partners to open up dozens of school sites across the country this summer to address issues of inactivity among children. We are also going to be looking at how we can educate children on oral health
The inactivity crisis that we are facing, coupled with things like poor oral health, is significantly limiting our children’s opportunities. I realise that the things I have talked about this afternoon cut across a number of government departments, and many issues are for other Ministers, but this is an important area where cross-government work is vital.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, for securing this important debate. I declare an interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association.
Many of us, though not all, will be in the fortunate position of having to clean some, if not all, of our teeth. One of the incentives to look after my teeth was the unwelcome annual inspection at school by the local authority dentist. I remember that, at the end of the day, the school secretary would come in and give out forms to every child who needed some dental attention. The parents of those unlucky enough to be given a form had two options: one, to agree to an appointment with the school dentist; two, to undertake to take the child to their own NHS dentist. In the 1950s, not sending the form back was not an option. Of course, in the 1950s, with sweets still rationed and ice cream soda a rare treat, teeth were under less threat than today.
I lived, as did many of us, in a relatively golden age of dentistry, where it was universal and free at the point of delivery. My own parents prioritised toothbrushes and toothpaste. In England today, there are many gaps in the availability of National Health Service dentists which need to be filled and, in the absence of any regular school inspections, many children and young people are unaware of the state of their teeth until toothache demands the attention of a dentist.
Of course, many parents ensure that their children take care of their teeth through regular brushing and taking care with their diet. They make sure that, for example, their children’s teeth are not regularly submerged in fizzy drinks or coated with chocolate. However, the rise in the need for very young children to have all or some of their milk teeth extracted has a range of very heavy costs, both in human and financial terms.
Many Members will recall when Margaret Thatcher removed free school milk in 1971, earning, sadly, the title “Milk Snatcher”. This policy was eventually reversed and, today, every child under five is entitled to free milk. When we had a similar debate last year, the then Education Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Nash, said that he would look into whether we could provide free school milk for all primary school children, and there was a large article in the Telegraph. Could the Minister tell us where we are up to with the thoughts of the noble Lord, Lord Nash, on free school milk for every primary school child?
The area I live in, the north-west, has some of the highest rates of tooth decay. About 15 years ago, my local authority decided to introduce what is called dental milk, where a medically correct amount of fluoride is put in the milk. Parents had the choice of their child having a carton of dental milk or a carton of ordinary milk. The parents of 99% of the children in my school chose the dental milk. I think 10 local authorities introduced it. When replying, could the Minister tell us whether any evaluation has been undertaken of the dental milk project and where we are up to on its development? I listened to the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, talk about fluoride in the water supply, and this might be another initiative that we might look at to help prevent dental decay in our children.
It is difficult to imagine how awful it must be for a two year-old to suffer the trauma of hospital admission, general anaesthesia and the extraction of their teeth. The parents will also pay a heavy emotional price as they support their child before, during and after the procedure. In financial terms, the cost of what is a major operation is considerable, and inevitably takes scarce resources away from surgery that is less avoidable.
We all know how difficult it is for adults to get on the list for an NHS dentist in some areas, and how many adults end up paying for regular check-ups, or paying the price for not having them. What we do know is that many parents do not seem to be aware that dental care, as my noble friend Lady Benjamin said, is free for children and that although 60% of practices accept children, 40% do not—40%.
We are always asking today how we can reduce pressures on the NHS. Tooth decay is the leading reason for hospital admissions of young children and the most preventable. Dealing with this issue would help to relieve those pressures on the NHS. I hope that as a result of this really important debate, the Government might come forward with some new initiatives which will deal once and for all with the problem of young children and teeth.
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Storey, I recall school dentists, and indeed our family dentist, who went by the wonderful name of Mr Slaughter.
At this point in this excellent short debate, the awful facts about the state of our children’s teeth in England have been laid before all of us, including the Minister, who I think, like me, must be hanging her head with shame that we are failing our children on such a scale. The fact that so many youngsters suffer from tooth decay and that so many require extractions at such a young age is a badge of dishonour for our health service and for our Ministers. We have failed to confront a wholly preventable disease.
This is not only a childhood problem. We are condemning a generation of children to reach adulthood feeling self-conscious and inhibited by the state of their teeth. That will certainly affect their social relations and indeed could affect their job prospects. The evidence suggests that for far too long the Government have tended to view oral health as an optional extra. For the children lining up for tooth extractions in our hospitals, tooth decay has long-term consequences. Whether they grow up to become solicitors, receptionists, hairdressers, footballers or whatever, the state of their mouths can affect their life chances. In June 2016, a YouGov poll for the British Dental Association revealed that 77% of respondents felt that decayed teeth or bad breath would hinder a candidate’s chances of securing employment in public or client-facing roles, while 62% felt that applicants with visibly decayed teeth, missing teeth or bad breath would be disadvantaged in securing any role and it would hinder their promotion prospects.
The inequalities in tooth decay are stark. For five year-olds in the most deprived areas such as Blackburn and Darwen, 56% have tooth decay. They are almost seven times more likely to have decay in their teeth than their peers in, for example, Jeremy Hunt’s constituency in Waverley, where the rate is 8%. Children from lower income families are much more likely to have dental disease than other children of the same age. At five years old, 21% of children who receive free school meals will have dental decay, while the rate is 11% among all other children; yet according to the Royal College of Surgeons, tooth decay is 90% preventable.
I know that the Minister will tell us about the Government’s new preventive oral health initiative known as Starting Well, but I have to say that when I look at the details of the programme, I cannot see how it will have the same impact that the campaigns being run in Wales and Scotland are having. They are leading the way on improving child oral health with their early intervention prevention initiatives known as Designed to Smile and Childsmile. They have led to unprecedented improvements in outcomes over recent years. If one were being really unkind, one might even suggest that the Government scheme looks a bit like window dressing.
I have some questions for the Minister and I want to echo some of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn. Why is this scheme being limited to 13 local authorities? Why is it being funded from within existing dental spend when we know that dentistry is chronically underfunded, down 15% since 2010-11? Why has no new money been found when we can all see that that expenditure would fall squarely within the invest-to-save category? Can the Minister confirm that what the Government are doing is asking dental surgeries in these local authorities to volunteer to take part in this scheme? Is that an effective way to proceed? Is there a plan or a budget for a wider rollout of the scheme? If there is, when will that happen, and if there is not, why not? Lastly, what else is there?
Fluoridation needs to be made easier. It has been mentioned by several speakers in the debate, who have been quite right to say that it is a cost-effective public health initiative. I feel that I have to say that, not only because other noble Lords have mentioned it but because my noble friend Lord Hunt is so passionate about this matter—he would not forgive me if I did not mention fluoridation.
Reducing children’s sugar consumption is of course crucial. The average five year-old consumes their own weight in sugar every year. While the soft drinks industry levy is a welcome first step, we need the Government to take much more decisive action in this area, particularly around advertising, marketing and price promotions involving high-sugar products. New restrictions should be introduced on advertising high-sugar products before the 9 pm watershed on television and online, something which we on this side have pledged to do. Would the Minister like to take this opportunity to pledge to do the same?
I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, on tabling this important debate and I commend her for her persistence over many years in these matters. I thank all other speakers and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s remarks in response to the debate.
I apologise at the beginning for the fact that I will have to speak quite fast because I do not have very long and have quite a lot to say. I do not want people to think that I am galloping through it because I am not interested in what I am saying—I am.
I congratulate my noble friend on securing time for this important debate today, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to talk about what the Government will do in this area. We all recognise that poor oral health for children can have a devastating impact on a child’s quality of life.
We need to keep in mind that, overall, children’s oral health is better than it has ever been, with the most recent data from 2015 showing that 75% of five year-old children in England are now decay free. Between 2008 and 2012, the number of five year-old children who showed signs of decay fell by approximately 10%. This is fantastic progress, but it still leaves 25% of five year-old children experiencing decay, which is unacceptable. As was said by my noble friends Lord Colwyn and Lady Gardner of Parkes and the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, one child needing to have tooth extractions under general anaesthetic due to poor oral health is one child too many. This is why improving children’s oral health is a priority for this Government. The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, said that the Government do not feel dentistry to be important. However, our manifesto made clear our commitment to support NHS dentistry, improve coverage and achieve better outcomes, especially for deprived children.
The key issue now for child oral health is that of inequality, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, mentioned. Active dental disease is now clustered in deprived groups and areas. Dentists can and do play an important role in improving oral health, but patients understanding the wider issues involved—from diet and good oral hygiene to the role that fluoride can play—is crucial to progress.
The good news is that a good diet and good oral hygiene, together with regular visits to the dentist and access to clinically proven prevention measures such as fluoride, go a long way to eliminating dental disease. The bad news is that, as we all know, the issues surrounding children’s poor oral health are complex, and this means that there is no easy or quick fix for those currently left behind.
Dentists have a vital role to play in providing regular check-ups for children, giving important messages to parents about self-care at home and providing evidence-based interventions, such as fluoride varnish applications, alongside any necessary treatment. Delivering Better Oral Health, Public Health England’s key guidance to dentists, is clear on the need for regular applications of fluoride varnish for all children at recommended intervals. I am delighted that, in 2016-17, 4.7 million children had courses of treatment for fluoride varnish applications, a 13.9% increase on the previous year. Fluoride varnish applications now equate to 41.2% of all child treatments, making them the most common dental treatment for children.
Every noble Lord who spoke today talked about fluoridation in the water. The clinical case for fluoride’s effect on oral health and the benefits of water fluoridation is substantial. The Government and Public Health England would warmly welcome a decision by a local area to fluoridate the water supply. However, such decisions must be made locally. Local authorities were given responsibility for water fluoridation in the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Given the level of debate that water fluoridation has historically aroused, unlike fluoride toothpaste or varnish, it is important that there is clear local ownership of decisions. However, the case continues to be made by Public Health England that we want as many local areas as possible to make sure that it happens. Water fluoridation benefits the overall oral health of the population. NHS England already bears the cost of delivering fluoride where this is done through a dental intervention such as applying fluoride to teeth, and there are no plans for the costs of water fluoridation to be met centrally.
Turning to the issue of access to a dentist, NHS England commissions primary dental services and has a duty to commission services to meet local need. In the 12-month period ending 30 September 2017, 6.8 million children were seen. This equates to 58.8% of the child population. We appreciate that some areas have access difficulties, even for children. I know that NHS England is committed to improving the commissioning of primary care dentistry within the overall vision of the five-year forward view.
I want to mention some of the specific actions being taken to improve access and the care that dentists can give patients once seen. We are committed to introducing a new NHS dental contract, which will improve the oral health of the population and further increase access to NHS dentistry. Seventy-five high-street practices continue to test a prevention-focused clinical pathway, which includes offering all patients an oral health assessment and advice on diet and good oral hygiene. Follow-up appointments are offered where necessary to support patients’ self-care and carry out any necessary preventive treatments.
The new approach aims to increase patient access by paying dentists for the number of patients cared for, not just for the treatment delivered, as per the current contract. It is important to be clear that the scheme will have to demonstrate that it can maintain access and improve oral health, including that of children, in a way that is sustainable for practices, patients and NHS commissioners before any decision will be taken on a wider national rollout.
My noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes talked about children not attending dentists, and my noble friend Lord Colwyn, the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, and many others mentioned the Scottish initiative. However, I would like to talk about the wider reform of the current approach. NHS England is developing schemes focused specifically on children in areas of high dental need.
As it has already been mentioned in the debate, I am sure that many here are familiar with the Starting Well programme. Noble Lords seem to feel that it will not be sufficient, but it is aiming to improve oral health outcomes for young children in deprived areas. The programme will work in 13 high-priority areas, with the aim of increasing the provision of evidence-based advice and interventions for all children under the age of five, but especially for those who do not regularly visit a dentist. This will, where appropriate, include outreach to children not currently in touch with dental practices.
Alongside that, NHS England is also developing a complementary Starting Well core offer. This is a commissioning approach designed to facilitate increased access and early preventive care for young children anywhere in the country where local commissioners decide it is needed. I understand that this offer will be made available to commissioners by NHS England later this year. It will bring to a wider audience the key message that I know the Chief Dental Officer passionately champions—the importance of starting oral health care and dental attendance as young as possible.
Ensuring access to dental services and treatment is the responsibility of NHS England. However, it is important also to talk about the role of Public Health England in improving children’s oral health more generally. This area of public health is very much a priority for Public Health England. The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, talked about a joined-up approach to dentistry and other areas, and the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, talked about the LGA implementing Public Health England’s recommendations. Public Health England has established the Children’s Oral Health Improvement Programme Board, which brings together a wide range of stakeholders and has an extensive work programme. Public Health England, through the board, co-ordinates all the work being taken forward across the system on improving child oral health. One of the outputs has been the updating of the “red book” to ensure that all new parents receive clear messages about the importance of good oral hygiene and early dental attendance.
Many noble Lords have spoken about sugar. Prevention is a key part of the work that Public Health England leads. Diet is very important—particularly sugar intake, which is the leading cause of dental decay. The sugar levy and the sugar reformulation programme are therefore very important in improving oral health, as well as having an impact on the wider issues of obesity.
Following on from that, the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, mentioned energy drinks and the problems that athletes have had. As we know, energy drinks can be high in caffeine and sugar. Alongside our measures to reduce sugar, we will continue to monitor the situation and look at any emerging scientific evidence on the consumption of energy drinks. I hear what the noble Baroness says. As I said, we will monitor this. Since we published the plan on the sugar levy, there has been real progress. The levy has become law and will come into effect in April 2018. Public Health England has formulated a comprehensive sugar reduction programme with the aim of a 20% reduction in sugar in key foods.
My noble friend Lady Redfern talked about what schools can do. We expect all schools to have healthy eating policies. The noble Lord, Lord Storey, talked about milk in schools. Although nutrients in milk are useful for healthy teeth, milk does not per se improve teeth, and calcium, which is needed for healthy growth in teeth and bones, can be found in a number of foods. However, poor diet is a key risk factor of poor dental health, and all children are encouraged to reduce their intake of free sugars. Milk is a safe alternative to sugar and sweetened drinks, is safe for children’s teeth and is recommended for delivering better oral health in the evidence-based toolkit for prevention.
If the Minister does not have the information about dental milk, could she write to me about it?
I will write to the noble Lord on that.
I have only a minute to go, which is a nightmare. The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, talked about the Starting Well programme. The overall aim of Starting Well is to reduce oral health inequalities. The programme will operate in 13 identified high-priority areas and will be funded through expected dental underspends. NHS England launched the programme in September 2017 with a series of events around the country attended by 158 dental practice teams. Practices have been applying to join the programme, and over £3 million of funding has been agreed locally to support it to date.
My noble friends Lady Redfern and Lord Colwyn talked about the fact that only 20% of two year-olds are being seen by dentists. Public Health England recommend early attendance, as well as an appropriate diet and strong oral health hygiene as the foundation of oral health. This message is being given to parents at the very start of their children’s lives through the personal child health record.
I feel that I have left several questions out and, if I have, of course will write to noble Lords. In conclusion, I hope that I have demonstrated our strong commitment to improving oral health outcomes for children and ensuring that children have access to dental services and important preventive advice. Please let us carry on talking about this, including outside the Chamber, when I have all the time in the world.
MV “Empire Windrush”
Question for Short Debate
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the arrival of MV Empire Windrush.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for contributing this afternoon. The Times newspaper of 24 May 1948 carried the news of Princess Elizabeth’s visit to Coventry, Winston Churchill’s jeep overturning in a mishap, and an aircraft crashing on to the main road from Margate to London. There was a news story about Commonwealth citizens, as Parliament had been considering what was to become the British Nationality Act, but the Times failed to record that this was the day when the MV “Empire Windrush” left Jamaica for the United Kingdom with 493 passengers, who had paid 28 pounds and 10 shillings for the one-way fare to move to the United Kingdom to work. Britain was about to change permanently and change for the better.
Some of the passengers were, of course, former servicemen who had been part of the 8,000 volunteers from the West Indies who served in World War II and had been stationed in the UK. The “Windrush” was not in fact the first vessel to come, as in March 1947 the “Ormonde” sailed from Jamaica to Liverpool with 108 passengers, and on 21 December 1947 the “Almanzora” docked in Southampton. But to quote the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, in his book Never Again, speaking of the arrival of the “Windrush” on 22 June 1948,
“the great wave of post-war migration from the Caribbean to the United Kingdom can symbolically be said to have begun with that fateful voyage. The history of the black diaspora in Britain begins here”.
In 1948, the non-white population was about 30,000 of a population of about 50 million, mainly in port cities of Liverpool, Cardiff and London. Just over 1,000 followed the 393 of the “Windrush”, and in 1951 it was 2,200. In the 1950s, 250,000 migrants had come from the Caribbean and, by 1962, the non-white population was 500,000—mainly Caribbean, Indian and Pakistani. Three-fifths of that number were Caribbean. While the British Nationality Act was being considered as the “Windrush” landed, that huge migration was more due to the economic situation in the West Indies, the 1944 hurricane and the United States passing legislation restricting migration from the Caribbean. However, I would go further than the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, who speaks of the history of black diaspora beginning with this voyage. It is the history of modern, multi-racial Britain that begins here—or, as the title of a book by Mike and Trevor Phillips puts it, Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multi-Racial Britain.
This was a seminal event in our modern history. Of course, black populations had settled here after the First World War, so when the recent film “Darkest Hour” depicts the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, speaking to ordinary people on the Tube, which may not be accurate, an educated West Indian migrant quoting Shakespeare to the Prime Minister could very well be. Little did I know when I moved to Clapham last year that for a few weeks underneath Clapham Common, in the deep shelter, many of the passengers of “MV Windrush” slept their first nights. Within three weeks, they all had jobs, and they had settled around Brixton, as on Coldharbour Lane was the nearest labour exchange. They had fought for Britain, for the motherland, and they now arrived to rebuild Britain.
This was the first mass, visible migration to the United Kingdom, which is what differentiates it from the previous Irish and Jewish migration. While of course these groups faced prejudices, this migration was to introduce Britons to race relations. Today, 15% of the UK population are black and minority ethnic, and “Windrush” is for many of them seen as their beginning. That is why a model of the ship was part of the wonderful opening ceremony to the 2012 Olympics, as it has shaped modern Britain—a modern Britain that, in the 1980s, looked so very different to a young girl peering out of the car window when being driven through Highfields in Leicester from monocultural Rutland to get my school shoes. Notting Hill would not be the same without the annual Trinidadian-inspired carnival, and it saddens me that this street festival is not viewed with the same generosity as festivals such as Glastonbury. Having lived in both Ghana and Trinidad and Tobago, Britain’s diaspora means for me that these experiences are now not only in photographs but part of my everyday story. Who we are as Britons has and will continue to change, but “Windrush” is indeed something that needs to be celebrated.
I have learned so much from Britain’s black community, in particular their gracious response to suffering, oppression and, still too often today, racism. For what they found in 1948 was not a motherland ready to receive a child from far away, but rejection, mistrust, loneliness and, all too often, violence. I am aware that many in your Lordships’ House can describe these experiences from a personal perspective, but of all that I have watched and listened to in preparing for today’s debate, this quote from Ben Bousquet has struck me. In 1957, he was followed by the BBC’s “Tonight” programme in his vain search for lodgings. This was the first programme on race relations on British television. He said: “It was an age of tremendous cruelty to black people—it was an unforgiving time”. That last phrase struck me, and I am so pleased to see the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans among today’s speakers, as David Goodhart, in his book The British Dream writes:
“Many churches, even, closed their doors to these often piously Christian people, who had to set up their own black churches—a lost opportunity to reverse the slow decline of the Anglican Church”.
There are of course exceptions, such as the Speaker’s Chaplain, the reverend Dr Rose Hudson-Wilkin, but mainly Caribbean migrants set up their own churches, such as Bishop John Francis, who founded Ruach Ministries in Brixton, where thousands have attended.
Many people today in the United Kingdom are unaware of this cruelty, so celebrating such an anniversary is also about teaching people about the past. A few years ago, I attended the reopening of a black-led church in Lozells in Birmingham. During the refurbishment period the congregation had met in the local girls grammar school, so the headmistress—a lady in her late 50s, looking to me rather like Miss Jean Brodie—took the opportunity to speak when presented with her bouquet. With tears in her eyes, she asked for forgiveness. She said she was so sorry and had not realised that people had not been welcomed by the Church of England and so had formed churches such as this.
After such treatment, the lack of representation of the leadership of this community in your Lordships’ House, compared with 30 Anglicans, is most troubling and is a matter that the Prime Minister could look at in the run-up to this anniversary. But in addition to forgiveness, there needs to be restoration, so that we can truly celebrate this moment when modern multiracial Britain began. I ask Her Majesty’s Government to consider how to provide a permanent marker in central London to celebrate such a significant day and event, especially as we are talking about celebrating the arrival of a boat while metres away from the Thames. I am aware that the Government take the view that if the public want such a reminder, they should raise the funds, but I hope that there are central government funds to support events this year.
I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for taking the lead on this anniversary and for my recent meeting with him, together with the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin. Will he agree to reach out to and convene other interested people, including those from the British Caribbean population, to hear what events they would like this year and whether they agree that some enduring, permanent recognition is needed of Windrush Day?
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, on securing this debate and on her excellent speech, every word of which I agreed with. I am delighted to pay my tribute to our friends from Jamaica and other parts of the West Indies who chose to make their home in the United Kingdom, and to thank them, their children and their grandchildren for the huge contribution that they have made to the well-being and enrichment of our nation. We think particularly of nurses in hospitals, staff on our public transport and in all our public services, artists and musicians, high-achieving sports men and women, and, more recently, trade union leaders and Members in the House of Commons and this House. It is a privilege to share the speakers list this afternoon with such distinguished Members of this House, particularly those with Caribbean origin. My noble friend Lady Lawrence of Clarendon had hoped to take part, but has been prevented from doing so by a church commitment.
Alongside so much good will and positive feeling towards people whose origins are in the Caribbean, I hope I may be forgiven for striking a slightly discordant note by raising the question of how the Home Office is treating a number of long-settled, retirement-age UK residents of Caribbean origin. One particular case—there are others—is that of a 61 year-old lady, called Paulette Wilson, who lives in Wolverhampton. She came to Britain from Jamaica in 1968 and was initially looked after by her grandparents. She went to primary and secondary school and has a British daughter and grandchild. She worked and paid taxes here for most of her life, and at one stage she worked as a cook in the House of Commons.
Under the terms of the 1971 Immigration Act, all Commonwealth citizens living in the UK were given indefinite leave to remain. Paulette Wilson never applied for a passport because she assumed she would not need one if she did not intend to travel abroad. One day, she got a letter from the Home Office telling her to register each month at the Solihull immigration centre. While she was there on a visit, officials declared that she was an illegal immigrant, had her carted off to the appalling Yarl’s Wood immigration removal complex and told her that she would be deported—presumably back to Jamaica, which she had not visited since she left as a child almost 50 years before. Fortunately, Paulette’s MP—Emma Reynolds—and the Refugee and Migrant Centre in Wolverhampton both intervened. At last, she has now been given leave to remain, although she has lost benefits for the past two years, as well as her flat, and has to rely on financial support from her daughter.
Similar cases recently reported in the media include that of Anthony Bryan, a 60 year-old painter and decorator who has lived in Britain since he arrived from Jamaica as an eight year-old child. He was also declared an illegal immigrant and sent to a detention centre. Home Office staff went as far as booking him on a flight to Jamaica, which was only cancelled after interventions by an immigration lawyer and his local MP, Kate Osamor. She described his situation as “barbaric” and said:
“People are left wondering: how can someone who has done so much for the community be treated like a piece of rubbish? Why send people to detention when they have done nothing wrong?”.
Your Lordships will recall that in 2012, the then Home Secretary announced a “hostile environment for immigrants”. This has clearly led to overzealous interventions by officials. I have mentioned just two cases today, but there are many others; they will not have the good fortune of excellent local MPs taking up their cases.
I hope the Minister will be able to say that that hostility has been abandoned and that immigrants who are here lawfully are welcome and appreciated. Surely the Home Office could bring itself to offer Paulette Wilson, and others treated in a similar way, a proper apology?
My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, and my noble friend Lady Benjamin for raising this issue in the last few days.
About 70 years ago, the steamship “Empire Windrush” docked at Tilbury, carrying with it the hopes and dreams of hundreds of young men and women from the Caribbean. Nothing like this had happened before. Here was an event when people from the margins of the Empire were coming to build a new life in the metropolitan centre. The arrival of “Empire Windrush” is historical in that over the years it changed the master/servant relationship that Britain had enjoyed in the colonies.
It is worth casting our minds back to that part of history. There was devastation in Britain, inflicted by the war. Britain’s role as a global power was declining, with changes in the former colonies and at home. The country was trapped in the old idea of itself. There was little consideration of a genuine migration policy and the settlement of new arrivals. The first arrivals were greeted with the optimistic assumption that Britain shedding its colonial legacy would turn it into a true melting pot. In those days, there was no such thing as immigration formalities. Commonwealth citizens were British subjects and had a right to enter the United Kingdom. It was generally assumed that the many racial, cultural and religious groups would be assimilated into a new whole—a single people with similar ideals, attitudes and values.
The policymakers never thought that identity would be an issue. New arrivals would simply do as the Romans do. They would fit in neatly and assimilate. Little thought was given to the impact of racism and economic marginalisation, or that people would want to retain their cultural heritage. The resurgence of the extreme right demonstrated that the process was not automatic or inevitable. For those of European ancestry, there was considerable assimilation into the economic and political life of the community. Caribbean migrants, followed by Asian groups, retain their identities to a greater extent.
Many noble Lords and the Government want to make plans to celebrate this 70th anniversary, and we would all welcome that. The point I want to stress is that despite so many drawbacks, progress has been made on many fronts, but this does not mean that discrimination has been successfully eliminated and that prejudice no longer exists. It is important that we celebrate the way in which we have safeguards to ensure that this does not happen and that we have policies to deal with these ugly features.
Who in their right mind in those early days of migration would have imagined that this country would promote legislation to ensure equality of opportunity for all of its citizens with an emphasis on race, disability, gender, age, faith and sexual orientation? We must never forget the contributions of people like Fenner Brockway, Roy Jenkins, Lord David Pitt, Lord Chitnis, Lord Boyle, the former Colonial Secretary Iain Macleod and the famous cricketer Lord Learie Constantine, my noble friend Lord Lester and organisations like Campaign Against Racial Discrimination, all of whom worked tirelessly towards this end. I am so pleased that we have on the speakers list today the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, the first black chair of the Commission for Racial Equality. We must also not forget the noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence, who despite her family tragedy has continued to play a positive role in building a decent society.
We now see a cultural pluralism that has emerged. If this is the legacy of Commonwealth migration, we should welcome it. The legacy has demonstrated that if properly handled, migration is to be valued and promoted, not regarded as a source of fear. A progressive liberal approach would value differences and cultural pluralism. However, despite these reasons for welcoming immigration, few other political issues raise the same tensions and emotions as immigration and its implications for “Britishness”.
I conclude by saying that we have an opportunity to recognise the contribution that Commonwealth citizens have made to this country. It is time to reflect on the positive legacy of the MV “Empire Windrush” and to celebrate the achievements of a proud and diverse society. The best time to beat our drum will be at the CHOGM conference in April this year.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, does us all a great service by initiating this debate and inviting us to consider a number of significant issues.
The late Professor Stuart Hall, an inspiration to so many artists and academics, scholars and politicians across the world, who arrived in Britain from Jamaica in 1951 as a Rhodes scholar, was a great chronicler of some of society’s contradictory approaches to racial and cultural identities. The ability to hold two or more conflicting views or sensibilities is a hallmark of attitudes towards racial politics, whether those of the general public, the press or politicians and policymakers. Anniversaries may be counted on to bring those tensions to the fore.
The entreaties of the British Government of the day drew a positive response from the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, as they did in the First World War and in the Second World War: “Come and help the mother country rebuild its shattered services and lay the foundations for new ones”. Yet as noble Lords have pointed out, the reactions to the small band of 20th century pioneers on the MV “Empire Windrush” was not exclusively welcoming, not even from the very politicians who had invited them. However, it is also important to state that the reception was not uniformly hostile either.
Contradictory attitudes mean that migrants and their descendants may be both demonised and valorised at the same time by politicians and newspapers without missing a beat. Significant achievements in the arts, science and sport may be both praised and written off as “political correctness gone mad”, depending on an editorial or political whim. Any academic wishing to write about the purpose and impact of the memorialisation of landmark events and anniversaries will find some rich objects of study this year. There are the two stages of women’s demand for the right to vote being acknowledged, as well as the end of the First World War and 70 years of the NHS.
Given our demonstrable desire to commemorate, what is it that we are seeking to achieve? How may we ensure that, in the interests of historical accuracy, we acknowledge the pain as well as the pleasure—the tension between achievement and suffering, and between racism and acceptance—afforded by remembering, without souring the whole experience? We should embrace the challenges and seek resolutions to them, not try to avoid them.
Starting from those iconic black and white photographic images of arrival at Tilbury docks, we need to ensure that women’s roles and voices are foregrounded equally alongside men’s. Let us be diligent in our research and seek out those women, here and overseas, and identify their part in this history whenever there are exhibitions or discussions about those settlers.
There are also wider stories from 1948 in terms of a wide spectrum of experiences of colonial peoples of that period. Independence movements, rebellions, caste and class consciousness, and so on, mark that period shortly after the end of the Second World War. The landing of the “Windrush” and disembarkation of those 492 men did not happen in isolation from other events and movements. This needs to be located within its historical, social, cultural and international context. We should be explicitly linking the staffing of the public sector after the havoc wrought by the war not only to the settlers who came on that ship and others like it from the Caribbean but also to those who set sail from west Africa, from east Africa and from the Indian subcontinent. How do these stories interconnect with more recent mass migrations, such as the movement of Europeans into the UK et cetera?
Another important question is how we might think more broadly about Caribbean peoples’ histories. I am sorry to the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, wherever he might be, but the history of the black diaspora in this country did not start in 1948. It goes back centuries. So many historians and cultural commentators have worked very hard to dispel that myth that we would be failing in our responsibility if we did not take the opportunity to emphasise this point whenever we can. Finally, Parliament can make a contribution in terms of looking at itself and the contradictory nature of legislation which on the one hand proposes equality and anti-discrimination but on the other introduces harsh policies around immigration and detention.
In summary, I have tried to indicate that thought needs to be given as to how this memorialisation is made to work for us and to be presented to the public at large. I hope we can adopt a more sophisticated and nuanced approach that is not afraid to engage with ambiguity and dissonance.
I am grateful that the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, tabled this debate, and in particular that she has framed it in the context of a celebration. Having said that, we also need to face the fact that there are a number of quite shameful things in our history that we need to confront.
All dioceses in the Church of England are linked with other parts of the Anglican communion, and I am particularly interested in today’s debate as my own diocese of St Albans is linked with the dioceses of the Windward Islands and of the North East Caribbean and Aruba, which I have visited. Many people in our diocese have strong links with the West Indies—we regularly have exchanges and get to know people and communities. In Luton, which is in my diocese, we have thriving communities of people from the island of St Vincent, in St Peter’s and in Holy Cross, Marsh Farm. Discussions are under way at the moment about how this event will be celebrated in Luton.
The events surrounding the arrival of migrants—at whatever point but particularly in the 1940s and 1950s—are complex, and I see something of this in my own family. An uncle and aunt, deeply committed lifelong Methodists, made it their life’s work over many decades to use their property in London to welcome lodgers, particularly those coming into the country. They took great pride in introducing them to people and embedding them into their Methodist church. It was an extraordinary piece of work, which the family celebrates.
I also have to say, though, that in my own family racist comments were made behind their backs. Questions were raised about why they were doing it—was it just to make money? Growing up in my own family, I could see precisely the tensions that are being recognised and acknowledged in this debate.
It is good that the anniversary of the arrival of the “Windrush” will be marked this year by a service in Westminster Abbey. That is a good thing to do, but the danger is that it remains as this sort of symbolic act. It seems to me that the most important way we can celebrate this anniversary is to commit ourselves now to a greater degree of racial equality and social cohesion. In my own diocese, we are continuing to roll out a programme of training in recognising and confronting racial bias. It is something we need to attend to all the time among ourselves.
I note the proposals that have been around for some while for an official Windrush Day to celebrate this significant contribution that migrant communities have made to British life. A national day to foster positive and constructive discourse around the issue of migration—which has become so incredibly toxic in recent years—would be a great way of honouring the memory of those who came over here in 1948, and perhaps before and after, and the huge contribution they have made to every aspect of our life as a nation. I also note the suggestion to have some sort of permanent memorial here in the UK, possibly in London. I hope that Her Majesty’s Government will give consideration to how we can enable groups of people to get together to think about both the permanent ways of marking this anniversary and also how to then use them to address the fundamental issues in society of how we engage with and celebrate the contribution that these communities—and indeed other communities—make as they have come to enrich our life here in the United Kingdom.
My Lords, first, I thank the noble Baroness for having given us the opportunity to have this debate and for the very enlightened, warm and objective way in which she introduced it. We are very fortunate to have somebody like her in our midst.
I was a youngster, in my teens, when the “Windrush” arrived, but I can remember the excitement and concentration. It is very important that we have been reminded that the reaction was mixed. I was shocked that there were people then saying, “No Blacks welcome here” in lodgings and elsewhere.
The noble Baroness was absolutely right to raise the point about the role of the Church. I am a sort of humanist Anglican, and I say with faith in my own church that I cannot imagine that we can go on into the 22nd century with just that Church represented by right as a denomination in Britain. It just does not represent the reality of Britain. We can understand the historical argument for this, and how important the Church has been in the whole evolution of the House of Lords, and all the rest, but if we are going to reflect Britain as it is today, we have to look, for example, at the flourishing black churches in some of our communities, with a very challenging interpretation of Christianity and how it can be enjoyed.
Above all, I want, as an Anglo-Saxon Scot, to say thank you, because I know from the social experience of the years that have passed since the “Windrush” that the health service would not have survived without the Caribbean community. Public transport, particularly but not only in London, would not have survived. We must remember that we encouraged these people to come—the noble Baroness referred to that.
I am also very glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, made the point about a rather limited perception that does not see the very interesting contribution made by black minorities and others way back into our history. Now we see this coming to fruition as we see the contribution to the arts, not only of the fantastic choirs associated with the churches but the Royal Shakespeare Company and opera. The contribution is there in academia. Of course, the noble Baroness is a very good illustration of that.
I end with the following observation. I am very glad the Bishop talked about the importance of celebration because I think that is right. We live in a world which is diverse. That is part of creation—its diversity. We really have to learn to enjoy and celebrate diversity and see it as an enriching feature of living, rather than something to be managed because of all the problems associated with it. We have to let ourselves go and celebrate it. I hope, therefore, that whatever is done to celebrate the arrival of “Windrush”, we will be letting ourselves go and celebrating as we should. Unless we in Britain fully, as a whole society, endorse and understand our interdependence with humanity as a whole, our future is pretty grim. I am glad that this debate was introduced.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness on securing the debate and on her very eloquent speech. What a pleasure it is to follow the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and the remarks about the future with which he concluded.
It is a simple story and a very powerful one. People were asked to come to our aid. They came, they helped and many—indeed, most, probably—were treated poorly. We have moved on from those days, as so many noble Lords have already mentioned, but not yet far enough. There is more to do, and I will illustrate that in a moment.
Speaking as a former chief executive of the NHS and former Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, I know as well as anybody in recent years the great contribution that the “Windrush” generation—and, since then, people from black and minority ethnic communities more generally—have made to the NHS. When I was chief executive, the make-up of the NHS was more than 17% from black and minority ethnic communities. It had an overrepresentation of people from black and minority ethnic communities. I also know that there still was not the sort of equality of opportunity that one would like to see. The expression that became current in those days was the “snowy white peaks” of the NHS, and I guess I was sitting on one, because when you looked at the NHS, people from black and minority ethnic communities were congregated largely in the more hands-on—direct patient care—but lower levels of the hierarchy.
I congratulate NHS England on what it has been doing recently to try to make changes and secure greater equality of opportunity, particularly the recent workforce race equality standard, which has been applied across the whole NHS and which is revealing and bringing out details about how different groups are treated within the NHS. So there is more to do, although we have come an awfully long way. Perhaps, as a former chief executive of the NHS, I can also say thank you to the many people who have made such an extraordinary contribution to the NHS over the years.
I will conclude with two suggestions—two questions, really—for the Minister, which I ask him to pass on to the Department of Health. The first is that this year is also the 70th anniversary of the NHS and I believe there are already plans to celebrate that anniversary and to include the contribution of the “Windrush” generation. That needs to be celebrated to highlight the past, but we also need to highlight the present and the future. Something I would suggest as part of that is asking a young group of nurses from black and minority ethnic communities to write out their vision for the health service for the future, based on the principles and ideals that so many people have been talking about today, so that not only are we celebrating a generation from the past but thinking about and celebrating the ideas of a current generation about the future—it would be nice if any of them were descendants of the people who came on the “Windrush”.
Let me also mention one other proposal. I am talking very heavily about nurses, because I am delighted to say that I and my noble friend Lady Watkins of Tavistock are engaged in a campaign to promote and strengthen the role of nurses globally. I understand there is a proposal to have a statue erected in London to nurses who have come from other countries to support the NHS—not just the “Windrush” generation, but nurses who have come from Africa, India and elsewhere around the world. I think this would be a great symbolic gesture and a recognition from the NHS, which is a global employer and has drawn so heavily on people around the world. It would be a celebration of what they are doing and a promise that, in the future, we can do better.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, for introducing this debate, which gives us the opportunity to reflect on what might be a Windrush Day. Her introduction invites us to look broadly at how we might commemorate and celebrate what “Windrush” should mean to us. In my view, it really is not simply about the arrival at Tilbury Docks in Essex on 22 June 1948 of more than 500 British subjects from the West Indies. It is more about the black presence in Britain. Interestingly, there were also 66 Polish migrants on that ship when it docked.
The history of the black presence in Britain is about people from the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and what was then called the new Commonwealth. Can we still call it that, or should we call it the Commonwealth, embracing people from the old and the new Commonwealth? That history is littered with many colourful characters and insightful experiences. Septimius Severus was an African Roman Emperor in command of a garrison at Hadrian's Wall. The Blackamoors in Tudor England at the end of the 16th century were largely self-sufficient, established African communities. They attracted the attention of the then monarch, Queen Elizabeth I, who proclaimed that there were too many Blackamoors on the streets of London and they should be removed from these shores.
A Windrush Day on 22 June would be about promoting knowledge about the historic facts of migration and new settlements in Britain. It would celebrate how newcomers to Britain have contributed positively to the cultural, economic and social development of the country.
Some 250 years ago, a young man then known as Gustavus Vassa decided to make Britain his home. He had just bought his freedom from the owner of a sugar plantation. Gustavus Vassa was his slave name, given to him by a Royal Navy captain, Michael Henry Pascal. With Captain Pascal, Vassa served in the Seven Years’ War against France from 1756 to1763. He served on the same ship that took General James Wolfe and his men into battle against French troops in Quebec in 1759. Later, under his African name, Olaudah Equiano, he wrote a book which was published in several different languages in other European countries.
Vassa was a contemporary of Ignatius Sancho, an African who lived as a boy in Greenwich from the 1730s and grew up to become butler of the Duke and Duchess of Montagu. Sancho later became a shopkeeper, composed music, appeared on the stage, and entertained many famous figures of literary and artistic London. He was said to have been the first African to have voted in a British election, during the 1770s. He also wrote a large number of letters which were collected and published in 1782, two years after his death. Thomas Gainsborough’s portrait of Sancho was painted in 1768 while the Montagu family were in Bath. Those are only a few of the many example of stories of African people who lived in Britain many years ago and who made a contribution to this country.
There is a story to be told about the fight for air raid shelters in Brixton were fought to be opened up because there was no other accommodation provided for those who arrived here.
In drawing to a conclusion, I would like to mention three names among the many thousands that I could refer to. They are people who are known to me and who made an essential contribution to how we took forward the struggle for equality and justice, challenging prejudice and bigotry, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, mentioned, furthering the opportunity to bring forward legislation to enable equality for everyone. Those three are Sam King, who was a giant in Southwark, which I am sure will be referred to, Rene Webb and George Greaves. They are all ex-servicemen who arrived at the same time. They served during the war, were sent back and were asked to return to Britain. The real contribution that they made in promoting equality, justice and community cohesion was recognised through the award of public honours.
Finally, a Windrush Day would highlight how that generation helped Britain to face up to the end of the empire, to challenge racial prejudice, injustices and discrimination, and to campaign for equality legislation to make Britain fairer and enable access to opportunities on an equitable basis. That struggle for equality, inclusion and cohesion remains a feature of everyday life for many people in Britain today and every day.
My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Baroness on securing this important debate and on her passion for making a difference. I declare an interest as a patron of the Windrush Foundation. My vision as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the MV “Empire Windrush” arriving in Britain is for the Government to commemorate it by announcing an official annual Windrush Day. It would give the country the opportunity to celebrate all aspects of our migrant population and to appreciate their contribution through education, politics, sport, art, music, culture, fashion, cuisine, business, medicine and so on.
The “Windrush” arrival is not always highlighted during Black History Month, so a Windrush Day would be a day to remember not only “Windrush” passengers but other migrants who have made and continue to make significant contributions to the prosperity of Britain. Schools could annually feature and highlight them, and it would be a means of fostering greater social understanding and cohesion. It could be a way for young people, especially those from minority ethnic backgrounds, to develop a better sense of identity as the histories and contributions of their ancestors are appreciated and celebrated.
I am part of the “Windrush” generation. I came to Britain from Trinidad as a 10 year-old and I had to break down many barriers. I had to face unbelievable adversity which no child should have to endure, being told by a church in Penge that my kind was not wanted there. This happened to many Caribbean people who simply wanted to worship joyfully in church as they had done in the Caribbean. That is why so many black-led churches sprung up in cities across the country. So it is wonderful to hear that the nation’s church leaders will be celebrating and commemorating the 70th “Windrush” anniversary positively. I am a positive thinker and believe that we should all pave the way for future generations. Our children need to feel as though they belong in order to face the future confidently. So we all need to play our part in the “Windrush” celebrations as a legacy. We are part of it.
My contribution to the 70th anniversary is to create an RHS Chelsea Flower Show “Windrush” garden with the help of Birmingham City Council. The garden will also be displayed around the country so that as many people as possible will be able to experience the vibrant horticultural display telling the story of those pioneers from the Caribbean who travelled to Britain to start a new life and helped to rebuild Britain after the war by working in the NHS, the transport system, factories and many other services. An element of the display will be a collage of images of the “Windrush” story as seen through the eyes of schoolchildren. It is great that the “Windrush” will now be part of the national curriculum for 16 year-olds who will be able to take their history exams in the subject at GCSE level, but a Windrush Day would add value to education for children of all ages.
Parliament officially recognised 23 August as UNESCO’s International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, so why not 22 June as Windrush Day? I hope that the Government will consider this and celebrate the 70th anniversary by officially announcing a Windrush Day. We owe it to the descendants of the “Windrush” generation, so that they feel they are part of the history of our great country. I look forward to working with the Government to make the “Windrush” celebration memorable and significant.
My Lords, first, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, on securing this debate this afternoon. In the short time I have, I will not be able to cover all the points noble Lords have made in the debate. Like other noble Lords, I look forward to the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, setting out for us what the Government plan to do to celebrate the arrival of the “Empire Windrush” 70 years ago at Tilbury Docks.
It is such a momentous occasion and a milestone on the way of creating the country we live in today. People coming here from the Caribbean to make a life for themselves and make a contribution to this country should be celebrated. As many noble Lords have said, they were not always welcomed with open arms by the communities they came to live in, but their children and grandchildren have gone on to make a contribution and continue to do so today, in all walks of life.
I had the privilege of knowing one of the men that walked off the ship at Tilbury on 22 June. As the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, said, his name was Sam King, a man born at Priestman’s River in Portland, Jamaica—I am very pleased he has already been mentioned. He responded to an advert in the Gleaner from the Government looking for young men to come and help them to fight the Nazis. He joined the Royal Air Force and after training was posted to RAF Hawkinge, where he worked as an engineer.
After the war, he went back to Jamaica but could not settle. Then he saw another advert in the Gleaner for tickets to come on the “Empire Windrush”. He got his ticket, got off the boat at Tilbury and rejoined the RAF. After leaving the RAF some years later, he joined the Post Office and became a postman for 34 years. He was a major figure in the West Indian community, particularly in London. Along with others, he helped to set up the Notting Hill carnival. He was a lover of sport, particularly cricket. I first got to know Sam in the days when they had that great West Indian cricket team which beat us in the West Indies and then came and beat us here in England as well.
As we have heard, Sam helped set up the Windrush Foundation to preserve the memories of those who had travelled here to the United Kingdom on that ship. While a postman, he joined the Labour Party, and was an active member of the Dulwich Constituency Labour Party for many years. He worked with the then local MP, Sam Silkin, who then became Lord Silkin of Dulwich. Later he worked with Tessa Jowell as the local MP, now my noble friend Lady Jowell.
Sam became a Labour councillor, and then the first black person ever to become Mayor of Southwark. Local government in the 1980s, especially in London, was a fairly rough affair. No quarter was given, and Sam had to handle some fairly stormy meetings at Southwark Town Hall. He did so with great wit, charm, skill and dignity. He also carried out his other roles as first citizen of the borough and was much loved by all who got to know him. He was then awarded an MBE in 1998. On 31 January 2010, a blue plaque was placed outside the house he lived in from 1958 to 1984 on Warmington Road.
For me, Sam is an example of a life well lived and a shining example of the contribution immigrants make to our country—particularly, as in his case, from the Caribbean. He was loved by his family and friends; he was law abiding; he served this country in the Armed Forces; he arrived back here and worked in the public sector; he was a community activist and made a major contribution, as we have heard, to the community here; and he was an elected politician. He is only one man, but he is an example of the difference that people who have come to live and work here have made to this country.
The noble Lord, Lord Crisp, talked about the NHS, and this is one area we have never sorted out. People come and work in the public sector and then retire. Many people may want to retire back to the Caribbean. If they do, their pension is frozen. That is something we should look at. It is very unfair. My mum and dad are Irish. My mum was a nurse as well, and they retired to Ireland. My mum and dad get their pension increase every year with no problem at all, but if you go back to the Caribbean, you do not. That is unfair. You have paid for that pension. I know it would cost a lot of money, but the Government should look at it because it is unfair. We should look at the contribution that they have made to this country: what you paid for, you should be entitled to get. But what a great debate we have had.
My Lords, I congratulate and thank my noble friend Lady Berridge for bringing this very important topic to our attention today. It has been a debate of extreme potency and impact on many different fronts and I will try to do justice to the contributions that have been made. At the end of my period, I will specifically deal with some of the plans we have. In so far as I have not covered all the detail of the plans, I will cover them in a letter which I will send to all Members of the Committee.
In response to a point made early on by my noble friend Lady Berridge about the input of other noble Lords, we would be happy to hear from all noble Lords about ideas. We have had some good potent, ideas today. I have written separately to the noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence, because she will clearly have ideas and I would like to be able to reflect on them so that we are able to move forward together on some of the important areas that we have touched on today.
Many noble Lords referred to the early degree of prejudice that undoubtedly existed and the awful experiences that many of the first members of the “Windrush” generation, not just those on the “Windrush”, must have experienced when coming to this country, finding not just a cold climate but a very cold reception. That was truly awful. Many noble Lords referred to that and to the journey we have made, including the noble Lord, Lord Judd, the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, but other noble Lords said that we still face challenges, including the noble Lords, Lord Dholakia and Lord Crisp, who had some specific questions that I will try to cover, the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, who made a very powerful contribution, and the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, who asked some specific questions. I shall try to deal with some of them.
The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, made a potent point. It strikes me as strange, as it has done for some time, that we see people challenged and asked to go back to a country where they may never have been or, if they have, it was a long time ago, and it is not home. Let me make it clear that the Government are absolutely determined that people who are rightly here should remain here.
I will ensure that a copy of the report of this debate is shared with other government departments, because it has clearly impacted on a number of areas, including DCMS on statues, which I will come on to, and the Home Office in relation to the correct contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner.
The noble Lord, Lord Crisp, asked about recognition of the role of the “Windrush” generation and members of ethnic minority communities in general in relation to the NHS. He is absolutely right. We all remember the powerful impact of the opening ceremony of the Olympics in 2012, which combined references to the “Windrush”, the NHS and the fact that we are a proud multicultural, multiracial society. That is reflected in everyday life, not just in the public sector, but certainly in the public sector and probably most obviously in our great NHS. That is an important point. I know that is the view of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, but I will ensure that he sees a copy of the report of this important debate.
The noble Lord, Lord Crisp, made a valid point about statues. As a nation, a country and a kingdom, we have become much more aware of the importance of statues. You can scarcely open a newspaper these days without seeing a legitimate case being made for a statue of an individual or a cause. I will ensure that a copy of the report of this debate goes to DCMS with a covering note.
We should not think just in terms of London, although London is important. In that context, before I come to some of the activities that the Government are engaged in, we are working with Tilbury—I think Tilbury lies in the London Borough of Thurrock—and Lambeth because on 22 June, Windrush Day, there will be a celebration of the 70th anniversary. I am very grateful for the dynamic representation of the community provided by the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, who has been a joy to work with as we have looked at these projects. I congratulate her on the success of the garden project, which I know she has been instrumental in driving forward. It is very hard to say no to her on anything, but on something as great as a garden, I can quite see why she has had that success. I hope to be able to visit it when it comes to London. I am sure we all do. It is a great thing.
In the context of saying that we are working with the Windrush Foundation, the Voice will bring out a special celebration edition to mark the 70th anniversary. We also have plans to mark it not just in Westminster Abbey but to make it known to other cathedrals and religious bodies around the country that it is Windrush Day. We need to make sure that it is recognised and get a positive message out there about the importance of the day. They might like to have a service of celebration in their community and to organise a tea party, as will be happening in Lambeth. There is also the possibility of live-streaming between different celebrations.
Celebration will not be on Windrush Day only. Things are starting in Lambeth in February. They are happening in Leeds, where the Phoenix Dance Theatre is putting on a Windrush production, which will be coming to London on, I think, 26 to 28 April, so I give advance notice to noble Lords. It will be at Sadler’s Wells, I think. I hope to be able to go to it. A range of activities is going on, and we hope to enlarge on what is already happening while keeping it focused. I am very happy and privileged to work with noble Lords to make sure that we can enhance what is happening.
The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, referred to the great Sam King. He was indeed a great man. Many great men and women who came over on that boat, subsequent and previous boats deserve to be honoured, but there is clearly iconic significance to the “Windrush” which we want to celebrate as a country to demonstrate not just how far we have come, which we have, but to recognise that there are still challenges, some of which I hope that we can face through the Race Disparity Audit. It published data, and you cannot really disagree with data. You can disagree about what we do about the data, and that debate is now going on in government because the Prime Minister has been driving it hard and has been asking departments to bring forward plans to ensure that we take forward the published data and act to ensure that some of the lessons are learned and some of the wrongs are righted. That is something I know that we want to do.
I hope that noble Lords will forgive me, because I am sure that I have missed some points. I will try to pick them up in the letter that I will send round. I encourage all noble Lords to pass on the message about the importance of Windrush Day and, more broadly, about the lesson of the Windrush generation and its importance for our country. We are all here in a mood of celebration about Windrush, but we must also recognise that we cannot be complacent. There are still lessons to be learned, although the examples of others from earlier generations demonstrate that there were people at the time who obviously were receptive, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, pointed out. It was not all bleak, even in those early days, although it was clearly very bleak for many people. There was the example of people early on, such as Roy Jenkins, although that was perhaps a bit later, and Ian Macleod, as well as people in the community and religious communities up and down the country who were helping.
I once again thank my noble friend Lady Berridge for introducing this debate in such a timely way, I thank noble Lords who participated and look forward to working with them to ensure that we have a very successful year and a very successful Windrush Day and get it into the national calendar. That is very important.
UK Sport: Elite Sport Funding
Question for Short Debate
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to reviewing the guidance given to UK Sport about which sports are to receive funding for elite programmes, to take into account the potential growth of grassroots participation.
My Lords, I thank all those who have decided at the end of this busy week to give me an hour of their time to discuss these matters. This debate was inspired in my mind by the fact that we are at a point of celebration and worry in sport, in equal measure. We have transformed our sporting environment from the top. Of the statistics that I have acquired from various sources, as one does at the start of a debate, the one that stuck out for me was that our improvement from 1996, the Atlanta Games, to the Rio Games was a 347% increase in medals. But that figure probably tells you where one of the problems comes from—the Olympic Games. At elite level, one of the problems has been that, if you are in that select club, getting this wonderful funding that is provided by the lottery, or at least inspired by it, and giving central government the incentive to get in on this wonderful success story and guarantee it, which it has done, you are actually excluding other sports, or making the barrier to get in there that little bit higher. Team sports seem to struggle slightly, and are more vulnerable.
I asked the noble Lord, Lord Ashton, beforehand whether he could give an example of exactly what the criteria for success is, because it is perceived as being medals at the Olympics. I know it is broader and more complicated than that, and I have probably made that mistake in conversation and in communication with people—but if we can actually see what the criteria for funding elite sport is, that would help this debate and, I hope, get it beyond here and out. If we can make sure that we are encouraging sport to expand its base, we may well get to the bit that has not been so successful. The participation rate at a moderate level of about 30 minutes a week has improved over the same period by 6%. Clearly, a 6% improvement for the entire population may be a massive increase, but the perception is, in our current environment, that funding is concentrated on a few sports that are encouraged to win all the medals. With certain sports—for instance, when you have lots of medals available—of course, we have the potential of getting much more bang for our buck.
A sport such as artistic gymnastics has lots of different events and lots of opportunities to acquire champions and people who succeed at that level, compared to one of the team sports. Hockey has done reasonably well, but one centre forward down and a goalkeeper having a bad day and that medal goes. That is the fact of the matter in all team sports. If you have lots of different options, to a degree you have a buffer zone, and if you have a good structure in place, you do not have to worry about that off day to the same extent, because you will have other bites at the cherry. How are we going to structure this in future? The question of how we bring other sports up that will penetrate into other bits of society is very important. If we cannot address that, we are not following on from that initial success. We are not saying, “We will do more”.
There is a cohesive social value in amateur sport, when people join together to do something that they get a buzz out of or enjoy, or whatever the correct term is in psychology. It is about the mates who give up their time on a regular basis to get involved in sport. Indeed, there are direct health benefits of casual sport. At Question Time today, we were discussing how exercise helps you in old age. If you have a sporting habit, exercise is a lot easier to do. Your muscles might have decayed, but if you have some muscle memory then, to put it bluntly, you stand a chance of getting them back without killing yourself. As all the old sportsmen in the Room will know, and I see there are a few, you find yourself going back.
The relationship between the elite and grass-roots sports is changing, in a good way. As I get older—and I still occasionally put myself through “golden oldies” rugby—I am beginning to wonder when rugby is going to get a walking version of its game. It has been said of me that I am going that way quite rapidly anyway; indeed, some people have said I was never far off it in the first place. In the context of the development of grass-roots sports, how do you make that relationship between the two, and how can it be perceived as more equal? What thinking is going on about that?
There is an elephant in the room that is going to plant its feet on our toes very rapidly: the lottery does not seem to be delivering funds with anything like the efficiency that it did. I do not know whether that is a management problem or the result of competition or if it is just the case that the world has slightly moved on. I have had exchanges with the Minister before about this, but if we are going to rely on the lottery, we must look at what we can do to ensure that it can at least guarantee the level of funding that we have at the moment. A decline in funding from the lottery, particularly for grass-roots sports, is unwelcome. It is one thing to get a Minister to say, “Yes, we’ll guarantee your Olympic programme or your elite-level programme”, but it is rather more difficult politically to argue for the upgrading of sports pitches, village halls and so on, particularly as there will always be someone making an excellent case for other uses of that money. How are we going to address that? I would be interested to hear the discussion that is going on, because we are coming to the end of this cycle of funding. For the next Olympic Games, it is all to play for. We must start to address this thoroughly.
We have to go beyond the idea that everything will be fine because, if lots of people watch it on television, they will go out, join in and take it up themselves. Although that may work a little, it patently does not work well enough. We have to do something else. If we want to cheer people on TV, we have to make sure that our recruitment base is wide, or we can contract in on ourselves and concentrate on a few sports. For instance, if we want to have an internationally recognisable basketball team—I have a little knowledge of some of the people in the Room—with a cultural base and activity, what level of investment by the state would be required to do that? That would drag in other aspects as well, and other sports would have other angles.
What do we need to maintain sports? Are we prepared to get slightly more involved in planning ahead and developing how these things go? I do not say that this is easy; we found out from the London Olympics that you cannot create a team overnight and expect it to be maintained. Handball is a wonderful game to watch; if I were a few years younger, I think I would have enjoyed playing it. But it would appear that we have no cultural base for it, and will not have one unless we do a lot more work.
We have an expansion here; we have a series of turns we can take. What are we doing to link the two aspects? If we are to build on success, it appears that we have to look to what is culturally embedded and enhance it. In boxing, for instance, we produce literally dozens of world-class amateur boxers now, and that is socially acceptable—it goes on to have good social results. If we can build upon that, we will do something good for society. If we do not, we will lose every social benefit that goes with it. All I am looking for today is to get some response from the Government and to hear from others about how we take this on. We have a good story; we are at the point where we can make it a great one or go backwards. I look forward to hearing what others say in this debate.
My Lords, I declare two interests, one as president of British Water Ski and Wakeboard and the other as chairman of the British Olympic Association from 2005 to 2012, covering the Beijing and London Olympic cycles—when, after much negotiation with government, we secured funding for eight years and beyond. A very important point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, who I congratulate on securing this debate: a four-year cycle for a sport will never deliver what you wish. The reality is that you need to plan for a good 20 years. We need to make sure that secure funding is in place for sports over that sort of period rather than the quadrennial cycle.
I would like to make a very few comments. First, in essence, I hope that UK Sport will consider turning the existing pyramid upside down and allowing those sports which have no programme funding to have something that athletes can aspire to by allocating some funds to every Olympic and Paralympic sport and thus rewarding success. It is neither logical nor right that badminton, which medalled in Rio, or wheelchair rugby, which missed out on a medal by one goal in the final match, should have all their funding withdrawn after analysis by a so-called intelligence unit of UK Sport. They simply analyse using their computers and do not understand that to secure success, a wider participation base is essential and funding needs to be put in place. I repeat that it is not just for that four-year cycle, depending on the outcome of a final, but over a much longer period.
Secondly, I hope that UK Sport can look closely at the amount of money going into the English Institute of Sport. It seems in some ways to be unconnected with what is needed by each sport. Those in receipt of funding pay for the services of the EIS, which could in my view be made to work far better at a more reasonable cost. I hope that a review of the EIS can be high on Dame Kath Grainger’s priorities.
Thirdly, the short-termism culture of the current funding model, which I have mentioned, fails to recognise the potential of the unfunded sports. More and more is going into the successful sports which carry our medal haul. I recognise the extraordinary contribution they have made and the remarkable success they continue to have worldwide. I value that but we have now moved to the position whereby five sports had more than 50% of the total four-year funding for Rio. That is funded by the organisation UK Sport which is mandated to promote sport the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. I believe that there should be one pyramid which should connect and encourage participation at the base and provide services and the support structure needed right the way through to medal success at the top.
I hope that more and more sports men and women move away from the feeling that many sports had post Rio: that they had nothing to aim for because their national programmes were no longer funded and were demoralised as a result. UK Sport will of course argue that national governing bodies should do more, but for many this creates an almost impossible situation for the governing bodies. For those who seek to achieve their potential, there can be no future when there is no resource to assist them. Team sports have been particularly badly hit, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, mentioned. Young men and women from ethnic communities and disadvantaged groups tend to be attracted to team sports where they find friendships and all the characteristics of well-being and togetherness. But local authority sports facilities being very expensive to hire is impacting on the ability of local groups to meet and train.
UK Sport has cut the funding for international representation. I want to put on the record that I feel this is a very important point. We need to make sure that we have good international representation in all international bodies and that our top administrators attend congresses. However, that is impossible if a sport is not in receipt of UK Sport performance funding. This comes despite more than a decade of welcoming such an involvement and encouraging sports to do so. It may not be possible for many sports to attend the international congresses of their sports, particularly those that have had a complete cut in funding. For example, squash has been working hard—admirably so—to be recognised as an Olympic sport. Having a seat at the top table of international squash helps us enormously in making the case that squash, which is a very popular sport in this country, should be an Olympic sport. A presence at the top table of sport is vital not just for those who benefit most by their medal tally, but for those five sports as well as the other sports and Paralympic sports that are funded. We should be looking at supporting international representation across the board.
I totally accept that sponsorship and private sector support is critical; it should be sought. This is an area where UK Sport can help. It can sit down and work with governing bodies—all governing bodies, not just the Olympic and Paralympic ones—to achieve more funding through sponsorship. When I was chairman of the British Olympic Association, we had the FTSE 100 initiative where we linked companies directly to individual sports, many of which still benefit from the sponsorship they received at that time. It was a huge pity that when it came to the Olympic Games in London in 2012, when we raised over £1 billion in LOCOG, there was not a single meeting between all our governing bodies in sports and LOCOG to introduce them to the sponsors that were new to sport. We lost that opportunity.
In conclusion, as president of British Water Ski, I want to make one very interesting point. British Water Ski and Wakeboard came off the agenda in 2012 when UK Sport stopped funding non-Olympic sports. It was told that it should rely on talent programme funding from Sport England, which is doing a very good job now in developing participation, but the talent funding programme is about to go. That is a classic example of the base of the pyramid, and the top of the pyramid for a few sports, being very strong, but there is no consistent ladder to climb, which is the only way to secure long-term success in the medal tables. I hope that UK Sport can engage more with non-Olympic sports and urge the Commonwealth Games Federation to bring water skiing onto the agenda for when it returns to the UK. With the support of the Commonwealth Games Foundation, I am sure that that will be the case.
In conclusion, more needs to be done to deliver a one-stop shop, introducing all the difficult and relevant skills necessary to link participation with excellence in a single, unique and coherent strategy.
My Lords, I welcome the debate and I draw your attention to my interests on the register. I am the chair of ukactive, vice-president of the LGA and I fit the noble Lord, Lord Addington’s, definition of an “old athlete”—many years ago, I was a lottery-funded athlete. In April last year, I published a report on duty of care in sport, which the Sports Minister, the right honourable Tracey Crouch MP, asked me to undertake.
Lottery funding was set up to transform the medal winning opportunities and it has done so. I want to point out that in Atlanta, although the Olympic team won one gold, the Paralympic team won 39 and were third on the medal table—but the funding is extremely welcome all the same. There is huge public support and a real feel-good factor when teams win. Medals matter—they always have—but we must understand that there is a cost to winning medals that is not just financial. The 2012 Games were an incredible experience and we were absolutely right to do it. The Games provide a moment of inspiration: there are athletes who are competing now because of London. I competed because of the 1984 Olympics.
Elite sport is the showcase, but it is a small part of the structure. Many sports are able to show the impact that winning medals has on participation. I have long thought that major sporting events—I need to be clear on this—on their own do not change the world or participation. It is not fair to expect the 10 days of the Paralympics to change the lives of all disabled people. It changed the lives of many Paralympians, but the reality is that for many disabled people, it changed little. It did not make buses more accessible, nor stop disability hate crime.
While it is not impossible to make a GB team or qualify for a major games, if the sport is not funded at the elite level it is likely to be very much harder. Young athletes need to be able to see the top of the pyramid and believe that they have an opportunity to get there. I understand that funding is not limitless and that there are challenges over lottery receipts; all sports want more money. But I would like to ask this: how do we inspire a nation if the opportunities to compete at the highest level are limited because there is no funding? There is a symbiotic relationship between elite, grass roots and wider participation. We also cannot forget the impact that volunteering has on sport.
I would like to look at one sport in particular, which I hope will provide a useful example: badminton, for which we won a medal in Rio. However, it is not in the funding cycle through to Tokyo for the elite side of the sport. Badminton has the largest schools championship in Europe, involving some 42,000 young people between the ages of 11 to 16. If badminton is played in your primary school, you are four times more likely to play it at secondary school. That has been made possible because of lottery investment and it could not be done without it. Approximately 50% of the people who participate in badminton would not be classed as “sporty”. For around £5 million of local money, the lottery has provided £70 million of investment into local facilities and that has been a key part of the growth in participation. The lottery investment into the world-class programme delivered not only the medal in Rio, it delivered a 245% growth in participation in London alone. Some 66% of the legacy growth across the country was among those aged under 16. Badminton believes that the lottery funding works and needs to be protected. I agree with that, although I probably have a different view on how the total sum of money should be spent.
I should like to ask the Minister about the status of the response to the Every Sport Matters agenda, which the non-Olympic and Paralympic sports have presented to UK Sport. I understand that the landscape is not simple. We have UK Sport, Sport England, the home nations sports councils and devolution. It is not a simple system to work through. I think that we need to start looking at this in a different way and consider how truly active we are as a nation. I am delighted that Sport England is looking at new ways of managing participation and funding projects differently. That is fantastic, but if we have less active people, we have fewer people coming into sport. We are a nation of sports lovers and we are a nation of people who like watching sport, but perhaps participation is a little further down the agenda. My own journey into elite sport was not about a pathway. I was paralysed at the age of seven. The world was not very accessible back then and my father believed that I ought to be fit and healthy in order to be able to live in an inaccessible world.
Part of the challenge is how we talk about sport. What do we mean by that? Do we mean competitive sport, physical literacy or physical activity? Sport is a subset of being active, and that is why we need to change some of the narrative. It should not always be sport for sport’s sake, we need to look at physical activity as a preventative front line of the NHS. We need to be thinking about the health of the nation and how we could fund projects in a different way. The reality, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, has said, is that a four-year funding cycle for elite sport does not fit into a five-year election cycle, let alone anything else. We in the UK do incredibly well in sport at the highest level, but the inactivity crisis should be of huge concern to us all. If we look back at the medal success of the Olympic team in Beijing, we see that 37% of our Olympic medallists came from the independent sector. I cheered every single one of them on, but that is not how sport should be in the future.
As the chair of ukactive, I said at our national summit last year that activity is the golden thread that runs through every part of our lives. Today’s young people are the least active ever and we need a serious shake-up of the school day to save “generation inactive” from a lifetime of ill health. The fittest children today would have been considered some of the least fit and active 30 years ago. We need to bring activity back into children’s daily lives. PE takes up just two hours of the 168 hours in a child’s week, and that is only during term time. Research by ukactive has shown how the school summer holidays can drive a sharp wedge between the activity levels of the affluent and deprived children. We need to work with partners to open up dozens of schools over the summer to address this inactivity.
Children are never going to turn up to a nutrition session on its own or talk about oral health, the subject of an earlier debate that I spoke in. They might not turn up to a session about mindfulness, but sport has the power to do a huge amount. Nelson Mandela said:
“Sport has the power to change the world”.
By looking at how we can engage children through freestyle dance classes, football or whatever sport it may be, we might just have the chance of showing them the merits of a balanced and healthy lifestyle. We will then have a much greater chance of bringing these children into sport. Sport is absolutely wonderful and it has given me so many things in my life, but it is time to think a bit more widely than just sport.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Addington, on securing this debate. I also thank him for his interest in the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Basketball, of which I am joint chairman. I should also declare my interest as chairman of the Basketball Foundation, a registered charity established by the clubs which comprise the professional British Basketball League—the BBL—with a view to encouraging and supporting the community outreach activities of these clubs and of other basketball clubs around the country.
This is not the first time that I have argued the case in your Lordships’ House for more public funding for basketball. I make no apology for doing so again today. I am sure that noble Lords with strong interests in other sports, such as badminton—particularly those supported by UK Sport—will be relieved to hear that I do not intend to argue that UK Sport should make basketball a special case and support it at the expense of some other sport which it presently funds.
I would, of course, love to see our national basketball teams compete in the Olympics, and would enthusiastically applaud a decision by UK Sport to enable the British Basketball Federation to make it happen. However, I would not want it to happen at the cost of our country slipping down the medals table. I love to see us at the top of the table, and I do not mind which sports have won the medals. Nor, frankly, do I take much notice of the educational background, or even the ethnicity, of our athletes when I proudly watch them standing on the podium singing our national anthem. For me, sport is one of the few areas of life where innate ability, combined with dedication and sheer hard work—and perhaps luck—make all the difference. It is one of the few areas where what counts is who you are, not who you know. That is why I believe that Dame Katherine Grainger is right to say that our hero athletes can unite and inspire us as a nation. At a period in our national life when we are riven by debate caused by the Brexit referendum, the Government would be well advised to support anything that unites us and, to this end, to put more money into all aspects of sport, both elite and grassroots.
I am probably revealing my naivety in comparison with some noble Lords who have spoken when I say that I am prepared to leave it to UK Sport to do its job of backing Olympic winners. I do not want to make life more difficult for UK Sport by asking it to use its limited resources to solve a number of other major national problems, such as urban deprivation and ethnic and racial discrimination. UK Sport is already helping to tackle those problems by providing inspiration for our young people through the success which our athletes achieve internationally. That said, those problems need urgent attention and sport, particularly basketball, can play a major role in tackling them.
Basketball is a sport which has a particular attraction for members of our inner-city communities, and especially our BAME communities. This is partly because its world-renowned heroes such as Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan and our own John Amaechi are, to a large extent, members of these communities. We see the practical effect of this in our national teams: 75% of our men’s senior team are members of our BAME community; 85% of our under-20 men’s team and 75% of our under-18 and under-16 men’s teams are members of those communities. The figures for our women’s teams are lower, but not significantly so. This, of course, reflects the fact that more than half—58%—of basketball’s adult participants are from BAME communities, even though those communities make up only 10% of the UK adult population. Even more striking is that approximately 17% of Basketball England members live in the country’s most deprived council wards, as defined by the Government’s definition of multiple deprivation. Some 18% of basketball clubs are located in these wards.
Basketball is clearly a sport that reaches parts of the country that other sports cannot reach. As such, it delivers all the well-known benefits of sport—good health, confidence, self-esteem and improved mental capacity—to those who have the least going for them in terms of family income and advantage. For me, whose professional career over the past 30 years has been concerned mainly with keeping communities safe, basketball offers the unique capability of being able to reach directly into these inner-city, disadvantaged communities to improve the life chances of those most at risk of getting into trouble with the criminal justice system. By doing this, basketball can play a major role in keeping communities safe.
But those communities, by their very nature, cannot afford the facilities or coaches necessary to mount effective basketball programmes, although most of the sport’s biggest stars honed their skills on the streets or in public parks with nothing more than a ball and a hoop. So who should fund these facilities? Private commercial and philanthropic funding for inner-city recreational basketball is very hard to come by. There are many reasons for that, including the fact that, although basketball is the second most popular sport after football for 11 to 15 year-olds, it is played mainly in state, as opposed to independent, schools, and has very little social cachet. For that reason, public funding is the only realistic, short-term way of getting basketball into our inner-city BAME communities, to enable it to work its magic in terms of enhancing the life chances of the youth of those communities and keeping them out of trouble.
As I argued earlier, I would not want to see this money taken from other parts of the sports landscape, particularly elite sport. It should be found from those government departments with statutory responsibility for keeping people out of trouble, enhancing their life chances and keeping us all safe. Just as the Foreign Office supports the foreign language service of the BBC, I propose that the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Education and others find the funds to support basketball from their departmental budgets as a contribution to building,
“a country that works for everyone”,
to quote my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. How that money is distributed to these communities is a matter for inter-departmental consideration. It could be through basketball’s governing bodies, a new agency or charity, or through police and crime commissioners— who, by the way, have responsibility for keeping our communities safe and who would jump at the chance of taking on this new task. What needs no further consideration is the urgent need for action.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Addington for focusing this debate on the proper relationship between elite sport and grass roots sport in this country.
The National Survey for Wales 2016-17 found that of the 700,000 population in north Wales where I live, 190,000 people—27%—aged 16 and above are not currently active but want to be more active. So, this very day, Chwaraeon Cymru—Sport Wales—is launching Sport North Wales, pioneering a new model. It is seeking longer-term funding from the Welsh Government who currently provide £3 million annually across the six local authorities. Sport North Wales will lead and co-ordinate sport throughout the region with a single mission and purpose; precisely how is yet to be revealed by today’s press release, but I hope that it follows along the lines outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, to preserve community sports facilities. In my own home town we have lost two swimming pools and nothing has replaced them.
I have always been involved in very muddy grass roots sport in north Wales, having played rugby until age disqualified me, coached my team as a WRU qualified coach to win the North Wales Cup, and then refereed from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Rhosllanerchrugog. My noble friend Lord Addington knows of my afterlife of refereeing parliamentary rugby, which is much slower but more violent, from North Island in New Zealand to California in the United States.
I am delighted that Rygbi Gogledd Cymru 1404, the date that Owain Glyndŵr beat the English, which is based at Colwyn Bay is currently heading the Welsh Premier League, the most senior league under the four regions in Wales. In my youth, north Wales was regarded as soccer territory. Wrexham Football Club was founded in 1864 and is the third oldest professional rugby club in the world. So a protestant Caernarfonshire and Anglesey supported Everton in Liverpool, for goodness’ sake, but what happened to bring rugby players such as Robbie McBryde and George North out of Anglesey? It was the elite Welsh rugby team of the 1970s with Gareth Edwards, Barry John, Phil Bennett and Ray Williams from Wrexham. It became patriotic to play rugby, particularly in the Welsh-speaking areas. So I have lived to see how sporting success breeds grass roots participation, with clubs springing up in Bala, Harlech and Menai Bridge. I once had to delay the kick-off in Nant Conwy because Twm, the star flanker, was still shearing his sheep on the hill. These and many others were clubs that simply did not exist in the 1960s.
But I have also been lucky enough to be able to take part in the United Kingdom’s premier Olympic sport of rowing, not so much at grass roots as more semi-submerged. The great Sir Steven Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent scored Britain’s only gold medal in the Atlanta Olympic Games of 1996 at Lake Lanier. I rowed on that lake with my Chester-based club, Rex, the following year.
The tally in 1996 over all sports was 15 medals and Britain ranked 36th in the world, which is something that I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, would not approve of. With the leadership of Redgrave and Pinsent, with professional coaching and facilities, and with the backing of National Lottery and government funding, the sport of rowing grew and flourished. Elite success led the way. Every time we had an Olympic success, we had recruits to my Chester club. Indeed, my club captain’s son, Tom James, won three Olympic golds in three successive Olympics. Another club member’s daughter, Vicky Thornley, won a silver medal along with Katherine Grainger in the Rio Olympics. Such is the increase in the grass roots membership of the Rex Rowing Club. I can assure your Lordships that we are not called Rex for nothing because we are about to launch four new boats at the weekend after next—one, if I may say so modestly, with my name upon it. I believe it to be very positive that some noble Lords have been encouraged to row in the annual Parliamentary Boat Race and have voiced a number of issues raised by British Rowing through the APPG.
I appreciate the single-minded purpose of UK Sport to produce medals and glory for Britain at the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics. That is its mission statement and it fulfils it very well, but I am not sure that reducing the number of sports being supported and cutting off the rest without a shilling is the right way forward. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, that there should be a base level of funding for national governing bodies in all Olympic sports otherwise the development of important areas of sport will be lost. Perhaps in 1996 tae-kwon-do would not have appeared on the list of supported sports, but Jade Jones MBE was introduced to the sport by her grandfather at the age of eight in the little village of Bodelwyddan in Denbighshire and now has two gold medals under her belt in successive Olympics.
There is today a thirst for fitness and activity among young people. Just go outside and see the peloton of cyclists swooping past this House, risking the life and limb of every noble Lord. It is absolutely clear that investment in sport will pay back in the future by reducing obesity, diminishing diabetes and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, said, lowering dependency on the NHS.
If lottery proceeds are falling, there is an obligation on the Government to step in and invest wisely. So where is the money coming from? Some sports do not require support. Football’s income from television is obscenely high and distorts wages and the transfer market. Gambling produces obscene profits for gaming companies without their employees even having to kick a ball or jump a fence. So it could come from, maybe not a tax, but certainly sponsorship. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, wants to get money out of the Home Office and the Foreign Office and I wish him the greatest luck in that, but it is very important that sport is supported. In the interests of a healthy society there has got to be a rebalancing of resources. Is it not time to be thinking radically?
My Lords, there seems to be a theme coming through and I simply want to add my voice to the expression of it. Incidentally, with the previous speaker in mind, I say that one former Welsh rugby union referee is following another in this debate, and no doubt some quite heavy influence will be cast upon the outcome of the debate as a result. I have to say, however, that I can trump a few aces, because I in fact played with Barry John at the University of Wales—I want that on the record of course. I also played at Lampeter, where the first rugby game was ever played in Wales—it was brought there from Cambridge, shortly after it originated in Rugby. I played in the centenary game with a whole host of Welsh international stars playing against us. I went down for the 150th anniversary just last year, where I kicked off the ball—that was the limit.
It is interesting, as my life has unfolded, that the great sports that I have played—cricket, badminton, rugby and anything else that was going—have gradually become more sedentary, ending with snooker. I have even given that up, not so much because my sons began to beat me at it but because they began to pretend that I had beaten them—that is a much more serious position, I can assure noble Lords.
As far as I see and hear it, the real key to this discussion is that we have to decide at the beginning of our thinking—our conceptualisation—whether to look for a solution to the admitted need to encourage activity in this sector at the top, through pump-priming in order to set examples that others will follow and to inspire through great success, or at the bottom. The noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, talked very eloquently about that second approach; I have heard him speak on basketball twice now.
All my sporting activity was in the pre-professional days, before pay, and there was an entirely different approach to it. Burry Port, where I come from, has had no medals in anything, but the playing fields of Burry Port, like those of Eton, were full of people striving to beat local opponents. There were revenge matches with Tumble over the hill and Pembrey down the road. My brother was in at 16 playing for Pembrey youth and I played for the University of Wales later on. It was all without any money being exchanged at all. Really, it is about the balance between putting money into activities that generate success that then inspires others and looking to develop communities with these local rivalries, competitions and the spirit of fellowship—is there anything better than taking to any field of endeavour with the idea of really knocking your opponents for six, only to enjoy a pint in the pub with them afterwards as you recount tales of derring-do in days gone by? There is nothing more sensible than that as a pattern for the way you live. Here, of course, I would draw a distinction between the crowds at football and rugby. The crowds intermingle at rugby, and you make jokes at each other’s expense and that of the opponents around you, whereas in football the police help to separate them off from each other.
I wonder about the way such resources as we have get channelled out. Why do we favour sports that are very low in terms of participatory potential, such as equestrian sport, when sports such as basketball—which, in terms of social cohesion, bring people together across all the divides that afflict us socially—are left out of the equation? I wish we could recalibrate the way we look at how we distribute such resources as are available. Whether it is everything as it was last year, less or whatever, how do we prioritise? The whole business of medals leaves me cold. I love having medals and cheering competitors on, but I cannot see that that must be the sole criterion when we look at a formula for distributing the cash that is available.
Tomorrow morning, I will receive a protégé of mine who got a job a couple of years ago with the Rugby Football Union. His job is to animate communities throughout north London and to interest schools that do not have a tradition of rugby, and communities that have no playing fields, in the possibilities of playing it, especially helping women to play. The Rugby Football Union no doubt gets some government money; I do not know and do not really care—it is the activity I want to exalt. It is about taking it out of a sporting base—where the newspapers are full of the rivalries, the need to win the Six Nations Championship and all the rest of it—and into the grass roots, where people play on muddy November days. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, and I have refereed matches in Wales where you could not see the 25—when it was called the 25. The rule about kicking into touch left us totally lost: when we took our spectacles off you could not see whether the ball had bounced into touch or not.
For all of that, it seems to me that public money should be put into sporting activity for reasons that go well beyond sport, which have been mentioned in this debate: for health, community cohesion and well-being. All these things, and not just medals, must be a product or an outcome. In all those ways, I support those noble Lords who have made this point very eloquently and from very different positions in these fields of endeavour.
I finish by remembering the film “Invictus”, which showed South African rugby and Nelson Mandela and all of that. The great moment for me was when the rugby players in the South African team—all white—were taken in their bus by the captain of the team to a township. They did not know what to do or why they had been brought there, but they showed kids who kicked a bit of rag around as a football the glories of passing the ball and playing rugby. Now the South African team has black people in it, and I am sure it arose from those sorts of beginnings. Participation, revitalising communities and spreading money out with that must be the sole and overriding objective. I look forward to what the Minister is going to say about who he played rugby with in his day.
My Lords, I am staggering to my feet with an old sporting injury, which has come back to haunt me. I, too, thank the noble Lord for securing this debate. What a marvellous collection of sportsmen and sportswomen—I should say ex-sportsmen and ex-sportswomen—we have here to talk about this. It is an important issue that is being raised. It is particularly enjoyable for me as the Minister responding because there have been hardly any questions at all, although that is genuinely because it has been a true debate, where people have put their points of view. That is quite rare, I have found.
The timing is especially apt following UK Sport’s announcement last week confirming the medal targets for the forthcoming Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Pyeongchang. It has set a target of five medals in the Olympics, which would represent Team GB’s best ever performance at a Winter Games. ParalympicsGB’s target of seven medals would be its best performance since lottery funding began. Whatever one’s views of the current no-compromise mission of UK Sport, I think that noble Lords will join me in wishing those sports men and women the very best of luck as they compete for medals in South Korea in a few weeks’ time.
I agree that the noble Lord has raised a subject which is worthy of debate—namely, considering the current UK Sport funding model and how it relates to the strength of sport at the grass-roots level. The fantastic successes at recent Olympic and Paralympic Games, exemplified by what the IOC acknowledged as the greatest Games of modern times at London 2012, have showcased to the world the very best that Britain has to offer. As has been said, the no-compromise approach delivered the greatest performances in a century at Rio 2016, with 67 Olympic and 147 Paralympic medals, and Britain coming second on both medal tables. We should remember that thanks should also go to National Lottery players, without whom none of this would have been possible. Noble Lords who do not think that medals are the only criteria to consider must acknowledge that the public, and the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, like watching our athletes on the podium at these Games.
The noble Lord’s Question is right to raise the importance of sport at all levels. The Government’s interest in areas such as safeguarding, anti-doping and tackling inactivity is set out in the sport strategy. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, I can say that UK Sport is currently planning its next public consultation on its strategic direction for supporting elite sport post Tokyo, and the results of the consultation should be available at the end of this year. In 2014, UK Sport’s remit was validated by its public consultation at that time.
The noble Lord, Lord Addington, particularly asked me to define what UK Sport’s mission is. It is currently to,
“inspire the nation through Olympic and Paralympic success”.
So its remit, in which it has undoubtedly succeeded, was to deliver Olympic and Paralympic medal success. The home countries’ sports councils’ role is to support participation and talent development. However, UK Sport also has other responsibilities which are best delivered at a UK level, such as bidding for and staging major sporting events in this country, and hosting major events on home soil that showcase our athletes and deliver an economic impact for the UK. That is aligned with our Sporting Future strategy.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, mentioned having a seat at the table at the highest level of international sport, and UK Sport is there to help secure that. It will help to deliver impact through athletes volunteering in schools and communities, and sharing their knowledge and expertise with the wider sector.
In pursuit of elite success, we have not forgotten grass-roots sport. The Government, with the lottery, are investing around £1 billion in grass-roots sport through Sport England over the current four-year period to increase participation and activity. To put that in perspective, that is nearly three-and-a-half times as much as the current Olympic cycle amount. Sport England’s Active Lives data show that more than 60% of people aged 16-plus are regularly active. As the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, said, activity is one thing that we ought to consider as important, because it is best for the health of the nation. If sport helps with that and helps to get people out of the front door on a cold January morning, it is a very good thing.
The latest data from Sport England’s Active Lives survey will be published in March. We hope to see continued positive levels of activity, which can contribute to physical and mental well-being and individual, social and economic development.
UK Sport’s remit of achieving medal success for the Tokyo cycle is set and performance targets remain on track. Annual reviews are held, which give unfunded sports the chance to bid with fresh evidence of performance to obtain UK Sport investment. The latest annual review decisions will be made on the 31st of this month; of course, they are a matter for UK Sport and in keeping with our arm’s-length principles.
The capacity for long-term planning is part of Team GB and ParalympicsGB’s success. As mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, lottery funding is crucial to UK Sport in making its funding allocations on a four-year basis ahead of each Games, which is why the DDCMS has underwritten any potential lottery shortfall so that it can confidently plan ahead of 2020.
The lottery is a matter of some concern: lottery ticket sales were £6.9 billion in 2016-17, which was lower than in recent years. Nevertheless, it is still the fourth best sales performance since the National Lottery began in 1994. We expect good cause returns in 2017-18 to be broadly similar to those in 2016-17, but we are concerned and we are looking into what we can do about the National Lottery. Camelot has carried out a comprehensive review of its business in response to those falling returns, which I welcome as a positive step. The Minister for Sport recently announced proposals to ban companies from offering bets on EuroMillions, which affects our National Lottery. DDCMS has been working with Camelot and lottery distributors to improve awareness of the good causes and projects that benefit from National Lottery funding. We have underwritten UK Sport’s lottery funding until 2020, but noble Lords will appreciate that it is a big ask to expect the Chancellor to guarantee it beyond 2020. As I said before, no funding criteria have been set beyond Tokyo, and UK Sport will consider the Paris 2024 funding cycle at the appropriate time.
Despite how it may appear from newspaper headlines, UK Sport is committed to supporting unfunded Olympic and Paralympic sports by offering knowledge sharing, technical support and services to sports that may wish to bid for major events in the UK. UK Sport will consider investment and support for unfunded sports wishing to apply for international federation positions—which my noble friend Lord Moynihan told us were so important—as well as wider advice, including participation in its international leadership programme.
UK Sport and Sport England work closely to ensure alignment of resources, messaging and support that they can offer on education and development programmes for sports and sporting talent. They also collaborate on duty of care, organisational culture, conduct, the implementation of the sports governance code and investment in talent and high-performance programmes. Over the next four years, Sport England is investing £225 million in national governing bodies and their work with grass-roots participants, through its core market investment programme, as well as £6 million in the almost 400 athletes who are not yet podium ready, supported by the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme, providing academic support in areas such as sports science, medicine, strength, conditioning and performance lifestyle.
The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, mentioned activity. I agree with that. The point is that we need to educate people about the benefits of activity. If sport helps to do that, then so be it. It might make exercise more fun, for example, but getting out and taking more exercise is difficult. We need to work on that, I agree.
I thank my noble friend Lord Wasserman for his spirited advocacy of basketball. He knows of course, that specific funding decisions for individual sports are deliberately not in Ministers’ hands but are confined to arm’s-length bodies. But he wants money from non-DDCMS sources, so I also wish him well on that.
I was going to mention the medal winners from Wales, but I think that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, did that. I conclude by emphasising that we acknowledge that there is an issue to be debated, that UK Sport has done a fantastic job in the remit it was given, but that it may not be the correct remit for ever. There is a consultation taking place this year and I am sure noble Lords will want to contribute to it. UK Sport and Sport England, which work on grass-roots sport, work closely together to take into account sport at both levels. We as a Government remain committed to supporting both elite and grass-roots sport. We will continue to seek improvements for the benefit of both levels of sport and for the nation as a whole.
Committee adjourned at 6.01 pm.