House of Lords
Tuesday 23 January 2018
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Peterborough.
Pregnancy: Folic Acid
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answers by Lord O’Shaughnessy on 18 October 2017 (HL1779–HL1781), regarding the advice of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition in July 2017 on the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid to reduce pregnancies affected by neural tube defects, whether they have made a decision on that advice.
My Lords, the Government welcome the advice of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, and I am aware of the noble Lord’s long-standing interest in this subject. This is a complex issue and Ministers are considering it carefully. The Government will set out their position in due course.
Does the Minister accept that this is not a campaign for fortification but an attempt to cut by half the number of pregnancies affected by neural tube defects, which lead to substantial numbers of terminations and of births affected by lifelong serious disability? If our preventive healthcare is world class, how come the UK has twice the United States of America’s rate of such pregnancies? Have the Government yet replied to the letter of December last from the Scottish and Welsh Governments, supported by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland and the UK Chief Medical Officers, backing the advice from the scientific advisory committee and asking for urgent action?
My Lords, as I said, this is a complex issue. Apart from the SACN’s view recommending mandatory fortification, we have to remember that, as it pointed out, it can agree to it only if there are restrictions on voluntary dietary fortification and voluntary restriction of folic acid in other products, such as breakfast cereals, whose manufacturers actively push the fact that they put folic acid in their products. It is important to ensure that there is no increase in the number of people with intakes above the recommended amount. On the letter, the Secretary of State replied as follows on 20 December:
“I fully understand your desire to proceed with mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid. I have therefore asked my officials to prepare advice that I will consider in the new year”.
My noble friend is right, but the United States adds it not only to white flour but to quite a lot of other products. It is voluntary from state to state. There has been an important study in the Republic of Ireland which I will tell noble Lords about very quickly so they do not shout “too long”. The Republic of Ireland was going to add folic acid to white flour when it was discovered that blood samples showed that high intakes of folic acid in Ireland were mainly due to the existing practice of voluntary fortification of various foods by the industry. The FSAI anticipated that folic acid food fortification would continue to increase due to health claims being authorised by food. They are likely to prompt more food businesses to fortify their products so that they can make a claim.
My Lords, I am not sure what the complexity is with this issue. The scientific evidence is quite clear that folic acid supplementation reduces the incidence of neural tube defects because of the interaction between a gene and the environment. It is a weak mutation of a gene that causes neural tube defects, and folic acid supplementation—I use that word—reduces the risk by supressing that gene interaction. The science is clear, which is why many hundreds of countries use folic acid supplementation. It also might explain why we have different incidences of the neural tube defect in different populations—because of the interaction between the gene and the environment.
It is the new year!
I am well aware that it is the new year. I must point out that this is not just about fortification of white flour. We must remember that quite a lot of people do not eat white flour, particularly in the ethnic community. If we do do this, it is also important that there is public consultation to make sure that businesses are willing to do the voluntary intake of folic acid into flour.
My Lords, more than 80 countries around the world follow this procedure of fortifying white flour with folic acid. There is no scientific or medical evidence from anywhere in the world to contradict the conclusion that it is wholly beneficial to pregnant women. There is no point in the Government saying that pregnant women can make a decision when they know they are pregnant, because that is too late for it to work. I am not talking to the Minister personally when I say this, as I think she might have a different view from her colleagues, but is she really challenging this overwhelming burden of medical and scientific evidence—or is it just mulish obduracy?
No, it is not mulish obduracy. The Secretary of State is minded to look at this again and has asked officials to draw up a plan because we are listening to what everybody says. Your Lordships will just need to wait to see what the Secretary of State comes out with.
My Lords, could the Minister tell the House when the Government last ran a campaign to remind women to take folic acid before they became pregnant and how many women were targeted? Do the Government foresee any future efforts to increase the number targeted, and if not, what responsibility do the Government have towards babies born with neural tube defects?
As I think was mentioned earlier, 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned, so the health education messages are provided in a range of settings, targeting women of child-bearing age. There is the Healthy Start programme, through which free vitamin vouchers are offered to pregnant women on low incomes, who will receive certain benefits. The NHS Choices website provides healthy lifestyle advice during pregnancy, including on the importance of folic acid supplementation, and there is the NHS Start4Life information service. Early in pregnancy, a midwife will provide information about nutrition and diet, including supplements such as folic acid and vitamin D, as well as lifestyle advice.
Crime: Scooter and Moped Gangs
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures they are taking to address a reported increase in the number of robberies and assaults perpetrated by gangs on scooters or mopeds; and whether they intend to review restrictions on police pursuing suspects who are not wearing helmets.
My Lords, the Government are working with a wide range of partners to understand better the drivers of these crimes and what more can be done to prevent them. This sits alongside a review that the Government have announced of the law, guidance and practice surrounding police pursuits and response driving. In that context, I can confirm that there is no national ban on the police pursuing suspects who are not wearing helmets.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, but is she aware that in the last two years approximately 30,000 motorcycles and scooters have been stolen in and around London alone, and that many of those have been used to perpetrate crimes? Does she have the statistics for two-wheel-enabled crime? What can be done to increase the arrests and prosecutions of the perpetrators, many of whom are aged between 12 and 20?
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that question. We cannot be sure of the actual number of lost or stolen motorcycles being used across London to commit these crimes, but the Metropolitan Police Service reported a sharp increase in motorcycle-related offences in the year to June 2017. Recently, it has reported a fall in such crimes but it is too early to say whether that is the start of a sustained downward trend or a seasonal fall. I understand that the various partners and the Home Office had a meeting and will continue to work together to produce an action plan. As for the action that we are taking, we are working with the National Police Chiefs Council’s lead on vehicle crime, and we will be taking that forward as part of a high-level action plan to understand the drivers for such crimes.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that, quite often, crime is driven by fashion and trends? I give as an example the racially motivated crimes of decades ago, the recent acid attacks and many other types of crime that are usually gang-related. As robbery carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, is it not really the job—once the perpetrators are arrested, particularly the ringleaders—of the judiciary to exact sentences as an example to others?
The noble Lord is right that these crimes can become in themselves a fashion or a trend. With regard to the options open to the judiciary, clearly precedents can be set in respect of the types of crime committed in terms of future sentences meted out.
My Lords, I understand that the Metropolitan Police is having some success with police on scrambler bikes dealing with this type of crime, but its overall vehicle fleet is having to be cut because of budget cuts, to the extent that some criminals are being de-arrested because there is no prisoner transport available. I understand the Government will insist that they are maintaining police funding, but the Metropolitan Police says that it has suffered £600 million in cuts since 2010, with another £400 million in cuts in the pipeline. Who is right about police funding, the Government or the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis?
My Lords, as I said yesterday, police forces across the country have requested increases in funding and, as I outlined yesterday, that is what they have got, with the potential offered by some of the technologies available to them to release 11,000 police officers to do whatever jobs individual forces feel are appropriate. On the noble Lord’s point about scrambler bikes and in the context of the first part of my answer, I know that this is a particular problem in London and if police forces feel that that is the investment they should make then they should be free to do so.
My Lords, is it not terribly disturbing that the police have let it be known that quite a number of crimes are not investigated? Can we have an assurance that this crime always will be and that information will no longer be dripped out to us that burglaries and other crimes can be conducted with impunity because the police will not pursue the criminals?
One of the myths being put about was that police are not pursuing drivers of motorcycles who are not wearing helmets. In fact, that is not the case at all: there has been no ban on police pursuing people without helmets. It is an operational matter for the police what they prioritise at local level.
My Lords, in the light of that answer, perhaps the noble Baroness can explain why the young people concerned are taking off their helmets. More particularly, she talked about increased funding. Why is it, then, that the Home Office refuses to pay the full amount of compensation to the Metropolitan Police for its national and international functions, although it has agreed the sum of money which is due? Is that not reducing the Metropolitan Police’s ability to deal with crimes such as this?
My Lords, in answer to the question of why people are taking off their helmets, I assume that it is in order not to be pursued. That is why I made the point that police are absolutely at liberty, in pursuit of fighting crime, to chase people who are not wearing a helmet. On full compensation, if the noble Lord is amenable, I shall write to him on that point.
My Lords, I have spoken to police officers in London who have made it clear to me that they are very reluctant to chase suspects on scooters without helmets on, for fear of the suspect falling off and suffering injury or even death. What new measure are the Government going to bring into place to deal with this appalling crime? Also, can she assure the House that all intelligence, surveillance and investigative measures at the disposal of the authorities are being brought to bear to deal with this crime?
My Lords, in terms of the police saying that they will not chase people who are not wearing helmets, in every pursuit case, the police weigh up the various risks of chasing people. There may be an incident where the police are unwilling to chase somebody who is not wearing a helmet because of the safety of other people. In terms of using all the options, following the round table held last summer, the Home Office is drawing up an action plan to consider the various ways in which we can tackle this issue, because it is not a single-agency issue. The Home Office is also drawing up a review which is due to report shortly.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Public Services and Governance
My Lords, we know that the way in which power is shared and used in many sub-Saharan African countries can provide a major boost to or constraint on the provision of essential public services and inclusive growth. The UK is working to support more inclusive societies, with open and accountable institutions and peaceful political processes that are better able to meet the needs of their citizens and sustain development over the longer term.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and draw attention to my entry in the register of interests. Does he acknowledge that, in the past few years, humanitarian assistance has doubled, the commitment to private sector development is due to increase dramatically, more development spending will go to departments other than DfID and the value of the pound has fallen by 20%? In these circumstances, can the Government give an assurance that they will maintain their commitment to sub-Saharan Africa, and in particular to sustainable services, especially in health, education, equality, social security and good governance, because these are absolutely essential to delivering the sustainable development goals and ending absolute poverty?
I can certainly give that assurance. Over the past few years, the amount going to overseas development assistance has steadily increased in sub-Saharan Africa in those areas of governance. I think the total is now in the region of £1.1 billion. That is very important because, as the noble Lord knows from his time as chair of the International Development Committee in the other place, it is essential to get that governance right so that economic growth can occur and countries can eventually stand on their own two feet.
My Lords, given the central importance of good governance to conflict prevention and conflict resolution, will the Government ensure that the objective of the sustainable development goals, in particular goal 16, which the UK did so much to include in the SDGs, will be reflected in the forthcoming security review, in the wider interests of security for the UK and elsewhere?
My Lords, the pursuit of SDG 16, on peaceful and inclusive societies, is extremely important for the process. One of the things that we recognise throughout Africa—and, indeed, throughout the world—is that, by and large, conflicts are manmade and their impact on the female population is worse. Therefore, the Secretary of State announced last week a national action plan to engage women in peacebuilding and peace security, focusing on two or three countries initially in sub-Saharan Africa because women, as well as being victims, can also be part of the solution to negotiating sustainable peace in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere.
My Lords, both noble Lords in their questions raised the important issue that an increasing amount of ODA is being allocated to departments other rather than the Minister’s own. I know that he can be extremely proud of DfID’s record of transparency and accountability, but can the same be said of other government departments? What are the Government doing to ensure that the FCO, which funds a lot of these programmes, follows the same level of transparency as DfID?
That is very important. Following on the programme that was initiated under the previous Government, we set up the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, for example, which is a cross-government approach that recognises that the issues are often not just development or humanitarian but involve security, and, in the Middle East or in sub-Saharan Africa for example, there is a diplomatic and political part to it as well. So it makes sense to have all the departments working together, but they must do so in a transparent way that meets the required standards set out in the aid strategy and is also overseen by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact.
My Lords, given both the recent political instability and the current consultation on reforming the constitution in Burundi, and the forced displacement of more than 400,000 people, how do the Government intend to support sustainable public service through ODA in countries such as Burundi where conflict is preventing the basic functions of governance?
I pay tribute to the right reverend Prelate for his long-standing work in Burundi and his advocacy for peaceful solutions. We are supporting initiatives there. We are helping the refugees, 400,000 of whom, as he said, have fled to neighbouring countries —Tanzania and Rwanda, for example. We are also supporting democratic institutions leading up to the elections, which we hope will take place in 2020 and offer some hope for stability in that country.
My Lords, is not Zimbabwe a good example of what the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, was suggesting? The new President of Zimbabwe is looking for friends. Are we active enough in the Foreign Office at the moment in seeking ways of introducing longer-term development to balance humanitarian aid?
When the opportunity came, after the former President Mugabe left office, one of the first there was Rory Stewart when he was a joint Foreign Office and DfID Minister. I know that the new Africa Minister, Harriett Baldwin, will be looking to make a visit early on. It is precisely the type of country that has been locked into instability for too long, and yet has immense potential in terms of education and its natural resources, which can be liberated.
Is the Minister aware that there appears to be a growing consensus among international donors that development is stalling in sub-Saharan Africa because of a failure of governance and weak institutions? Does the Minister agree that ODA should prioritise institutional reform over good governance, providing the capacity to deliver change, following the fundamental principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness set out as long ago as 2005?
Those principles are actively supported by the African Union, which is meeting in Addis this week. It has on its agenda the eradication of corruption and the upholding of democratic principles. Of course, it will always be better if it makes the case rather than anybody else. I would also say that we should remember that some of the fastest-growing economies in the world last year were in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Ethiopia and Tanzania. We also need to focus on the immense economic potential in those countries.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what additional support they are providing for key services for Palestinian refugees, including schools, health, and emergency food and cash distribution, following the decision by the government of the United States to cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
My Lords, we are consistently a major donor to UNRWA, having so far provided around £50 million in 2017-18 based on the agency meeting rigorous performance indicators. We contributed more than expected for this financial year to help to manage UNRWA’s funding gap in December. We are working closely with UNRWA and other key donors to do all that we can to maintain essential services for Palestinian refugees.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I am reassured that the Government are working hard on closing the gap, but cuts of $50 million to $60 million are bound to have severe impacts on the ongoing work of UNRWA with women, children and, indeed, men. Will we do everything possible to make sure that these cuts do not have to take place? Will we recognise that cuts of that kind, coming so soon after the President’s precipitant action on Jerusalem, must inevitably raise anxiety and unrest about the level of commitment to the Palestinian people required of us by the Balfour Declaration?
As the noble Lord will know from his immense experience in this area, the Government and officials are having meetings with their opposite numbers in the United States, seeking to understand the position in relation to that. As we understand it, a tranche which was due to paid of about $65 million was withheld, the basis for which can vary depending on who you talk to. Part of the reason from the US is that it wants to encourage more international donors to step up to the plate to help to fund UNRWA—and, on that point, I think that it has something to say. The largest bilateral donors are Germany with $76 million, Sweden with $61 million and the United Kingdom with $60 million, while the United States contribution last year was $364 million. It is a huge contributor to UNRWA and, as well as the international community rightly challenging the importance of the humanitarian assistance from the United States, we should recognise the significant contribution that the United States makes to UNRWA’s important work.
The Prime Minister has already made her position very clear. On 6 December she said:
“Our position on the status of Jerusalem is clear and long-standing: it should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and Jerusalem should ultimately be the shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian states. In line with relevant Security Council Resolutions”.
That is why we took almost unprecedented action at the UN Security Council in supporting the Motion, and at the UN General Assembly. We regard the idea as unhelpful to the peace process.
It is very clear that the reaction of the US authorities is obviously in relation to the UN General Assembly resolution; that was made clear in one tweet that was issued. If the State Department is saying that UNRWA requires reform, would not it be a good idea to engage positively with the State Department and see what kinds of reforms were necessary to ensure continued support for the Palestinian people?
UNRWA is providing essential healthcare to 3 million people and education to half a million children. We recognise that UNRWA could do some things better; UNRWA recognises that it could do some things better. We took up a mechanism last year whereby we introduced a performance review element into our funding of £50 million. That may be a way forward for others to act—but it is for the United States and other donors to step up and act as they choose.
Does the Minister agree that it is likely to be preferable for Palestinian children in Gaza to be taught in UNRWA schools rather than Hamas-led ones? In the light of that, will the Government put pressure on the United States to encourage it to restore full funding for the UNRWA schools, which I hope the Minister has seen in operation, as I have?
We have high regard for the work of UNRWA in Gaza; we have a no-contact policy with Hamas. We are supporting the Palestinian Authority as it seeks to re-engage and take responsibility in Gaza. We also work through UNICEF on the ground, providing water and sanitation. I support the noble Baroness’s views on UNRWA schools very much. They have been visited and audited by a number of Members of this House and found to be of a very high standard. We want to encourage that.
My Lords, last year President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority pledged that he would not stop paying salaries to imprisoned terrorists and their families, even if it cost him his presidency. Does the Minister agree that there cannot be peace until the Palestinian Authority truly renounces violence and stops glorifying terrorism against Israelis?
The United Kingdom Government support the Palestinian Authority financially, on the basis that it has a policy of saying that it will recognise the State of Israel and accept its responsibility to clamp down on speech designed to incite hatred and division. That is a condition of our funding; there is no question of any funds from the United Kingdom taxpayer going to support terrorists in prison. Our funding goes via a list of teachers and health professionals, carefully vetted by the EU, to enable them to provide care for people in great need in that area.
Brexit: Financial Services Sector
Private Notice Question
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they still intend to publish a position paper setting out their priorities and preferred trading relationship for the financial services sector after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, and if so when.
My Lords, the Government have set out their objectives for financial services. The Secretary of State and the Chancellor have each done so in recent speeches. We are engaging extensively with both industry and EU partners to hear their views and set out our arguments. In any negotiation there is a careful judgment and a delicate balance about when and how to set things out in public, and we will keep under review the best way of doing this.
The noble Baroness will be aware that I have been engaged in correspondence with the Chancellor, on behalf of the sub-committee, about the need for a transition period. The Government have, indeed, set out their position in that regard. What is lacking is a position paper telling the financial services sector what it should expect to get at the end of the transition period; in other words, what it should implement and plan for when the transition period is over. There are more than 1 million jobs at stake in this industry, which has huge strategic importance for the United Kingdom. Seven position papers have been published so far, but not the long-promised one on the financial services sector. When do the Government expect to do so?
I have to correct a misapprehension on the part of the noble Baroness. She will be aware of the reply that my honourable friend the Minister, Robin Walker, gave to the other place in November. He made it clear that there was extensive engagement with a number of sectors. There had been numerous round-table and bilateral meetings. In particular, he said that, at that point, there was no position paper and that we shall continue to review the situation to determine how best to set out our position, which we will do as appropriate. That continues to be the Government’s position.
My Lords, at the weekend the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, wrote that if we are not careful and do not know where we are going, the transition will be a gangplank leading to nowhere. It is over a year since the noble Baroness’s report on the financial services sector and Brexit was produced. We have no clear view of what the Government think. Is it that they do not know, that they dare not tell, or is it, as Nicky Morgan suggests, that they are not up to the task?
The noble Baroness’s criticism might have more authority if it did not come from the Benches opposite, where the Labour Party’s position on Europe can only be described as shambolic, and that is a euphemism. I remind the noble Baroness of precisely what has been happening. As I said, there has been extensive engagement and consultation and we are seeking a bold and ambitious free trade agreement between the UK and the EU. In so far as the financial services industry is concerned, this will require detailed technical talks, as she is no doubt well aware. However, the UK is an existing EU member state so we have regulatory frameworks on both sides and we have standards that already match. As recently as last week, the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and my honourable friend Mr Robin Walker met senior representatives of the financial services industry to engage on exit issues, so there is an ongoing dialogue. This is a delicate and sensitive time and the Government must be the arbiter of when it is appropriate to declare their position in particular areas.
My Lords, have the Government not repeatedly made it clear that what they seek for the financial services sector is the maximum possible access, similar to what we have now, whether it is based on either equivalence instead of passporting or third-party rights, as is allowed for under some of the financial measures already enacted by the European Union? Is it not utterly absurd in a negotiation to demand detail beyond that and to ask a Government who are attempting to negotiate a deal to say where they expect to end up? That is not realistic.
My Lords, I spent the morning working with a large number of people in the financial services sector. Does the Minister understand how outraged many people are who have held back on their contingency planning in the expectation that there was to be clarification through this paper, and the number of people who practically pinioned me to the wall to pass her the message that this confirms to them that the Government are so internally riven that they do not have a negotiating position on this key area, and they are on their own?
The noble Baroness seems to imply that the Government are operating in some kind of vacuum. They are not for two reasons, as was made very clear in December when we moved on to phase 2, the critical component of the negotiations when the very issues that so concern the noble Baroness will be the subject of discussion. It is not as though there is no engagement with the financial services industry; there is very close engagement. As my noble friend Lord Lamont made clear, this is a sensitive time in the discussions. It would be completely inappropriate to show hands and declare positions. The financial services industry is aware of what the Government seek in terms of their objectives. We take comfort from the position of London in the global financial world. The Z/Yen consultancy declared in September that London is the leading financial centre, ahead of New York which is second, Hong Kong, third and Singapore, fourth. Yes, we know what people in the financial services industry feel. Yes, we are cognisant of that and, yes, we are doing everything we can to robustly represent the best interests of the financial services industry.
My Lords, we have time for both speakers who have been on their feet. We shall start with the Conservative Benches and then go over to the Labour Benches.
My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that the range and diversity of markets and services in the City of London, and the extent to which overseas institutions participate in them, means that it would be very difficult to produce a paper of the sort that the noble Baroness opposite has demanded without going into a gross oversimplification, and that it would be much better—as my noble friend Lord Lamont said—to allow these negotiations to progress?
Yes. I thank my noble friend for that intervention. As I have already said, this will involve detailed technical talks—there is nothing straightforward or simple about this. I entirely agree with him that that it would be exceedingly dangerous to yield to the temptation, to which some seem to be in danger of yielding, that we can reduce this to simplistic terms. These are challenging and complex issues and they should be addressed appropriately.
My Lords, is it not interesting that we have heard three Conservative speakers, including the noble Baroness from the Dispatch Box, obviously thinking that our negotiators are amateurs and that they cannot conduct a negotiation when the broad outlines are set out before them? I served under the chairmanship of the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, on the Select Committee, where it was made plain to us by 40 witnesses, time and again, that they need certainty. Ideally they wanted certainty by the end of 2017; they are now begging for it before the end of the first quarter in March. I should not need to remind the Minister that the City of London is only a small part of the United Kingdom’s financial services industry. A very large part of it is in Scotland, Bristol and Leeds. These jobs are at risk, and this is not the time to play games.
I respect the noble Baroness and understand that she is a significant contributor to the proceedings of this House, but she is a little harsh in her terminology. There is no question of the Government playing games, and that is recognised in Brussels and by the EU. It is recognised that these are complex, challenging negotiations and that by their very nature a degree of sensitivity surrounds them, and that involves also the need to observe a degree of confidentiality. The financial services industry is aware of the Government’s broad objectives in these negotiations; as I said last week, senior representatives of the industry met with the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and my honourable friend Robin Walker. So there is clarity on the part of the industry as to what the Government wish to try to achieve. When the Government think it appropriate, as my honourable friend Robin Walker said in the other place, we can consider how to set out our position.
We have made it clear that we are determined to negotiate an ambitious free trade agreement. We want to do everything we can to facilitate access to the markets and to enjoy the arrangements that currently obtain. However, the Government have been clear that we cannot commit to being in the single market or the customs union, because to do so per se is not to leave the EU. On the financial services markets, this has been explored, and it is clear that passporting is not the only way to access EU financial services markets. That is why these negotiations are so critical and why we have to leave the negotiators in peace to get on with their important work.
Personal Independence Payments
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat as a Statement an Answer given to an Urgent Question in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the High Court judgment on PIP—personal independence payment. The Statement is as follows:
“After careful consideration, I took the decision not to appeal the High Court’s judgment on this case. I informed this House of my decision immediately by tabling a Written Statement on Friday last week. This Written Statement set out my decision and the steps my department will now take to implement the judgment. I repeat once again my commitment to implementing this judgment in the best interest of our claimants and through working closely with disabled people and key stakeholders over the coming months.
The Department for Work and Pensions will undertake an exercise to go through all affected cases in receipt of the personal independence payment and all decisions made following the judgment in MH to identify anyone who may be entitled to more as a result of the judgment. We will then write to those individuals affected and all payments will be back-dated to the effective date in each individual claim.
In accepting the outcome of this High Court judgment, the department does not agree with some of the details made in the judgment. The 2017 amending regulations were introduced in response to an Upper Tribunal case that broadened the interpretation of eligibility for Mobility 1, which is the ability to plan and follow a journey. Our intention has always been to deliver the original policy intent through clarifying how symptoms of overwhelming psychological distress should be assessed. In order to provide certainty to our claimants, we are not appealing the outcome of the recent High Court judgment.
Our next steps will build on the positive work this Government are already undertaking, including the following. Spending on the main disability benefits—PIP, DLA and attendance allowance—has risen by £4.2 billion since 2010 and real-terms spending on disability benefits will be higher every year to 2020 than in 2010. The Government have commissioned two expert-led reviews and invested a record £11.6 billion into mental health services. The Access to Work mental health support service has been expanded with a two-year trial of targeted support for apprentices with mental health conditions. We have also accepted all the recommendations in the independent review by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and Paul Farmer, including establishing a framework for large employers to voluntarily report on mental health and disability within their organisations.
With regard to the next steps following this judgment, the Department for Work and Pensions will write to those who may be entitled to a higher rate of PIP. Where relevant, all payments will be backdated to the effective date in each individual claim.
PIP is a modern, dynamic and fairer benefit than its predecessor, DLA, and focuses the most support on those experiencing the greatest barriers to living independently. At the core of PIP’s design is the principle that awards of the benefit should be made according to a claimant’s overall level of need, regardless of whether they suffer from physical or non-physical conditions. This Government are committed to furthering rights and opportunities for all disabled people and we continue to spend over £50 billion per year to support people with disabilities and health conditions”.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating that Answer. I remind the House that these regulations were rushed through after the tribunal specifically to deny the higher-rate mobility component of PIP to people who were claiming on grounds of psychological distress, affecting people with Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia or various other mental health conditions.
In the High Court judgment, Mr Justice Mostyn said that these new criteria were “blatantly discriminatory” against those with mental health impairments and that they “cannot be objectively justified”. Ministers should have known that. On 27 March this House voted for a regret Motion in my name objecting to these regulations precisely because they discriminate against people with mental health conditions. I then wrote to Damian Green, with the support of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham and the noble Baronesses, Lady Browning and Lady Bakewell, asking him to conduct a review mandated by that Motion. He declined to do so, so we ended up in the High Court.
I am glad that Ministers are not appealing the decision, but it leaves many questions, of which I can ask only two. First, will there be an appeal process for PIP claimants who are not contacted by the department but who believe they should receive back payments? Secondly, will applicants be entitled to a reassessment if they were given only the standard rate of the PIP mobility component after the regulations came through, where the cause of the claim was “psychological distress”?
If Ministers had, once again, only listened to this House, this confusion and distress for claimants could have been avoided. I dearly hope they do so next time.
My Lords, I shall respond robustly to what the noble Baroness opposite has just said by making it absolutely clear that this Government have been far more generous in supporting people with mental health conditions than the previous Labour Government, who put off any changes to disability support, particularly in relation to mental health conditions, until after the general election of 2010, which by then was too late.
This is not a policy change. We are going back to the heart of the policy intent and relates to those in psychological distress. We have accepted the Stevenson/Farmer recommendations, which shows that we are committed to supporting claimants with disabilities. We are also working with a range of disability charities to implement the judgment in the best way. We will look at appeals, to which the noble Baroness opposite made reference, but we want to make sure that we get the process right. We have already spoken with the charity Mind on how we implement the judgment. The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work in another place talked only yesterday with a disability charity consortium to discuss the decision and to hear its views on implementation. We will reach out to claimants and look at every one of them.
To be clear, we are spending over £50 billion on disabilities. We are entirely committed to this issue—indeed, it is one of the Prime Minister’s top priorities. I can confirm that this was never a cost-saving measure. The judge in the case made references to cost saving but we do not agree with that. Indeed, we have focused on being more generous through the introduction of PIP and, as a result of the judgment, we will rightly become even more generous in supporting people with mental health conditions.
My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister about the process. I fail to understand why, in March 2017, the Government did not have recourse to the power available to them under the Social Security Administration Act 1998 to suspend the implementation of adverse legal judgments pending further and better particulars. If they had taken that route they would have had recourse to the SSAC and a proper consultation, which would have prevented this adverse outcome from the High Court. Will the Minister learn from this and give an assurance that in such future circumstances, the Government will use the unique power the DWP has to prevent getting egg all over their face and causing adverse circumstances for many claimants who do not deserve that kind of treatment?
I hear what the noble Lord is saying. This is one of the reasons why the immediate response of my colleague the Minister for Disabled People—and indeed the Secretary of State—was not only to decide not to question the judgment but to do everything we can to help claimants. That is why we have already had early meetings with stakeholders and organisations who can help us think through how to ensure that we do not make mistakes going forward. It is important to say that the 2017 amending regulations did not represent a policy change. The distinction was based on the considered advice of highly qualified medical advisers, and the activities considered in PIP are used as a proxy for assessing a claimant’s overall level of need in daily life, which is what we were focusing on.
The noble Lord will understand that since 2010, spending on the main disability benefits comprising PIP, DLA and attendance allowance has risen by £4.2 billion. Disability benefits are at a record high this year. Indeed, as a share of GDP, the UK’s public spending on disability and incapacity is higher than in all other G7 countries bar Germany.
It is important to focus on the components in terms of spending on PIP and the DLA equivalence, which of course was what we had under the Labour Government. As at October 2017, 66% of PIP recipients with a mental health condition received the enhanced rate daily living component, compared with 22% receiving the highest rate DLA care component as at May 2013. Some 31% of PIP recipients with a mental health condition get the enhanced rate mobility component as at October 2017, compared with 10% receiving the higher rate DLA mobility component as at May 2013. I could go on with more figures. If one compares the percentage of spending by this department with other departments within the Government’s budget, we are, as we should be, strongly focused on how we can help those with physical and with mental health conditions to do a very dynamic thing that PIP stands for: have the independence to cope with their lives, whatever their condition.
My Lords, the number of applicants who fail to qualify run into the hundreds of thousands. Can the Minister say what is being done to recruit enough staff to deal with the backlog? I have seen a report which states that it will take decades before they finally get up to date and PIP applicants will receive their social mobility claims, as they duly should. What is being done about the backlog?
I can indeed respond to the noble Baroness because only last week I had a meeting with officials who are closely focused on this issue. I cannot give her the exact numbers, but we are bringing on board many more work coaches. We are training them and continually working to improve our systems to ensure that any backlogs in the waiting time for the initial assessment and reassessment are cut down; I think they have been cut by at least half over the past year. We recognised that the number of people coming forward was greater than we had initially judged, so we are responding to that as quickly and efficiently as we can. At the same time, we have to make sure that there is continuous improvement, that the PIP benefits process is working fairly and effectively and that it offers the best claimant experience possible. My honourable friend in another place, the Minister of State with responsibility for this issue, has given me a list of the different things we are doing to improve the assessment process and deal with any backlogs in the system.
My Lords, I would like to congratulate my noble friend the Minister and my right honourable friend in the other place on taking this decision. It is the right decision, although I am sure it was a difficult one and will be difficult for the department to implement. Nevertheless, it is right and I welcome it.
I thank my noble friend for supporting us in what we feel strongly was the right decision. It was a difficult one because obviously, we need to take some time—not long, but some time—to make sure that we can respond in the right way and support a fair number of people whose assessments we need to re-evaluate. We will do that to the best of our ability, but very much at the forefront of our minds is the need to work with stakeholders, including Mind and other charities, to ensure that we get this right. Again, I thank my noble friend.
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will repeat a Statement made in the other place by my right honourable friend Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for DCMS. The Statement is as follows:
“Mr Speaker, I am here in my new capacity as the quasi-judicial decision-maker in relation to the proposed merger between 21st Century Fox and Sky Plc to update the House regarding the CMA’s interim report that it has issued today. The decision-making role is one that my right honourable friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands discharged, having met her commitment—given many times on the Floor of this House—to the greatest possible transparency and openness the process allows. And while I come to this fresh, I intend to follow the process of being as open as possible while respecting the quasi-judicial nature of the decision.
As this House well knows, after the proposed acquisition was formally notified to the competition authorities last year, my right honourable friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands issued an intervention notice on media public interest grounds; namely, of media plurality and genuine commitment to broadcasting standards. This triggered a phase 1 investigation of the merger, requiring Ofcom to report on the specified public interest grounds and the CMA on jurisdiction. Having received advice from Ofcom and the CMA, in September she referred the proposed Sky-Fox merger to the CMA for a phase 2 investigation on both grounds.
The original statutory deadline for the final report was 6 March, but the CMA has today confirmed that this will be extended by a further eight weeks and that the revised deadline is 1 May. Once I have received that final report, I must come to a decision on whether, taking into account the specified public interest considerations of media plurality and genuine commitment to broadcasting standards, the merger operates or may be expected to operate against the public interest. Following receipt of the final report, I will have 30 working days in which to publish my decision on the merger, so if I receive the CMA’s report on 1 May that would be 14 June.
To be clear, the publication today is the CMA’s provisional findings. I have placed a copy in the House Library. With regards to the need for a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards, the CMA provisionally finds that the merger is not expected to operate against the public interest. On media plurality grounds, the CMA’s provisional finding is that the merger may be against the public interest. It cites concerns that the transaction could reduce the independence of Sky News and would reduce the diversity of viewpoints available to, and consumed by, the public. It also raised concerns that the Murdoch Family Trust would have increased influence over public opinion and the political agenda.
The CMA has identified three remedy approaches and seeks views from interested parties on them. These remedy approaches are: first, to prohibit the transaction; secondly, to undertake structural remedies either to recommend the spin-off of Sky News into a new company, or to recommend the divestiture of Sky News; and thirdly, behavioural remedies that could, for example, include enhanced requirements around the editorial independence of Sky News.
The CMA also recognises that the proposed acquisition of Fox by Disney could address concerns set out in the provisional findings. However, the uncertainty about whether, when, or how that transaction will complete means the CMA has also set out potential approaches, which include introducing remedies which would fall away subject to the Disney-Fox transaction completing.
The CMA has invited written representations on the provisional report’s findings and the potential remedy approaches with 21st Century Fox and Sky—as well as other interested parties—before producing a final report. As such, and given the quasi-judicial nature of this process, I hope the House will understand that I cannot comment substantively on the provisional report before us and I must wait for the final report before I comment. I am, however, aware of the keen interest of the House in this important matter. I know that right honourable and honourable Members will be closely scrutinising the CMA’s provisional findings and will have views on them.
The CMA’s investigation will continue over the coming weeks. It has set out the process for making representations on the remedy options outlined and on the provisional findings, with deadlines of 6 February and 13 February respectively. I feel sure that today’s debate will provide helpful context for that work.
What I am able to confirm today is that I will undertake to keep the House fully informed and follow the right and proper process, considering all the evidence carefully when the time comes to make my decision on receipt of the CMA’s final report. I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for repeating the Statement made by the Secretary of State in another place. I take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Matt Hancock on his appointment and pay tribute to the fact that, on this issue, he says he intends to continue his predecessor’s practice of being as open as possible while respecting the quasi-judicial nature of the decision. In this regard, I respectfully request that the Minister suggests to the new Secretary of State that he might wish to continue the informal all-party meetings with Members of your Lordships’ House, which were very helpful in previous rounds of this and related issues. We would welcome that.
As we have heard, the provisional findings of the CMA are that if the Fox-Sky merger went ahead as proposed, it could be against the public interest. It would result in the Murdoch family having too much control over news providers in the UK and too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda. I do not think that there can be much dispute about that. We now move on to a public consultation of possible remedies, which I am sure will attract a great deal of attention, as did the original investigation, with some 16,000 responses.
The Statement that we have just heard did not, for obvious reasons explained by the noble and learned Lord, go into the detail of the possible remedies, but I think it is worth commenting that, even at this stage, it is fairly clear that the CMA largely discounts what are called “behavioural remedies”, which are largely firewalls aimed at keeping entities and their information separate within a merged group. We agree that that would not be a preferred solution. Secondly, the CMA is unenthusiastic about structural remedies; namely to either spin off Sky News into a new company, or recommend the divestiture of Sky News, as this may threaten the viability of Sky News. This is something that has already been threatened: indeed, it is interesting to note that the CMA warns parties that the closure of Sky News while the investigation is ongoing would not be permitted. We are left, therefore, with the third recommendation which is out for consultation, which is the prohibition of the transaction. We think that that is the right solution.
Clearly, a lot of this is dependent on whether and when the sale of Fox to Disney goes ahead. It is subject to considerable regulatory issues in the United States and we do not know enough about what the final structures will be; we therefore have to wait. It is a complicated issue on its own without these other factors intervening, and it is good that the CMA seems to be on top of this, keeping a watchful eye on it and making sensible proposals in the eventuality of this coming through within the timescale of its review. The most surprising issue in the Statement is that the CMA says it is not concerned about the proposed merger on broadcasting standards grounds. I make two points here.
We have argued consistently that the fit and proper person test of individuals who seek to acquire and operate a broadcasting licence is central to having a fair and plural press in this country. However, the test itself is flawed and outdated and needs to be revised. I refer the noble and learned Lord to amendments to the Digital Economy Act which we debated in the last Parliament and which we withdrew on the basis that the Government were considering amending the current provisions and would be looking at this in the near future. I do not think it would be difficult to find a way of bringing into the 21st century a system which, after all, is similar in many respects to the one routinely operated in the financial sector. Will the Government consider this? If so, will they tell us when they will bring forward some recommendations?
Secondly, we have consistently said that if we are to reach a proper assessment of the broadcasting standards question as it affects the Murdoch Family Trust and others, we need to get to the bottom of the corporate governance issues that gave rise to the original Leveson report and should be looked at again as part of part 2 of the Leveson inquiry. I am trying to be helpful here to the noble and learned Lord—I hope he will not need to be reminded that, as a result of amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, which were agreed by this House to the Data Protection Bill, the Government are likely to be required to carry out a review of this type one way or the other. Once Sir Brian has reviewed the recent consultation responses on this issue, I urge the Government to simply get on with it.
My Lords, I associate myself with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, about the second stage of Leveson and also the remedies that have already been put forward on media regulation. I welcome this Statement and the ongoing commitment of the Secretary of State to keep both Houses informed. I also appreciate the continuing interest of the Minister in this House, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, in the matter. Like the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, I would welcome a continuation of that informal dialogue. We welcome the interim findings concerning the public interest not being served in terms either of diversity or the influence of the Murdoch Family Trust.
On the commitment to broadcasting standards, I share the concern and puzzlement of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. I find it odd that in terms of commitment to broadcasting standards, the proposed merger does not operate against the public interest, echoing an earlier and very disappointing finding by Ofcom. In three continents over 60 years—in Australia, the UK and the USA—Mr Murdoch has been a major factor in lowering standards in both print and broadcast media. I am pleased that the Secretary of State is taking his time to think and consider. Frankly, he has been a little too eager to shoot from the hip in his first few days in office, so this more considered response is welcome.
I still believe that a healthy media ecology rests on a mantra of quality, diversity and choice. All three are threatened by an extension of Murdoch power. It is important to defend the integrity of Sky News, where the lack of 100% control has mitigated against the Murdoch effect. But the Secretary of State needs to go further and consider carefully how we protect our public service broadcast news on the BBC, ITV and Sky News. We need to review the protection of news sources in the light of the impact of new technologies. Here again, Ofcom needs to be proactive in reviewing and bringing advice on these matters.
We must also keep an eye on the implications of the Disney takeover of Fox. Does the Minister have a timetable or guesstimate about how soon the US authorities will come to their conclusions? For we must make sure that any remedies to protect the public interest are real and effective, not simply fig leaves to cover up a surrender to big media power. This is a welcome Statement but it is not the end of the matter. We need a robust Secretary of State to defend the public interest but, on that, I am afraid the jury is still out.
I am obliged to the noble Lords for their observations. I note that the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson and Lord McNally, would both like to see a continuation of the informal all-party meetings that have taken place. I will of course pass that to the new Secretary of State for his consideration.
I cannot comment upon the terms of the provisional report and I know that Members of this House would not expect me to do so. The final decision will be a quasi-judicial decision for the Secretary of State, one which he will make in the light of the final report and in respect of which he will give reasons. With regard to the Fox-Disney transaction, both Disney and 21st Century Fox have stated clearly that the intention is for 21st Century Fox to continue with its bid of December 2016 before the Disney acquisition is completed. But I am not in a position, any more than any other of your Lordships, to determine when that final process will be completed. It will be subject to procedural issues in the United States of America, quite apart from anything else.
Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill [HL]
Clause 1: Offence of shining or directing a laser beam towards a vehicle
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 3, leave out “beam” and insert “device”
My Lords, I will speak to the first group of amendments, Amendments 1, 4, 5 and 7, which are in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh. I fully support the purposes of this short Bill and I thank the Minister for her thoughtful letter of 15 January, copied in the Library, commenting on points that I made at Second Reading. These amendments, and others in my name which come later, have been drafted in an attempt purely to highlight, and as necessary close, any possible legal loopholes in the intended coverage of the Bill.
As I mentioned at Second Reading, I felt that the use of “beam” as a generic description of all lasers was inadequate. There are other lasers that fire bursts or pulses of light. A laser exists that uses infrared bursts, down which a lightning-type bolt will travel to hit a target, rather like an extended Taser shot. On YouTube, you can see demonstrations of so-called laser guns and laser rifles. There are a number of hand-held laser-type devices at prototype stage for use in conflict or riot control. If developed into production, such devices could be acquired and misused in ways featured in this Bill. Laser technology is still developing. A beam is defined in this context by the Oxford English Dictionary as a ray or shaft of light. This does not seem to be sufficiently comprehensive, even when combined with the descriptor “laser”, as in “laser beam”. The Minister’s letter defines “laser” by coherence and as comprising a single frequency of light, and equates that to “beam” in the Bill.
My simple amendment, replacing the word “beam” with “device”, in no way detracts from the beam connotation but seeks to cover all types of laser, existing or in future development, more comprehensively than just using the word “beam”. As I am no expert in electronic engineering, I am grateful for the support of my noble friend Lord Oxburgh, a most respected fellow of the Royal Society and former chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence. His support, and some legally informed support, gave me confidence to pursue this point in Committee and to explore the Minister’s brief dismissal at Second Reading and her subsequent, rather superficial justification for relying on the word “beam” in the Bill. The combination of the words “laser device” and,
“shines or directs a laser device towards a vehicle”,
as would appear in the Bill if this amendment were accepted, seem to deal with a beam and with any other or future type of laser that might be misused.
Finally, I have a query. Should a low-power, clinically safe laser be used, would its low power be an acceptable defence because it could do no more than possibly dazzle or distract the person with control of the vehicle, at worst? A laser’s power is not mentioned in the Bill. Is the Minister satisfied? Perhaps she will let me know at a later date that power is not relevant to the Bill. I beg to move.
My Lords, I rise to support my noble and gallant friend Lord Craig. We should be grateful to him for drawing attention to this aspect of the Bill. I apologise to the Committee for not having been free to participate at Second Reading. Fundamentally, what my noble and gallant friend is trying to do is to future-proof and, dare I say, lawyer-proof the Bill. It would not be useful to have counsels who did not really understand what they were about arguing over this in court.
I notice that the last five or six subsections of Clause 1 relate to definitions of words which are in general, commonplace use. I suggest that the Minister adds a subsection to that group defining what the Government mean by laser. In doing so, dare I suggest that she consult the holder of my former office in the MoD, who could give up-to-date advice on appropriate wording for the definition of a laser here? The fact is that there are lasers of different kinds, different definitions of laser and some devices which would be called a laser under one definition but not another. It would be quite useful to add a subsection, duly considered, from an authoritative source that dealt with that.
My Lords, it is plain that anyone trying to dazzle or distract someone in control of a vehicle by using any laser device ought to be guilty of a criminal offence. The critical question raised by this group of amendments is whether the dazzling or distracting light produced by every sort of laser device can properly be described as a beam. If it can, there is no need for this amendment. But if, as I understand is being suggested by my noble and gallant friend Lord Craig of Radley, supported by no less distinguished a scientist than my noble friend Lord Oxburgh, other laser devices such as a laser gun or rifle can reasonably be said to produce light not by beam, but in some other way—by pulse, burst or whatever—the Bill as drafted may well not catch these other sorts of laser misuse.
As a lawyer, I thought to remind myself of the cardinal legal principles that apply to the construction of statutes. To this end, I consulted Bennion on Statutory Interpretation, the sixth edition of which runs to no fewer than 1,200-odd pages. The only relevant principles perhaps worth mentioning here are what is called the principle against doubtful penalisation and the principle that ordinary words in the English language should be given their ordinary meaning, understood as they are in common language.
As to the principle against doubtful penalisation, the court’s approach will be that a person should not be penalised except under clear law, so that penal enactments require a strict construction. As to the principle that words should bear their ordinary meaning, it could perhaps be argued that a pulse or a burst of light is not, in the ordinary use of the English language, properly to be described as a beam.
I am certainly not saying that if this issue were to reach the courts, it is likely that the Bill as drafted would be found wanting. Indeed, I strongly suspect that it would be held to encompass all laser misuse, as so plainly it is intended and right that it should. But if there is any scintilla of doubt about that, and if that doubt can be quite simply removed by adopting this amendment, then why on earth not do that? That surely is the sensible question the Minister should ask herself today.
I add only that if the Bill team is wedded to the word “beam”, then why not simply add to that, “or device”? Alternatively, we could go down the road suggested by my noble friend Lord Oxburgh and in the definition provisions at the end explicitly put the matter as he has suggested, which would take it beyond the reach of any lawyer, however imaginative.
My Lords, I have to announce that Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition do not have a firm position on this amendment, but I hope the Minister is listening to this debate and will come forward with pretty concrete assurances that the law is clear, or with an appropriate amendment.
My Lords, I understand noble Lords’ intentions in tabling these amendments, as they quite rightly want to ensure that the wording in this legislation is as strong as possible and does not include any loopholes. The amendments aim to capture all the different type of laser products that could be used to dazzle or distract the person in control of a vehicle, and indeed even some products which may not exist yet.
The Bill does use the term “laser beam”, but I can assure noble Lords that the Bill is not limited to any particular type of laser and that all variants of laser should be captured by this. Following the helpful contributions of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, at Second Reading, I sought further expert clarification on the definition of a laser, including from the Department for Transport’s chief scientific adviser. All types of lasers emit focused beams. Therefore, despite the varying properties that different types of lasers will have, all will still produce a beam, and it is this beam that will dazzle or distract the person in control of the vehicle.
The term “laser” would cover the pulse and burst laser products that the noble and gallant Lord referred to. These products still emit a laser beam, just of a shorter duration. Short-duration laser beams can be very intense and transmit as much power in the pulse as a lower-power continuous laser, so I agree it is important that these are included in the Bill. We expect the courts to interpret “laser” with this wide definition.
The term “laser” is generally used to refer to the machine or equipment used to produce a particular form of light—in other words, to the device itself. This is how the term has previously been used in legislation, including the Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Health and Safety at Work) (Work at Height) Regulations 2010 and the Control of Artificial Optical Radiation at Work Regulations 2010. It is also how the Oxford English Dictionary defines it. Therefore, we do not believe that adding a reference to “device” is necessary. Our legal advice is that the term “beam” is better than “device” as it refers to the light emitted by the equipment and it is this which can dazzle or distract. It is for these reasons that the clause uses the term “laser beam”. On the noble and gallant Lord’s question about power, this is not included in the Bill because it will be the beam dazzling or distracting, or being likely to do so, that will be an offence, regardless of the power.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, made some well-informed and detailed points and I will certainly study them carefully. The noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, made a helpful suggestion about adding a definition to the end of the Bill. I will take that away and look at the possibility. We are keen to avoid doubt on this issue.
I hope the noble and gallant Lord will be content with these assurances and withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I thank those who have spoken in this debate, and the Minister for her full explanation of the position taken by her department. I have no intention of pushing this beyond the discussion that we have had, but I look forward to any further suggestions coming from the Government on Report, such as a definition of “beam”, which I would welcome. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
2: Clause 1, page 1, line 4, leave out from “journey,” to end of line 6 and insert “or
(b) the person shines or directs a laser beam at a building used to control vehicle traffic.”
My Lords, the amendments in this group all tackle the need to include aircraft control towers within the ambit of the Bill. This is something that I raised at Second Reading. Control towers obviously play a vital part in ensuring the safety of planes, and I am glad that when I and other noble Lords raised this at Second Reading the Minister appeared to take our concerns to heart.
This issue is of serious concern to BALPA, and with good reason: since May 2013, 13 laser attacks on control towers in Britain have been recorded under the mandatory occurrence reporting scheme. In the year 2013 alone there were eight incidents. These attacks are widespread: two in Liverpool, one in Coventry, two in Manchester, two in Luton, one in Jersey, one at Heathrow, one in Bristol, one in Cardiff, one in Edinburgh and one in Birmingham. It is worth noting that one case, at East Midlands Airport, was so severe that it led to the air traffic controller concerned having to take an unplanned break. Noble Lords familiar with rostering in control towers will realise that that is disruptive and could undermine safety, as controllers have carefully timed breaks to ensure that they are always fully attentive and alert. Someone having to cover an extra unexpected shift might already be tired.
Your Lordships will note from the list that I read out that, unlike drone incidents, laser incidents are not concentrated largely in London. Smaller airports are equally affected, maybe because control towers are more easily visible and accessible than that, for example, at Heathrow.
Amendments 2, 6 and 8 widen the Bill to include a building to control vehicle traffic, and Amendment 2 removes from the Bill the stipulation that the laser must dazzle or distract, or be likely to dazzle or distract. This may still be difficult to prove. I have taken on board information from the police, who have found it difficult to enforce the current legislation, and sought to widen the provision as much as possible. I notice that the amendments tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Tunnicliffe and Lord Monks, cover much the same issues.
I very much hope that the Minister will be able to give us a positive response on both these issues: the inclusion of control towers and simplifying and broadening the offence so that shining the beam at a control tower is sufficient to be considered an offence. I beg to move.
I need at this stage to mention that I cannot call Amendments 3 or 4 because of pre-emption if this amendment is agreed.
My Lords, this group of amendments falls under two issues: one is control towers and control buildings, the other is what I call “to dazzle or not to dazzle”. Amendments 2, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14 refer to the former—I accept that they also refer in part to dazzling or not dazzling—and I tabled Amendment 3, which is directly on the dazzle issue.
I think everybody involved with the Bill supports the central idea that we should prohibit the shining of lasers at aircraft because of the associated risk. Beyond that, there has been a degree of mission creep. The Government’s piece of mission creep has been to want to apply this to all vehicles—fair enough. The aviation lobby’s mission creep has been to want to apply it to control towers—fair enough. When you have had those pieces of mission creep, it is reasonable to apply it to control buildings, although I would be more supportive if there were concrete examples.
We in general support the thrust of the amendments, but I am slightly uncomfortable, because they start to nudge up against the concept of lasers as weapons. The Government must take on board the concept of the use of lasers as weapons in society in general and study this worrying development. That relates to matters such as importation, the crime of carrying such a weapon, and so on. But we do not want to confuse the Bill by going into that territory. I hope that the Minister will take that concern back to her colleagues. I believe that there is already work in BEIS taking place.
To dazzle or not to dazzle is all about gaining a successful prosecution. Our amendment increases the probability of successful prosecution, because it does not require the court to have, completely misquoting Elizabeth I, a window into men’s minds. In other words, the court does not have to prove what people were thinking when they did it. I know that there is general discomfort about strict liability offences, but the issue here is about balance. It boils down to: for what other purpose, having regard to the defence in Clause 1(2), would anyone shine a laser at a vehicle other than to dazzle and distract? That simplicity pushes one towards taking away the dazzle and distract requirement for successful prosecution. I shall deal with my amendment at the appropriate time.
My Lords, first, I declare my interest as president of the British Airline Pilots Association. I want to speak briefly to Amendment 14 which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said, overlaps with others in the group. On all sides of the House, we are trying to protect not just pilots and the drivers of vehicles but those who control traffic, especially those in control towers at airports. Laser pointers can be a very offensive weapon and their dangerous use should be regarded as rather similar to waving around a gun or other offensive weapon. None of us is under any illusion; the Bill will not be easy to enforce, but it needs to send a strong message about what is acceptable and what is not. I think that it does that but I hope that we can tweak it a bit so that it strengthens that message. The amendments are all designed to add weight to the Bill’s central message on that score.
The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, spoke about air traffic control, and I will not repeat what I hope were her persuasive points for the Minister to consider. I would just add that such is the range of modern laser pointers that they can reach control towers in controlled areas remote from perimeter fences. Controllers at some distance could be affected by dazzle and distraction in the same way as pilots. As we know, and as has been said, their role is crucial in scanning the airport. Those of us who have had the privilege of joining them in their control rooms have seen that they look physically as well as at the screens; they look at the ground as well as up in the air. They check for obstructions and any hazards that might impede landings, in particular, but check other movements as well.
As such, it is incumbent on us to try to ensure that they are protected as much as possible from thoughtless or malicious laser use. We are coming close to zero tolerance when it comes to laser users flashing them about when people are moving vehicles and aeroplanes.
My Lords, I will first speak on the amendments which propose removing the need to dazzle or distract from the offence. The principal focus of the Bill is to protect transport operators and the general public. While this amendment seeks to help to address the problem, the Government believe that it goes further than is appropriate. The Government aim to be proportionate when we create new criminal offences and we do not want to penalise behaviour that does not present a risk to transport safety. The offence we are creating would specifically address the risk of harm as a result of shining a laser which dazzles or distracts, or is likely to dazzle or distract, a person physically operating a vehicle.
These amendments would go further than that by criminalising activity where there is no risk of harm. The proposed offence would cover shining or directing a laser when it is,
“likely to dazzle or distract”.
This will mean that prosecutors will not necessarily need to prove that the shining of a laser actually dazzled or distracted the person in control of the vehicle, only that it was likely to and therefore potentially risked public safety.
The question was raised about how difficult it would be for the prosecution to show that the person in control of the vehicle was dazzled or distracted. In most cases, we would expect evidence to be available from the person who had control of the vehicle that they were dazzled or distracted. A statement directly from the victim would be strong evidence on this point. On that basis, the Government are not convinced that removing the need to demonstrate that a person has been dazzled or distracted would be proportionate to capture the type of activity we want to deter.
Moving on to the amendments seeking to make it an offence to shine a laser at traffic control installations, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken on this amendment, which clearly has a lot of support on all sides of the House. The Bill has been drafted to deal with the safety risks faced when a laser distracts or dazzles the person in control of a vehicle and therefore does not currently include non-vehicles such as traffic control installations. When we look at laser attacks in aviation, the vast majority of incidents reported are targeting aircraft—1,200 in the last year alone—whereas the number of reported attacks on air traffic control towers averages out at around three per year. That said, air traffic control personnel have an important responsibility in controlling and monitoring the movement of aircraft taking off, landing and manoeuvring on the ground, so I recognise that a laser attack on a person carrying out those duties clearly presents safety concerns and could endanger aircraft.
Those shining lasers at air traffic control personnel could already face possible prosecution under the endangering an aircraft offence in the Air Navigation Order, which carries a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment. This has been used before, including in 2014, when three men were given prison terms for shining a laser at aircraft and the air traffic control tower at East Midlands Airport. As the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, highlighted, that attack distracted and blinded the air traffic controllers, putting the lives of passengers and crew of aircraft flying in and out of the airport at risk. However, as was made clear at Second Reading and again today, the requirements for successfully prosecuting offenders under the endangering aircraft offence can sometimes cause difficulties for the Crown Prosecution Service.
I sympathise with these amendments, tabled by a number of noble Lords, and I have already instructed my officials to consider options on this issue. We are having discussions with a number of stakeholders, including the CAA, NATS, BALPA, the UK Flight Safety Committee, as well as the relevant bodies with responsibility for aviation in the Armed Forces, such as the Military Aviation Authority. As has been highlighted by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, in her amendment, the Bill is cross modal and not limited to aviation. Therefore, we are also considering similar safety concerns that need to be addressed for the control of traffic in the road, rail and maritime sectors. For that reason, we are also consulting relevant bodies such as the Office of Rail and Road and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
I hope noble Lords will be assured that we are listening to the important points that they have raised and that we are actively looking to find the most sensible solution to deal with this issue, but it is important that this is considered carefully and that we get it right. I hope noble Lords will be reassured and will not press their amendments at this stage.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for what is overall a very positive response. However, I make one further point about removing a reference to “dazzle or distract”. I understand the viewpoint, but the reality is that lasers are so frequently mislabelled that those using them to shine them at control towers cannot have any real idea about how strong the beam is and, therefore, how dangerous it is. I say that because, in pursuit of more information for this Bill, I trolled through online records for various countries and there is a shockingly high level of mislabelling. Some studies in Australia showed that well over 50% of lasers are wrongly labelled. That is an issue that I shall come back to later. The point is that someone standing near a control tower and shining a beam at it has to my mind at the least an intention of some sort of mischief, and really has no sure knowledge how dangerous the laser that they are holding is likely to be. I urge the Minister to think on that.
Having said that, I welcome the wide consultation that she is undertaking in relation to these amendments. In view of that, I shall certainly not press them. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 2.
Amendment 2 withdrawn.
Amendments 3 to 8 not moved.
9: Clause 1, page 2, line 9, after second “vehicle,” insert “horse drawn vehicle,”
My Lords, I suggested at Second Reading that a horse-drawn vehicle or carriage should be included for completeness. In her reply to that debate, the noble Baroness merely stated that horse-drawn carriages would not be covered by this Bill as,
“We have not seen any evidence of a problem”.—[Official Report, 9/1/18; col. 176.]
In her letter of 15 January, the noble Baroness did not further refer to my raising this omission at Second Reading, but I feel the list of vehicles is incomplete without it. While no such attack may have yet taken place, that alone is no reason not to include it. I gave the example of the coachman driving the state coach with Her Majesty on board. There are many more uses of horse-drawn carriages or vehicles which also deserve consideration so that we give the driver protection.
I hope that, on reflection, the Minister will agree that a horse-drawn vehicle has as much of a place in the Bill as all the other road vehicles listed, including even pedal cycles, and they should also be added to Clause 1(7) at line 11 on page 2. I am not proposing that horse riders should also be included, though I do wonder about the risk of an attack on huntsmen by hunt saboteurs. Such an offence may already be covered by other legislation. I beg to move.
My Lords, I do not have much to say, but I thought I had to say something. I was quite surprised that the Government had decided to define “vehicle” in the Bill. I believe there is a good working definition of the word in law, which would have included horse-drawn vehicles. I had a little chuckle when I came to submarines, because I have some problem envisaging how you could dazzle one, but I suppose it could be possible. I say put the horses in as well.
My Lords, I greatly appreciate the noble and gallant Lord’s intention to ensure that the Bill is as strong and all-encompassing as possible. The reason horse-drawn vehicles are not covered in the Bill is that it is designed to legislate in areas where we have already seen a real danger to public safety, and to date we have not seen evidence that laser incidents are a problem for that particular mode of transport.
The department works closely with organisations such as the British Horse Society to improve road safety, and I am not aware of this issue being raised as a concern or any reported laser incidents involving horse-drawn vehicles. Of course, anyone who did cause injury by shining a laser at the person in control of a horse-drawn vehicle could be prosecuted for offences against the person such as actual or grievous bodily harm.
The noble and gallant Lord raised an interesting point about someone attempting to dazzle or distract the driver of the state coach with the monarch on board. This is, of course, a matter that we take very seriously and as a result have discussed it with the head of the Metropolitan Police’s royalty and specialist protection command, who has also consulted with Her Majesty’s Household, specifically those individuals with responsibility for Her Majesty’s horses. The police have assessed that the likelihood of such an attack is low and, in terms of the impact of such an attack, Her Majesty’s horses are trained to be comfortable with a number of surprising events. These would include sudden loud noises, smoke and light flashes and they are often blinkered when drawing a carriage. The relative speeds are very low and the carriage drivers are, of course, highly trained. Having reviewed this issue the police have advised me that, as both the likelihood and impact of such an incident are considered low, this is not an area that requires legislation.
As I have said previously, when creating criminal offences it is important that this is done proportionately. Based on the evidence of risk to transport safety seen to date, particularly the advice from the police, the Government do not believe that including horse-drawn vehicles in this offence would be proportionate. However, I have listened to the points made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, and the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and will take them away and consider this further.
The noble Lord makes a valid point. I do not believe there are any such instances, but if there are I will certainly write to him with that information. That is a very good point. As I say, I will take it back and consider it. We should return to this at a later stage. With that, I ask the noble and gallant Lord to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I thank those who have spoken in this very short debate. I listened, obviously, to what the Minister had to say. I am still a little uneasy about the argument that, because this has not happened, therefore we do not need to worry about it. Pedal cyclists are already covered by the Bill. I wonder how many attacks on pedal cyclists have taken place to justify including them in the Bill. Having said that, I again thank everybody who has spoken and the Minister, and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 9 withdrawn.
Amendment 10 not moved.
11: Clause 1, page 2, line 14, leave out “pilot” and insert “individual”
The restriction in the case of aircraft to just “any pilot” at page 2, line 14 of the Bill is not comprehensive enough. It does not specifically include other members on an aircraft’s flight deck, in a rear cockpit, or in the cabin of a helicopter, who may not be pilots but have key roles in monitoring the control of the aircraft. Take the example of a two-seater fighter fast jet aircraft with a pilot in the front seat and a navigator in the rear, the latter also monitoring height and speed. A laser attack on the latter reported to the pilot could prove to be very distracting at a critical point—say on final approach to a landing. Or consider a search and rescue helicopter having to manoeuvre in a very constricted space surrounded by trees or buildings. The pilot is totally reliant on the winchman in the rear cabin of the helicopter for moment-to-moment guidance on to a tight landing spot or in holding a safe hover close to obstructions or even a cliff face.
More generally, the likelihood is that whoever was actually lasered in the crew, all, including the pilot in charge, would be concerned and distracted, maybe at a demanding moment in their flight. However, the defence might argue that the culprit with the laser did not shine it at the front cockpit, or where the pilot was sitting in a larger aircraft. Surely, the Minister does not think that the person misusing a laser against an aircraft should not be charged if it were not directed directly at the actual pilot in command but only at non-pilot crew members who are of critical importance to the safe operation of the aircraft.
The Bill includes captain, navigator and pilot in the case of vessels, but the vessel’s velocity or speed will be a matter of a few knots compared with that, say, of aircraft flying at speeds of 150 or 200 knots and perhaps more. It seems incongruous for the Bill to identify for protection a number of specified individuals in charge of a relatively slow-moving vessel compared with just the pilot alone for an aircraft on final approach to landing, which may be flying at, 10, 20, even 30 times the speed of such a vessel. The risks of a calamity occurring rapidly in the latter case are obviously very much greater. Crew teamwork is essential for both aircraft and helicopter operations.
My amendment seeks to overcome any possible defence that the attack had not been directed specifically at the pilot in charge. If the noble Baroness is intent on retaining the reference to pilot rather than my suggested word “individual”, she might like to consider for Report the alternative of adding “or other flight crew member” after “pilot” in line 14 of page 2. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am again very grateful for the experience and expertise of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, in this area. Once again, he has raised a salient point through this amendment.
In the Bill we have sought to capture those persons who are in control of the vehicle, and, in the case of aircraft, we have said that this will be pilots. The Bill specifically refers to pilots “monitoring the controlling” of aircraft to capture co-pilots, who defence lawyers could argue are not controlling the aircraft but who none the less should be covered by the offence because of the important role they play in the safe flying of aircraft. In some cases, members of the flight crew may have a safety-critical role and control of the aircraft but would not be classified as pilots. As I have said, the intention of the Bill is to cover all persons who have control of the vehicle.
I understand there are a number of instances where the non-pilot members of the flight crew could have some control of the vehicle, such as flight engineers or, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, highlighted, winch operators on search and rescue helicopters. If these members of the flight crew were dazzled or distracted by a laser beam, it is highly likely that the pilot would be too. I understand that the current wording in the Bill could cause some ambiguity and a possible loophole, so I will ask the Bill team to look carefully at ways in which this can be clarified.
I thank the noble and gallant Lord for raising this issue. I hope that he is assured that it is something we will look at carefully and that he will agree to withdraw his amendment at this stage.
Amendment 11 withdrawn.
Amendment 12 not moved.
13: Clause 1, page 2, line 20, at end insert—
““journey” includes all stages of a journey, whether the vehicle is stationary or in motion, beginning when the person with control of the vehicle occupies it and ending when the person with control of the vehicle no longer occupies it;”
My Lords, it is me again with Amendment 13, in my name and in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Monks, to whom I am most grateful. Like several other noble Lords at Second Reading I felt that there was a need to clarify the meaning of the word “journey” in the Bill. In her letter of 15 January, the Minister set out her interpretation of “journey” but wrote that she had asked her officials to,
“look at ways in which we can ensure that it is interpreted as intended”.
I await her contribution when replying. Meanwhile, this amendment is one attempt. I am grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Monks.
At Second Reading, the Minister said that this point had come up in earlier legislation, so I feel that, for the avoidance of doubt and any possible loophole in the coverage of the Bill, some definition should be included in it. Even this definition does not fully deal with the point made at Second Reading by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley of Knighton, who said that the dictionary definition of “journey” means a move from one place to another, from A to B. However, were it to be defined for the purposes of the Bill to cover the time from occupation of the vehicle until leaving it, the fact it departed from A and returned to A at the end of the journey might be sufficiently well covered. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have some sympathy with the noble and gallant Lord on this matter. For example, it is very likely that training flights, which are of course an important part of aviation, most often begin and end at the same aerodrome. I am slightly unpersuaded, as is the noble and gallant Lord, that they are covered by the Bill, and I hope that the Minister can reassure me.
My Lords, I also hope that the Minister will take this away. One worrying point is somewhere deep in various bits of aviation law: a flight is defined as when the wheels of an aircraft first turn. We are envisaging a possible situation where a laser is used immediately before the wheels turn, and the aircraft could then end up in a dangerous situation. The Government therefore have to look at this concern in some depth, and I hope that they will bring something back to us on Report.
My Lords, the Government’s intention in the Bill is to cover both when a vehicle is in motion and when it is stationary if the vehicle is about to travel. There would be a safety risk in both cases if the person in control were to be dazzled or distracted.
A journey is intended to start when the vehicle is ready to commence travel. It includes taxiing in the case of aircraft, and for all vehicles will cover any temporary stops along the way, such as stops at a train station, bus stop or traffic lights, or when waiting to take off. It is also intended to capture journeys of any length and to include a journey that returns to the same place at which it began.
I appreciate the points that have been made and what the amendment is aiming to clarify. It is our intention that if the aircraft is about to travel or has not finished shutting down after coming to a stop, this should be covered, as there could still be a risk to transport safety. The Government believe that saying that all periods should be covered, including when a person occupies the vehicle, potentially goes too wide, as that person could be in the vehicle for a long time before the journey commenced or after it finished, when there would not be a risk to transport safety.
At Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley of Knighton, highlighted the definition of “journey”, which can be found in the international aviation treaty—the Tokyo Convention. It states that an aircraft is in flight from the moment when all its external doors are closed following embarkation until the moment when any such door is opened for disembarkation. We intend the Bill to cover that definition, but I accept the questions raised in relation to the current wording and will ask the drafters to look at this matter carefully.
A point was made about journeys—including training flights, which were mentioned by my noble friend Lord Trefgarne—which start in one place and return to that same place. It is absolutely our intention that these types of journeys will be covered by the Bill but, again, I will look at the options for making sure that that is clearer.
I hope that I have been able to clarify our intention when the word “journey” is used but, as I said, we will look at this further to ensure that there is no ambiguity in the interpretation. On that basis, I hope that the noble and gallant Lord will withdraw his amendment at this stage.
Amendment 13 withdrawn.
Clause 1 agreed.
Amendment 14 not moved.
15: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
A person commits an offence if—(a) the person knowingly or recklessly permits a child or young person in the person’s care to shine or direct a laser beam towards a vehicle which is on a journey, and(b) the laser beam dazzles or distracts, or is likely to dazzle or distract, a person with control of the vehicle.”
My Lords, I tabled this amendment because we know from the evidence that we have been able to discern in this area that many of the perpetrators of the misuse of laser pointers are children and young people. They have seen “Star Wars” and lots of other sci-fi blockbusters; they have played computer games where lasers of one form or another are the weapons of choice of many of the protagonists; and they are fascinated by the power of the new technology. Items such as these, although still quite pricey, come to hand relatively easily and are getting cheaper and are more readily available.
Picking on vehicle drivers, especially pilots, seems to be the fashion at the moment. With this amendment, I seek to stress the responsibility of parents and other adults who buy laser pointers as presents for their children, and to send a message that it is not acceptable to then allow them to proceed unsupervised around the neighbourhood. Lasers are very dangerous for children to have and very dangerous to pilots and other vehicle drivers, such as train drivers.
I raise this issue in the context of the Bill to send a firm message to adults that they have responsibilities. I know that the question of the extent to which children or their parents are responsible for things is a tangled area, but it seems to me that I have the balance about right. The amendment proposes to set out that parents have responsibilities in this area and that they cannot wash their hands of incidents involving children for whom they are responsible.
My Lords, I was pleased to add my name in support of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Monks. As he said, the age profile of offenders tends to be quite young and the amendment reflects the fact that young people are often unaware of the danger and gravity of what they are doing. I made the point earlier today that the fact that lasers are often mislabelled emphasises that it is difficult for people to know the strength of the laser they are using.
The Minister wrote to me in response to points I raised at Second Reading and pointed out that lasers are often bought by young people and children on holiday abroad, and that this is frequently the way in which they come into the country. This emphasises the importance of the underlying points the amendment seeks to make—the issue of parental responsibility and the importance of educating parents in the dangers of lasers. In that way we will educate generations of young children.
While I have some sympathy with the general direction of the amendment, it touches on a massive subject—the extent to which parents are responsible for the criminal activities of their children. I worry about such a difficult concept being part of this Bill. If there is a problem here, I hope the Government will take this issue away, look at the generality of the relationship between parents and the criminal behaviour of their children and solve it in a wider context than this Bill. I await further discussion on Report before we take a final view.
My Lords, parents are not held directly responsible for the criminal acts of their children and I am not aware of any circumstances in our criminal law in which an adult who knowingly or recklessly permits a child or young person to commit an offence is itself an offence.
Punishments such as the local child curfew or a child safety order can be given to children under the age of criminal responsibility who break the law. The order means that a child can be placed under the supervision of a social worker or a youth offending team worker to ensure that the child receives protection and support and is prevented from repeating the offence. Children between 10 and 17 can be arrested and taken to court if they commit a crime, although they are treated differently from adults.
Parents and guardians can be held responsible if their child repeatedly gets into trouble or if the parent does not take reasonable steps to control their behaviour. They could be asked to attend a parenting programme, sign a parenting contract or be given a parenting order by a court. A breach of a parenting order is a criminal offence and can result in a fine of up to £1,000 or community service.
On education, the Government are working on a programme of education which will include a specific programme for schools to target young people and to educate them on the dangers of lasers.
The Government’s view is that the current youth justice system is sufficient to deal with this issue and it would not be appropriate to make an exception to the usual practice. I hope the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I draw attention to the term,
“the person knowingly or recklessly permits a child or young person”.
That is a high hurdle. It is not visiting the sins of the child on the parents but specifying the faults committed by the person who provides the laser. However, in the circumstances, I am certainly prepared to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 15 withdrawn.
16: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Report on laser misuse following the passing of this Act
(1) The Secretary of State must carry out an assessment of the misuse of lasers with regard to vehicles in the year following this Act coming into force.(2) This assessment must make reference to the following—(a) whether the number of instances of a person shining or directing a laser beam at a vehicle has significantly decreased in the year following this Act coming into force; and(b) what steps could be taken to further reduce the danger that the misuse of lasers poses to vehicles.(3) The Secretary of State must lay a report of the assessment under this section before both Houses of Parliament one year after this Act comes into force.”
My Lords, this Bill is remarkably narrow in its scope—very much more so than its predecessor, the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill, which fell at the time of the general election. I regard this as a great pity as the Government are missing an opportunity to take a comprehensive look at this issue. Instead, they are making two discrete stabs in the right direction, here in this Bill and in their proposals in the Trade Bill, to limit the sale of the most powerful lasers. This amendment is designed to highlight the opportunity that the Government have missed to take a number of additional steps to reduce the danger that lasers pose not only to vehicle users but to the wider safety of the general public.
At Second Reading a number of possible measures were suggested by noble Lords, including restricting the sale of lasers, introducing a licensing system, classing lasers as offensive weapons in certain circumstances as we do with knives, and imposing penalties for mislabelling. All of these would make it harder for individuals to acquire, knowingly or unknowingly, potentially dangerous lasers. I thank the Minister for her letter explaining why she believes that licensing, for example, would not work. She states specifically:
“When licensing systems were established in New Zealand and Australia the evidence gathered showed that licensing regime has not reduced laser attacks”.
I find that rather surprising because the statistics for Australia show that the number of laser incidents between 2013 and 2015 actually fell from 667 to 502. That is not an amazing reduction, but the Minister herself said in her speech at Second Reading that in the UK in 2008 there were only 200 incidents while in 2017 there were 1,200. That is a vast increase in the number of incidents in Britain while they are being contained and even trimmed a little in Australia. At a time when lasers are becoming increasingly available and increasingly powerful, I would argue that controlling the growth in the number of incidents is in itself a sign of success.
Australia has the most stringent control system in the world and it illustrates how complex the problem is and how multifaceted the Government’s response needs to be. Disappointingly, if I may use a rather inappropriate metaphor, there seems to be only one arrow in the Government’s quiver in this Bill. The Australian experience shows that labelling requirements are flouted very frequently. I have already mentioned one study which showed that more than 50% of the lasers labelled as 1 milliwatt or less were in fact more powerful. In one case, the laser was 127 times more powerful. Increasing the likelihood of examination and detection as these lasers are imported into the country is therefore very important indeed.
At Second Reading I questioned the Minister about the support being planned for local authority ports and border teams as well as trading standards officers, to enable them to detect mislabelled lasers. The Minister responded to this in her letter to me and referred to government co-ordination but made absolutely no reference to the extra money or resources which are so badly needed by these hard-pressed teams. We also discussed advertising. The Minister pointed out in her letter that in the UK there is little in the way of actual advertising for lasers, but I would urge her to consider another sort of advertising; that is, the need for the Government themselves to issue public information advertisements, probably aimed primarily at parents, to raise awareness of the danger of lasers. I am disappointed that the Government yet again seem to be relying on the market to rule and ignoring the need for a comprehensive package of measures.
I tried to draft several amendments to tackle the issues I have raised. They were all ruled to be out of scope because the Bill is very narrow. I have fallen back, unashamedly, on the need for the Government to report on the effectiveness of the measures in the Bill within a year of it passing to force the Government to take a more comprehensive look if the measures in the Bill do not prove effective in creating a considerable reduction in the incidence of laser attacks. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am slightly surprised that the noble Baroness got this one past the clerks. Be that as it may, the advice of the clerks is the advice of the clerks and that is that. She did get it past them, but this sort of thing seems outside the scope of the Bill and the Long Title as I read it. I hope that she will not press it.
My Lords, we broadly support the amendment. We will congratulate ourselves after Report and Third Reading, having used very little parliamentary time, on having a narrow Bill that addresses a particular problem, but the real issue is enforcement. Will this law be effectively enforced? We have a crisis in policing in this country. There are some 20,000 fewer officers than in 2010. One has no idea where in the police’s priorities this particular piece of law will fall.
The beauty of having a report after a year is that it will have to include information about how enforcement has gone. That can do nothing but good. There is a general rule of management that what gets measured gets done. The fact that police forces would know that Parliament will be looking at the result of this law and the extent to which it has been enforced would be an important incentive to make it work.
My Lords, the Government keep safety across all modes of transport under constant review and, along with industry, are always looking at ways in which we can mitigate risks to safety. The risk posed by the misuse of lasers is no exception. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, that we will continue to work with the police, regulators and other stakeholders, including the UK Laser Working Group, to monitor the number of instances of a person shining or directing a laser beam at a vehicle and look at what other steps can be taken, including raising public awareness and using evolving technology, to mitigate the impact that a laser attack has on a person in control of vehicles.
In addition to what we are proposing in the Bill, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has announced new measures to tackle the sale of unsafe laser pointers, which I hope will reduce the number of instances of laser misuse on transport. Much of this will be a matter for the newly created Office for Product Safety and Standards to consider. Announced on Sunday, it will be a national body to further enhance the UK’s product safety system and provide support at a local level. I have already mentioned the education programme. We believe that the very introduction of the Bill will raise awareness of the dangers that lasers pose. The noble Baroness points out that the Bill’s scope is very narrow. That is indeed the case. As I said, BEIS has recently published its response to its call for evidence. The new Office for Product Safety and Standards should help.
We will follow the usual post-legislative scrutiny guidance and submit a memorandum, published as a Command Paper, to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee within five years after Royal Assent. The memorandum will include a preliminary assessment of how the Act has worked in practice. The one year that the noble Baroness proposes in her amendment may not be enough time to properly assess the full impact of a new criminal offence and the other measures I have mentioned. As I said, we will of course be keeping this under constant review. I hope that my reassurances will satisfy the noble Baroness and that she will withdraw her amendment.
I thank the Minister for that. For the sake of clarity for the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, I thought I had indicated—possibly it is because I am trying to use as few words as possible today—that I understand entirely why my proposed amendments were ruled out of order. It is because the Bill is very narrowly drafted. However, I did discuss the issue in order to see whether it is possible to have this discussion in some other way. I was reassured to hear that the Minister is consulting widely on the issues associated with the Bill, as well as by the creation of the Office for Product Safety and Standards and the five-year review. I am satisfied that she has taken on board and will continue to take on board the issues I have raised and with that I am content to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 16 withdrawn.
Clause 2 agreed.
Bill reported without amendment.
Museums and Galleries
Question for Short Debate
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to have this opportunity to draw attention to a subject which is close to my heart and has been virtually all my life. In a brief debate one can touch only on the main, salient issues but I will endeavour to do so. Before I say anything I thank all noble Lords who have agreed to participate in this debate, I thank the Library for the excellent report it has produced and I welcome my noble friend Lord Ashton of Hyde and hope that he will be able to give me a fully understanding and sympathetic reply at the end. I also thank those many people who have corresponded with me over the last few days, particularly Mr Ian Blatchford who chairs the National Museum Directors’ Council. I declare my interest as president and, indeed, the founder in 1974 of the All-Party Arts and Heritage Group. Many of your Lordships are members of that group, enthusiastic members at that, and the very first visit we paid in 1974 was to one of our great national institutions, the National Portrait Gallery.
Put very simply, these museums and galleries are guardians of much of our heritage. To understand whence we came, locally or nationally, we need to go to our great national or our small local museums. No one can really fully understand our development as a nation, or appreciate our sense of community, without some familiarity with our museums and galleries. Of course, our nation and our localities are set in a global context by great national institutions, most of them in London. These include the Victoria and Albert Museum —I am delighted to see the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, in his place because his son is now proving a splendid director of that museum—and, perhaps above all, the British Museum. But all of them, individually and collectively, are institutions in which we all can and should take tremendous pride. Yet there has never been a time when our great museums faced greater difficulties or our small museums, particularly our local authority museums, stood at greater risk.
All this was underlined very recently, in November, by the Mendoza review, which many of your Lordships will have read. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, will refer to it when she comes to speak immediately after me. That report underlines forcefully and graphically the importance of museums to our national life. It shows how our 2,600 museums—it is a staggering figure—large and small, ranging from the British Museum to local or specialised museums, are so dependent upon national and local support and encouragement and, of course, upon funding. The Government control or influence some 11 fund-providing institutions, foremost of which is the Heritage Lottery Fund, of which the noble Baroness is a vice-chairman. The Government’s influence includes tax measures, of course, but I remind your Lordships that funding has been stuck at £844 million for the last 10 years, which represents a 13% fall in real terms. That indicates the problems to which I refer.
We await a government response to that report. I do not chide my noble friend the Minister for not having it yet, as it was produced only in November, but I hope that he can give some idea to your Lordships when we can expect a full, considered government response. Another thing that concerns me much, and it comes out in some of the letters that I have received, is that HLF support will drop in this year, 2018-19, from £432 million to £190 million.
I would like to,
“point a Moral, or adorn a Tale”,
as it were, by talking of one specific city, Lincoln—the city where I now live—and the problems and challenges that we have faced. I have had the great privilege of presiding over two nationally important exhibitions in the last three years: in 2015, we commemorated the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta; and last year, we marked the 800th anniversary of the decisive Battle of Lincoln. These exhibitions were made possible because of the willingness of great national institutions to lend and the generosity of mostly local supporters, sponsors and patrons.
It is axiomatic that a national collection should be shared with the nation. The exhibitions that we have put on in Lincoln in the last three years have demonstrated that. Last year, for the first time ever, the Domesday Book—the most priceless item in our National Archives —left London and was on display in Lincoln Castle. Soon, your Lordships will have the opportunity to go to the Royal Academy and see reincarnated the great collection of Charles I; just a few months ago we had one of the stars of that great exhibition, the triple portrait by van Dyck, on the wall of the collection in Lincoln.
This illustrates how very important partnership between the local and the national is, but it is not easy for the nationals. The National Portrait Gallery, for instance, which lent 62 items to 26 different venues, including Lincoln last year, is struggling for funds to enable it to do that. The nationals have an obligation placed upon them by the Government. It is a happy obligation—free admission—which most of us would heartily applaud, but he who calls the tune should pay the piper. I believe it is important that my noble friend and his ministerial colleagues should reflect upon that and upon the problems that face our great national institutions.
The Mendoza report touches on all the major issues, but it does not fully recognise the great burden upon local authorities or the problem of business rates. In January last year, I was suddenly confronted by Lincolnshire County Council which said that it desperately wanted the exhibition to go ahead in the summer, but unless I could raise £150,000 in the next three weeks, it could not. With the help of generous friends, local companies and so on, I was able to raise more than that, but it is indicative of the problem that we face. A culture development fund has been promised, but its resources are going to amount to £2 million. That is a tiny percentage of what is needed.
Before I sit down, I remind your Lordships’ House and, in particular, the Minister that in this field we are discussing briefly this evening, the sums involved are tiny in the context of the national budget, yet our national heritage is at risk. It would be a damning indictment in this 21st century if we did not recognise the glories that we have and do everything possible to maintain and enhance them. I am glad to have this opportunity, and I look forward to noble Lords’ contributions.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to take part in this debate. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, on obtaining it. It is not only timely but right that we should address these issues in the context of the national interest in general. The noble Lord has been such a splendid champion of the arts and shows no lack of energy in the pursuit of everything he chooses to do.
I want to concentrate on a few aspects of the Mendoza review and on the work of the Heritage Lottery Fund, of which I am a deputy chairman and chairman of the committee for Wales, so I declare my interest. The Mendoza review is a good report. It demonstrates a breadth and depth of understanding of the character and culture of museums. It is the first report of its kind for 10 years, and it does a great service. It is extremely welcome. Its delight in the infinite variety of our museums, from pencils to gasworks, from historic houses to coalmines, is patently evident on every page. It delights, too, in the stories that museums tell of people and place, and in the space they provide not just for heritage and memory but increasingly for health, enterprise and learning. I welcome the report.
This debate focuses on the challenges facing museums and galleries, and they are, by definition, identified in the nine priorities the report sets out. Right at the top of the list is funding, a changing funding landscape and the need to adapt to it. It also identifies the need to engage more widely, to diversify audiences—that is a common theme—and to contribute to place making, which is relatively new. It is the positive relationship between these three elements that I will focus on.
As the noble Lord said, the report does not shy away from the hard fact that there has been a 13% drop in funding in real terms since 2007 and massive cuts in local authorities. The axe has fallen differently in different places, but every local museum and gallery is struggling to care not just for rare and deteriorating collections but often for fragile historic buildings. They are struggling to keep curators and expertise. In many instances, they are struggling to keep the doors open. We know from the Museums Association of 40 museums that closed between 2005 and 2014, and of 11 in 2016 alone. It all adds up to a lack of resilience and capacity, and means that no exhortation to adapt to a new funding regime is going to shift the reality, particularly outside London, that finding more commercial funding or philanthropic income, wealthier partners or new organisational structures is often extremely difficult and sometimes impossible. That is why I welcome two particular recommendations in the report: that the funding agencies should give priority to the existing estate and to sustainability. But although there is always scope for improvisation, I could not agree more with the noble Lord when he said that there is a limit to what can be done within the existing resource structure. It is time now for the Government to play their part, as a full partner, in what they recognise contributes so much to national economic prosperity and social resilience.
Sustainability depends not least on museums being valued and used as exhaustively as possible. Museums and galleries are already doing that and have become very good at it. Organisations such as Kids in Museums are taking children into museums to be curators, actors and front of house. There is tremendous innovation there, including in what local museums are doing, for example, with dementia groups. I must reference Wales. The National Museum Wales is doing fantastic work, particularly in the new St Fagans museum, as it will be, involving unemployed and homeless people in forming the vision and the practice of the new museum.
Strong partnerships are emerging, but we need stronger partnerships and all museums and galleries to develop them. That is the key to future sustainability. The other key is embedding museums and galleries not just in place but in policy. Perceptions are changing. It is no longer all about Wakefield and Margate, although they have been pioneering in what they have demonstrated culture can achieve. Culture can make for great places, as the Local Government Association says in its recent report on this. However, it is crucial not just to have a national strategy across all departments which optimises that fact but for local authorities to develop local strategies. Here I think the report could have been more aggressive in urging all local authorities to capitalise on the assets in their place as part of their explicit social and economic planning, not least as a way of addressing the false choices that are so often made between investing in culture and investing in social care.
Above all, the Mendoza review addresses a gap in both analysis and approach with the recommendation that public funds need to be spent more strategically, around agreed priorities, shared intelligence and a greater understanding of impact. There has been, apart from the role of designation, a historic failure to identify in the national interest not just what we value in our museums and galleries but what is most at risk and where the most can be achieved by investing in capability and resilience.
Most help can usually be used in places where they are very used to it, but I am more concerned about more disadvantaged areas where they are not quite so good at accessing funds. The review is clear that this means deciding how scarce resources can be made to go further by national agencies and national partnerships working more closely together. That has been welcomed by everybody, including the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Finally, I will say a few words in response to what the noble Lord said about the Heritage Lottery Fund. Since its inception, it has changed the face of museums and galleries in this country. It has invested an astonishing amount, £2.4 billion. Most of that has gone into construction, buildings and refurbishment; the rest across the range of things that museums have to do. But now, because of fluctuating lottery receipts, there will be less funding for all forms of heritage projects. We have discussed this with DDCMS and our heritage partners. We do not have the historically high amounts that we used to have. We do indeed have £190 million for 2018 and it is a great deal of money, but that is why we will now clarify priorities, consult on ways of working and commit to the action plan on museums, as we are invited to.
I am very grateful to the noble Lord for creating the opportunity today to set out what I think are some of the challenges.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for introducing this all-important debate. Museums and galleries in the UK are available for all levels of interest, knowledge and understanding; indeed, they provide many of us with deeply personal and lifelong memories. I will never forget my visit to the Jorvik centre in York in my early 20s and the sense of magic as I held in my hand something amazing—Viking poo. It was in a block of acrylic, of course, but that was a magical moment that put me in touch with history none the less. The Jorvik centre was one of the first places in the UK to start to make the experience of the past come alive in such a creative way. Nor will I forget seeing my mum, an evacuee in the Second World War, sharing with her grandson the experience of the brilliant exhibition on evacuees at the Imperial War Museum.
The wide variety of museums and galleries that we have today will help to ensure that we foster a future generation who appreciate art, culture and our shared history. Indeed, we all have a responsibility to ensure that museums and galleries work hard to increase inclusivity and shine a light on those who have traditionally been left out of our story—Mary Seacole is an example. The noble Baroness referred to the running of dementia programmes in many museums and galleries now, and that is another example.
That 55% of the English public live within walking distance of at least one museum is a cause for much pride. That over half the adult population visit museums —up from around two in five a decade ago, according to the Mendoza Review—is encouraging. The Mendoza report also makes clear just how much value for money local museums provide for a very small share, as the noble Lord referenced, of the national expenditure. Museums in England generate £2.64 billion in income, including trading income, fundraising donations and grants in aid, and £1.54 billion in economic output, according to the Arts Council England report The Economic Impact of Museums in England in 2015. That is why, now more than ever, we need to ensure their future sustainability and stability.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, also referred to, there is an urgent need for central government to look at the funding issue. Indeed, if we are to believe that artificial intelligence will replace much of what we define as work today—and as a member of the Artificial Intelligence Select Committee, I have seen plenty of evidence so far to suggest that that is the case—it is all-important that we ensure that future generations have free access to creativity and culture that sets them apart from intelligent machines.
So it is worrying to learn that there is a decline in school visits, in part due to changes in the national curriculum. As a governor of an inner-city school, I have seen the value that is added when children visit areas of cultural interest. In particular, I have seen the value that is added for children who are receiving the pupil premium allowance. That leaves me in no doubt of the value. That is why I believe the curriculum must ensure that children develop with an understanding of the value of creativity.
In my view, the advent of artificial intelligence will need a highly creative and curious future generation. So we on these Benches recognise that to support the future success of the arts in Britain we must ensure that the right funding structures and regulatory environment are in place to encourage investment. But that investment must never compromise their independence. In other words, public galleries—galleries and museums that are free—should not be expected to rely solely on private income. The potential, or the danger, of our past being explained by the highest bidder, or by the whims of the latest fashion, may then become too great.
Adapting to today’s funding environment is the most important challenge facing museums today. Over the past 10 years, as we have heard, overall funding has reduced by 13% in real terms, part of that as a result of the cuts to local government. Museums and galleries are, sadly, likely to take the hit in an austerity period, regardless of the value that they add locally and culturally.
That is why we in the Liberal Democrats in particular support the creation of creative enterprise zones, zones that are set up to grow and regenerate cultural output across the UK, to grow jobs in the sector, to grow future generations armed for whatever uncertainty lies ahead with a rich and vibrant knowledge of the past from their local and national museums.
My Lords, first, I join the thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, if not for this debate, for how much he has put into Parliament by way of the arts. For me, it is always a pleasure to go to one of the early morning visits to various galleries and museums that he and the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, arrange for us: it is a great boon and joy to this House. Thank you.
To take up a point that the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, made, you do not have to teach children creativity. They are pretty close, when they are born, to their highest level of creativity. This morning, I rang up my daughter, who is an artist. She was on her way to Edinburgh to get some pictures printed. I was talking about this debate and we touched on that subject. She said, “You will notice, particularly in our family but, I think, in all families, that if you give a child a pencil at whatever age, it will want to draw something. How that proceeds in the child’s life depends on the stimulus it gets from seeing things and having its creativity engendered”. Having said that, most of my family are in the arts in one form or another, and I had a painter mother, so it is very close to me.
Before the Second World War we lived in Devon, and people always say there is no culture west of Bristol, although I do not know whether that still holds, so the first museum I went to was when my father was in the Air Force and posted to northern Scotland. We took the overnight train after having been in Madame Tussaud’s, which I suppose is the nearest that I had been to a museum. We arrived in Inverness, and there was a little time to get our connection to Nairn, which was our destination. We spent the rest of the day in the Inverness Museum. I do not know whether any of your Lordships have been to the Inverness Museum, or if it is as it was when I was eight years old—that is a bit further back than 20 years. It was absolutely riveting, because it was full of claymores, shields and people in tartan. I got my mother to buy me a book of tartans. I was overwhelmed by this.
When we came back to Devon after the war, there was still not much going on in terms of culture west of Bristol, I took up drawing a bit, because my mother had encouraged me, and so it went on. But I never had the gift that my mother had—my daughter has it; she is quite a successful painter. I think it is all about children. Galleries and museums should be run and funded with children in mind all the time. We want them to start when they are young and to go on visiting museums, galleries, learning, being stimulated, and so on.
The funding of museums is difficult. The noble Lord who initiated the debate talked about problems and I wonder whether there is anything other than funding. It is the overriding problem. I mention the United States now with some caution, but we have been host to a number of art galleries and their supporters here in the House. Galleries and museums often have a huge trail of supporters and trustees who get things together and go on great visits. Funding is no problem because if you are rich in America you can be connected to a museum or a gallery. They can be anywhere. I have seen provincial ones and main ones; the Washington Gallery came here. President Trump has recently stopped all funding, as we know. There is a sort of knee-jerk reaction to everything that Trump does, but of course, he was absolutely right. With most of the funding arrangements, and with so much coming from ordinary people—something I wish we had here—things were being funded that were totally unsuitable, which I shall not mention to your Lordships, as I know how sensitive they are.
Manufacturing is now going to grow, so let us encourage people who grow rich from manufacturing, or whatever, and who are successful to forget about the Rolls-Royce and hankering after a helicopter. They should put their money into the arts because there is kudos in it. The Americans do it for that reason.
I give all praise to those who continue as directors. Incidentally, the last exhibition that I went to, which was arranged by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, was a wonderful Soutine exhibition at the Courtauld, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I got speaking to the director and one of her officers. He told me that exciting things were happening because Courtauld, from its industries, has supported the arts enormously. Because Somerset House is closed for refurbishment, it is going out into the provinces, to the places where it used to have its industries to develop interest in the arts, and so on. What an admirable project.
So there is hope if we make a slight change in direction. We should not just worry about being supported by local authorities, marvellous as they are, if struggling. Let us show a bit of imagination, as the artists do.
Good news, my Lords: regardless of economic pressures, we have the best museums and galleries in the world. I say that not in a spirit of nostalgia; it is backed by hard facts. Mendoza tells us that the British Museum, National Gallery and Tate Modern are among the top 10 most-visited museums and galleries in the world. All the top 10 most-visited tourist attractions in the UK are English museums.
We are doing a great job of promoting Britain to a global audience and our own people—helped no doubt by our free entry policy. Over half the UK population visited museums last year, and the number of adult visitors has grown by around 25% over the past decade. We should congratulate the talented directors, hard-working staff and dedicated volunteers for the reputation they have won as simply the best in the world.
So what is the problem? Why this debate? As in any great success story, complacency is a danger. Funding is more pressing, as we have already heard, having already fallen overall some 13% in real terms over the past decade. Museums and galleries have certainly worked harder and smarter to generate additional sponsorship and income to mitigate that shortfall. While I applaud their efforts to stand on their own two feet, continuing government support is absolutely crucial.
When I said earlier that all top 10 tourist attractions in the UK were English museums, I omitted to say that they were all in London. When Disraeli wrote of the two nations in 1845, he was referring, of course, to the rich and the poor. As a Yorkshireman, I feel that the two nations in the England of 2018 are London and the rest of the country. Does it matter if a dusty old Victorian museum in some post-industrial northern town closes its doors? Yes, it matters hugely, because museums and galleries play a vital role in the economies and communities of every part of England. They house around 200 million objects, from Roman remains to railway locomotives, sculpture and paintings to pencils to lawn-mowers, ships, aircraft and military vehicles to sporting triumphs and literary history. Each forms part of our cultural lives.
Our calling card to the wider world has long been our creativity. We have given the world some of its greatest architects, designers, engineers, musicians, painters, sculptors and writers. We have pioneered most of its greatest innovations, from the steam railway to the jet engine and the world wide web, and invented most of its favourite sports. All these achievements are celebrated in our museums and galleries. Far from acquiescing in closures or shortened hours, we should look to open more museums, expanding public interest in new genres from film and television to technology and design.
Museums are community hubs that promote social cohesion. They are important employers, providing around 33,000 jobs and involving thousands of volunteers. They can help to deliver regeneration, like the striking Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. They also provide practical learning experiences that stimulate interest, and they are often far more impactful than any classroom or books. With art, drama and music all diminished in our schools, museums and galleries play an increasingly important role in the education of our children, helping to spark their imaginations and their creative powers. In the post-Brexit world, we are going to need every scintilla and vestige of genius that we can create if we are to continue leading the world in thought, creativity and innovation. The vital role that our museums and galleries can play in delivering this holistic education is, to my mind, absolutely unchallengeable.
Our museums and galleries also make a major contribution to the economy, because they are powerful magnets for tourism. In my own county of Yorkshire alone we are proud to have the Hepworth gallery in Wakefield, museum of the year 2017; the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, museum of the year 2014; the National Railway Museum at York; the Brontë Parsonage Museum, celebrating all that those extraordinary sisters gave to world literature; the Royal Armouries in Leeds; the National Coal Mining Museum; the National Media Museum in Bradford; and the Jorvik Viking Centre, which the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, mentioned earlier. I could go on and on.
I am not saying that no museum or gallery should ever be allowed to fail. Like all businesses, they need to remain relevant, meaningful and entrepreneurial. What I am saying is that both central and local government have an essential role to play in nurturing these great institutions, and that money that they put in should not be a viewed as a subsidy. It is an investment that pays demonstrable returns—social, educational and economic.
The 110-page report that Neil Mendoza compiled for the DCMS and published last November sets out six pages of detailed recommendations to the department, the Arts Council of England, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic England, local authorities and museums themselves, urging a more joined-up strategic approach that will make the best use of the limited funds available and ensure that museums operate as effective cultural enterprises, clearly understanding their purpose, their audience and their expertise. Careful study and full implementation of these recommendations will, I am sure, make a great, positive difference to the future of all our museums. Above all, though, we need to ensure recognition at the top—in Whitehall and town halls throughout the country—that museums and galleries are not a luxury. They are central to our history, heritage and identity; to social cohesion and education; to travel, tourism and hospitality; to our economic success and standing in the world as a whole. What is more important than all of that?
My Lords, we should indeed be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for his long-standing commitment to this area. It is a privilege to participate in this debate. I declare an interest as a former trustee of the British Museum and a current member of the Science Museum’s fundraising trust. I am based at Cambridge University, which is fortunate to have several outstanding museums; these are not only key adjuncts to research and teaching, but important cultural assets for the city and the region and, of course, tourist attractions too.
Museums and galleries are a diverse and complex ecology. I will focus my comments on science museums but I reiterate the concern we all share about the vulnerability of all local museums and libraries in an era when local government funding is under extreme pressure. There is a risk that temporary squeezes could lead to irreversible losses to our culture and communities. All museums aspire to be inspirational, cultural, and educational for young and old and they have a duty to conserve the artefacts emblematic of our heritage. However, I think it is accepted that science museums have, in addition, a more explicit educational role than the others. In this sense, they overlap in their mission with so-called science centres. Some of the latter were established with capital from the Millennium lottery fund, and have struggled to sustain an income.
The Science Museum itself has long seen young people as a key part of its clientele. There were 650,000 booked school visitors at the museum last year. Its acclaimed Wonderlab interactive gallery started in London and another was opened in Bradford at the newly revamped National Science and Media Museum, boosting visitor numbers there by one-third. The Government’s industrial strategy depends on a lifeblood of young people fired up by science and technology, and museums have a key role to play here. All too often, the natural enthusiasm that primary school children have—for dinosaurs, space or tadpoles—erodes at later stages. Those who have carried on in scientific careers often attribute their continuing motivation to media and museums, more than to their formal schooling.
As has been remarked, a generic feature of our great collections is that they are London-centric. The Science Museum is unusual here; it is actually a federation. Its flagship institution is indeed in South Kensington, but it has four other museums: the National Railway Museum in York, where there is an exciting redevelopment being planned; its adjunct in Shildon; the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford; and the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. This is at least some cheer for the noble Lord, Lord Kirkham, as he explained earlier. More than that, the Science Museum has organised special exhibitions which travel internationally. Science is the most truly global culture. There is currently an “Illuminating India” season at the Science Museum, which has been a tonic for UK-India relations. A special success—achieved through seriously difficult diplomacy by the director—was the Cosmonauts exhibition, which displayed artefacts from the 1960s which had never been seen publicly before, even in Russia. They went to Moscow only after they had been shown here. It was a worthy celebration of the heroism of the early cosmonauts and of Soviet achievements in science.
As a follow-up, incidentally, the museum is acquiring the capsule in which Tim Peake the UK astronaut travelled from the International Space Station; he came down in a Russian capsule. This will go on tour in the UK, along with Stephenson’s “Rocket”—a nice juxtaposition. Incidentally, touring exhibitions obviously engender concern about the safety of fragile artefacts, but the Science Museum director noted that this was the last of his concerns in the case of the space capsule as it had survived, glowing white-hot, during its re-entry into the atmosphere at 5 kilometres per second—so travel to the north of England occasioned zero concern. It will surely attract a lot of interest.
This leads to another important point: the allure of seeing the “real thing”. The web is, of course, a huge plus in spreading knowledge virtually and an important element in all museums. However, it is absolutely not the case that the web erodes the motivation to see actual iconic objects, just as in other fields there is now growing demand for book festivals and live concerts. I have witnessed an extreme example of this in science centres, when a spoonful of moon dust—utterly nondescript-seeming grey soil—always attracts a crowd of wondering young people.
Of course, some artefacts have aesthetic as well as technical or historic appeal—old clocks and astrolabes, for instance. That seems less true, sadly, of their modern counterparts, although an engineering friend assures me that the intricate structures on a silicon chip have a certain austere beauty if you look at them under a microscope. Be that as it may, in an era where short-termism is ever more prevalent, we should treasure our museums and acclaim their successes and initiatives. We need to celebrate and understand our past and be mindful of the heritage we owe to past generations as this should inspire us to reach for a brighter longer-term future.
My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, on securing this debate, which reflects the enormous passion and commitment that he brings to this field of our national life. I share his passion and commitment to an area of our life which is too often rather neglected or marginalised—the role of museums and galleries.
I was very struck by the impact of the City of Culture accolade in Hull in 2017 and the role that museums and galleries played in that. The impact has been enormous in that city. It has raised morale, attracted tourism and brought about a different feel to the place; you can almost touch it when you go there. It is a great thing and culture and the museums and galleries played a very lively part in that process. This experience confirms what has gone before. Do noble Lords remember the old Glasgow’s Miles Better campaign which showcased its wonderful galleries and museums? Liverpool is a former European Capital of Culture and has three nationally recognised museums. This shows what can be done. Culture is not some kind of optional extra or outdoor relief for the intellectual elite; it is a means of deepening understanding and commitment and stimulating innovation and fresh thinking.
I have many favourite museums in this country and overseas, but my particular passion are the museums of Manchester, especially the People’s History Museum, of which I was chairman of trustees for many years. That baton has now been passed to my noble friend Lady Royall of Blaisdon, who unfortunately cannot be here tonight. The People’s History Museum is not just a museum of labour history: its central themes tells the exciting story of the way the right to vote was extended to the population in stages, culminating, 100 years ago this year, in votes for women. The museum is, appropriately, located in Manchester, which was the world’s first industrial city, and which, by the way, was the birthplace of the TUC, which this year also celebrates an anniversary—its 150th. Next year it celebrates too the most violent incident in the fight to widen the franchise: the so-called Peterloo massacre. It is also the repository of the history of co-ops and trade unions, and is the repository of the Labour Party’s archives, which are uniquely bureaucratic; other parties are much more individualistic and their archives are hard to access. So this is a museum with a story to tell which is highly relevant to our modern life in this country.
The museum is run as an independent charity and, like others, it is experiencing the cold winds of austerity. We receive support from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority—I was pleased to see my noble friend Lord Smith here earlier; more than once he has come up trumps for the museum in discussions about money—and the Arts Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund play an active role. However, we have lost significant national funding from central government, DCMS and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which tend to palm us off as a regional museum to Greater Manchester or the north-west rather than recognising us as the national museum we really are. The widening of our democracy is of course not a regional matter. I exempt the Minister from these charges as I know that he has an interest in the museum, not least through a distinguished Manchester heritage and his family’s background. His interest is most welcome.
I hope that the museum will be able in due course to regain its national recognition and support, which it had until a few years ago. It deserves it, and repays every penny it gets with its 100,000 visitors, and many more children come through the museum to learn the story of our history and the way in which democracy was entrenched in this country. In an era when there is a lot of fake news, disinterest in the complexities of government and a myopic search for simple solutions, the story the museum tells is one of compelling importance.
No doubt the Minister will enlighten us on the role of DCMS and the recommendations from the Mendoza review urging a joined-up approach from government and the various arms-length bodies. I will be interested to hear what he says about that and the museums action plan. However, I am particularly interested in his and DCMS’s latest thoughts on this marvellous museum, the People’s History Museum.
“Where’s the cash?” was the forward and impatient response by the Guardian to the Mendoza review in its editorial on 14 November last year. The Museums Association said,
“we are disappointed that despite recognising the severe funding difficulties experienced by many museums, the government has failed to identify any new resources or capacity to improve the sustainability of the sector”.
As the MA reported last year, for the whole of the UK—for which figures are more readily available than just England—at least 64 museums closed, alongside a 31% drop in real-terms funding between 2010 and 2016. Concerning the future, according to the Local Government Association, local services generally, covering England and Wales, face a £5.8 billion gap in 2019-20, and the 1% council tax flexibility—not in any case the fairest point to introduce an extra tax burden—will be,
“nowhere near enough to meet”,
The plain fact is that a number of the key priorities set out by the Mendoza review simply will not be effectively achieved without proper funding through local authorities, because so much depends on the day-to-day running of those local and regional museums for which council funding is, frankly, irreplaceable, and this despite the continuous exhortation over many years now by central government to find other means of funding. Indeed, an acceptance of the Government’s stance is an aspect of the review itself.
A key and important priority of the review is cultural education. It is hugely important for our museums to act as educational tools—windows on the world for children and adults. One of the latest announcements of cuts, in December, was of the 50% cut by Eastbourne Borough Council to the Towner Art Gallery, which chair David Dimbleby believes jeopardises its significant learning programme. The DCMS’s own report last year showed a worrying 6.9% decrease in educational visits for under-18s to DCMS sites. There is a parallel here, as the National Society for Education in Art and Design points out, with the reduction in teaching hours in schools, as reported by the Cultural Learning Alliance.
It is right that the national bodies should work more closely together but councils cannot and should not be perceived as being shut out of the frame. The Arts Council, quite correctly, makes it very clear that it is not there to pick up the shortfall.
As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, set out passionately in his opening speech, we have extraordinary public collections and put on wonderful special exhibitions. Anyone who watched the BBC series “Britain’s Lost Masterpieces” will realise that we have more than we even thought we had. The additional funding provided by the lottery—so helpful, as the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, explained, for refurbishment and many other things—sometimes erroneously gives the impression that all is okay, particularly in London. On the subject of the lottery, will the Minister respond to the concerns about last year’s fall in lottery income? We have recently had a National Audit Office report which points out a decreasing interest in draw-based games, with, however, increased profits for Camelot.
The permanent public collections belong to us. They need to be properly displayed and seen as often as possible, maintained and conserved in museums fit for purpose and staffed with experts. We have much of that but are in danger of losing it for some of our museums, although all of them are pinched. Our local and regional museums are important parts of our community and should be properly funded through local councils by central government. Central government is failing us. The public deserve better.
Working internationally is one of the priorities of the review for our museums. On the potential effect of Brexit, a survey carried out last week of galleries participating in last weekend’s London Art Fair discovered that the primary concern was about free movement of people and goods. There is clearly concern over the movement both ways of artists, gallerists, staff and many others who are part of this industry. One should add here too that museums and galleries are about cultural exchange and knowledge, and our future participation in Erasmus+ is germane to the argument. We need to be careful here. I think it is very likely that we will remain within Erasmus; rather, our level of participation is the crucial issue. To retain the currently meaningful benefits, our participation must remain on the same level as that of all other countries within the EEA. There are also considerable fears over an increase in licensing requirements, which may severely affect our ability to lend and borrow artworks.
The galleries’ second major concern is around their tax status and about which way VAT on goods moving between the UK and other countries will go. What assurances can the Minister give that the Government as a whole, who will have some control over these areas, are taking these matters seriously? These are concerns that affect the arts and the creative industries more generally.
Finally, I ask the Minister, if he has not already done so, to look carefully at the measured speech which the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, made during the debate on the ivory trade on 21 December and which was answered by Defra. Our significant cultural heritage and our living environmental heritage are both important. We need to preserve both.
My Lords, I too am very grateful to my noble friend for introducing this debate. He asks what steps the Government are going to take in looking at and, hopefully, finding ways forward in a very troubled sector. From that, I exclude the nationals. Everything that has been said about them is absolutely true but there is a very big gap between how the nationals behave, the way they are treated and their resources, and the rest of the sector.
On steps, as the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, said, you cannot expect any more money. Whatever other step may be taken it will not be more money. It seems extremely unlikely that the £844 million, which I think is the figure that Neil Mendoza calculated, will be significantly added to. We need to look at other ways forward. As has been mentioned, there are examples of things being done in the science museum sector or wherever you like to look. But as Mendoza tells us, the diversity is pretty bewildering among the 2,600 institutions mentioned in his excellent review.
My theme is that the DCMS needs to take a much more serious look at the development of policy and consider the sector in much more depth and detail rather than leaving things to find their own level. Perhaps that is a trifle unkind but one of Mendoza’s recommendations politely says that we need a clearer role for DCMS. I do not know how a review could make it clearer that the department needs to do more.
In a sector so large and complex, general rules are scarce. We know that the sector is short of people, and the reason it is short of people is that it is short of money. Here I declare an interest. In 1983 I was lucky enough to be on the Royal Botanic Gardens trust when it was formed. The DCMS may or may not know that there are 200,000 original botanic drawings at Kew—a huge gallery collection. What about access? What about the acquisition of yet further drawings? What about the conservation of those drawings? They are mainly watercolour drawings, which are, as we know, very sensitive.
I am involved in the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library, which is, fortunately, endowed. Endowment is a big issue. We have had a catalyst, and there is an interest in endowment, but how much further are we going to take that interest?
The Georgian Theatre in Richmond, north Yorkshire, is highly dependent upon volunteers. In my day, it had a manager and a part-time bookkeeper. For everything else, including the 100 performances we put on each year, the theatre was manned by volunteers. There is a huge issue about volunteering.
Regarding the Bowes Museum—not, unfortunately for my noble friend Lord Kirkham, in Yorkshire but just over the border in County Durham—although Neil Mendoza mentions a 13% drop in core local authority funding over the past few years, the Bowes has suffered a drop of between 50% and 60% from its county core funder.
We are faced with a huge challenge, which basically is: how does this sector keep up with what is going on? The creativity of the nation has been referred to, as has the possibility of there being even more new museums, but what about the existing museums and their ability to keep up, as Mendoza says, with the digital revolution and what is now being called the fourth industrial revolution? It may be that the Ashmole/Hans Sloane model fits only a relatively small number of museums today and that, in filling the gap between the nationals and followers of the Ashmole model, we need a much deeper analysis.
At present the DCMS seems to have subcontracted a lot of the thinking to the Arts Council, to the Heritage Lottery Fund and—with some misgivings, I would guess—to local authorities. For me, DCMS needs to get into the fray. Taking refuge in descriptions of culture, whatever that means, does not seem to me to be enough. It may be that the top-down model—come in, keep quiet and learn—is not good enough anymore. What people may really want is to know what they can do in museums. That may come to be as important as what they learn.
My Lords, we have heard an impressive range of speeches in this debate which have demonstrated the enthusiasm of this House for museums and galleries but also, I am sad to say, illustrating many of the severe problems that they face. I must congratulate that great heritage champion, the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, on instituting this timely debate. It is only too rare that we discuss this sector which, as we have heard, makes a great contribution to our culture, our creative economy, our tourism economy, to social well-being and the quality of our lives, and to our communities. I was taken by the description of the noble Lord, Lord Monks, of museums and galleries being a stimulant for creativity and innovation, and by what the noble Lord, Lord Rees, had to say about the ongoing impact on why people eventually do what they do; it is not purely down to the schools and universities they go to. Like him, I declare a strong interest not only as a regular visitor to national museums—only last night I was at the Science Museum for “Tomorrow’s World Live”, which was pretty exciting—but to university museums as the chair of the Queen Mary University of London Council. If any noble Lord has a slight taste for the macabre, it is certainly worth while going to see the astonishing Barts Pathology Museum in the West Smithfield campus.
As the National Museum Directors’ Council points out, eight out of the 10 most popular attractions in the UK are national museums, and 51.3% of UK adults visited a museum or gallery in 2012. But as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, made clear, inevitably the context for today’s debate was provided by the Mendoza review published last November, entitled An Independent Review of Museums in England. Before that, we had the Government’s ambitious Culture White Paper and the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report in December 2016. At the time of the Select Committee’s report, the then Minister for Culture, Mr Matt Hancock MP, who is now the Secretary of State of course, said that he supported the aims of the White Paper and that he would continue putting its recommendations into practice, so I take some comfort from that.
The Select Committee and the Culture White Paper both emphasise the need for access, diversification and partnership working. I say “hear, hear!” to that. The principal recommendations set out in the Mendoza review were described succinctly by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkham, while the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, was right to pick out a particular recommendation for a clearer museums role for DDCMS. If that is not a veiled criticism, I do not know what is, and I strongly support what the noble Viscount had to say. Some good recommendations were made in the review, and I welcome the response made by Arts Council England. It states that over the period 2018 to 2022 it will invest £36.6 million per annum in museums, which is 9% of the total national portfolio spend. It has also committed that from 1 April 2018 it will open up its redesigned grants for the arts funding programme.
There are some important elements in terms of the response to the review, and I welcome the museums action plan recommended by Mendoza, which I understand will be delivered by Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund by September this year. It will also be facilitated by DDCMS, so perhaps the department is beginning to become more engaged. However, given the financial problems that many museums face, this is no guarantee of survival and we need to do more. As the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, pointed out, the bare fact is that the Museums Association has stated that despite recognising the severe funding difficulties being experienced by many museums—the Government’s own figures show that local authority funding for museums in England was 31% lower in 2016 than in 2010—the report fails to identify any new resources or capacity to improve the sustainability of the sector, although, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, has pointed out, the sums involved are rather small.
There are funding issues that need tackling. When we were in coalition, a four-year pilot of operational and financial flexibilities for national museums to assist their capacity to generate commercial and philanthropic revenue and to operate efficiently was set up. What has been the evaluation of that pilot scheme? Much mention has been made throughout the debate of the importance of the National Lottery, but one of its founding principles was that there should only be one National Lottery. This is not the situation today. There is the Health Lottery, which is one in all but name. This damages its ability to raise funds for good causes, such as museums. What do the Government plan to do about that?
As a number of noble Lords pointed out, including the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, we need to increase the appetite for philanthropic giving. There is kudos involved, but matched funding from public funds acting as an inducement is additional to that. A crucial lesson has been learned on the importance of investing in the teaching of fundraising skills. The Creative Industries Federation has argued that we need to incentivise greater corporate giving and we should consider something like the Rouanet law in Brazil, which allows companies to offset donations to the cultural sector against the corporate tax bill. There are a number of aspects that the Select Committee asked the DDCMS to work on in VAT business rates, tax incentives and so on. My noble friend Lady Grender talked of creative enterprise zones. Those are of course important.
What is the Tourism Industry Council now doing relative to museums? Why are museums not represented on it anymore? Will the tourism sector deal agreed as part of the industrial strategy encompass museums? There are many other issues that I could raise relative to museums. I hope that the DDCMS gets into hyperactive mode.
My Lords, in hyperactive mode, I will continue along the line of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. Everybody has mentioned money in this debate. The other thing that has come up constantly is all the exotic places where people can give personal accounts of museums that they are familiar with. We could have had a tour of scenic Britain with our eyes shut: Lincoln, Wales, York, Inverness, Yorkshire, Gateshead, Cambridge, Hull and Manchester—but, of course, no culture west of Bristol. This has borne testimony to the fact that all of us have our rootage in the cultural heritage expressed in museums and galleries.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, not only on bringing this Question to our attention, but on his pertinacity in ensuring that the future of our heritage is constantly held under review. I have a little experience in this field. For more than 20 years I bore responsibility for the Museum of Methodism, situated at Wesley’s Chapel on the City Road here in London. Clearly this is a niche museum, although we developed it in conjunction with other religious museums, especially the museum of Judaism. The curator spares and finds time to chair the group that presents to the public the interests of the small historic houses of London. Yet, for all that it is a niche museum, it has global significance and attracts tourism by the tens of thousands for the 70 million Methodists scattered around the world. It is a place of pilgrimage, where John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, began his work. It is where he lived and died and where his last remains are buried. It is an important destination for faithful Methodists from everywhere and, since it is open at times when other museums are not, for non-Methodists too.
These responsibilities I shouldered made me more than aware of the key questions we are addressing in this debate and that are put forward in the Mendoza review. We needed to fund a major refurbishment costing millions of pounds. A small part of that came from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the rest from trusts, personal contacts, philanthropists and the international Methodist family. Equally, we sought to ensure sustainability and good leadership. We appointed a fully professional and experienced curator who was far better than we might have found in normal times, but these were not normal times. We were able to get this person simply because, due to local authority cutbacks, a brilliant man trained at the Victoria and Albert suddenly became available, made redundant from the gallery he was running. We added a training and development officer and these two professional people are aided by volunteers—as was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles—who keep the place open every single day of the year, except perhaps three days around the major festivals. In addition, we have developed an ambitious outreach programme to schools and other institutions as we seek to broaden the base of those interested, bring more people in, change the exhibitions around and appeal to those interested in religious history, 18th-century history, architecture, social development, the world mission and metropolitan history.
Running a museum is more than just keeping the budget balanced. It is interesting to know that there are well over 2,000 such small museums scattered around the country. As has been said by many noble Lords, their contribution to community life, social cohesion and identity cannot be overestimated. Such museums, of course, are minuscule in comparison to the great national museums which come immediately to mind in a debate of this kind—minuscule, but no less important.
The noble Lord, Lord Monks, mentioned the People’s History Museum. I had quite a discourse on that and I will abandon it because repetition is not a good thing in parliamentary debate. However, I hope that as much attention will be given to the non-elitist aspects of British social history as to the great showpiece places in the great museums we can all think of. It was astonishing to read some of the accounts in the briefing papers about the Minister’s great-aunt; a suffragist, a pacifist and, supremely, a nonconformist. I was delighted to read that: he must meet my wife, whose great-aunt was a suffragette, a nonconformist and a Pankhurst. I am indeed married to a revolutionary woman; it is in the genes. Therefore, I hope that the People’s History Museum will receive the attention it is due and be visited by the all-party group of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. The Mendoza committee did not have a chance to visit it: it needs visiting and this is a good year for it with the centenary of the Representation of the People Act being celebrated appropriately, centred in Manchester.
I noticed in the Mendoza report—the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, mentioned it—that DCMS will facilitate the development of a museums action plan with the Arts Council, HLF and so on, to deliver on these priorities this September. It is my lot in these debates to be able to anticipate the Minister’s response by saying, “We will see how we will proceed with the questions we are debating when this report comes out”. It is not the first time I have been snookered in that way, but I hope we can put pressure on those facilitating this development action plan in order that they may catch the idea that money is needed. We can get some money by making economies and by greater efficiency: that is one way of getting more out of what we have got. The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, missed his chance to speak, but I want to say what he has revealed to me in a courteous revelation of his speech, which is that other money can be gained by taking away the charge for images and illustrations that museums impose on anything that people want to include in publications, publicity and educational materials. That has the effect of narrowing down those who might attend our museums or be aware of our collections. I commend the noble Lord for that idea for enriching the resource base of our museums.
This is where we must draw things to a conclusion. Money is and will continue to be a problem. We can hope only that the study about to be done will look squarely at it. I hope that there is more money to be squeezed out of the orange. A clear responsibility rests with the DCMS in this regard; we must hope that it comes good. With all this in mind, it seems that we must keep these matters on hold yet again, and anticipate a further discussion once the forthcoming study has been completed. We count on the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, to ensure that it happens.
My Lords, I have two problems in answering this debate. One is that I have a slipped disc and it takes me about a minute to stand up without grimacing—I am not grimacing because I do not want to reply. The second problem is that I misinterpreted the debate and have a 20-minute speech instead of a 12-minute one. I will do the best I can so I will speak quickly, if I may.
I thank my noble friend Lord Cormack for securing this debate and all other noble Lords for their interesting contributions. We are deeply committed to museums, as to all arts and culture. Museums play an important role in our lives and our society. They look after the historic, scientific, global and local collections that help us to understand the world around us and who we are as people. They make our towns and communities places where people and businesses want to be and to visit. They attract foreign visitors and give them a sense of Britain’s values.
The period of change that we have seen over recent years led the Government to commission a review, as we have heard. It is the first of the whole sector in more than 10 years, looking in depth at museums and their challenges and opportunities. This shows the importance that the Government place on museums and on culture. As we have heard, the Mendoza review was published in November 2017, and the Government are very grateful for Neil Mendoza’s hard work over more than a year of research and thinking. I am also grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, for her welcome of the review. The response from John Glen, the then Minister, was published the same day. He welcomed the review and committed to implement all its recommendations. I am pleased to say that Michael Ellis, the new Minister, has reiterated his enthusiasm as well.
I note first that Neil Mendoza and his team found that there is not a crisis in the museums sector, contrary to the perceptions which some may hold. There are, of course, some museums that have struggled and faced very serious problems, often because of councils and local authorities withdrawing funding. Many noble Lords mentioned this. It is sometimes difficult to accept hard decisions, but it is right that decisions which directly affect local matters are taken locally.
I absolutely do not wish to overlook the difficulties of some individual museums. Some museums have indeed closed, but museums should not be institutions that simply assume they can always exist as they have. Many museums have adapted and found different ways of doing things, and some new museums have opened. Overall, it was found that the museum sector is already impressive and well placed to thrive. For example, Neil Mendoza found great work in Norfolk, Barnsley, Derby, Cornwall and Manchester, and in many other places.
As many noble Lords have observed, the funding environment for some museums has been tight. The review goes into some length about how many museums have adapted to this. Many museums have innovated and found ways to make money go further, work together to share costs or generate more income. For the first time, the review brought together all public funding sources to museums, as much as is possible. They still receive over £800 million every year from 16 different sources. The Government continue to help museums. The new tax relief for exhibitions is now in effect and is expected to provide £30 million per year. There will be a further £4 million through the DCMS/Wolfson fund to be spent in 2019-20. Museums will also benefit from the Government’s recent announcements on creating a cultural development fund of £2 million to work on pilots —I make the point to my noble friend Lord Cormack that it is £2 million to work on pilots, not the actual amount to spend—and a £7.7 million curriculum fund.
We in DCMS are conscious of our role, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Eccles and the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. We are taking steps to address the challenges in the sector. I have said that the Government agree with the review recommendations, as outlined by the former Minister John Glen, and I am therefore very pleased that he moved to the Treasury in the reshuffle. His successor, Michael Ellis, has met Neil Mendoza, and I know he is also very supportive.
Over time, we expect to implement the Mendoza Review in full. First, we will prioritise the museums action plan. The key improvement will be better joined-up activity between government funders. DCMS, Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund will produce a plan showing how their funding will be used more strategically across the country to support the nine priorities Neil Mendoza identified for the sector. We will also prioritise the partnership framework.
The partnership framework will help better co-operation around how the national museums work with the wider sector. National and regional museums already work in partnership on many galleries and projects, for example, loans of objects such as the V&A lending the Great Bed of Ware to Ware Museum or the British Museum’s partnership with galleries all over the UK with long-term loans for permanent galleries. This goes both ways. The Science Museum in London recently benefited from the loan of the beautiful Silver Swan automaton from the Bowes Museum. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Rees, approves of that.
These steps highlight a key finding that money is not the only answer. Museums have a responsibility to be creative and innovative, to look at their communities and think hard about their place in them and what they have to contribute and to make themselves relevant in a changing, increasingly online, world and places where people want to spend time and experience the collections.
I now turn to some of the points raised by noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Rees of Ludlow, talked about science museums. I thank him for that and for paying tribute to the fantastic work of the Science Museum Group. I could not agree more, and I am delighted that the new Minister for the Arts, Heritage and Tourism, Michael Ellis, will be visiting the National Railway Museum in York later this week to see first hand the planned redevelopment.
The noble Lord, Lord Monks—flattery will get him everywhere, of course—and the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, mentioned the People’s History Museum. I agree with them on the benefits and interest in the People’s History Museum. It is a marvellous museum. The noble Lord talked about it losing funding. It used to receive £150,000 a year from DCMS in direct grant in aid funding, which was removed, but it successfully applied to become an Arts Council national portfolio organisation and will receive just over double what it previously received annually. However, I concur with the noble Lord’s recommendation to visit that museum.
My noble friend Lord Eccles made some interesting points, particularly about DCMS. We will support museums as they rethink their place in today’s society. The action plan will help put a funding framework around priorities such as how museums work with audiences and help shape places. The Government fund national museums at arm’s length and regional museums through the Arts Council. This means that museums are fiercely and gladly independent, curatorially and operationally. We think it is a major strength of the sector and do not wish to interfere in museums’ practice.
The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, asked about the operational freedoms pilot. This was set out in a strategic review of government-sponsored museums. We will seek to evaluate the operational freedoms pilot three years after they become permanent in 2018—this year—and will set out our evaluation plans in due course.
The noble Lord, Lord Rees, talked about London-centric national museums. There are 24 branches of national museums outside London, and in 2016-17 the national collection was lent out to more than 1,300 UK venues. We absolutely take his point, but we are working hard to move the benefits of the national museums to a wider audience around the country.
My noble friend Lord Cormack mentioned business rates, which of course are a real problem. The Government are working to revitalise the business rates system, and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is currently consulting on the fair funding review. We are aware that the sector has some concerns about how the business rates system affects museums. Many museums are charities and enjoy 80% mandatory rates relief. The York Museums Trust Upper Tribunal decision in 2017 was a milestone, and we are working with the Treasury and the VOA to understand the decision and its long-term impact.
The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, talked about ivory sales. The proposals on those include specific exemptions for sales to and between museums. Defra does not intend the proposed ban to impact on the display of items by museums or to prevent museum-to-museum loans where currently allowed.
The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, reminisced that there was not much going on west of Bristol when he was a bit younger. I can assure the noble Viscount that there is now plenty of culture to be had in the south-west of England: Tate St Ives reopened in autumn 2017; the Mary Rose in Portsmouth is a fantastic attraction; and the 70-strong Cornwall Museums Partnership, working with its local enterprise partnership, goes from strength to strength. I urge him to revisit his youth and capture his Inverness enthusiasm in the south-west.
The noble Baroness, Lady Grender, and the noble Viscount talked about school visits and young people. The curriculum fund will support leading cultural and scientific institutions in bringing high-quality materials from our rich cultural and scientific heritage directly into the classroom. It is worth £7.7 million, and the DCMS is working with the Department for Education to engage the relevant stakeholders.
I conclude by talking about national museums working with regional museums. As I mentioned, the national collection was lent out more than 1,300 times, and ACE has provided £3.6 million to regional museums to help them improve their galleries to protect and display borrowed items through the ready to borrow scheme.
The nation’s museums represent a successful, resourceful and creative sector. The Government are focusing on how we can support an environment in which museums can flourish on their own terms, and the steps I have outlined will help to do that. My time is up, and I will write to those noble Lords whose questions I have not yet managed to answer, with apologies.
Brexit: The Crown Dependencies (European Union Committee Report)
Question for Short Debate
My Lords, I am delighted to introduce this short debate on the EU Select Committee’s report, Brexit: the Crown Dependencies. I preface my remarks by being even more vehement and enthusiastic than is perhaps my habit in thanking colleagues and members of my committee and the staff, both for producing this report and for the immense support they have given me, along with Members from all sides of the House, during my recent illness, for which I deeply grateful.
The report is part of a series of inquiries undertaken by the committee into what Brexit means for the United Kingdom’s various constitutional relationships, both internally and externally. We have also examined the impact of Brexit on UK-Irish relations, devolution, Gibraltar and the UK’s Overseas Territories. The report discussed tonight was published in March last year and drew on evidence received in a valuable joint appearance before the committee by the Chief Ministers of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, as well as evidence received from academic and legal experts and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Robin Walker MP.
The Isle of Man, the Bailiwick of Jersey and the Bailiwick of Guernsey—which includes the three jurisdictions of Guernsey, Alderney and Sark—each have a unique relationship with the UK. They are not part of the UK but are self-governing dependencies of the Crown with their own directly elected legislative assemblies, administrative, fiscal and legal systems and their own courts of law. They are not represented in, nor accountable to, this Parliament. The UK Government are responsible for the defence and international relations of these islands. Citizens of the Crown dependencies hold British citizenship under the British Nationality Act 1981, and the islands are part of the common travel area. They cannot sign up to international agreements in their own right but can have the UK’s ratification extended to them or sign specific international agreements if—this is the technical word—entrusted to do so by the UK.
The Crown dependencies also have a unique relationship with the European Union, set out in Protocol 3 to the UK’s 1972 Treaty of Accession to the European Community. The dependencies are not part of the EU. However, under Protocol 3, they are nevertheless part of the customs territory of the Union and therefore Union customs matters, the common customs tariff, levies and the prohibition against quantitative restrictions apply. There is free movement of agricultural goods and derived products between the islands and the EU, and measures relating to trade in such goods with third countries are also included.
However, other EU rules do not apply. The implementation of the provisions on the free movement of persons, services and capital is not required. Only this morning I was discussing with the Latvian Minister and her ambassador the position of Latvian nationals who are resident and working in Guernsey, as an example of the complexity of this. So they are not required to implement the free movement of persons, services and capital but, equally, they are not eligible for assistance from EU structural funds or under the common agricultural policy. EU tax instruments, justice and home affairs measures and the Schengen acquis do not apply, although the dependencies have applied for equivalent status in a number of legal and policy areas.
The citizens of the Crown dependencies did not as of right participate in the EU referendum. Nevertheless, the consequences of Brexit for the Crown dependencies are significant. The evidence that we received drew attention to three intertwined and potentially conflicting priorities for the Crown dependencies in the Brexit negotiations. The first is the maintenance of their centuries-old constitutional relationship with the UK. The second, notwithstanding the loss of Protocol 3 on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, is the retention so far as possible of the benefits of the existing relationship between the Crown dependencies and the EU. The third is the evolution of the Crown dependencies’ international identities while respecting the UK’s constitutional obligation to represent them in defence and international relations.
While each of the Crown dependencies has its own specific priorities—they have been assiduous in keeping us in touch with their concerns as well as, I am sure, the Government—the implications of Brexit appear most significant in a number of areas. The dependencies wish to continue to trade freely in goods, including fisheries, agriculture and manufacturing, with both the UK and the EU.
They are also cognisant of the impact on their important financial services sectors, particularly the Crown dependencies’ continued ability to secure regulatory equivalence where appropriate. The Crown dependencies wish to continue to attract EU citizens to live and work there, particularly in sectors such as agriculture, health, financial services and tourism, while at the same time retaining the common travel area with the UK. The Crown dependencies also have important links with the EU in data protection co-operation, transport and communication, and energy co-operation.
There is a wider concern that the priorities of the Crown dependencies will be overlooked in the Brexit negotiation, or that we will run out of time to give them sufficient attention. This fear is to some extent informed by memories of the European Community accession negotiations. In the words of the Chief Minister of the Isle of Man, Howard Quayle, while it had ultimately served them well,
“the drafting of Protocol 3 was done almost as an afterthought”.
The UK Government have a constitutional and moral responsibility to represent the interests of the Crown dependencies in the Brexit negotiations, and our report called on the Government to ensure that the Crown dependencies remain fully involved as negotiations proceed and that their concerns and priorities are properly taken into account by the UK negotiators.
I therefore conclude with a number of questions for the Minister. First, how are the Government engaging with the Crown dependencies in relation to Brexit? What steps are they taking to address the dependencies’ specific policy concerns? How will the Government ensure that the Crown dependencies are able, as far as possible, to retain the benefits of their existing constitutional relationship with the UK and the EU? How will our Government ensure that the Crown dependencies are kept fully apprised of, and given the opportunity, where appropriate, to participate in, future free trade agreements with third countries? Are they supporting Guernsey and Jersey in their efforts to ensure that the UK’s WTO membership is extended to cover them, as it already does the Isle of Man? Can the Minister give a commitment that the Government will continue to fulfil their constitutional obligations to represent the interests of the Crown dependencies in international relations, even when these differ from those of the UK, both during the Brexit negotiations and beyond?
I raised many of these issues in a letter to the Secretary of State on 22 November, to which we have as yet received no reply. Can the Minister give a commitment on his behalf that a reply will be provided as a matter of priority?
In conclusion, our report is a matter of raising awareness of the complex constitutional issues and indicating the importance of the Government’s engagement on them. I make no accusations—I think that at the moment there is a good working relationship—but it is essential that it continues through the negotiations and beyond.
I look forward to this evening’s debate, and to the noble Baroness’s reply.
My Lords, we are all grateful to the European Union Committee for its report Brexit: the Crown Dependencies, and I am delighted to welcome back the noble Lord, Lord Boswell of Aynho, after his illness. The report is very detailed and the conclusions are clear. In the time available, I will be able to focus mainly on the conclusions, together with the government response to the report and the briefings I have received from the Governments of Guernsey and Jersey.
As stated by the noble Lord and in the summary, the Crown dependencies are part of neither the EU nor the UK. Nevertheless, they have a unique constitutional relationship with the UK and, as encapsulated in Protocol 3 to the UK’s treaty of accession, with the EU. The consequences of Brexit for the Crown dependencies are therefore significant.
As the report states, there are three major priorities for the Crown dependencies in the context of the Brexit negotiations: maintenance of their centuries-old constitutional relationship with the UK; retention as far as possible of the existing relationship between the Crown dependencies and the EU; and the evolution of the Crown dependencies’ international identities, while respecting the UK’s constitutional obligation to represent them in matters of defence and international relations.
So how are the dependencies faring thus far? I have received most helpful briefings from the Governments of Guernsey and Jersey, giving their reaction to the report. For the Isle of Man, I am relying on the Chief Minister’s evidence. Starting with the Government of Guernsey, they have set out their four Brexit priorities. These are: customs and trade; free movement of people, including immigration and the common travel area; fisheries and agriculture; and financial services.
In the Government’s response to the report, David Davis, the Minister, places great emphasis on the regular meetings that have been established between the Chief Ministers of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man, and Robin Walker, Under-Secretary of State at DExEU. The response states:
“We will continue to engage with the Crown Dependencies on these areas, ensuring they remain fully involved as negotiations proceed”.
However, the Guernsey briefing conclusion takes a more pragmatic and cautious view of the current situation, stating that the UK Government have been delivering on their commitments to engage with the Crown dependencies and ensure that their interests are taken into account. It goes on to say that the Crown dependencies are waiting for a number of clear positions in terms of the future partnership and implementation period to be able to make strategic and legislative decisions, including on matters relating to entering into a customs union and the future immigration regime, as well as on fisheries and trade policy. With this in mind, it will be important to understand the timeline for the implementation of any new agreement in making strategic and legislative decisions.
The main features of the Jersey briefing echo those of Guernsey. It gives its four major objectives for Jersey as a result of the Brexit negotiations. These are, first, to continue the fundamentals of its existing relationship with the UK. This includes membership of the common travel area, a common customs territory, freedom of movement of capital and external trade based on tariffs in common with the UK.
Secondly, it wishes to continue the benefits of its relationship with the EU, as under Protocol 3. These include: access to EU goods markets on terms no less favourable than the UK has; access to EU markets for financial services through meeting requirements of equivalence; mutual recognition of regimes for third countries; and securing a no less favourable deal on movement of persons in the EU for British nationals resident in Jersey than for British nationals generally.
Thirdly, Jersey wishes to ensure that it has the right agreements and international relationships to benefit from global opportunities. This includes extension of the World Trade Organization application to Jersey. Guernsey also wishes for this, unlike the Isle of Man, which is already, through the UK, a member. It also includes strengthened relationships with non-EU global markets; an expanded network of international agreements; and entrustment to negotiate bilateral investment treaties between Jersey and key trading partners.
Fourthly, Jersey wishes to mobilise the UK Government to ensure: the uninterrupted functioning of relevant law in Jersey related to EU legislation; that Jersey will still control access to its housing and labour markets; and that it will work with Guernsey and the Isle of Man to exercise maximum influence on the UK’s Brexit negotiations.
The Isle of Man, as I mentioned, has different needs. As set out in the report, it already has a customs and excise agreement with the UK, signed in 1979, which provides for the sharing of VAT and other revenues between the island and the UK. Also, the Isle of Man is part of the UK’s membership of the WTO. The Chief Minister of the Isle of Man told the committee that one of their two key concerns related to the freedom of movement of goods. He also informed the committee that the impact of Brexit on agriculture, exports and animal welfare was key. Another of his major concerns was the manufacturing industry, particularly in the area of aircraft parts. His other main worry was about retaining, as far as possible, the current freedom of movement of people from the EU, because of the island’s ageing population.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Boswell of Aynho, I ask the Minister for a response to the noble Lord’s letter of 22 November, which includes many of the questions posed by the Guernsey and Jersey briefings and the Isle of Man evidence. It seems discourteous that no reply has yet been forthcoming, although it was requested by 5 December last year.
Paragraph 113 of the report sums up very well, emphasising the,
“Crown Dependencies’ continued ability in trade freely in goods … The financial services sectors in the Crown Dependencies, and … The ability to continue to attract EU citizens to live and work in the Crown Dependencies”,
as well as,
“Existing data protection cooperation, transport and communication links, and energy cooperation between the Crown Dependencies and the EU”.
This has important implications for Brexit.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to take part in this debate and to see the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, back in his place.
I am well aware that, in the extraordinarily difficult situation in which the United Kingdom Government find themselves at present and the complex negotiations in which they are engaged with regard to the EU, the concerns of a few tiny islands off the coast of France may not seem to be at the top of their list. But I speak as a native of one of these islands, as a proud Guernsey woman, as president of the All-Party Parliamentary Channel Islands Group and as, I think, the only Channel Island member of either House of Parliament. Your Lordships will understand my reasons for speaking, though very briefly, in this debate tonight.
Such is the close connection between the United Kingdom and the Channel Islands that it is often very difficult for people to understand that they are not part of the United Kingdom and never have been, a fact brought firmly home to me 20 years ago when I entered your Lordships’ House. When discussing the issue of my territorial designation, the then Garter King of Arms told me that I could not use the place in Guernsey where I was born, as had been my intention, because it was “too foreign”. When I questioned the use of foreign place names by other noble Lords, I was told that I would have had either to take it in battle or sack it. As I had done neither to the tiny parish of St Sampson on the island of Guernsey where I was born, I agreed to another designation.
The relationship between the Channel Islands and United Kingdom has always been a complex one, and this complexity will be exacerbated as the UK leaves the EU. The complications centre around the three themes so clearly set out in the report and set before us by the noble Lord, Lord Boswell. Maintaining the very old and long-standing relationship goes back to 1066, when we Normans, subjects of the Duke of Normandy, came over and conquered you at the Battle of Hastings. We must maintain that existing relationship —the existing relationship as well as the very old relationship. There must be an opportunity for the Channel Islands to develop their own international identities and forge new relationships in the new scenario where nobody quite knows how it is going to pan out.
I remember very clearly the anxiety in Guernsey in 1972, when the UK joined the EU. My father grew tomatoes for a living, as many people did in those days. Some of your Lordships may be able to remember when tomatoes were a seasonal fruit, and we all looked forward to March, when Guernsey tomatoes came into the shops. I remember how terribly worried he was about the future of agriculture and horticulture. That worry is there even more strongly nowadays, when those involved in the financial services sector, so vastly developed in recent years, and those involved in tourism and hospitality, are all so concerned about their futures.
EU policy and Brexit are far from being my field of expertise, so I can offer no suggestions about how these circles are going to be squared. All I can do from my very personal perspective is to urge the greatest possible communication between the Crown dependencies and the negotiators. The Minister, David Davis, seemed to promise this in his letter in October to the noble Lord, Lord Jay, in response to his excellent report. He said that the government negotiators are seeking the best possible deal for all jurisdictions and will ensure that we take full account of the Crown dependencies’ interests in the negotiations. He also undertakes to ensure that the Crown dependencies remain fully engaged as negotiations proceed.
This is most welcome, but in the briefing we have received from the Bailiwick of Guernsey, already quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, we are reminded about the importance of timing. They say that:
“The UK Government have been delivering on their commitments to engage with the Crown Dependencies and ensure that their interests are taken into account”.
“The Crown Dependencies are waiting for a number of clear positions”,
“The time to implement these decisions will be critical. This includes matters relating to entering into a customs union, the future immigration regime as well as on fisheries and trade policy”.
It will be so important that all these negotiations, and any decisions about transitional relationships, are communicated at the earliest possible stage. This is not just to ensure that there is time to put matters before the three legislatures in the Bailiwick of Guernsey—yes, three legislatures in a tiny island—but also to provide businesses with the confidence and the basis on which to plan and make investment decisions.
A smooth and orderly transition is in the best interests of Guernsey and, of course, of the United Kingdom. We must ensure that this happens, and in good time. I know that the Governments of Guernsey and Jersey will make every effort, not just because of the constitutional obligations but because of the strong and very affectionate ties between the Channel Islands and the United Kingdom. I trust that the Government will do the same. Your Lordships may know that Channel Islanders refer to the mainland of England as the other side, as in, “my plane has been held up by bad weather on the side”; or “she married a man from the other side”, as they say about me. We must not be on opposite sides as these negotiations continue.
My Lords, I declare an interest as vice-chairman of the Isle of Man All-Party Parliamentary Group. I have been a regular visitor to the Isle of Man since the 1940s. I have holidayed in the Channel Islands on three occasions and have been to five of them. This report by the European Union Committee is of the usual high standard that we expect. The noble Lord, Lord Boswell, has given a clear synopsis. In a sense, there is not much to say about the report because he has said it, but there it is. He has been amazingly polite. I hope to be polite too, but direct.
The report was sent for publication on 14 March 2017, 10 months ago. I do not know when the committee started on it, but I suspect it was over a year ago. It is not the fault of the committee that we are discussing a very dated report today. We are supposed to be in a rush to exit Europe; we are supposed to be out by March 2019. Yet a year has gone since work was started on this report on the Crown dependencies. After seven months, the Government sent a response; then, a mere two months ago, on 22 November, the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, asked five questions—one sheet of A4 paper. These are simple but very relevant questions for his committee to ask. It is now 23 January and there has been no answer, even though the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, said that it would be a good idea if the Government could answer by 5 December. That suggests the Government are not bothered about our European Union committees and the serious work that they do. It is interesting to see how different arms of government respond to your Lordships. I note that on 11 January last—not long since—the noble Lord, Lord Best, initiated a debate on housebuilding. As early as 17 January—six days later—the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, had responded with an “all Peers” four-page letter covering several important points. He responded in six days, giving very important and valuable information to all the people who had taken part in that debate. Do not government departments differ?
These islands may well be small, with a quarter of a million people between them. Their interests were perhaps formerly only tourism, agriculture and fishing but are now far wider, with manufacturing and financial services prominent. Therefore, the needs of the Crown dependencies are complex. I do not fault in any way the report’s conclusions. I was going to quote from it but that has been done twice already.
Looking at the report itself, I am surprised at the comparisons between the contributions of the three Chief Ministers, who seem to believe that the discussions appeared to bode well for them, yet the lawyers and academics were far more sceptical about satisfactory negotiations. That comes through to me from the report.
I was also surprised to see that Jersey had set aside £4 million to create a Brexit unit. I wonder whether that means that the three islands between them are having to spend £10 million on this sort of work—another expense of Brexit.
Paragraphs 94 to 97 show how some of the committee’s witnesses see the international negotiations that are needed and how they may take place in practice. I particularly noted the phrase from the Guernsey Chief Minister in relation to the Crown dependencies,
“the United Kingdom’s responsibility to represent our interests, even where they may not be the same as the United Kingdom’s”.
How will the negotiations be conducted? Can the Minister tell us? I can imagine the scene where a Minister says in negotiations, “I am here to represent the United Kingdom. There are 60 million of us and 40 million or so have votes. I want to do my best for them but then I am also here to represent three Crown dependencies. There are a quarter of a million of them. Some of them have votes but not for my Parliament. Their needs are different from the UK’s but I am trying to do my best for them as well”. That does not ring true. Were W S Gilbert alive today, there could well be the makings of a new Savoy opera. Or will there be two UK Ministers in the meetings, one saying, “I speak for the paramount needs of the UK”, and one rooting for the Crown dependencies?
There is a reference in the report to a European Union occasion, described as a unique occasion when a representative of Jersey was allowed into a room to explain Jersey’s corporate tax legislation. Will this be a way forward in the negotiations? Will the Crown dependencies have direct involvement in this important work?
The letter of the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, of 22 November asks for an update following the discussions that took place on 13 November. Surely now is the time for the noble Baroness to tell the whole House where things now stand.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Shutt of Greetland, with his customary clarity and directness. I envy him that—we are not as direct as that in Scotland.
I declare my interests as set out in the register of the House, particularly those in respect of financial services. I begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Boswell of Aynho, on three things: first, securing this long-overdue debate on this important subject; secondly, the thorough way in which he introduced the debate—I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, that it is difficult to say anything extra after that; and, thirdly, his being back. On the EU Select Committee we always enjoy the bon mot which inevitably comes as our spirits are low at the end of a meeting. It is nice to see him back and on good form. I envy him his new slimness—something I have been working on in January with a total lack of success.
I also pay tribute to our staff. On the EU Select Committee as a whole we have 24 staff. They have worked blooming hard over the last 18 months or so and have produced 24 reports so far—there are three more in the pipeline, loaded and ready to come out. Of those, 22 are sectoral reports. This was one of those, and it was reserved for the main committee of the EU Select Committee structure. It is of course self-evident why, with the ties of history and blood and the very substantial mutual economic interest between the UK and the Crown dependencies. I will make only one general comment and will put two points to the Minister.
In comment terms, on 5 December last year, the EU adopted Council conclusions concerning non-co-operative tax jurisdictions. The conclusions amounted to 38 careful pages. On page 5 the EU Council affirms that,
“these actions collectively taken by the EU Member States are in line with the agenda promoted by the G20, the OECD and other international fora”.
None of the Crown dependencies is on the blacklist in that EU document. Annexe 2 of the adopted conclusions lists countries in various categories which have agreed to make changes by the end of this year. It is a long list. In so many words, providing the changes are made, in the EU Council’s view the countries will be fully compliant with the EU, G20 and OECD thinking in this area. Some 23 countries are making changes to improve transparency, but none of the Crown dependencies is listed. Some 22 countries are making changes in anti-BEPS measures—a sophisticated corporate tax dodge. None of the Crown dependencies is listed. Some 26 countries—including Switzerland and Hong Kong—are making changes to amend or abolish what are called “harmful tax regimes”, but none of the Crown dependencies is listed. Some six countries, including Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man, have agreed to address,
“concerns relating to economic substance”.
This is the only place the Crown dependencies appear in the annexe.
Pierre Moscovici and his team have carried out an exhaustive process of work which is aligned with that of the G20 and OECD, and the Crown dependencies have agreed to take what is a small amount of corrective action so that by year end they will be deemed fully compliant by the EU and aligned with G20 and OECD practice on matters of tax. The timing of this is clearly a great help in allowing the UK to represent the interests of the Crown dependencies with clarity in the Brexit negotiations. I commend the Crown dependencies on all their hard work in ensuring that they are well set up, work in which Hong Kong and Switzerland are playing catch-up.
On my two questions, the Secretary of State David Davis wrote in his response to our report in October, over three months ago,
“We will work with the Governments of the Crown Dependencies to take into account their priorities, including discussing with them their potential participation in future free trade agreements with countries beyond the EU and working with them on the issues around extending the UK’s WTO membership”.
I should say that Jersey and Guernsey are not part of our WTO membership but the Isle of Man is. My questions for the Minister are, first, to ask for an update as to how the Crown dependencies are being involved in the fresh trade deals that the UK is seeking to make, and secondly, to ask for an update on the progress in extending the UK’s WTO membership to Jersey and Guernsey. I very much look forward to the responses to those questions.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Earl on the excellence of his speech and his understanding of this subject.
The wonderful Bayeux tapestry, and its possible first ever exhibition in the UK, has been in the headlines recently. Even before this exquisite 11th-century work was being stitched into existence, control of what we now know as the Channel Islands had already passed to the English Crown. As part of the Duchy of Normandy, they came in the wake of the substantial army of William the Conqueror after he won the Battle of Hastings—the momentous event which forms the centrepiece of the tapestry. They are self-governing Crown dependencies—now along with the Isle of Man, which first came under the control of England in 1341—so the British Government have the clear legal and moral responsibility to represent and defend their interests as the latest stage of the Brexit negotiations get under way, as the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, pointed out.
The report we are considering today from the Select Committee, of which I am a member, rightly stresses that the British Government have a constitutional responsibility to represent internationally and in defence matters the “concerns and priorities” of what are historically described as the bailiwicks of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. That is the case even when their interests may differ from those of the United Kingdom.
While the big issue of exactly what kind of future trading arrangements we can secure with the European Union will dominate the Brexit discussions, I am anxious that we should not overlook the position of the smaller players, who have been forced on to the field even though they had no vote in the referendum.
Speaking in a debate last year, I urged the Government to take on board the special interests of Gibraltar, whose citizens were able to take part in the referendum, and not to let down these loyal friends. I do the same over the Crown dependencies, although of course their position with regard to the European Union, currently governed by Protocol 3 of the UK’s accession treaty, is unique and different from that of the Rock. We must make sure that they can contribute fully to the Brexit discussions while we try to do everything in our power to preserve their special and historic relationship with the United Kingdom.
At the same time, it is important that they are able to benefit from the global opportunities which the United Kingdom’s new post-Brexit trading arrangements may afford. The Crown dependencies are not of course members of the European Union but they are anxious to retain in some form the trading relationship that they currently have with Brussels as part of the customs union. They are also essentially within the single market with regard to the trading of goods, and, as we have heard, their priorities include agriculture and fisheries, as well as financial services.
It was not the job of the report to examine the tax regimes of small territories such as the Crown dependencies. However, they themselves have pointed to the fact that they received the highest compliance rating in a report on tax transparency by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development—I refer particularly to Jersey and the Isle of Man. It is, however, important with regard to their international profile, and following the disclosures in the Paradise papers, that they remain as helpful and open as possible to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in their endeavours to uphold the law,
The Prime Minister has told the Chief Ministers of the Crown dependencies that the United Kingdom’s relationship with them is “valued, historical and special”. In responding to this report, David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, said:
“We are determined that the bonds between us should be strengthened, not weakened, as we forge a new relationship with the EU and the wider world”.
As the clock ticks, the pressure mounts and the tension rises in the corridors of power in Brussels and Whitehall, can the Minister please assure us that the wise counsel of David Davis will indeed continue to be the case?
My Lords, the noble Lord’s analogy of the ticking clock is appropriate, especially as noble Lords have referred to the amount of time that has already elapsed without many of these issues being settled. We are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, for the report and his clear presentation of it.
I declare a minor interest in relation to Sark but my real interest arises from having spent time as chairman of the Justice Committee in the House of Commons working out how we could improve the constitutional relationship and the way it operates. Thanks to colleagues in the then coalition Government a great deal was achieved, except in one area—to which I will return—which was how international representation is handled. That was the one subject on which the Government did not accept our recommendation.
I endorse what many noble Lords have said about the issues that will be important to the dependencies. The Crown dependencies are not in the European Union but a great deal of their trading activity is affected by the EU. They are in the customs union under Protocol 3 and in the single market for goods, although not for services because they did not want to be. They benefit from free trade in goods with the EU and from the free trade agreements which the EU has with third countries around the world. They will need to be involved in whatever trade deals the UK makes with the European Union and with third countries.
As far as the EU is concerned, this has a direct effect in areas such as fish exports. The fish caught by fisherman from Jersey, Guernsey and Sark are exported primarily to France. That is also true for the fisherman in Northumberland. The French consumption of shellfish in particular means that it is a good market on which the Crown dependencies also depend. These are important issues and need to be resolved.
The most important trade and common travel relationship that the dependencies have is with the UK, but even that could suffer adverse and unintended consequences if matters are not watched carefully. Only the Isle of Man currently has what amounts to a customs union with the United Kingdom and WTO membership so far applies only to the Isle of Man and not to the Channel Islands. There are other areas where international treaties will be important—for example, in relation to intellectual property.
All the dependencies will have considerable legislative provision to put in place. It will not be as massive as the withdrawal and other Bills for us because it is a bigger change in our situation, but they will have legislation to get through. That will include all five legislatures. As the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, said, the small legislatures of Alderney and Sark will have requirements placed upon them and the law officers of Guernsey will be advising all three of the bailiwick territories. There is a lot of work to be done. How is that going to be managed in the timescale? Surely some transitional arrangements will be required for the dependencies if decisions are not taken until a late stage in the negotiating process.
As several noble Lords have pointed out, the free movement of people has been important. This is because all the dependencies have significant numbers of EU citizens. Some of them are working for international businesses and it is beneficial that they can move freely between the various offices of those businesses; many are working in the tourism industry—the long links, for example, between the Channel Islands and Portugal because of Madeira provide many employees in the tourism industry; and all the dependencies have the demographic problem of not having enough young people in their populations to meet the requirements of their successful economies. This is another area at which we have to look carefully.
These are just some of the issues touched on in the Lords report and in a report published at roughly the same time by the Commons Justice Committee on the implications of Brexit for Crown dependencies.
The Government have earned praise from the Crown dependencies for the way that they have been handling things so far. There is no doubt that there have been quite warm commendations for the engagements that have taken place so far. The problem is that we have not got down to the difficult business yet. Many questions are being asked, particularly about what the Crown dependencies can do to get into the appropriate trade negotiations, but we are at the point at which the Government themselves do not know what the outcome of the trade negotiations will be. It is not even clear what the Government’s own position is on these issues. Besetting our whole Brexit discussion is the fact that the Government are unclear. Do they want to be in the customs union and the single market? Are they serious about not being in either of them? When the Crown dependencies try to work out what their position is in relation to that, it is doubly difficult, so the engagement will not be tested properly until we are much closer to the deadline, but that is the point at which the interests of the dependencies tend to be unintentionally forgotten. That is what happened when the UK entered the European Community. It was only at the last minute, almost literally at the 11th hour, that Geoffrey Rippon agreed under considerable pressure to take the steps that were necessary to produce what we keep referring to as Protocol 3.
It is going to be extremely difficult when there is no real difference between the interests of the United Kingdom and those of the Crown dependencies, and I think that that will be the case on a lot of issues. But imagine the difficulties, to which my noble friend referred, when there is a real difference. As I indicated earlier, previous reports from the Justice Committee have sought to set clearer arrangements when there is a difference of view so that, for example, we can be certain that representatives of the dependencies are either outside the room or preferably in the room when their particular interests are being dealt with. The idea that the Minister can wear two hats is not convincing unless he brings with him people from the dependencies who can speak more directly to their interests. That was properly lampooned by my noble friend.
The Commons report to which I have referred states:
“Engagement encourages—but does not entail—representation, which could become awkward were the interests of the UK and the Crown Dependencies to diverge. The current approach does not guarantee that such a scenario would be handled satisfactorily”.
That is from the summary of the report on these issues. It goes on:
“We recommend that the Government clarify its position on representing any of the Crown Dependencies’ interests that differ from the UK’s own”.
This is a longstanding issue which was highlighted during the Icelandic bank crisis. That led the Justice Committee at the time to pursue it in some detail, but it is still not properly resolved. In difficult negotiations the United Kingdom might need to use some negotiating capital to protect the Crown dependency interests. None of us would want to see a situation in which Crown dependency interests were either bargained away or indeed used by the other side of the table to create difficulties. It might then be necessary for the United Kingdom to give some ground.
The message of this debate is that amid all the issues that the United Kingdom faces, which are formidable if Brexit goes ahead because they will occupy the attention of Ministers and of both Houses of Parliament, we must not forget the Crown dependencies when the going gets tough.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a board member of the Marine Management Organisation because I want to mention fisheries during my short speech. From these Benches I also want to warmly welcome the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, back to his seat in this House and as the chair of the European Union Committee. We have greatly missed him and we all welcome him back.
The thing about the Channel Islands in particular, but also the Isle of Man, is that they are probably the communities that will be most affected by Brexit but that they did not have a vote on that decision. The effects will probably be equal to or even more than those on the citizens of the Republic of Ireland. That is why this debate is so important, because that vote and the measures which the Government are taking at the moment towards Brexit will affect those communities. We have a particular moral and ethical need to make sure we represent those communities strongly in our negotiations, even where some of those interests divide.
One of the great things about the report of the committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, is that it explains some of the constitutional differences that so many of us on this island do not understand. I was interested in the term “customs territory”, rather than customs union; I have not come across it in the lexicon before. The report somehow tried to explain this relationship. I was particularly reminded—my noble friend Lord Beith mentioned this—that back in 1972 this was pushed into the negotiations to enter the European Economic Community at the last minute. We should remember that, as far as those communities and the UK’s relationships with the Crown dependencies are concerned, they were an afterthought at the time.
I want to say a little about fisheries. Indeed, a number of noble Lords talked about the trade in fisheries, but that is not the only issue. The Crown dependencies have their own territorial waters, but they have a strange relationship with the common fisheries policy: although they are not part of it, they share quotas with it. A number of conflicts can happen there. I am interested to hear from the Minister whether the Channel Islands will set their own quotas and fisheries management in the new regime, or whether there will still be a relationship. As the report outlines, there was a breakdown in relationships between Guernsey, Defra and the UK over fishing quotas last year or the year before. How will that be resolved? Will we still make sure that the Channel Islands have access to the markets, as well as to their own fishing territories?
Coming back to the argument on the customs union, as a number of noble Lords pointed out, the Channel Islands are not members of the WTO. I am interested to understand whether the Government have made any decisions as to whether they will encourage, allow or help the Channel Islands to become part of the UK’s WTO membership, as the Isle of Man is. What is the Government’s position? I hope it is one of enabling the same relationship if that is what the Channel Islands want. Do they have the authority to negotiate their own independent membership if they want it? I am not sure whether that comes under foreign relations and therefore UK jurisdiction or whether it is a matter they have as sovereign. I would be interested to hear the Minister’s view on that. There is clearly a difficulty there because some of the trade relationships with the continent and the remainder of the EU are important, and trading relationships with the UK are important as well. They will have a great dilemma until they know what the future trading relationship between the UK and the EU—and, indeed, the rest the world—will be.
I was particularly struck by the comments of our witnesses from the Channel Islands, who pointed out that once the UK starts to negotiate its own trade agreements worldwide—the EU already has 50-plus that we are a beneficiary of—how will the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man manage to keep involved in all of them, let alone in the Brexit negotiations with the European Union? It is of great concern to them.
I come back to the financial sector, which the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, mentioned so well. Part of the evidence we took for this report was that the issues around equivalence that have been dealt with since Brexit in terms of financial regulations have become more difficult, as have the political decisions. Certainly, I have a concern that as time goes on the equivalence that they have managed to benefit from over the years while we have been a member will become ever more difficult. Indeed, I question whether the Channel Islands, not through their fault or because they are behind the curve—they are ahead of the curve—will face greater risks around blacklisting on certain lists than they have to date. I will be very interested in the Minister’s view on how the British Government can include equivalence in their negotiations around future financial services with the European Union and its single market.
I mentioned, as have other noble Lords, Protocol 3, which is quite unique and was written at the last moment before our accession to the European Economic Community, as it was at the time. The fear, I think, from many of us around the House is that in the fast and very hectic negotiations that we will have during the next year, up until March 2019, the issues of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are likely to be marginalised, as they were at that time. I hope, like many others, that Ministers can assure us that that will not be the case but I will be very interested to hear from the Minister whether the Government intend to include the Crown dependencies in any agreement around transition.
My Lords, the report, as clearly written and as well-researched as all the EU Committee’s outstanding output, starts with the words we have heard already:
“The Crown Dependencies are neither part of the EU nor of the UK”.
It is something I had to learn from the report. Having travelled with friends with their dark passports, when I was young, and more recently their mauve ones, I had not realised. It is perhaps a surprise to anyone who has laughed and cried over that wonderful book, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I recommend to anyone who has not read it. It is also, perhaps, news to holidaymakers who spent their pounds, shillings and pence there in the past and more recently, their pounds and pence.
In thanking and congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, both for the report and for today’s debate, I join others in welcoming him back to his rightful place here and thanking him for alerting us all to the outcome of the referendum on some quarter of a million British citizens who, as has been said, had no vote in June 2016.
The thrust of the report has been well laid out already so I shall make only a few short points. First, rather like the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, I am sorry that the Government have been so dilatory in responding to the committee. It took from March to October. I had to jog them in July that they should respond, but that did not work. Then there was their failure to reply to the letter of the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, of 22 November. The Crown dependencies may not seem very important to the Minister, but they certainly are to the residents and to all the businesses located there.
Secondly, and related to this delay, is the issue of no deal and what that might mean to these areas, as we discussed in this Chamber on 16 January. A cliff-edge exodus would have dire consequences across the UK, but in such smaller areas, dependent on EU labour, on access to the financial markets and on duty-free agricultural exports, their economies could be severely damaged. They need, therefore, to be fully involved in any government consideration of crashing out without a deal, so that their interests are not overlooked. Will the Minister confirm that such talks are taking place, as the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, asked, and in a timely manner, as my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley emphasised? Can the Minister inform the House whether, as a precaution, the UK’s membership of the WTO is being extended to the Channel Islands, as mentioned by the noble Lords, Lord Northbrook and Lord Teverson, and the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull?
Thirdly, the islands’ specific interests need to be factored into the Government’s negotiations over both the transition deal and the longer-term trading relationships, in addition to the current discussions on the withdrawal deal. Can the Government confirm that their representatives will be closely consulted on all these issues, every step of the way, as the report recommended?
Fourthly, as has been said, the UK Government are responsible for the defence and international relations of the islands. What assurance can the Minister give the House for their continued security once we leave the EU and lose such facilities as judicial co-operation and the European arrest warrant?
Fifthly, these islands are part of the common travel area, along with the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Can the Minister confirm that this will continue, with no checks between, say, Jersey and Dublin or Jersey and Belfast once we have left the EU?
Finally, a major concern for these areas is access to the EU workforce, as was emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Beith. Can the Minister outline how that requirement is being factored into the Government’s planning for a new immigration regime?
As we have heard, there are other vital issues: transport and open skies; VAT; energy; fishing, which has been mentioned; tourism; data protection; mutual recognition and equivalence. I hope therefore that the Government’s response will answer all the questions posed today and provide some comfort for these areas that their concerns have not been overlooked.
My Lords, it is a privilege to respond to the debate today on the Select Committee’s report, Brexit: the Crown Dependencies. I put on record my appreciation of the work of the European Union Committee, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Boswell. It is very good to see him back among us in svelte form—I envy him greatly in his new shape. Perhaps I may deal first with the important matter of the noble Lord’s letter of 22 November 2017, which was raised by him and a number of other noble Lords. I regret the delay in responding, and I apologise for that. I can assure him that he will receive a response to his letter of 22 November. The phrasing I have been given is “with the utmost celerity and alacrity”. If I remember my English classes at Greenock Academy correctly, that is going to be very soon. I am sure the noble Lord will let me know if it does not materialise in the very near future.
The committee’s report represents a thoughtful analysis of the implications for the Isle of Man and for the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. The committee’s expertise and strength of analysis is clearly demonstrated in this report. The Government recognise the implications of EU exit for the Crown dependencies and we remain fully committed to seeking the best possible deal for all jurisdictions. We will ensure that we take full account of the Crown dependencies’ interests throughout the negotiations and beyond. That relationship is not only an ancient and enduring one, as my noble friend Lord Selkirk said, but an intimate one. It is a very important one, and in that respect it is unique.
Ministers and officials have engaged regularly and positively with the Crown dependencies to ensure that their priorities and interests are accounted for and reflected in the UK’s negotiating positions. Many of the points raised by this report about our future partnership with the EU and the priorities of the Crown dependencies relate directly to the second phase of negotiations, which we are currently embarking upon. These are the most important negotiations our country faces. Reaching a new partnership with the EU is in the interests of both sides and, as such, I hope that noble Lords will understand that I am unable to go into great detail on some areas at this stage.
I will now seek to cover some of the issues covered in this evening’s debate. The important issue of engagement with the Crown dependencies arose and I was asked how the Government are effecting that engagement. My honourable friend Robin Walker, the Minister, leads on engagement with the overseas territories and the Crown dependencies at the Department for Exiting the European Union. We remain fully committed to engaging with the Crown dependencies as we prepare to leave the EU. My honourable friend chairs quarterly meetings with other departmental officials and the Chief Ministers of the Crown dependencies, the most recent of which sat in November last year. I can confirm that these discussions have been constructive and positive, and I look forward to them continuing as we enter the next phase of the exit process.
In addition—this is important—these meetings have been supported by a series of technical round tables which bring together UK government experts and representatives of the Crown dependencies with the aim of developing a full and detailed understanding of their interests and objectives on specific issues and what work they need to undertake in order to be ready for exit. The Chief Ministers have expressed satisfaction with the Government’s engagement. The noble Lord, Lord Shutt, was sceptical, but the opinion of the Chief Ministers is important. They know that we are negotiating for the Crown dependencies as we are negotiating for all other parts of the United Kingdom.
The other important issue that arose tonight, to which a number of noble Lords referred, was protecting relationships with the Crown dependencies. The noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley—I was interested to learn that she is a Guernsey girl—observed that Guernsey tomatoes are very good. They are very good, but so are Scottish ones, which is not to be forgotten. The debate has raised important points about how we protect our relationship with the Crown dependencies. It is extremely important that our exit does not adversely affect the close constitutional, economic and cultural relationship. This is a point rightly emphasised in the report. Indeed, the UK shares the primary aim of the Crown dependencies in exit to protect that precious constitutional relationship. It is valued, historical and special.
A number of noble Lords asked how we represent the Crown dependencies in negotiations and how we take full account of their priority interests in that process. The noble Lord, Lord Boswell, my noble friend Lord Northbrook and the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, all referred to this. The Crown dependencies have identified six priority areas where the UK’s exit from the EU is likely to have the greatest implications for their jurisdictions. They are: justice, security and migration; agriculture and fisheries; customs; financial services; transport; and the digital single market. We are committed to remaining engaged with the Crown dependencies on these areas.
The noble Lords, Lord Beith and Lord Teverson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, raised the common travel area. I confirm that in relation to the Crown dependencies, we are committed to protecting it and the co-operation on immigration that underpins it. I think that was the point the noble Baroness raised.
I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who asked whether the Channel Islands set their own quotas for fisheries. The close co-operation between Defra and the Crown dependencies continues at the officials level of round-table discussions. That means that the distinct fisheries concerns of the Crown dependencies will be taken into account in the fisheries Bill that we will be introducing. Engagement on these priorities is led by the relevant departments with senior officials engaging regularly through round-table meetings with Crown dependency officials in order better to understand their interests and objectives in each area.
These round tables also have an important role in sharing information on operational readiness planning —an aspect alluded to by a number of your Lordships—so that the UK and Crown dependencies can co-operate effectively in preparing for the practical changes which the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will have for them. I think the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, my noble friend Lord Northbrook, and the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, all raised this issue. I confirm that this preparation includes planning for any transition period.
The future partnership has yet to be negotiated, but the Government set out their plans for the partnership in position papers in August and September last year. We continue to engage with the Crown dependencies to ensure that their interests are taken into our work on the future partnership. On the implementation period, I am pleased to confirm that officials have been keeping key officials from all the CDs informed, including as recently as last week.
The noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and my noble friend Lord Selkirk reminded us of the important status of the Crown dependencies as EU co-operative jurisdictions, which is a very significant matter. It is certainly relevant to these negotiations and can only help them. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, raised financial services and equivalence. I cannot give a specific response to that, but the financial services sector is very important for the UK and the Crown dependencies, and that has all formed part of the negotiations.
A number of your Lordships referred to what opportunities would exist for the Crown dependencies post exit. We are taking advantage of all opportunities available to us to ensure that Britain becomes a global leader in free trade once we leave the EU. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, my noble friend Lord Northbrook, the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, that the Government are committed to securing continuity in the effect of existing EU free trade agreements and other EU preferential arrangements as we leave the EU.
I can say to the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, that the UK is a full and founding member of the WTO and has been since 1884. I did not know that, so I have learned something—good heavens, it is a venerable institution. We fully recognise the desire of the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey to have the UK’s membership extend to them, and we have been working closely with them to ensure that they are WTO-compliant. We will obviously take into account the views of the Crown dependencies as we develop our trade policy, including their priorities for future trade agreements.
I think my noble friend Lord Northbrook raised a few issues about customs matters. We are working closely on those. A series of technical round tables has been held between HMRC and the Treasury to discuss them, and the Government have also taken steps to ensure that we have relevant legislation in place, with the inclusion of provisions in the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill.
In conclusion, we remain fully committed to getting the best possible deal in negotiations on Brexit, not just for the United Kingdom but for all British jurisdictions, including the Crown dependencies. Our ongoing, regular engagement at both ministerial and official levels demonstrates this. We remain fully committed to continuing to work closely with the Governments of the Crown dependencies to ensure that their priorities are taken into account throughout the exit process and beyond.
I am very grateful to all noble Lords for their contributions over the course of a wide-ranging and informative debate. The committee’s report has been a most useful contribution to that debate, raising important issues. It is vital that they remain on the radar screen and that the Government are mindful of them. I am sure that this House will continue to play a valuable role as the negotiations proceed and has the capacity to contribute to this vital discussion as we look ahead to a new future for this country. I know that these contributions will help in securing a deal that works for everyone. Finally, I once again thank the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, and his committee for their very helpful work and thank all of your Lordships who participated in the debate this evening.
House adjourned at 7.44 pm.