House of Lords
Thursday 6 September 2018
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Southwark.
Royal Navy: Type 31e Frigate
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they still plan to have the first Type 31e frigate in Royal Naval service by 2023.
My Lords, there has been no change in the Government’s plans to procure a first batch of five new Type 31e frigates. We still want the first ship to enter service by the end of 2023, with all five ships delivered by the end of 2028.
I thank the noble Earl for his Answer—in “Yes, Minister” terms, he is very brave to make that statement. Our great maritime nation has 13 ageing frigates, which is a national disgrace. Replacing them is crucially important. The first design contract for the Type 26 frigate, the key replacement, was placed in 2005, and the first one will be delivered in 2024 or 2025, some 14 or 15 years later—a very long time. The Type 31e does not as yet have any contractors, designers or orders, yet we are saying that it will take four years. I hope that the Minister is right—that would be wonderful—but I am concerned. Is it not time to push the Type 26 programme to get these ships delivered more quickly, and to order the remaining five of them, in order to get a steady drum beat of orders that will drive the cost of the Type 26 ships down? A number of people in the Treasury would like to see that happen.
My Lords, the Type 26 programme is proceeding at pace, on time and on budget so far. The point that the noble Lord makes, about ordering all Type 26 ships in one go, might not be the right way to get value for money. If we had done that in the first instance, it is arguable that we would have overpriced the contract, because Australia has since come in with a firm order for Type 26 frigates. We are sure that this will play very favourably into the price of our next order for the Type 26.
My Lords, the noble Earl’s reply to the noble Lord a few moments ago was, to say the least, concise. He failed, however, to point out that the contract for the Type 31 has been restarted. Part of the problem, as the Government have indicated in their reason for restarting, is that the bids that were received were “not compliant”. I understand that to mean that the capability that the Government seek is not deliverable at the price of £250 million per ship. On that basis, the Government have a choice to make: either to reduce the capability or to increase the price. Unless they do one of those things, the exports on which the Government have set great store will not be achieved.
I hope to reassure the noble Lord on those points. The contracts that were being competed for, and which have now been recommenced, were to pay for a series of design deliverables to support the main procurement contract; they were not the main assessment of industry’s ability to deliver the manufacture programme. We still believe that industry will be able to meet that challenge, and the procurement process, despite having been recommenced, is now proceeding at pace.
My Lords, is the Minister really confident that the 31e will be in service by 2023—in just over four years’ time? Can he give us any example of the Royal Navy ordering a ship that has not yet been designed and picking it up in four years?
My Lords, this is the first warship design and build programme for which the UK has competed in a generation, but based on our understanding of the market, which has developed considerably since this time last year during all the engagement with industry that we have enjoyed, we believe that industry can rise to that challenge. We are committed to starting the new procurement, as I say, at pace.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to support the general thrust of the Question from the noble Lord, Lord West. Clearly, the Royal Navy and the fleet at its disposal is far smaller than it has ever been in peacetime before. This is a national embarrassment, which our allies are picking up on. Is it, however, not a reflection on the size of our overall defence budget? We have never spent as little as 2% of GDP on our defence. Is there not surely a rising case to increase the size of the defence budget not only for the benefit of the Royal Navy but for the other two services as well?
I greatly respect the noble Lord’s point of view, but I humbly suggest that we should not get too distracted by percentages. We need to look at the threats and make sure that we have the right capabilities to deal with them. That work is ongoing through the modernising defence programme. We continue to have one of the largest defence budgets in the world, and it is growing by £1 billion a year.
My Lords, I have just come back from the conference in Portsmouth with the First Sea Lord yesterday. I have been to many of these and I found it inspiring because, for the first time, with all the younger officers there, the climate of interest in changing the culture and delivering that is dramatically different from what it has been during the last two or three years. It really was something you could capture. The Second Sea Lord, who has the responsibility of delivering the Type 31 ships, has no illusions as to what needs to be done. He made the point, which I totally agree with, that you have to make the best use of the money you have actually got and not just pile more money on top of it. We need more money in practice and perhaps the Minister would be kind enough to ask again because, over and above what is being done—I think they will deliver that on time—the key, as has just been said, is that we need it to enlarge the whole capability of our armed response.
My noble friend speaks with considerable authority on this matter. The modernising defence programme is about making our Armed Forces more capable, against the harder threats that we now face, and it is looking at how best we can use our growing budget to that effect.
My Lords, this Question prompted me to look at the National Shipbuilding Strategy, whose first birthday is today. When it was published a year ago, it was meant to be a solid basis for industry to develop. It is interesting to see how it is starting to erode. Paragraph 56 said of the Type 31e ships:
“The first will be in service by 2023”,
but “by 2023” means during 2022. The Minister has just answered a similar question by saying that it will be by the end of 2023. This is the first incremental crumble in the strategy. In paragraph 61, the strategy said:
“We have set a maximum £250 million per ship price for the Type 31e”.
Are either of those statements still sound, or is this one year-old strategy going to crumble incrementally, like all the strategies before it?
My Lords, our target dates have not changed, as I have already said, and we still believe that industry can deliver all five Type 31e frigates at a price of £1.25 billion. The national shipbuilding strategy is an overarching strategy for the future of naval ship-building in the UK over the next 30 years, and is much wider than the procurement of a particular class of ship. Type 31e is a pathfinder project for a new way of procuring warships, and we are learning beneficially from those challenges.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what individual representations they have received from other European Union member states about the present state of negotiations for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.
My Lords, alongside negotiations with the European Commission, the Government have regular engagement with EU member states to explain our position. In all the UK’s engagement, it respects the unity of the EU 27. Member states have welcomed the White Paper as a serious proposal for negotiations and share our desire for an ambitious deal. We will now hold continuous negotiations with the EU to secure a good deal.
I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer. I urge him not to listen to the doom-mongers on this issue who constantly talk about crashing out and falling off the cliffs. I ask him to sell the idea that this Brexit is a very positive effort. We are going to be able to trade globally after Brexit, not least with the other European countries.
Further to that—oh gosh, I have had one of those moments. Ah, I know what I wanted to say—it is the most important bit, really. Perhaps noble Lords can see that I have a bad eye and have had quite a bump; it is amazing what Remainers will do to stop you asking Questions. I return to the fact that the Chequers proposal is quite clearly dead in the water and not going to work, whereas “Canada plus plus plus” is supported by us and by Mr Barnier and Europe. It seems the obvious way forward. In order to get the initiative back on track and make Brexit the success that it can be, I urge the Minister to press that kind of agreement.
I thank my noble friend for his questions. Of course the Government share his desire for Brexit to be the success that we know it can be. We remain committed to the Chequers proposals and are negotiating on them. As the Prime Minister has said, the problem with a CETA-style arrangement is that it would mean a significant reduction in the access that we currently enjoy to each other’s markets. Crucially, of course, it would mean customs and regulatory checks at the border, particularly the Northern Ireland border. So we remain committed to our proposals and to making Brexit a success.
My Lords, will the Minister confirm that we can and do trade globally now; that countries such as Germany and France—which, for example, already export more to China than we do—can do so from within the EU; and that what is being put forward here is a completely false choice between trading with Europe and trading with the rest of the world?
We have never said that it is a choice between the two. Our ambition is to do both. Of course we can trade with the rest of the world. The question is whether we can do it more efficiently with trade deals with our partner allies across the world. The EU has been uniquely bad at negotiating trade deals with many of the other big economic blocs across the world—for instance, China, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and so on.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, only to the extent that Chequers is dead. As reported by George Osborne’s Evening Standard, the French Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau,
“scoffed at British media reports that her boss President Emmanuel Macron was softening to the Prime Minister’s proposals”.
Instead of trying to dodge, weave and divide and rule, could the Government not just concentrate on honest and competent negotiating?
We are concentrating on honest and competent negotiating. In fact my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for DExEU is actually in Brussels today meeting with Michel Barnier. I have met the French Foreign Minister and she certainly did not say that to me. The Latvian Foreign Minister said that Chequers constitutes a good ground for trying hard to reach a deal, the Danish Finance Minister said it was a realistic proposal for good negotiations and Michel Barnier said he was also confident that we would reach a deal.
Will the Minister consider following an objective that I have stuck to for many years, which is never to take any notice whatever of anything said by George Osborne?
The former Chancellor speaks with great authority because of the excellent job he did in managing the country’s economy. We take his—and all—contributions extremely seriously.
My Lords, does the Minister not realise at long last that all the 27 member states think the Government are bonkers?
No, they do not.
My Lords, does my noble friend not agree that we have to get those who are opposed to our proposals to leave the European Union used to the idea that the people of this kingdom are well capable of running their own affairs? We did it successfully for rather a long time before our friends on the continent got round to the idea. We have constantly, over the centuries, had to come to their rescue against the dictatorships which have sprung up on the continent. This is another case of a dictatorship springing up on the continent from which we have to break free.
I am delighted to say that, in his advancing age, the noble Lord has lost none of his robustness. I am not sure I quite share his sentiments but we are committed to Brexit. In future, we want to be a nation in charge of our own laws, our own borders and our own money. This is what Brexit is all about. This is what people voted for and that is what we will deliver.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have, if any, to reform divorce laws in England and Wales.
My Lords, divorce is a challenging time for couples and their children. This is particularly the case when people have to deal with allegations about a spouse’s conduct. The Government are looking closely at divorce law to see what can be done to reduce conflict. We want above all to limit the adverse impact on children. The Government are also listening to calls to change the law on financial provision in divorce. We are open to reviewing the evidence for change.
I thank my noble friend for her considered response. Surely, the recent case of Owens v Owens has shown clearly that our divorce law is not working; it is not up to standard. It encourages people to enter into a blame game and therefore increases acrimony within the family. Can I press my noble friend a little further? Can she now confirm, as reported in the press, that Justice Ministers want to work with the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, on her Private Member’s Bill, to take forward divorce law reform?
The case of Owens v Owens in the Supreme Court this summer is not typical. Only 2% of respondents contest the divorce and only a handful of those do so in a contested court hearing. However, we have noted the judgment and, as importantly, the comments of Lord Justice Munby that change is needed. My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor is sympathetic to the argument for reform and appreciates the positive changes being put forward by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, in her Private Member’s Bill. We look forward to working with her.
My Lords, I refer to my interest as an unpaid consultant to my former solicitors’ firm. What assessment have the Government made of the impact of the withdrawal of legal aid in most family law cases on the efficiency of the court system? In 37% of cases neither party is now represented. What steps, if any, are they taking to improve the situation?
As the noble Lord will be aware, the post-implementation review of LASPO is currently under way. It is a chance for the Government to look at the effects of the changes made under the coalition Government and how we can best move forward. It is our view that legal aid continues to be available for the highest-priority cases. We need to make sure that it is targeted to those who need it most. As to those who are unable to have representation and who represent themselves, since 2015 we have invested nearly £6.5 million in a support strategy for unrepresented parties—litigants in person. It provides practical advice and information on routes to free or more affordable legal advice.
My Lords, divorce proceedings should involve collaboration to protect the future of the families involved, yet far too many cases, including many that end up undefended, start with a string of allegations, often exaggerated, to demonstrate fault. Given the overwhelming view of the judiciary and other legal professions, and the complete discrediting of the present law by the Supreme Court in the Owens case, can the Government have any reason for not supporting the Divorce (etc.) Law Review Bill of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, with a view to introducing no-fault divorce with a simple scheme of application and confirmation of irretrievable breakdown?
The noble Lord is quite right: collaboration should be at the heart of all divorcing couples, but, at the moment, three in five divorcing couples use conduct-based allegations, which create a huge amount of conflict. As I said, the Government are looking extremely closely at ways to reduce conflict in divorce, whether that be no fault, financial provisions or enforceable nuptial agreements. I very much hope that noble Lords will see progress in the near future.
My Lords, building on what the Minister has just said, which was most welcome, as those discussions take place, will there be a rigorous determination to keep the well-being of the children of the marriage in sharp focus, because children are often injured in conflict and we ought to do everything we can to protect them?
I should like to reassure the noble Lord. Children are at the heart of many divorces, and we must ensure that orders as to where children spend their time or in terms of financial contributions are made with the children at their heart and are fair to both divorcing people.
As a practising divorce lawyer, I ask my noble friend what will go into the timetable. I do not think that there is a family in the land that is not affected by divorce somewhere along the line. To accelerate reform in relation to marriage breakdown is good, but it is not good when the people who are divorcing are still living in the same house because they have not sorted out the money. The money has to be sorted out. That is not fit for purpose. On many occasions, the Supreme Court has said, “Please can Parliament help?”. In Granatino, a case I was involved with about prenuptial contracts, it was found not to be in our statute that a prenuptial agreement should be given any weight—but still we wait for Parliament to do something.
This is not a party-political speech but a general view around the House. People from all sides of the House want the Bill of the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, in relation to the recognition of prenuptial contracts, to be looked at. Prenuptial contracts depend on what is fair. That is decided only when you know what the law says and, at the moment, it is not fit for purpose. It needs to be put on the agenda so that everybody can have their say and make it better.
My Lords, the Government look forward to working with my noble friend and many others in your Lordships’ House—we recognise the expertise and experience contained therein. As proposals emerge, we will look for contributions from noble Lords to help us shape them further. I turn to my noble friend’s point about timing and mention the online divorce system that we set up in May 2018. It has had 11,000 applications. People can submit their forms online. It makes it quicker and easier to access justice and, as importantly, it means that the number of mistakes made on the forms is vastly reduced, thereby speeding up the whole process of divorce. I agree with my noble friend that we need to make it quicker, and we are doing something about it.
My Lords, is it worth Ministers looking at a Bill which passed both Houses of Parliament 22 years ago to allow for no-fault divorce? No doubt, having been introduced so long ago, the Bill has elements that could be changed—it represents my views at the time—but the essence of the Bill, which passed both Houses of Parliament with considerable majorities, was no-fault divorce.
My Lords, I recognise the enormous amount of work that my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern did on the Family Law Act 1996. It was a ground-breaking piece of legislation that led the way for Parliament to take the principled decision that divorce law could be changed to make it no-fault. However, that legislation was, some would say, overly amended, and in the end it became impracticable. Those provisions were repealed in 2014. However, we will go back to that legislation to see what Parliament agreed then. Society and probably parliamentary views have moved on since then, and I hope that we can craft something proper for the future.
Debt Advice Services
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of demand for debt advice services; and what steps they are taking to reduce the level of household debt.
My Lords, the Government recognise that demand for debt advice is currently higher than supply. That is why we are increasing the funding for publicly funded debt advice. Although the level of household debt in relation to income is significantly down since the financial crisis, we realise that some people struggle with debt, which is why we are creating a breathing-space scheme to help people to get out of problem debt.
Recently, there have been many reports of the rise in the number of people seeking debt advice and seeking loans to pay basic household bills. Many of these people are in work. National Debtline, the IPPR, McKinsey, and now the National Audit Office tell us that the cause is exploitative and precarious terms of employment, which enables low-value jobs, instead of encouraging productivity and investment in skills and trades. There was a time when we spoke of work being a way out of poverty, but under this Government it seems that the opposite is true. How will the Government make employment the answer and not the cause of this rise in household debt?
I am sorry but I do not accept that; the evidence does not point to it. Over 3 million more people are in work in this country. We have seen one of the largest increases for the lowest-paid in this country through the introduction of the national living wage. As a result of basic tax thresholds being raised, the typical taxpayer in full-time work is £1,000 better off. That is not to diminish in any sense the fact that there is a serious problem with personal debt in this country. It is about 16.5% less than its pre-crisis levels when inflation is taken into account. That is why we are taking the steps that we are.
My Lords, with the demise of Wonga, which I hope the Minister will want to join me in welcoming, does he wish to take this opportunity to endorse the work of the many credit unions which are a channel for such sound advice?
We have provided significant additional funding to the credit unions. Wonga, which is in administration at present, is not a matter directly for government. The Financial Conduct Authority has issued advice that those who have loans with Wonga should continue to service those debts to avoid getting into further potential debt in the future.
Perhaps I should declare an interest as chairman of a bank. Is my noble friend surprised that debt problems are growing when our daytime television is filled with ads for gambling and loans at exorbitant APRs?
Certainly these are causes for concern. That is why we had a gambling review and followed the recommendation to introduce a £2-limit on fixed-odds betting terminals. That is why we put a cap on payday loans, abolished surcharges on credit and debit cards, and why we are currently undertaking a review though the FCA into high-cost credit. All those things are necessary for the reasons suggested by my noble friend.
My Lords, I think I heard the Minister say that demand for advice has gone up since the end of the crisis, yet household debt is falling. In light of the comments this morning by the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky—he said that the next crisis is a case of not “if” but “when”—what are the Government doing to create resilience so that we have provisions in place to ensure that if another crisis comes, household debt will not rise further, and that such advice will be in place ahead of time?
We are taking some steps on that. The Financial Guidance and Claims Act, which my noble friend Lord Young took through this House, introduced the single financial guidance body. We stress that we are increasing the funding that goes into making financial advice available to people to prevent them getting into debt. We have taken action against illegal money lending by imposing a levy on the consumer credit industry; it must fund the illegal lending teams that clamp down on loan sharks. A lot needs to be done, but we need constant vigilance in this area because of the problems that we have seen arise in the past.
The Minister spoke of the increased support from public funds for debt counselling agencies. Is he satisfied with the contribution from those companies that press individuals and vulnerable households to take out more debt?
They are of course regulated through the Financial Conduct Authority, which is one reason why a review into high-cost credit is currently under way, looking particularly at the rent-to-buy model, which I know is of particular concern to many people. It recognises that that is an important element of it, and we are taking action on that.
My Lords, does the noble Lord agree with me that more could be done to resolve problems between debtors and creditors by staged payments, for example, and not immediately bringing in bailiffs, which creates enormous trauma and more expense?
One provision on precisely that point in the Act that I referred to concerns breathing space. It puts on a statutory footing a structured way in which creditors can be paid the debt but which reflects affordability and the lender’s ability to service that payment. That will come forward for consultation very shortly.
Business of the House
Timing of Debates
To move that the debates on the Motions in the names of Lord Freyberg and Lord Aberdare set down for today shall each be limited to two and a half hours.
Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities Committee
That Baroness Bakewell be appointed a member of the Select Committee in place of Lord Pendry, resigned.
NHS: Healthcare Data
Motion to Take Note
To move that this House takes note of NHS and healthcare data and how that data could be used to improve the health of the nation.
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to lead this morning’s debate about the value of healthcare data and how it might be harnessed to transform outcomes for the health and wealth of the United Kingdom for generations to come. I very much look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, and wish him every success for this and future contributions that he will no doubt make in this House.
Healthcare is a very personal subject and noble Lords may recall that I have spoken before in this House on the issue. My sister contracted mesothelioma and received poor care from the NHS, when she could not access existing health innovations in time to treat her, as there was no data even on the basics, such as where she could get the radical and uncommon thoracic surgery that she needed in a timely manner. Later, there was no data to allow her rapid path to a clinical trial that might save her life. This is the role of data for care navigation. In the four years since her death, I have come to realise that routine healthcare data has two other crucial roles to play: first, in generating life-saving breakthroughs through real-world research, for which the UK rightly has a global reputation; and, secondly, in providing the real-time care quality assurance that will allow the NHS to make sure that all patients have good quality care. Depending on your choice of expert, the prize in care quality analytics in routine data in cancer alone is tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of lives a year.
Given that prize and my personal experience, I approach this debate as a patient advocate, not as a politician. In doing so, I have relied on the assistance of many individuals and organisations for advice. I would, however, like to single out one organisation and charity, Future Care Capital, and, in particular, Annemarie Naylor and Joel Charles, for their support and wise counsel as I have tried to get to grips with this complex area. It is my hope that noble Lords will make the most of this opportunity to begin building a consensus view on the national approach to high-value healthcare data which will permeate through here and the other place over the weeks and months ahead.
The value of data in improving healthcare and health is not new. It was the use of data by UK scientists Doll, Hill and Peto that showed the link between tobacco and lung cancer that has driven dramatic life-saving changes in policy, behaviour and life expectancy worldwide. One hundred years before Doll, Florence Nightingale used data to revolutionise the cleanliness of military hospitals, and Dr John Snow used data to identify the source of a deadly cholera outbreak in Soho. Now we have another unique UK opportunity for global leadership. The healthcare data we have amassed over the course of the first 70 years of our NHS can, if ethically and widely used, radically transform the treatments and technologies we will deploy to improve the health of our increasingly ageing nation. At the same time I want to ensure that as a nation, we pioneer reinvesting the social and economic value of this data in full, such that it benefits everyone in the UK, both their personal health and economically.
Across the country, fragmented NHS bodies are separately exploring ways in which to harness the value of the healthcare data they control, while addressing the technical, legal, ethical and cultural barriers to delivering potential benefits, working with researchers as well as industry players from the UK and overseas. Cutting-edge examples of which I am aware include the work of Moorfields Eye Hospital with Google DeepMind—whose artificial intelligence can now use NHS data to recommend how patients should be referred for over 50 sight-threatening eye diseases as accurately as world-leading doctors—and Sensyne Health’s collaboration with the University of Oxford and Oxford University Hospitals Foundation Trust to pioneer a remote management service for patients with heart failure. Given that our principal aim here must be to improve patient outcomes, I am certain that noble Lords welcome such data-driven innovations. I am, however, concerned that there is currently no clearly agreed or stated strategy which sets out how the NHS intends to approach and benefit from providing third-party access to the valuable healthcare data assets the NHS stewards on our behalf, while maintaining the highest ethical standards in respect of safeguarding individuals’ rights to have their personal data protected.
A strategy is required because the Government should have a clearly stated objective in this area, backed up with the ways and means by which to achieve it. It is not credible to devolve this to a fragmented, wild west community of individuals, semi-independent public sector institutions, US technology companies or, at worst, the global market. It is needed because the Government are doing too little to incentivise healthcare data quality “by design” through the exercise of relevant policy and funding levers, impacting its immediate value to the NHS to improve everyday treatment and care quality as well as its value for the purposes of research and innovation. It is needed because government has been slow to take steps to improve or join up data collection across healthcare organisations through an emphasis on standards, open interfaces and interoperability—and it is needed because we are falling behind. Although we are starting to invest in healthcare data access and curation to stimulate third-party access and innovation, our investment is relatively modest when compared with other countries. For example, Israel will invest 1 billion shekels—approximately £231 million—in a project to make data about the health of its population of only 8 million people available to researchers as well as private companies. That is twice the level of recent announcements by Her Majesty’s Government for our 65 million people.
Crucially, in the absence of coherent objectives for national data capture, the Government are neglecting to act at a national level to prevent what might be termed healthcare data “leakage” from an NHS whose primary focus must be on the non-commercial, day-to-day care of the nation. This leakage is already occurring through “barter deals” between individual trusts and commercial entities—for example, in the case of the Royal Free Hospital and Google’s DeepMind—and I expect it could worsen rapidly in new trade deals to be entered into post-Brexit with non-EU countries, in particular the USA. This, to my mind, is giving away the family’s digital silver.
Value capture should not be viewed as a simplistic cash transaction to the highest bidder. As the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, eloquently laid out in previous debates, this would favour US technology companies and provide only a transient return to UK plc. Value capture can, and should, be more sophisticated than that. It can include widespread, cross-NHS rights to use new technologies derived from the use of data, discounted drugs, inward investment and health sciences job creation. It must also address the tension that exists between local and national bodies so that revenues can be amassed and reinvested at the most appropriate level. However, if Government continue to have no stated objectives, it is no surprise that value potential is lost in the commotion and that cash-strapped trusts are lured into one-sided deals.
There is merit in encouraging experimentation at the local level—I have already mentioned some high-profile examples—but in doing so there are also attendant risks. Those innovators engaging in health data usage and value capture may become over-influenced by the needs of an industry partner. They may become wary of linking up their data with that of other institutions for financial reasons, at precisely the time when joining up data would add national value.
Will trusts that are “data and expertise poor” be left having to compensate other “data and expertise rich” trusts in future for the intellectual property they help to develop, potentially exacerbating the postcode lottery in access to innovative treatments and, with that, health inequalities? In other words, do we want healthcare data to create value for the NHS and society as a whole, or for only elite hospitals? Moreover, if healthcare data-sharing agreements do not conform to any nationally agreed standards, is that not liable to impact the financial value generated in different places and, with that, erode public trust and support for related initiatives in other locations? Practically, on clinical trial access, when is it appropriate to use data to inform a patient that there is a trial in another trust that might help them, and how should that research contact take place?
As I have said, we are not altogether asleep at the wheel. The Government have supported the important work of the UK Biobank, Genomics England and health catapults. They have established Health Data Research UK and have recently confirmed their intention to invest in digital innovation hubs to harness high-value healthcare data in a bid to tackle some of Britain’s biggest health challenges. They are also establishing a new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation and, only yesterday, announced their initial technology partnership code of conduct for data-driven health and care technology. These developments are to be welcomed but, to my mind, they fall short of the coherent approach that is needed if we are to make the most of the data revolution that is patently under way around the world. I would like to understand whether the Government have considered the chaotic implications that are liable to flow from this policy vacuum.
To my mind, the Government, with the help of balanced solutions developed across this House and the other place, should define their objectives for securing the social and economic value that healthcare data has the potential to generate. They should put trust in patients’ demands to have their data used to full effect and regard it as unethical if it is not. They should engage patient representative groups, clinicians and the wider public sector, as well as the general public, to establish the priorities for using healthcare data and reinvesting its value. They should put in place measures to ensure data quality “by design” and fund data clean-up and curation to hasten delivery of those priorities. They should develop a framework for healthcare data-sharing agreements involving NHS bodies to ensure that they conform to nationally agreed standards. They should also provide trusts with access to a dedicated commercial team in order to optimise the financial value to be derived from the healthcare data-sharing agreements they enter into with third parties.
Only then will Great Britain once again pioneer the use of healthcare data, lead rather than follow and capture the maximum value from the data assets offered by patients and citizens alike, while respecting each and every citizen’s right in law to opt in or out of such use. Only then will we be able to realise the prize that data promises, which is better care today through care quality management and better care tomorrow through innovation.
In recent months, I have spoken to noble Lords across this House about the issues that I have outlined today, and I am grateful to both the Government and Opposition Benches for their engagement, as well as their thought-provoking input. Ultimately, I believe that a consensus in this House and the other place is needed if we are to build and maintain public trust in sharing healthcare data to deliver social and economic value for everyone in the UK. I look forward to the contributions of noble Lords from across the House this morning.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure for me to follow the noble Lord’s excellent and visionary speech. First, I declare an interest as president of GS1, the barcoding association, which is involved with the department of health and the Scan4Safety and procurement efficiency programmes.
The noble Lord spoke with great force, all the more for being a patient advocate. Clearly, the opportunities that we have through the effective use of data must be seen not just in terms of a contribution to UK plc but, crucially, in terms of better outcomes for patients. I wholly endorse what he says. I like the concept of making the most of the value that can be generated through the use of this important data, and of taking full advantage of it as a health service and as a country. However, we face a conundrum, which is the public’s attitude to the use of their data.
The noble Lord said—and I agree—that we should put trust in patient demands to have their data used to full effect and for it to be regarded as unethical if it is not. He went on to say that we should engage patient representative groups, clinicians and the wider public sector, as well as the general public, in establishing the priorities for using healthcare data and reinvesting its value. He also said at a later stage that if the public want to opt out of allowing their data to be used in the ways that it can be, that must be respected. That is crucial.
We know from the work of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, among others, that public trust in the governance of data is considered to be crucial to the use and expanded use of medical records for health research and management. We also know from surveys that the public are strongly in favour of the use of this data, but concerns remain. These are about the use of data without consent, the use of identifiable data, data security, a lack of transparency, potential discrimination by employers or insurance companies, and access by commercial organisations. Because of those concerns, some patients might withhold information from healthcare providers, and that of course could well be detrimental to their own health and that of other patients and to the quality of the data being collected.
The King’s Fund analysed the implications of these developments and said that it felt that national policy has been to keep a balance between responding to legitimate public concern about security and confidentiality of data, and enabling data to be shared and used by NHS organisations and third parties. I think that that is the right approach. Of course, you run into problems when you see previous attempts at data sharing in the NHS, such as Care.data, which was an unmitigated disaster. More recently, thousands of pieces of information about data were leaked by companies this summer, I think in July.
The problem is that other instances which may occur in the future will or could reduce public confidence. Is the Minister confident that the NHS is in a fit state? I take note of the Secretary of State’s comments this morning about the lack of progress that has been made in the use of IT generally in the health service. Is the Minister really confident that the service can tell the public that their data is secure? Secondly, can he deal with the problem that the public are finding that trying to opt out of certain information collections is becoming more difficult? I am indebted to medConfidential for this information. My understanding is that post GDPR and post new opt-outs, NHS Digital’s release register confirms that in two-thirds of releases patient opt-outs are ignored.
I shall give another example. There is no way apparently for a parent to make a consent choice for their dependent child using the online service. Instead, NHS Digital tells parents to send four forms of ID by post to their processing centre and that it will consider the request. I am fully behind efforts to use NHS information to the fullest extent and to make the most value out of it, but we will go down a wrong path if we make it difficult for the public to opt out where they want to do so. We know what will happen if there is a campaign— campaigns have been run previously. Care.data was a great example of a campaign run by a media outlet which has had a negative impact on the development of shared medical records within primary care. It may be painful, but more work and more ability for patients to opt out will in the end lead to the noble Lord’s vision being achieved.
My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for initiating this timely and important debate. The issue of data and healthcare will be vital as the moral, legal and ethical issues come more to the fore. I am also pleased to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. I was a rookie health service trainee when the noble Lord was the first chief executive of the NHS Confederation. I realise having listened to him today that I am still a novice and he is still at the top of his game when it comes to health issues.
There is huge potential for the use of this data. Absolutely phenomenal gains can be made, whether about smart pills that can be taken, individual data, the application of artificial intelligence, remote procedures, or algorithms being created that can prevent health problems and be predictive. However, we must not get carried away by the potential without thinking about the ethical and governance issues that both noble Lords have spoken about previously. If we do not do this, data sharing will not work and, importantly, it will not get public support and acceptance. Without that, it will fail.
I want to look at three areas in the time that I have been allocated: governance, public support and trust, and the commercialisation and use of the data. I know I will not be popular if I start talking about NHS structure. It is never going to be the thing that gets people out of their seats and excited, but it is vital that we talk about governance structures which are smart and applicable to this new way of working. This explosion of data means that we need proper ethical governance, based around a clear strategy and outcomes for use, as the noble Lord has already said.
A plethora of organisations is involved in this: NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care, the National Information Board, NHS Digital and Public Health England. This will lead to things falling through the gaps and no one being held to account for the use and application of this data. We have already seen a number of issues, including around how DeepMind Google uses data and Public Health England recently giving data to a tobacco company. There is, therefore, a need to streamline the governance structures and make one body responsible and accountable for the strategy, application and use of data in the NHS. My first question is this: will the Government commit to look at governance structures and make sure that there are clear accountability lines, and the possibility of one body having ultimate responsibility for the use of data?
As both noble Lords who spoke previously said, this cannot be done without getting the public on side through gaining their trust and support. I want to be radical and talk about a total rethink of this. We no longer live in a Victorian age of bureaucracy and a concrete-type world. We now live in a networked, digital world that is informed and connected. So whose data is this? It is my data; it is your data; it is the patient’s data. Why, therefore, do patients not hold the data, with government having to opt in? It is not fantasy to say that. Look at what Estonia is doing on digital usage by its population. It can be done. It would make government and the NHS think about the use of data—how it would be sold, what it is needed for, what the ethics of this are—rather than patients being passive and having to opt out. A radical view is needed. Will the Minister look at the radical option of data being held by the individual and government having to opt in?
There is nothing to fear if we get the arguments right, explain it to patients correctly and understand the outcomes. Most people will want improved health, not just for them but for their children, their communities and the population at large. We need a radical rethink on this, if we are going to change whose data it is and get the Government to where they need to be, not just on educating people about this but on understanding the application of this data.
The final issue I want to discuss is commercialisation, which has already been talked about by both noble Lords. I am pleased that, yesterday, the government standards were announced. That is very good but it does not go far enough. There are issues here. Once the initial data has been used, how will it then be used in the international market? What dividends will come back to the NHS from that? We are talking not just about getting the initial kick from the data back into the NHS but about how it and the IP can then be used more broadly. The issue is not just financial return. We must look at innovative ways in which the IP and spin-out can be applied and used free of charge back in the NHS. That is also important. Therefore, what thinking is there on commercialisation and application back to the NHS, so that it can benefit?
It is then a case of how we invest that. There is a good case to be made for a UK sovereign health fund, which could be used to reinvest in future technology and future use of data to meet the outcomes. Will the Minister and the Government look at the setting up and use of such a UK sovereign health fund?
My Lords, I too join others in thanking my noble friend Lord Freyberg for securing this important debate and the thoughtful way in which he has introduced it. In so doing, I declare my interests as professor of surgery at University College London, chairman of UCLPartners and an active biomedical researcher who has had the privilege, for many years, to use patient data as part of my programmes.
We have heard that data has been and will continue to be fundamental, not only to the delivery of healthcare but to biomedical research. There will be greater and greater demand for high-quality data. As a result of the changing demographic and the increased requirement for resources to deliver healthcare, there are now demands from those who provide healthcare services and those who pay for them to have data that informs how those resources are appropriately used. There is, of course, the advent of personalised medicine: the opportunity to understand far more about the individual and to better characterise the disease at a genetic and protein level—in occlusion to understanding better the characteristics that drive disease outcomes—and so start to tailor care. This is increasingly complicated because patients have multiple comorbidities and are exposed to many different treatments and interventions, making achieving a good result for the individual patient much more complex overall.
Then as we see in so many areas of technology, advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning will provide remarkable opportunities to apply those novel sciences to diseases and therapies to improve clinical outcomes and drive the more efficient use of healthcare resources. However, tremendous challenges attend the question of how data can be appropriately marshalled in the future to improve clinical outcome, to improve the welfare of patients and to drive the more efficient use of healthcare resources.
Noble Lords who have already spoken in this debate have identified many of the issues but one of the most important is the quality of available data. A huge amount of data is generated every day as healthcare is delivered up and down the country. If you take a simple example of an ultrasound scan of the heart—echocardiography—each echocardiogram generates about two gigabytes of data. With 1.2 million echocardiograms performed every year that is some petabytes of data, which is a remarkable amount just for a single test. If you look at the 10 most important imaging investigations in the NHS, some 17 million CT scans, MRIs and ultrasounds are performed every year. The volume of data is astounding, but much of the quality is poor. Is the Minister content that sufficient resource is being applied at a local level in NHS trusts and organisations up and down the country to ensure that high quality data is secured and that it is properly curated and marshalled in such a way that it can be applied for the benefit of patients and to broader research opportunities?
Beyond data quality there is the question of the skills required to drive this data revolution in healthcare. Data scientists are required in many different domains of modern human endeavour other than healthcare; therefore, healthcare organisations and research organisations will need to compete for those data scientists—that remarkable interface between mathematics, statistics and computational science. Is the Minister content that we have a strategy of education and skills development for health data so we will have skilled individuals available to drive the data science revolution in healthcare in the years to come?
Other skills sets will also be required. We will need skills to address the ethical questions, not only in terms of how data is used beyond improving an individual’s care, but whether using artificial intelligence and machine learning to make clinical decisions is ethical. We will need skills to develop the regulatory framework that allows for a much broader use of data for the delivery of care, and regulation of how that data is used to drive a research agenda and, as we have heard, broader commercial opportunities? Then there is the need for legal skills to ensure that—on a national level or individually by NHS organisations—the contracts and agreements that are entered into provide long-term benefit for the NHS and the nation.
Finally, there is the important question of trust. As we have heard with care.data, well-meaning and legally airtight initiatives to drive a broader opportunity to marshal data in the NHS failed because they failed to gain a social licence. How do we ensure that there is public trust with regard to the accumulation of more and more data and the application of that data for individual and broader societal benefit? How do we ensure that there is a consensus that data may be used beyond the individual and the health service delivery mechanisms to drive a broad research agenda and some of the other opportunities for wealth creation in our country? Are Her Majesty’s Government satisfied that they have addressed these issues sufficiently vigorously at the beginning of this important journey?
We have had the good fortune in our country over many decades to lead many revolutions in healthcare, be it in the area of in vitro fertilisation, transplantation or, more recently, mitochondrial DNA therapy. All of those have required very careful consideration in this Parliament of ethical, legal and regulatory issues and a firm commitment from Government to drive forward communication to ensure public trust and confidence.
My Lords, I really am very happy to be here and give my maiden speech today. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for calling this important debate and for his powerful introduction. I declare an interest: I am a trustee of the Scar Free Foundation, which is a medical research charity.
I thank the staff and the doorkeepers who I remember for their kindness and warmth when I was a boy and used to sit on the Steps of the Throne. They would help me find my way around and sometimes give me sweets that they kept in the cabinet where they kept the signing-in book. Even now, when I am walking round in circles they help me, but they do not give me any sweets anymore, I am afraid to say.
I come from a family of campaigners. The first Lord Bethell was a Liberal MP, a radical who wanted to change the world. He was a self-made son of a gardener who campaigned for the rights of the disfranchised slum dwellers of Edwardian Britain. He was a fervent campaigner for temperance. My father, Nicholas, who some noble Lords may remember and who I miss greatly, campaigned for rights for refuseniks, for the mujaheddin against the Soviet Union. He stood up against authority. He fervently did not support temperance. It is my ambition to walk in those steps. I would like to use the House of Lords as a platform to campaign for a better world and to challenge authority when necessary.
But picking causes does not feel easy these days. The issues are not clear-cut and this debate is a vivid example of that. On the one hand, as a number of speakers have mentioned, I am terrified of the threat presented by big data. We cannot underestimate the co-ordinated, criminal enterprises that steal and blackmail with data. I have had my financial records stolen many times. I have had much money removed from my bank accounts and I am frightened. I am getting to know some of you better, but I do not want you to know what is in my medical records and I do not want to know what is in yours, so this is something for us all to be concerned about.
I am also worried about the sloppy, arrogant culture of the big tech giants. In my background, I have campaigned against the racism of the far right in Britain and we had to work very hard—it remains a work in progress—to try to get tech companies to take down horrible material from the internet that foments hatred and violence. Their stubbornness in this matter is legendary.
It would feel at first blush as though the campaign against big data feels like a Bethell-shaped cause to challenge authority, but there is an important dilemma here, because I recognise that modern medicine is providing incredible dividends. The costs of medical provision are increasing dramatically more than global growth, and in my own life, my family have benefited tremendously. My wife’s sight was saved in the Moorfields Eye Hospital and one of my daughters was saved by important new medical developments.
So how can we make these two join together? I met a Scottish health professional recently who told me about an algorithm he had written that dramatically improves the treatment of dementia and Alzheimer’s. He had done this by using the records of millions of patients in a huge mathematical exercise. Where had he done that? Five years ago, he moved to Beijing and worked closely with the Chinese Government. He was very complimentary about his British associates. He told me that they were helpful but just did not have the technology and permissions to do the work he needed to do.
I remember when my father had Parkinson’s disease. Hospitals would lose his files so frequently that we travelled with a ring binder with photocopies inside. I remember visiting an eminent professor of neurology at John Radcliffe University. We went into his office and it was an incredible sight. From the floor to the ceiling, there were piles of paper. Every single horizontal surface was covered in reports and folders. We were waiting for this make-or-break decision about my father’s treatment and the professor turned to us and said, “I’m terribly sorry but I seem to have lost your file”. That moment felt like a metaphor for where we are in Britain with medical records.
With an average age of 69, your Lordships have a remarkable reputation for longevity. I personally want to live until I am 100 and I want my children to live even longer. I cannot think of a better way to make the world a better place than achieving that kind of objective, but I do not feel that this will happen if we have a ramshackle approach to record provision. This was brought home to me through my work with the Scar Free Foundation. I got involved with it when one day at home, a guest dropped a cup of tea on my 6 month-old son. He was scalded dramatically down one side of his body. His mother’s side of the family is Chinese and has delicate skin; members of her family with similar scalds have horrific disfigurement and disability. My family is Scottish. We are tough and leathery—I do not scar at all. During my son’s treatment, it was ambiguous which way he would go. Would he recover well or not? I am pleased to say that he did and is in very good shape, but it shows the genetic difference between families in a vivid way. For our charity, trying to figure out what causes that difference and apply those lessons to scar treatments is critical.
The NHS spends £4.5 billion every year treating difficult wounds and scars. The full cost to this country of scarring and internal fibrosis is incredibly high. I recognise the opportunity for Britain. Others will explain much better than I can the implications for jobs and health outcomes, but I applaud the code of conduct put together earlier by the Minister, which I cite as a good example of the kind of cause that I would like to be involved with here in the House of Lords.
My Lords, it is a great honour to follow the excellent maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Bethell. I know that all noble Lords will join me in extending him a very warm welcome. As we have heard, he brings a rich family heritage as well as the experience of a veteran campaigner outside of Parliament. I am sure that we will benefit from that dedication, energy and commitment in this Chamber. We look forward to his future contributions.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for the opportunity to speak in this important debate with esteemed colleagues. Healthcare data may seem dry to some but it is one of the great challenges and opportunities of the technological revolution. Before I move on to some specifics, we should bear in mind the backdrop against which the NHS currently operates—one of significant and sustained financial pressure. It should not be a question, therefore, of whether our healthcare system embraces technology, and opportunities in data within that; it must be a question of how. McKinsey published research on a “large OECD country”, which many have taken to refer to the UK, and a savings opportunity of up to 12% by simply implementing existing digital technologies, of which up to half could be data related. This is an opportunity the NHS cannot afford to miss. Let us keep that in mind when we consider the issue in the round. A financially sound, digitally enabled NHS is to the benefit of all, patients and staff.
That said, we have a way to go before we can consider the NHS well placed to capitalise. Last year, the DeepMind Health Independent Review Panel annual report reminded us that:
“The digital revolution has largely bypassed the NHS, which, in 2017, still retains the dubious honour of being the world’s largest purchaser of fax machines”.
However, I am hopeful that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health, given that he has recently departed the department that is home to all things digital, is well placed to redress this. Indeed, he has already confirmed that technology implementation is one of his priorities. This is an agenda worth pursuing.
I was fortunate enough to sit on the House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence. We considered AI’s implications for healthcare. The Academy of Medical Sciences, in giving evidence, said that its impact on the healthcare system,
“is likely to be profound”,
because research and development will become more efficient. New methods of healthcare delivery will become possible, clinical decision-making will be more informed and patients will be more informed in managing their health. So we have administrative gains, particularly if data can be centralised so that different silos can communicate. I commend this Government’s investment in joining up the data to improve the patient experience as they move through the health and social care system, but the gains are broader still—for example, in diagnostics. Microsoft Research showed our Select Committee its InnerEye technology, which will assist oncologists in reading scans. At present, 2 million women are screened for breast cancer every year and these scans are red at a rate of 55 per hour. Technology will reduce this without compromising integrity or commercial outcomes, and at a significant saving to the NHS. This is but one example.
We also saw examples in genomics and personalised medicine, as well as processing data to detect and monitor pandemics. I am encouraged by the digital innovation hubs, which will securely use data to improve the way we are able to prevent, detect and diagnose diseases such as cancer, heart disease and asthma so that patients can benefit from scientific breakthroughs much faster. In short, there are huge clinical and financial benefits if the NHS can capitalise. The question is how we can build trust and bring the public with us. Certainly, the NHS dataset is unique, in size and in longitude, so it presents a unique opportunity, but with that opportunity comes responsibility.
We have all heard of DeepMind’s health engagement with the Royal Free Hospital, the study involving the sharing of 1 million anonymised eye scans under a research agreement that began in 2016. It cost the hospital nothing, which is great, but it might reap huge financial gains for DeepMind and its parent, Google. Many will be uncomfortable with the idea of businesses profiting from exploiting their health data, as has been mentioned, so the right balance must be struck. Benefits in kind is perhaps one way, since it avoids explicit monetisation. However, the AI Committee concluded that what we really need is a departure from local deals being struck piecemeal and a new framework for sharing NHS data, developed and published by the end of 2018. I would be grateful for the Minister’s comments on that. I do, though, commend the forthcoming code of conduct for AI and digital technology, which will provide added reassurance to patients.
The National Information Board summed up the task well in describing its mission as,
“developing the strategic priorities for data and technology in health and care to deliver the maximum benefits for all of us, as citizens and as patients”.
It is that mantra, “to the benefit of all of us”, that we must lead with.
My Lords, I too express appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for securing a debate on a subject so full of possibilities for enriching our knowledge and improving the lives of fellow citizens. In England alone the National Health Service deals with more than 1 million patients every 36 hours. The potential use of data is enormous.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle, who takes a special interest in health matters, is particularly sorry not to be able to participate in this debate. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, on the quality of his maiden speech. I was, furthermore, particularly grateful for the wisdom of the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, who spoke from his great expertise in this field. My focus is on mental healthcare data, which was recently highlighted in the Church of England’s toolkit on minority ethnic mental health issues, launched at our General Synod in July.
We know from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, conducted every seven years, that one adult in six has a common mental disorder. By gender this breaks down to one woman in five and one man in eight, with the rate for women increasing since 2000 and the rate for men largely static. It is important to know why this is the case. Most mental disorders are more common among those living alone, in poor physical health or unemployed. One should avoid simple remedies, but esteem, living in a community, relational contact, activity and purpose seem to correlate with better mental health.
It is also important to note that there are wider demographic inequalities in who receives treatment for common mental disorders. According to the 2014 survey, after controlling for need, people who were white British, female or in mid-life, which in this instance means 35 to 54—rather younger than the average of fellow Peers—were more likely to receive treatment. Black ethnic groups had particularly low treatment rates. That is a serious matter. Analysing the data by socioeconomic variables demonstrates fewer inequalities in treatment, although people in low-income households were more likely to request a particular treatment but not to receive it.
I appreciate that even a debate as lengthy and as valuable as this is not going to solve systemic issues. It is clear, however, that there are discrepancies in how people are served. In a very different arena from this one—criminal justice—the Lammy report, addressing disproportionality, proposed a standing order of “explain or change”: if the disproportionality cannot be justified, action must be taken to remedy it. In this instance it would be good to know what action will address the failure to treat a category of citizens on the basis of ethnicity.
One of the outworkings of the gospel is the creation of a new society where distinctions do not matter. That is no easy thing, since so much of our security, identity and understanding is based on distinction and difference. Ultimately, however, this is not healthy, and in an area of pathology and treatment where provision is as sadly lacking as in mental health, to make less treatment available where the key variable is ethnicity is not a justifiable way to ration the system.
I have said before, in respect of public service reform, that a failure to include a clear relational element is a great deficit in any programme. I trust that in the wake of the Windrush scandal we may yet be learning that lesson.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, and congratulate my noble friend Lord Bethell on his excellent speech.
The scale of expenditure on health and social care—some £180 billion together—makes this a very important debate. Because of the ageing population and the growing sophistication of medical intervention, health and care now absorb 21% of public expenditure and account for over 10% of GDP: more than twice the percentage of 25 years ago. This scale, however, means that the opportunity to deliver benefits through digital change and intelligent use of data—in all its forms—is quite enormous. I was delighted that Matt Hancock’s first move as Health Secretary was to dedicate £475 million to enhance technology in health and care. Perhaps the Minister could kindly confirm whether that is new money and the timescales involved for it.
1 should start by declaring an interest as a recent Data Protection Minister, a new director at Health Data Research UK and a NED at Capita. Of course, the use of data to advance medicine has a distinguished history. In 1854, in the context of a devastating epidemic in Soho, John Snow showed that cholera was spread by water, after research into the wells from which those afflicted drew their supplies. In 1847 Dr Semmelweis showed, after examination of records in Vienna’s hospitals, that puerperal fever was spread by physicians who had examined corpses and then women in the delivery room, without washing their hands.
From my relatively inexpert position, I shall add three thoughts to the debate. The first is on data as a feedback mechanism. My work in Downing Street on the Citizen’s Charter and my 17 years in retail taught me the value of customer feedback in improving services and outcomes. I often feel that the NHS is not listening to and taking advantage of feedback. I remember turning up to an appointment at Guy’s with a needless cancer scare. When I went in to see the consultant, it turned out that the attachment to the doctor’s letter was missing. She said, “Oh, it happens all the time”, arranging cheerfully for me to have another expensive test. Why not place power in the hands of the patient, as when one is pregnant, and share all test results and reports with them on paper or on an app? I have also been struck by the value of wearables such as Fitbits, which certainly encourage me to get more sleep—an area that has the potential to improve health outcomes and reduce dementia.
Secondly, on digital delivery, we all see how public services fail—often through a lack of incentive—to join up the dots. Providing patients with their health data would help as they could talk to family and friends and ask questions about persistent conditions. The House has done some trailblazing work on AI, which can help with the testing of drugs by repeating checks and variations at a stupendous speed, as I learned from the Motor Neurone Disease Association. It is better than humans at checking routine results like back-of-the-eye tests and X-rays. The disciplined application of digital information can enormously reduce dispensing error. I spotted this in use first in drug administration to the elderly in a BUPA care home.
However, training in and discipline with the medical process is vital. At a recent update with a consultant after a five-year gap, I could not quite believe the graphs of my various tests. Then I saw that the latest data had not been entered and my hard-achieved efforts to reduce weight and improve health had been totally missed, so initially the doctor was completely on the wrong tack. How often may that be happening? Then there is the use of digitisation in online booking, automated patient lists and patient flow, which is displayed so well, for example, at St Thomas’. This should be applied at every hospital and GP surgery in the land.
Thirdly, I want to comment on the public’s trust in the handling of data. I should start by saying how delighted I was at the appointment of Dame Fiona Caldicott, the former principal of my college, Somerville, as the first National Data Guardian for Health and Care.
However, we should not go over the top on data protection: healthcare is provided in this country free for those who seek it. I suggest that in return data in the system should be used by hospitals and scientists, and in some controlled commercial ways to improve outcomes, and that aggregate anonymised data should be published. The excellent Library Note described the myriad sources that exist. I would add another: housing data, as damp, cold housing costs the NHS billions in preventable illness. I know that experiments in Wiltshire to link GPs to housing ills have been successful. All the sources of data can be brought together much better. It will of course be important to protect the data from hackers and others, by sensible precautions and fierce enforcement—a good use, I would say, for some of Mr Hancock’s money. However, we should not get too distracted by data protection as we promote data use for the good of mankind.
Lastly, I ask the Minister what we can deploy from overseas. There is much to learn from the US but also from Australia, which uses Skype-style hospital consultations to deal with remoteness, and from Singapore, where I saw a pioneering use of sensors built into pillows to monitor patients in hospital and care.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a shareholder in Sensyne Health plc, whose business is in medical artificial intelligence. I thank my noble friend Lord Freyberg for sponsoring this debate and for his truly excellent speech. He and I have been working closely together on this project for the past few months.
I very much enjoyed the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Bethell. He says he is a campaigner. I believe him, and I am a campaigner too so perhaps we can campaign together. I also thank Future Care Capital, which has been very supportive throughout, particularly Annemarie Naylor, who has kept me in line and continually encouraged me on this project.
My words today can be summed up very simply: I want to put as much pressure as I can to ensure that the huge potential value of our medical health records is channelled back to our NHS. I want that value to be maximised. In a letter to me in the final stages of the Data Protection Bill, and following some pretty intense lobbying, the Minister included the following sentence:
“We want to examine how we can maximise the value of the data for the benefit of the NHS and those who use and pay for it”.
I fought hard to have the words “maximise the value” inserted into that sentence, but I now read and detect that his department is looking to conclude commercial arrangements that are “fair” to all parties. I do not want to nitpick, but “fair” is a serious dilution of “maximise”. It is a soft, woolly word through which the international giants will drive a coach and horses. “Maximise” is strong and unambiguous. So I ask the Minister again: will commercial contracts between NHS trusts and private enterprise be maximised, as I would hope, or simply fair, which would benefit only big tech and big pharma?
When the Bill was passing through your Lordships’ House, it was frequently mentioned that data is the new oil—on Tuesday, no less a figure than the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury described data as more valuable than gold—and there can be no doubt that medical records are probably the most valuable data of all. By sheer chance, we find ourselves sitting on a treasure trove of rich patient data. That is because the NHS goes back to 1948, and uniquely in the world it possesses tens of millions of patient records. On top of that, we have a diversified population, which makes these records even more valuable. Many authorities I have spoken to value this data as being worth billions of pounds.
Artificial intelligence, coupled with machine learning and complex software, can now produce algorithms that, together with highly professional supervision, are able to predict clinical issues quicker and much more accurately than has previously been the case. Every physician will tell you that the sooner potential patient issues are diagnosed, the more likely it is that there will be a successful outcome. Analogies are always tricky but I cannot help thinking about the North Sea oil exploration and discoveries, which have proven so beneficial to our economy since the 1980s. In oil, there are parallels with NHS medical records. In its natural state oil is crude and hard to capture, but with commitment and huge investment the sticky, viscous liquid can be turned into petroleum products. So it is with medical records. The data is incomplete, scrappy and located in hospitals up and down the country. It too needs to be mined and refined, but with major investment that can be done.
I have pushed hard for the setting up of a sovereign health fund into which the proceeds of income generated from the licensing of NHS medical data records can be placed. I know the thinking is more towards a regional approach, but I shall add a caveat. We can already see the digital companies crawling all over NHS trusts. It is evident that these trusts have been outnegotiated. At Moorfields, they entered into a barter agreement with DeepMind. They failed to realise that the real value is in the algorithms produced, which are coveted by healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies and health insurance companies around the world. This is where the value is—in the worldwide intellectual property. Big tech knows it; the NHS does not. A sovereign health fund would develop a pool of commercial, clinical and digital expertise, able to negotiate head-to-head with the global companies. It would maximise value.
We have a fantastic opportunity to generate major income for the NHS. To succeed we need courage. Will the Minister and his department be brave and bold enough to ensure that our NHS gets the maximum value it deserves?
My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for the excellent, comprehensive speech with which he opened this debate. After hearing my noble friend Lord Bethell, I am sure that many noble Lords will share my wish to hear much more from him in the future.
I draw your Lordships’ attention to a little-known success story of the initiative of GPs in England—the creation of two databases of notifications of their clinical work. These databases are SystmOne and EMIS. Input is mandatory for all primary practices in England. These databases are widely used across the medical profession, not only in primary care. They have been in operation for some 20 years and provide instant access to statistics on, for instance, cancer, diabetes and heart conditions. I am advised that the secret of their success is that the programmes were written by doctors. They are completely anonymous—this subject has been mentioned by several of your Lordships. Great steps are taken to make sure that the data input is anonymised. There is certainly nothing to match them among the acute hospital trusts and there is no other country in the world to match them in the comprehensiveness of the data which they store and make available for medical research in England and worldwide. My noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe mentioned the excellent advances made in Australia, Singapore and other places. But I was told that in New Zealand—which prides itself on its primary care—there is no equivalent even there.
Here in the United Kingdom, practitioners act as gatekeepers. In many countries with admirable primary care—and, incidentally, which spend a greater proportion of GDP on it—a patient is referred at an early stage to a specialist in, say, cancer or diabetes. In England, the practice of triage enables the GP to assess the needs of the whole man—or comprehensive gender equivalent—and only then to refer him, or her, to the appropriate specialist.
These databases are a shining example of the contribution of general practitioners to primary care, which was so aptly described by Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, as the jewel in the crown of the NHS.
Time does not permit me to go into greater length on this subject in this debate—except, possibly, to say that much more use should be made of general practices to relieve pressure on A&E departments. But that is for another day. These databases are a fine example of the use of healthcare data in the United Kingdom which, in so many ways, leads the world.
My Lords, when speaking of data in research, scientists and medics refer only to quantitative research, as has been done in this debate so far. But qualitative research also produces immensely beneficial data.
I declare an interest as former chair of the UK ground-breaking healthtalk organisation. It has created a platform presenting thousands of free-to-access video and audio clips, drawn from rigorous qualitative research, to help people learn about their condition, manage their own health and make decisions about their treatment.
Helping patients to find out what it has been like for others who have faced the same health conditions as them has been one of the most transformative aspects of the internet. But people worry whether the information they find online is reliable and need healthcare professionals to guide them to reliable sources of peer information online. This qualitative data is used to teach medical students and nurses about what matters to patients and to help design services that meet the needs of all concerned. In line with the Department of Health’s expanded focus into social care, a new platform, socialcaretalk.org, is currently being developed, which will include hundreds of interviews with people who have experienced social care first hand.
Healthtalk.org is run by a charity, DIPEx, in partnership with the Health Experiences Research Group at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences. Rigorous qualitative research methods are used to collect interviews with patients on film, which are then analysed for themes and turned into a multimedia resource that is widely used by the general public and health professionals. Evaluations have found that users of the platform report better understanding of their own health and greater confidence in talking to others about their health, and feel more inclined to take an active role in their own healthcare. Site users say that they find information on the website that they have not found elsewhere and answers to questions that they would otherwise have asked their healthcare professional. A third of respondents stated that the information on the website had reduced their need to make an appointment with a health professional. More than half the UK population uses the internet to seek information about their health. Healthtalk.org was used almost 6 million times in 2017, and the website covers more than 100 health topics.
The work of the team in the UK is being replicated around the world by 13 other member countries across Europe, North America, the Middle East, East Asia and Oceania, which have joined the DIPEx international collaboration. These sister international group websites are creating and developing together, and the qualitative data produced spans 11 languages and 42 health conditions. Including the UK’s healthtalk.org website, 140 conditions are covered, with well over 120 publications in peer-reviewed international journals. These publications are based on thousands of hours of audio and video records of interviews, and are a valuable qualitative data resource.
These outstanding results depend on funding from charities, philanthropic donations and government bodies. I ask the Minister and his team to recognise the power of patients’ stories and experiences and how they can be used to provide not only information and support for people with health conditions, their families and carers but reliable resources of knowledge and understanding for those institutions that will train our healthcare professionals in the future. They must be well funded, and qualitative data must be valued alongside quantitative data in the health service.
Talking about data, as I have only used four minutes, could the clerk add two minutes to the debate that I am speaking in later this afternoon?
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for initiating this debate. It is a pleasure to take part in a debate about how data will improve the health of the nation. It is not only crucial but has huge potential for the future of the NHS. I take this opportunity to congratulate my noble friend Lord Bethell on his maiden speech and look forward to his future contributions.
I welcome the £400 million-plus investment in new technology in hospitals, making patients safer, reducing cost and, importantly, linking people to access their health services at home. I also welcome the £75 million available to trusts to help them put in place state-of-the-art electronic systems. Those again save money but, crucially, have the potential to reduce medication errors by up to 50% compared to the previous paper systems, and to cut bureaucracy, making life better for staff, showing how electronic health records and other smart tools can support nurses both in and out of hospitals, benefiting patients who may have many health problems while ensuring that doctors are clear on their legal responsibilities.
Today, the Minister is setting out plans to make the NHS the most cutting-edge system in the world for the use of technology by investing a further £200 million to transform a group of NHS trusts into internationally recognised centres for technological and digital innovation. As he says, we are setting a gold standard for others to follow. Is that extra money? The future is to see more technology available to all, not just a select few areas of the country and not subject to a postcode lottery, thereby avoiding variations in patient outcomes and seeing all hospitals digitised as soon as possible, with healthcare becoming more integrated. In social care, for instance, the use of data is even more essential.
In developing a culture in which innovation can be rapidly adopted and rolled out across the country, we need a clear, robust strategy to take the NHS forward and not fall behind other nations—a culture that empowers to help make that change happen. As I said earlier, the UK certainly has a real opportunity to be a global leader in health data research by capturing all this potential, including artificial intelligence, the application of genomics to medicine, and the development of a range of new diagnostic tools and therapies for conditions that will enable more healthy ageing.
The evidence is out there showing how we can use technology better to create more efficiencies in passing information around and, importantly, in improving quality. The public and healthcare professionals must have confidence that access to patient data is appropriately managed so they can plan services and research new treatments. It must be clear to the public that their data matter, and that the data on research on new treatments to the NHS are stored safely. We need to bring together patients’ trust in the data in making informed choices from among other healthcare options.
Every time we go to a doctor we receive a diagnosis and, when we start a new treatment, the information goes into a database. The introduction of electronic patient records means that a patient’s journey in the health system is more accurately recorded and easily accessed, with patients receiving more effective care by having a digitised record. When we put all that together, it is a database combining millions of data points which then can be used for research purposes. Researchers are now harnessing vast amounts of information to assess what works in medicine.
There must be adherence to very strict protocols to prevent any leaks of personal information, and provision for the public to opt out, if requested. It is regrettable that some areas of the NHS have been slow to adopt information technology but we know that new technologies are changing what type of care can be provided and how it is delivered. We must support those trusts, while challenging others which are slow to engage, and help them to remove barriers. It is vital to support organisations which want to make changes in driving up productivity, bring on board new innovations, use data and welcome new technologies.
Medicine and public health are constantly evolving as new research and technology opens the doors to new ways to treat or prevent diseases, so we are able to live longer—and, importantly, live well longer.
My Lords, I join in the thanks to my noble friend Lord Freyberg for introducing this very topical debate. I am grateful to the Library for the very useful research note we received. I also join in the congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, on a fine maiden speech. We all respected his late father for his many campaigns.
I was fortunate, like the noble Baroness, Lady Rock, to be a Member of your Lordships’ Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence. A major conclusion of our report was that one of the biggest beneficiaries of the effective use of AI and data will be the healthcare sector and obviously the National Health Service.
As my noble friend Lord Mitchell mentioned, data is the new oil and is the fuel of artificial intelligence and the fourth industrial revolution. Clearly, the considerations of privacy, public trust and recent breaches of data security are of widespread concern and need to be properly addressed. But big data, if it is fully embraced, has the potential to provide huge advances in improved treatment, risk mitigation and—a point that has not been mentioned by other speakers—cost savings to the National Health Service.
It is encouraging that the Government have identified AI and data as one of the United Kingdom’s four great challenges in the industrial strategy. Today, we measure the human body in several metrics: heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and glucose levels. I do not profess to have any medical expertise, but it is well known that we have about 10 trillion cells in the human body and, with the advances in AI and technology, we can now measure the quantified self with data streams using wearables such as Fitbits and Apple watches, heart rate monitors and others. Many believe that, within 10 years, we will be able to instrument almost every cell in the body in real time.
We are increasingly moving from a world of reactive health to preventive health. Analysing much of the healthcare data from the NHS offers huge opportunities in preventive medicine. It is well known that there is no central database for medical records within the NHS, which highlights the need for more interoperability of health information systems. I was interested in the GMC report last year which highlighted a significant step change in the UK healthcare data landscape from the 26 research centres. While identifiable medical records are rightly strictly regulated, there is potential—a point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman—to anonymise more data, which would prevent data scientists from breaching privacy laws. We have the biggest pool of healthcare data possibly in the world within the NHS. Apart from the obvious benefits of the primary use of healthcare data within the NHS, there are the secondary uses outside the NHS. We could radically reduce the cost of healthcare using preventive diagnosis—a very important point. By way of example: within five years, many believe that, with the effective use of data, we could tackle almost every type of cancer through early detection. Yesterday, I had lunch with Salim Ismail, the founding chief executive of Singularity University, which brings together the top experts in the fast-moving technologies around the world. He believes that the NHS could go from spending an average of £250,000 per patient down to £50,000 in the next 10 years. This is profound.
In the history of mankind, we have never seen so much intensity of innovation—from solar energy, autonomous cars to drones to biotech and genomics, to neuroscience breakthroughs and many other disruptive technologies. With access to more data we are now on the brink of understanding and solving some of the major mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and dementia. Using technologies with the benefit of large datasets, such as FUS—focused ultrasound—could revolutionise the treatment of many illnesses non-invasively. We need to shift legacy mindsets to embrace new ideas. By embracing blockchain technologies we could dramatically reduce the cost to the public sector of healthcare. Time restricts me from elaborating on the benefits of blockchain, but I was encouraged by the recent reply that the Minister gave me to an Oral Question that the Government were embarking on a number of pilot studies looking at these benefits.
I hope that more can be done to promote and accelerate the analysis of large datasets within the NHS. By doing this, the United Kingdom has the potential to be a global leader in health and wellness in the 21st century.
My Lords, this is a topic of great importance. I thank my noble colleagues who have succeeded in securing the time for this debate. I was very pleased to hear the remarkable speech by the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar. The maiden speech by my noble friend Lord Bethell was very encouraging; I am sure that he will live more than 110 years, having wished for only 100 years.
We are privileged to live in a golden age of medical innovation. New treatments are coming on to the market at an accelerating rate due to a number of new processes which are transforming surgery, pharmaceuticals, and care overall. Another area of great innovation is data. Big data has transformed the traditional working models of some industries and, when applied to datasets of sufficient scale, it can be exceedingly powerful at highlighting trends and suggesting changes. It therefore seems logical to see how the NHS could benefit.
Each year, the NHS collects terabytes of data on its patients. Those patients have a statutory opt-out, but we see that in practice most of them make the sensible decision to continue to grant access to their data so that processes can be improved going forward. This data is collected and processed, but the NHS has not started to use big data technologies on anything like the scale of other industries, such as logistics or shipping. Part of the reason for that is obvious—the NHS is not a tech company, and primarily deals with care and preventive medicine, but other barriers are more subtle. One area is privacy concerns. This data could cause great damage if it were to be stolen by the increasingly dangerous state-backed hackers of today. The solution is to invest in proper computer systems for the NHS, and to use all arms of the state to safeguard our data.
We must also make sure that important data is properly recorded. There are no reports on this, but I often see patients in hospitals filling in paper forms that are not obviously copied to an online portal. For repeated information I can see the reason why, but it would streamline processes to be able to auto-fill large parts of the form. Furthermore, that data is not easily accessible and will be expensive to find and send to patients. When new data protection laws and changing attitudes mean that people want better access to their data, this will have to change. Finally, the most recent NHS England data and datasets consultation confirmed and enhanced the recommendation of the Francis report:
“A coordinated collection of accurate information about the performance of organisations must be available to providers, commissioners, regulators and the public, in as near real time as possible”.
All nations now run their own healthcare, and increasingly city and regional mayors will have devolved health powers. This is a positive step. I have always supported devolution, for I think it leads to better decision-making, more experimentation and greater accountability. But different data collection protocols could result in incompatible datasets to which big data methods cannot be applied. Can the Minister say what plan the Department of Health has made to ensure that fragmentation of care delivery does not damage the ability of the health service to gather data at the national level?
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Freyberg on securing this timely debate and on his thought leadership and his excellent contribution. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, on his eloquent maiden speech. I know that we are not supposed to believe in the hereditary principle any more, but I am quite sure that he will bring the same credit to this House as his four predecessors did.
As a former Treasury official, my interest in this debate is in the prosaic issue of finance. Pressures on NHS expenditure are set to increase hugely in the years ahead; that is partly due to the long-predicted demographic pressures finally arriving, but it is also about raising expectations about the standard and quality of care. According to the independent Office for Budget Responsibility, spending on health and adult social care is set to rise by 3.2% of national income in the next 20 years. That is £64 billion at current GDP levels. Taxes will clearly have to rise, but so will the efficiency and effectiveness of the National Health Service, and that is where the use of data comes in. Take Tesco or Amazon. Using their customers’ data to provide a better service is fundamental to their business model. The NHS has a dominant market position in its field; it needs to find a way to do the same. I welcome the new Secretary of State’s commitment to technology-driven health and care and the £475 million he has put on the table; like other noble Lords, I hope that that is new money. But we are still not making sufficient progress: the whole approach is too fragmented and balkanised.
Britain starts with an advantage. The clue is in the name: we have a National Health Service. It should not be beyond the wit of government to join up hospital data with general practitioner and other data sources through greater interoperability. But, to use one example a GP mentioned to me the night before last, in many parts of the country paramedics in the ambulance service still cannot access a patient’s wider medical records. This cannot be good for the service patients receive.
I know and recognise that the mishandling of large-scale data initiatives, in particular the care.data programme, has not been conducive to public trust. Many noble Lords have spoken eloquently on this subject today. Obviously we need a coherent, comprehensive and ethical system for protecting people’s privacy, and we need to make restoring trust in sharing health data a national priority.
The message should be simple. If we are to nurture the right to a publicly funded health system, we have a duty to share our data. Other countries have grasped this nettle and their citizens have responded. We must do so too. That will require strong leadership from the centre as well as at a local level. I would strongly recommend a campaign which health practitioners and patient advocates own and lead.
Healthcare data is undoubtedly an asset. But I am agnostic at this stage on whether we should seek to monetise it. I recall a debate some years ago in the Treasury about the Ordnance Survey: should it be privatised or not? Were its services effectively a public good for which no charge should be paid? In the end, the Government, correctly in my view, went for a more open-source approach. Healthcare data may be different. The fact is that trusts are already exploiting its value potential commercially although, as my noble friend Lord Freyberg suggested, some of the current deals look too one-sided. If the NHS could harness its negotiating power at a national level, underpinned by a strong national framework on confidentiality, I am confident we could unlock much greater value. As my noble friend Lord Mitchell said, our aim should be to maximise that value. If it were clear that value would be recycled in higher spending on health and research, I believe we could yet secure the necessary public support.
The Treasury’s balance sheet review is due to report in the Budget and is set to cover intangible assets. I hope the Treasury will work with the National Audit Office to develop an appropriate accounting framework. Above all, the review provides a golden opportunity to examine the value of NHS information the better to inform public debate. Knowing the Treasury as I do, I am sure that, even now, officials are considering the best way of unlocking that value. I look forward to the Government bringing forward a vigorous response to the review in due course.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for introducing this important debate and congratulate him on his masterful tour d’horizon in his speech. I support his demand for a national strategy on this issue—we must not be left behind. I also very much enjoyed the maiden speech by the noble Lord, Lord Bethell; as I sat here, I found myself musing on whether he would follow in the temperance footsteps of his grandfather or the non-temperance footsteps of his father. I look forward to hearing a lot more from him.
As we have heard, the NHS has the most enormous amount of valuable data that could be used for improving patient care in a large number of ways; to me, that is the most important objective. First, data can help healthcare providers to measure their performance against baseline standards and against best practice in other similar providers. It can alert us to problems with patient safety and emerging quality problems. Digging into the detail of data can often reveal where providers are failing and suggest solutions—I shall give an example of that later. Data can assist regulators and inspectors to reach their conclusions. It can inform clinical decisions, through what it reveals about efficacy and outcomes, and can influence commissioning decisions through what it reveals about cost-effectiveness and the effects of strategies on public health. It can be used to assist research and to plan and assess clinical trials, and can help agencies to plan and reconfigure services.
The noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, mentioned the importance of the quality of data. He told us about the massive amount of it, which made me wonder how accessible that data is to researchers—if it is not easily searchable, it will be like looking for a needle in a haystack, in the same way as the doctor, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, looks through his pile of paper files.
We have heard about many issues of concern. First there is patient consent and privacy, about which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, was so eloquent. We have heard about the need to prevent exploitation and discrimination from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark. We have heard concerns about how data is made available to commercial companies, how value can be realised and about the ownership of private data by a few large corporations. The noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, asked us to maximise that value and he is absolutely right, but there need to be enormous safeguards. I very much agree with him that the NHS, too, needs experts. If it does not, the experts in the big data companies will, as he put it, “crawl all over us”.
A transparent public dialogue is needed about how data is currently used, the opportunities for the future and how risks can be managed. It is vital to balance the benefits of sharing data, which are enormous, with concerns about security and confidentiality, but these concerns should not be a barrier to progress. Many noble Lords have mentioned the crucial need to rebuild patient trust following the care.data problems and recent massive leaks—most recently, this was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson.
According to the Royal College of Physicians, patient-level data containing patient characteristics, as well as information about treatments, pathways and outcomes, are the most valuable. Indeed, such data can also reveal inequalities in access to care and the quality of care provided to different groups; it can also help to make comparisons of outcomes from different providers fairer, when we know something about the case mix they face. How fit the patient is at the point of diagnosis and how advanced the disease is at that point are important factors when comparing the outcomes achieved by different clinicians and healthcare settings. But such data should be anonymised or pseudonymised wherever possible to avoid identification of individual patients.
One can also get a lot more out of data if information about the patient can be linked to healthcare activity and outcome information; this requires different systems to talk to one another, which is particularly important in end-of-life care. But this is where the NHS currently falls down. However, I was pleased to learn from a recent briefing by the NHS Confederation, which represents private healthcare providers, that steps are being taken to integrate their datasets with those of the NHS; this will mean patients and the NHS can get a full set of information in one record. On a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Rock, I was told recently by Simon Stevens that the NHS is no longer the world’s biggest purchaser of fax machines; he was rather indignant when I mentioned that.
There are many examples of where data can be used successfully to improve patient services. Some studies have also been able to motivate settings to improve their track record when linked to payment incentives—a sort of payment by results. This was done as a result of the National Hip Fracture Database. A number of notable national reviews have had tremendous effects on outcomes—such as the National Review of Asthma Deaths, which shockingly found that that a quarter of deaths resulted from inadequate care—which can then be addressed. The Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme included patient input to help improve services resulting in the establishment of the very successful hyper-acute stroke units in London and Manchester, a model now being copied across the country.
One issue that concerns me is the amount of data available to the patient and how it could help patients to manage their own healthcare. We cannot expect patients to engage with doctors in taking steps to manage their own condition if we do not give them feedback about whether changes they make in their lifestyles result in better health. For example, I would like to know the exact readings for the good and bad types of cholesterol in my own blood tests, so that I can see whether my lifestyle changes are helping. When I asked the question, I was told, “It’s fine—keep on with the medication”. That is no help to me when I am trying hard to get to a position where I do not need the medication at all. I agree with the frustrations of the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, on this matter. Like her, I think we should be able to see our own medical records; we should be able to trust the patient with them.
I also look forward to the day when, living in Wales, I will be able to make appointments and ask for repeat prescriptions online, as my relatives in Scotland already can and my relatives in England will be able to next year. That, however, will require a major step forward in technology, which I do not see on the horizon.
This morning I came across a perfect example of how data can help to improve services. I hosted a round table at which we heard about research into the issues relating to local authorities missing targets for chlamydia screening. Chlamydia is an increasingly common sexually transmitted disease, which can cause major health problems including infertility. There have been several changes, and indeed reductions, in the funding for this screening. Initially the money went to local authorities, which are responsible for public health, as a dedicated grant, and then it became integrated with other funding. Finally, the funding has now dried up altogether and the National Chlamydia Screening Programme simply monitors how well targets are being met and supports local authorities. Unsurprisingly, the targets are not being met, following a year-on-year decline. In 2017, only 20% of commissioning councils achieved the Public Health England target of 2,300 annual diagnoses.
The research that I heard about this morning was qualitative. It sought to collect data on various aspects of the difficulties that councils face with a view to proposing how things can be improved. It turns out that, although funding is a significant issue, public awareness is one of the greatest barriers that councils need help with. They would like more national resources to help them develop local marketing programmes to let people know about the dangers of chlamydia and about the screening and services available to them locally. They also need technical help with targeting the most at-risk groups. I thought it was a good example of where digging deep into the data can help to improve services. I am pleased to know that Public Health England is soon to publish a review on this and all other sexual health matters.
So my questions for the Minister are as follows. What progress is being made on integrating patient data from all health and care settings and making the records available to patients? What measures are being taken to give patients trust and confidence in their data being properly handled? How will applications for outside use of NHS data be handled and against what criteria? Finally, is funding being passed to the Welsh Government to enable patients in Wales to benefit from the technological advances that are already available in Scotland and are soon to be available in England?
My Lords, first, I need to declare an interest as a member of a clinical commissioning group, which also happens to cover the Royal Free.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, on the timeliness of this debate. I just wonder whether the Secretary of State chose this date to make his announcement about investment in NHS data and technology, as it allows the Minister here to tell us about the NHS’s plans. There is a nice congruency about that.
It is all for the Minister’s benefit. I am grateful to the noble Lord for introducing this debate. I completely agree about its importance and urgency and about the action that needs to be taken with regard to NHS data. I congratulate all noble Lords who have spoken. It is a great example of the House of Lords’ consideration of a matter of national importance.
I particularly congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, on his maiden speech. With his deep political and historical background, I look forward to—I am trying to find the right word to describe his inheritance—some contraryism. That is one word that might be used, and I look forward to seeing the effect that it might have on his own Benches and indeed on the House. I welcome him to his place.
My noble friend Lord Hunt eloquently outlined the dilemma and conundrum that we face in the use of data. The noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, gave us a brilliant illustration of the usage and benefits of NHS data to be found, in his case, at the coalface of patient care and the research agenda. My noble friend Lord Mitchell —I call the noble Lord “my noble friend”—was quite correct about the need to maximise its value to the NHS and to patients, the point about maximising being very important. My noble friend Lord Stone, as usual, gave us practical examples and applications.
The noble Lord, Lord Macpherson, brought to mind a recent sad experience that I had involving a relative. Her records were not available to the paramedics in the ambulance that picked her up, so “Do not resuscitate” did not flash up on the screen, with really sad consequences. My response was to ask whether you have to tattoo “Do not resuscitate” across your forehead to make sure that, when the time comes, the records are available to whoever needs them at that point. That is a very good example of the need to get this issue right.
I thank all the organisations, as well as the Library, which sent us briefings and which helped greatly with our understanding and appreciation of the importance of this issue. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, about the necessity of a national strategy, and I found his speech both profound and very pointed. I think he is kind when he says that the Government are not quite asleep at the wheel. I am not quite so optimistic and I want very briefly to look at the politics of this.
I fear that the antipathy that some members of the party opposite have towards public policy-led national strategies and the conviction among some of them that NHS fragmentation was a good thing and that the private sector inroads into it are having a significant impact are potentially not a good combination in this context. I say that because I absolutely do not want NHS data silver sold off for large businesses to use because of our ignorance and a political conviction that that is the right thing to do. We might then find that it gets sold back to us because we need to use it in our NHS.
Patient data is a fundamental resource for improving patient care and it underpins the ability to deliver high-quality care and improve the standards of healthcare providers. National comparative data is a powerful tool in exposing pockets of poor care and allowing resources to be focused on poorly performing areas. With a growing focus on understanding variations in the quality and efficiency of clinical care, on improving patient safety and outcomes, and on more transparent data, national clinical audit is a key tool in supporting these agendas. Therefore, it is important for patients on a personal level and for the national well-being. It ranges from basic matters—I am very grateful to the Deb Group for explaining the analytics that it uses to improve hand-hygiene compliance in our hospitals and healthcare facilities—to the work of, for example, NHS Partners Network, which is part of the NHS Confederation. I was grateful for its briefing because it talks very sensibly about the need for NHS Digital and the Private Healthcare Information Network to talk to each other. However, what concerns me is how the governance of that works and how it fits into the issues that we have been talking about this morning.
It is also worth saying that many of us have received a briefing from Future Care Capital. For noble Lords who have not engaged with its briefings, I thought that it might be worth explaining what that organisation does. It is a charity that uses evidence-based research to shape future health and social care policy. It began its life in 1945 as the National Nursery Examination Board and it evolved, as many charities do, into something quite different over 70-odd years, but it continues to have royal patronage. It is asking us to reflect on the great data asset that we have in our 70 year-old NHS. I say to the Minister that we need to look at its proposals and take them seriously.
I should like to summarise with a few questions for the Minister, many of which have already been asked. Will the Government agree to develop a national strategy and action plan to harness the value of NHS-controlled healthcare data? How will the Government engage the public—many noble Lords have mentioned this—in building confidence in the use of their data and harnessing the value of their healthcare data to deliver better outcomes for society? What measures will the Government put in place to prevent the leakage of both social and economic value from healthcare data-sharing with third parties—in particular, corporates headquartered in other countries? That takes me back to the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson, who was quite right to say that you should follow the money. In my view, we should definitely be following the money here.
Do the Government support the principle of harnessing healthcare data on a commercial basis and, if so, what ethical safeguards will they put in place to maintain public trust in sharing NHS controlled data with third parties? Would it be a good idea to value the healthcare data that the Government control and perhaps include that valuation in the Chancellor’s balance sheet? What would that look like? What is the Minister’s view about the creation of a not-for-profit national body which can then ensure that the value of our healthcare data and its IP flow into this country and not out of it?
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, on calling this debate and on his passionate interest in the topic, which he often shares with me by email and through other routes. His excellent speech was, indeed, a tour d’horizon, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said. I am also grateful to him for sharing the moving story of his sister—the unavailability of data obviously contributed to her untimely death. Her case gets to the heart of what can sometimes be a rather technical topic. At the end of the day, we are trying to make sure that people are able to live longer and happier lives. The noble Lord’s sharing of that story really brought that point to life.
I also warmly congratulate my noble friend Lord Bethell on his outstanding maiden speech. He brought to life the anxieties that people feel about big data—the saliency of this topic is clearly rising with Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and so on—while discussing the extraordinary benefits. I have no doubt that he will be a huge asset to this House. He is someone I have known and worked with over the years. We may be getting a bit longer in the tooth now, but at one point we were thrusting, reforming young Conservatives. We are, in this House, young Conservatives again. I am sure he will bring exactly the same energy that he has always brought to reforming issues.
I thank noble Lords for a superb, high-quality debate. It has also been an extremely fertile ground for new ideas, some of which we are happily moving ahead on, and others of which I will, as ever, reflect on. All noble Lords agree that the NHS is already a world-class and comprehensive healthcare system. We also agree that it provides a unique opportunity, because of the circumstances of its founding, to bring together an unrivalled longitudinal dataset on the health and care of over 60 million people alive today. As the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe reminded us, the use of that data over time, going back not just decades but centuries, has led to countless innovations and saved millions—possibly billions—of lives worldwide. As the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, and my noble friend Lady Rock pointed out, the potential gains from this dataset with the technologies at hand are enormous: improving standards; making the health system fairer, safer and more effective; and improving research so that patients benefit more quickly from medical breakthroughs.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, was right in saying that first and foremost it is about the transformation of direct care. The primary uses of data must come first and secondary uses second. Patient outcomes are the most important goal. It is also the case, as the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, pointed out so wisely, that without technology we cannot achieve the goal of personalised medicine. Personalised medicine is essential, because we now understand so much about disease that no disease presents itself in one person in the same way that it presents itself in another. We cannot achieve that goal without technology and the use of data. As the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Southwark, and my noble friend Lady Redfern pointed out, it is also critical in overcoming some of inequities and discrepancies in health outcomes that clearly exist in all disease areas today.
Noble Lords have raised many examples of the benefits of data sharing. My noble friend Viscount Bridgeman explained the benefits that derive from GP databases in England. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, pointed out the role of performance data in winning the argument for transforming stroke care and rationalising services—not always a popular thing to do. The noble Lord, Lord Stone, gave the example of how healthtalk.org—I think that is the right name—is empowering self-care in improving outcomes. He also brought to life an international dimension: sharing data not just in one country, but across the world. That is really important for rare diseases. Our health charities have a very important role in this field, as he exemplified.
My noble friend Lord Suri talked very wisely about the local and regional dimension. Greater Manchester, which is often the leader in these things, has made tremendous use of joined-up healthcare records. Data has been used to build a picture of how patients with stroke are diagnosed and treated, for example. This has improved services for patients, including by supporting paramedics with diagnosis—which is not always there, as this debate has highlighted—through the development of an app to assist clinical assessment. That has led to a reduction of deaths from inter-cerebral haemorrhage by one-third in the 30 days following diagnosis. Think of the benefits to health and wealth that would accrue if we were able to roll out these innovations UK-wide and worldwide.
Yesterday, at NHS Expo I met several innovators, including those who are providing real-time data on the availability of and waiting times for urgent and emergency care centres in Kent, with the goal to go nationwide. Others were rating and promoting the best health apps, so that people can take more control over their care. These are just a few examples of what is possible.
We can all be zealous about the benefits of sharing data but, as noble Lords have pointed out, we have to be aware of the anxieties and concerns that people have, not least because of the recent history in this area, when we have tried to make progress. My noble friend Lord Suri pointed out that we stand at a golden age. I think he is right, but we will only realise that golden age and its benefits, which were brought to life by the noble Lords, Lord Macpherson and Lord St John, and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe—with the challenges we face, we cannot have the luxury of doing without these benefits—if we appreciate people’s concerns about how data is used, whom it is shared with and whether it is safely, properly and legally used. People want to understand and have a say in how their data is collected and used. They want to see the benefits being realised for patients and for the health system more widely. I will return to this topic.
KPMG published a report yesterday showing that the NHS is the most trusted institution in the country with whom citizens are prepared to share personal data. That is a very precious thing which we must not put at risk. If we do, we will not be able to realise the kinds of benefits that we have been discussing. The first step is to keep data safe, as my noble friend Lord Suri pointed out. Since May 2017, when the WannaCry attack happened, we have invested more than £60 million in cyber resilience for local health trusts. We are planning to invest a further £150 million over the next two years to improve our ability nationally and locally to prevent, detect and respond to cyber incidents. Of course, we can never say never about these attacks, and they are becoming more frequent and more severe, but we are aware of the importance of putting in that resilience.
We have also introduced a national data opt-out which gives patients a choice about how their confidential patient information is used beyond their direct care. I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about how challenging it is to exercise the opt-out for children. We are in the process of addressing that at the moment. The opt-out is in beta form before going live in October. I am pleased to tell noble Lords that, as well as NHS Digital, Public Health England is upholding the national data opt-out and we will be rolling it out to all NHS organisations over the next two years.
The noble Lords, Lord Scriven and Lord Hunt, and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, talked about the importance of this issue and of engaging with the public and stakeholders. I want to use this opportunity to highlight and commend the work of the Wellcome Institute’s Understanding Patient Data initiative. It has produced remarkable resources and we have been working closely with it. It is helping us to win the argument with people that they ought to share their data because of the benefits that will accrue to themselves and to those whom they love. However, we can never think we have won the argument. It always needs to be made and we always need to provide that reassurance.
We are taking other actions. My noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe mentioned the National Data Guardian, which we are putting on a statutory footing. We have implemented new data standards that she recommended. We have been explicit about not selling information, or access to information, on patients to marketing or insurance companies. That is a big concern. I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, that we have taken some important steps on governance, such as introducing Caldicott guardians—named after the first National Data Guardian—into the information governance framework, and trust board responsibility for the safe use of data.
Once we have addressed the safety issue, we will then need to start bringing together the available data. As noble Lords have explained during the debate, so much health and care data is still fragmented, often stored and transmitted in paper form and not easily shared. The horrifying consequences of this, such as key information falling through the gaps, have, unfortunately, been brought to life in the cases of the loved ones of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, and the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg. As my noble friend Lady Redfern pointed out, medication error is a consequence too. The noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, talked about a clean and curated dataset being useful not just in its own right but because of the value it would generate. He is absolutely right on that topic.
We are making progress through the global digital exemplar programme, for which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced today £200 million. The noble Lord, Lord Macpherson, will know that it is very unusual to announce new money outside spending reviews, although the Government have announced £22 billion over the next five years. However, this is a rollout of a £4 billion investment, which no doubt he was involved in agreeing at the last spending review. Let me reiterate that that is a £4 billion investment in technology in the NHS.
We are also looking at joining up data across different areas and settings. This has been highlighted by many noble Lords. We have launched the local health and care record exemplars, which is about creating common standards of interoperability so that data can be shared, not just through health but, critically—a point made by my noble friend Lady Redfern—across social care and local authorities as well. Therefore, wherever you turn up in the health system, your record will be at hand. As of now, through the NHS app, you can find your summary healthcare record in digital form. However, the exemplar programme is about your entire care record, which is critical for the reasons that we have discussed. The goal, in time, is that everybody—not just healthcare and care professionals but individuals themselves—will have near real-time access to the information that they need, wherever it was captured, to help them make the best clinical decisions.
As well as digitising the information that we have, we also need to make sure that new forms of information are added to those data records. Here, I would like to highlight the potential of genomic medicine and genomic data. Our work in this area is a shining example of partnership between the public sector, the life sciences industry and the research community, working together to benefit NHS patients. Through the 100,000 Genomes Project and the new genomic medicine service, which launches in October, we will sequence genomes for patients with rare diseases and cancers so that they can receive more personalised treatments and benefit from improved outcomes and reduced adverse drug reactions.
Several noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and others, said that we need to make sure that we can harness data generated by patients through wearables and information about other aspects of their lives that may have a health impact, such as housing, as my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe pointed out. As the noble Lords, Lord Scriven and Lord St John, pointed out, that takes us to a very interesting, fundamental question about who owns the data. In my view, it is about co-ownership and having a joint record, which everybody contributes to but which is jointly owned. That reflects the collective nature of the National Health Service. However, the noble Lords are absolutely right that we have to settle that fundamental question.
We will clean up the data and then start adding more data to it. Then, we need to add the analytical capacity that will unlock its potential. This is where we get into the realm of artificial intelligence. AI can transform prevention and improve diagnosis and the treatment of disease. As the noble Lord, Lord St John, pointed out, it can improve cost-effectiveness. Its impact will be profound, as my noble friend Lady Rock said. As we have heard, it is already transforming diagnostic imaging, and, through investment made in our life sciences industrial strategy, we are investing in a network of digital pathology, imaging and AI centres of excellence across the United Kingdom. However, as my noble friend Lord Suri and the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson, pointed out, it is true that we lag behind other industries. We need to go faster. We are now coming to the thorny issue at the heart of this: we need to make sure that the benefits of applying AI to NHS data are fairly distributed.
It was a pleasure yesterday to be able to announce our initial code of conduct for data-driven technology, which sets out the principles of how these kinds of partnerships should work. They describe our expectations on data governance and commercial agreements, about which I will say more in a minute, and provide a basis to deepen the trust between patients, clinicians, researchers and innovators. Our goal is to create a safe and trusted environment in which to encourage innovation.
I would like to highlight quickly two things that will be critical to delivering that. First, digital innovation hubs will provide a safe, secure, legal opportunity for innovators from the public sector, academia and the private sector to access patient data to test algorithms and new products for research purposes in a way that delivers the very highest standards of probity. Secondly, as the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, pointed out, we need to talk about having the right regulation. I have asked the NHRA, which is an outstanding regulator, to look at how we can provide a framework to encourage the regulation of digital health technology from the point of view of safety and efficacy, as we do not yet have that.
On the topic of commerciality, we know that data in the NHS is a crucial national asset with huge value. Making it available for research will incentivise the life sciences sector to locate in the UK, which is something that we all want. The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, was unwarrantedly pessimistic about the potential of these public/private partnerships. They have existed for decades between the pharmaceutical sector and the NHS, which has offered data through clinical trials and other means. This, of course, is about taking it up another level. We need to make sure that these partnerships develop, but that they do so in a right and proper way and that the NHS gets a fair deal.
I absolutely accept what the noble Lord is saying, but the record so far of the NHS’s business acumen has not been great.
That is a point to which I will return. I recognise absolutely the concern voiced in this Chamber and in debates elsewhere about making sure that the NHS gets a fair deal.
We have heard from the noble Lords, Lord Mitchell and Lord Freyberg, about Sensyne Health. One of our own number, the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, founded this company, which has taken an interesting attitude while working with lots of university hospitals and trusts. It has both shared equity in the company with those trusts and given them royalties for algorithms built on the data that it holds. For me, this is a step change in how we conceive of data as being not just a service rendered but a form of capital invested. As we work to create more guidelines on the right kind of commercial strategy—and I reassure noble Lords that we will work on that over the autumn—these must recognise that people view data more like a form of capital, and therefore the commercial arrangements need to reflect that. Having said that, we also need to provide a degree of flexibility. The noble Lord, Lord Macpherson, explained the difficulty sometimes not just in valuing this data—we are engaging in that Treasury exercise—but in making sure that the right arrangements occur between the public sector, the private sector and academia.
If I may, I want to take issue with something that the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, said about the difference between “maximised” and “fairly”. We are slightly dancing on the head of a pin here, and I will explain why. Of course we want to maximise the benefits to the NHS, both directly through value sharing and, down the line, in the development of new technologies and treatments. Equally, as is the case with oil, if you ask for too high a price, people will not buy it and there is nothing to share. Therefore, when I talk about fair distribution, it is about making sure that we maximise the benefits and that the role of the NHS’s contribution in the creation of maximal benefits for health and wealth is recognised fairly.
I am interested in the noble Lord’s idea of a sovereign health fund. He and I have discussed that previously and I want to consider it more. However, it is a fair criticism that we need to improve the commercial acumen in the sector. Some ideas have been mentioned, including the creation of a technology transfer office or similar for the NHS, and we are certainly considering that.
I want to very quickly touch on the issue of skills, which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar. We have asked Dr Eric Topol to lead a review on changes in technology and new developments to make sure that we have the right skills in the NHS. He will publish his final report by the end of the year, and that will feed into the long-term funding plan that we are developing.
We know that the NHS has a huge asset in its hands. People have bequeathed a precious gift to it and we have to get the maximum benefit from it. At the same time, we need to bring people’s trust and provide reassurance at all times. As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said, it is a fine balance—a line that we need to tread. The Government are very conscious of that. Things are moving quickly; we need to move quickly as well. That is why this debate has been extremely useful both in raising the salience and highlighting some of the issues but also, as I said, in providing a ground for new ideas.
Many noble Lords asked whether we will have a strategy. They will know, have seen and it has been mentioned that we have a new Secretary of State. He is not just a technophile but I believe was actually a coder at some point in his life. I reassure noble Lords that not just embedding technology but realising the potential for value and making sure it is maximised and fairly distributed will form a core part of the long-term plan we are developing. I look forward enormously to working with all noble Lords in this House who have contributed to this debate and elsewhere to make sure that we are able to achieve that goal.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken today. It has been quite an excellent debate and I have learned much from it. I echo other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, on his excellent maiden speech. He emphasised serious points about the fears that individuals have about their data and how it is used—which I share—but also its benefits. I thank him for his fascinating contribution. I also thank the Minister for the way he has engaged with and embraced this subject. I know he shares a passion for shaping this area to derive maximum public benefit in a socially acceptable way. However, while I recognise that his code of conduct is welcome, in reality it is fine words with no delivery teeth. Without a competent central resource to support the trusts in commercial negotiations on data, they will be steam-rollered. I therefore look forward to engaging with him to prevent that.
As I listened to noble Lords, several themes emerged. If I were to highlight one it would be that making this data resource do what we hope it will do will be hard won. The records are fragmented and incomplete, considerable investment is required to make the data useful, the skills to do this well are scarce and the politics of medical data are challenging. My noble friend’s analogy of North Sea oil in the 1980s seems apt. I therefore call on all sides of this House to engage in this debate and create consensus on the core principles for such a policy.
Tenant Fees Bill
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Voyeurism (Offences) (No. 2) Bill
The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Question for Short Debate
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ensure that prisons and young offender institutions are safe and able to meet the rehabilitative needs of those imprisoned.
My Lords, “appalling” was the word used by the Prisons Minister about what was happening in Birmingham over the summer. It is a very interesting expression: it was in “an appalling state”. There had to be an enormous amount of effort moving prisoners around out of Group 4’s prison. We cannot deny that. The five prisons run by Group 4 have a relatively good record on rehabilitation. There are pluses and minuses. On average, if you are in a Group 4 prison, you will cost the state about 25% less than if you were in an ordinary prison and about 45% less than if you were in a public/private investment programme prison. If you look at Group 4 and what it has brought to the table, on average it has increased the quality, to some extent, at a cheaper price.
We must commend the Government and Group 4 and thank the Prison Service because, if it has done one thing, it has kept our boys and girls locked up. It is pretty good at that. You have 83,000 very clever, thoughtful people, who on average are very astute, and you have managed to keep most of them banged up. That is an enormous achievement and we should thank Her Majesty’s Government for it. The problem is, of course, that since 2010 we have lost more than £500 million of investment in prisons. This year, we have had a 26% increase in attacks by prisoners on staff and a 19% fall in staff numbers in this difficult area.
What do we do with our young men and young women, our children, who fall by the wayside and get involved in crime and wrongdoing? In a civilised society, you do not just bang them up. If it was just about banging people up, we would have the best record in western Europe. We have a lot of people banged up— more than anywhere else in western Europe. We should congratulate the Government because, if you were to ask a victim what they would like to happen to the person who mugged them at the ATM, some would say, “Execute them,” and some would say all sorts of things. If you said, “Look we can’t do anything, but we can bang them up”, that person would probably—I certainly would—say, “Bang them up, hurt them, take them out of their family, make them suffer for what they have done to me”. Let us be honest: an eye for an eye works in certain circumstances. But then you have an even bigger problem, because the person goes in bad and comes out worse.
When they come out, because the investment in their transformation has been niggardly, small and shrinking over the years, you have a rather difficult situation. They often end up homeless, lost and broken with their family. They often end up a drain on the rates and the taxpayer. What we save in keeping them in a cheap jail is immediately destroyed because we have to pick up the cost socially and in other areas. If you take somebody who comes out of prison with no future, no education, no social training and no way forward, then you can probably look on them appearing in the public record again and again over many years. And they might end up costing over £1 million.
So what can the Government do about it? There has been a doubling of the prison population since 1993. We must remember that our friends on the Labour Bench introduced 3,600 new offences in the course of their time in government, so one reason why there might be more prisoners is that there are more reasons to bang people up. But let us not get into a party-political squabble. Since 2006, we have halved the number of community sentences, but we know that community sentencing works pretty well, and we know that short sentences do not work well—they are almost an introduction to a university of crime. Yet, since 2006, we have cut the number of people and look for an answer beyond custodial sentencing. We cut the link and the possibility of restorative justice and getting somebody who has been a naughty boy or a naughty girl to participate in the community. We have done that and brought in more short sentences, even though we know that they are not working.
We can play around with the facts and figures and throw around percentages. We can do all those things, but I am not here to do that. I came into the House of Lords to dismantle poverty. That means looking at the causes of poverty. Where does poverty come from? What can we do about poverty? If we take the boys and girls who were banged up and magnetise them and then get a big map of the UK and we magnetise the various cities where most of the crime, poverty, indolence and social failure is and we threw them up in the air, they would come down in particular pockets. We would have a social crime map of the United Kingdom. What are we doing as a nation, as a Government, as a political system to question the predictability of failure if you come from Moss Side? I bet a pound to a penny that there will be more criminals from Moss Side than Knightsbridge, although there is a different kind of criminal in Knightsbridge, obviously—they will not hit you with a stick, but they might get their hands on your pension. But we will not go into that because I do not want to be geographically snobbish.
Why do we always worship at the altar of today, and tomorrow is going to be another day? It will look just like today but worse. We need a Government who are involved in the full process of stepping back and saying, “Where do the problems come from? Where do the social illnesses come from?”. I heard the end of the NHS debate. Is it not wonderful that we could form a new super-government department made up of the NHS that would have prisons and unemployment in with it? Because they all figure together. They all bounce off each other. When on average 70% or 80% of people who end up in prison have mental health problems, is it a question of crime, social preparation, parenting, the street that you live in, or having a mum and dad earning at most £6, £7 or £8 an hour, who are run ragged and cannot give you the kind of guidance and opportunity you need to move away from crime?
We need not just a few clever little tricks; we need to rethink crime. We need to rethink prisons as opportunities for transforming naughty boys like me, who may even end up in the House of Lords. Thank you.
My Lords, as ever we are much indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for speaking so powerfully about a critical issue in our society. The number of people in prison is disgraceful. It is an incredibly serious problem. The report over the summer on the situation at Birmingham was quite deplorable. The Chief Inspector of Prisons described a situation of widespread violence and bullying, pervasive drugs problems, squalid conditions, inadequate levels of staff control and prisoners so terrified for their personal safety that they resorted to self-isolation. I am pleased that he did not go down a sterile argument about prisons being in either private or public ownership. It is clear that HMP Oakwood is a magnificent example under G4S. I do not think that this is a question of public or private ownership—but it is an issue of culture in prisons and regaining control.
I will speak particularly about HM Inspectorate of Prisons, because it has a position of authority, power and integrity that is listened to by all. I pay tribute not only to Peter Clarke in his present role but to a particularly fine Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick. He did the job excellently. He showed a lifetime of commitment to the most disadvantaged in society, but also a cool head and a warm heart. He established the independence of HM Inspectorate of Prisons, which has been established for some time now.
As the noble Lord, Lord Bird, said, prisons operate in a wider context—the multiplicity of causation, the whole situation of health, mental health, homelessness and education. I read a paper only last week about rough sleepers. Those are all contributory elements, as we well understand, to how people end up in prison. But it cannot be an ideal place for them.
Two years ago was a dramatic period in which the Inspectorate of Prisons documented some of the most disturbing prison conditions we had ever seen—conditions that have no place in an advanced nation in the 21st century. I am hugely encouraged that the commitment of the Minister for Prisons, Rory Stewart, to implementing substantial improvement is there for all to see. As a new MP, I had been a candidate on the Isle of Wight where there were three major prisons and I knew a lot about the situation there. I had an adjournment debate in the middle of the night. The then Minister of Prisons tried to coerce me into not raising the debate because really nobody was very interested and it would not do my career very much good at all. There is now a very different situation and I welcome that, led often by Members of this House.
We understand that organised crime in prisons is connecting two interlinked components—staff corruption and the use of drugs in prison. I call on the police to work very closely with prison officers to try to tackle the violence, disorder and crime. It cannot be done from prison alone: it has to be done beyond the walls.
Of course, there are many prisons doing excellent work and there are many valiant prison officers who are really committed, in spite of the odds. But there is an extraordinarily serious issue concerning staff retention. We have had the announcement of 2,500 more prison officers, but in 2010 only 1.5% of operational staff had had less than one years’ experience. By 2018 this was 22%. The real, underlying issue is the extraordinary rotation. People join the Prison Service and then leave. In other professions, there are programmes: for example, to look at how nurses can stay and hold on to their vocation.
Rory Stewart’s announcement of £10 million of government investment in the prison system and 2,500 prison officers is important, but we know that we also need investment in scanners, security, estate management, governor training and support for prison officers. Fortunately, the number of those in youth offender institutions is, quite rightly, significantly down from 3,500 to 883—almost all boys. We need to focus on education, but here again, with the new secure schools, I urge that HM Inspectorate of Prisons should continue to have a crucial place in inspecting the schools, because it was the inspectorate, after all, that discovered some of the abuses in the secure training centres. If there is an ideal example of these institutions, it is hard to find.
Let me echo the call by the noble Lord, Lord Bird, to find time for more enlightened approaches. We speak about restorative justice time and again. Let me commend Gerry Johnstone and Iain Brennan at the criminology department of the University of Hull, who are doing a fascinating piece of work comparing restorative justice in seven European countries. They will produce work that we should see and value.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bird. I am convinced that the Minister takes this seriously. We must all wish him well in trying to ensure that our prisons set an example and do some good for the people incarcerated in them, instead of carrying on in their present deplorable state.
My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for the opportunity to debate this important issue. My interest stems from being asked in 2014 by the then Minister for Prisons to review the 87 self-inflicted deaths of young people in prison between April 2007 and the end of 2013. Every one of the young people who died and whose cases we examined was someone’s son or daughter, sister or brother, partner or even parent. Each of the deaths represented a failure by the state to protect the young people concerned. That failure is all the greater when you look at the investigations into those deaths because the same criticisms occur time and again. Lessons have not been learned and not enough has been done to bring about substantive change.
My review concluded that all young adults in custody are vulnerable. Some had chaotic lives and complex histories; others had been subjected to child abuse, exposed to violence or repeated bereavement; many had been in foster or residential care; and often their lives had been further compounded by mental health issues. In the 87 cases we examined, many of the young people’s problems and vulnerabilities, including mental health issues, had been evident from an early age. Why did so many of them end up in custody?
The cases keep coming. There have been 195 deaths in prison so far this year, of which 49 have already been designated as self-inflicted and another 66 are awaiting classification. That was in the first nine months of this year alone—that is a lot of deaths—and nine of those deaths were of young people aged under 24. It is worth emphasising something for those who believe in the myth of the prisoner’s holiday camp. Let us be clear: prisons and young offenders’ institutions are grim environments, bleak and demoralising to the spirit. The experience of living in a prison or YOI is not conducive to rehabilitation. What is more, when coupled with current impoverished staff regimes, this makes the experience particularly damaging to developing young adults.
Recent reports from the Chief Inspector of Prisons suggest that despite ministerial promises of more investment and better conditions, the current state of our prisons is getting worse. When I did my review, it was clear that young adults in prison were not sufficiently engaged in purposeful activity and their time was not spent in a constructive and valuable way. In many of the 87 cases examined, the vulnerable young adults were going through a period of particular distress that might have passed had they not spent so much of their time banged up in their cells with nothing to do other than stare at potential ligature attachment points. At the time of my report, the Prison Service centrally did not know how many functional safer cells, where ligature attachment points have been removed, existed. Does the Minister have that information now? If not, why not? Nor did the Prison Service know how many hours prisoners spend out of their cells on purposeful activity. Does the Minister have that information now? Again, if not, why not?
A central recommendation of my review was that a named individual should take responsibility for the individual prisoner and her or his journey through the prison—someone who would take personal responsibility for the health, education, social care, safety and rehabilitation needs of each individual prisoner. They would have a small enough caseload that they would know the individual prisoner and deliver the right package of services for their needs. Since my review, Ministers have talked about a 1:6 ratio. Could we have the figures? What is the current ratio of officers to prisons and do the officers concerned have the opportunity to develop a meaningful and sustained relationship with the prisoners whom they are supposed to be assisting towards rehabilitation?
The other central recommendation was that much more needs to be done to support young people long before they ever get into trouble. I repeat, these are young people whose problems had been evident from an early age, so why was nothing done before—long before—they ended up in custody? If we do not get this right, we will waste the billions of pounds referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Bird, and we will not secure lives or rehabilitate individuals. We will simply make the situation worse.
My Lords, let me add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for this debate. Prisons have four major purposes: retribution; incapacitation; deterrence, although over 60% of offenders reoffend within two years; and rehabilitation, on which we do not even meet the requirements of the Trade Descriptions Act.
The past two months have seen a series of reports from the Prisons Inspectorate that highlight truly dreadful conditions in a number of our major prisons. On 13 July, the inspectorate published a report into Wandsworth prison which stated that it was one of the country’s most overcrowded prisons, filled with many men with drug and mental health problems, many of whom were locked in their cells during the working day. On 20 August, we learned that the public sector was taking immediate direct control of Birmingham prison from G4S after the inspectorate had found the prison in an appalling state with high levels of violence, widespread bullying, squalid living conditions and poor control by staff. Then, on 4 September, the inspectorate published a report on High Down prison which found increasing levels of violence and a very low level of purposeful activity, with 47% of prisoners being locked in their cells during the working day.
These reports followed the publication on 11 July of the inspectorate’s annual report for 2017-18 in which the Chief Inspector said that his inspections during the year had documented some of the most disturbing jail conditions the inspectorate had ever seen, with violence, drugs, suicide, self-harm, squalor and poor access to education being prominent themes. Incidents of self-harm in prisons are at the highest level ever recorded. Serious assaults in prison are at the highest level ever. Assaults on staff have risen by 158% in the past four years. Sexual assaults in prisons have more than tripled since 2012. It is impossible to ignore the fact that the deterioration in conditions in so many prisons has followed a swingeing cut in the budget of HM Prison and Probation Service of nearly a quarter between 2011 and 2015. That led to a cut in the number of front-line staff of 25% between 2010 and 2017. I welcome the recent increase in spending and recruitment of prison officers, but the fact remains that our prisons are struggling to cope, with far too many prisoners with too few resources to provide them with safe, decent and rehabilitative regimes.
There are two main reasons why so many of our prisons are severely overcrowded. The first is that we use prison too much for minor offences. In 2017, nearly half of the 65,000 sentenced prisoners entering prison were given sentences of six months or less. Research shows that community sentences are more effective than prison in reducing reoffending, yet the number of community sentences has halved in the last decade. The second reason for overcrowding is that sentence lengths are getting longer. For indictable-only offences, the average sentence length is now 57 months, compared with 32 months a decade ago. The result is that we have 141 prisoners for every 100,000 people in our general population, compared with 78 in Germany. We are not twice as criminal as the German people, so why do we need to imprison twice as many people as they do?
I would be grateful if the Minister could answer a number of questions. What plans do the Government have to reduce the unnecessary use of prison? Will they consider legislation to introduce a statutory presumption against the imposition of short prison sentences? Will they consider legislation to require sentencing guidelines to take account of the capacity of the prison system? Will they consider removing prison as an option for low-level, non-violent crimes? Will they consider prohibiting courts from using prison, except for dangerous offenders, unless they have first tried an intensive community supervision sentence? Finally, will they legislate to convert the sentences of existing IPP prisoners into determinate sentences once they have served a period equivalent to double their tariff? If not, what other plans do the Government have to eliminate prison conditions that have no place in any civilised society, let alone a developed country in the 21st century?
My Lords, this is a popular debate taking place within a challenging timeframe and there is a noble Lord who wishes to speak in the gap. If the Minister is to have adequate time to respond to the many important points that are raised we need to keep well within the four-minute time limit.
My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bird, on securing this debate—it is clear that many of us here care about it—and on his masterly delivery of his introductory speech. I have never been to prison, but as a green campaigner I can obviously never rule it out. There are many issues here that I would like to pick up, but today I am going to talk about an initiative where, although I think the Government have potentially got the right idea, some adjustment could improve it enormously. It is a scheme that places probation officers inside the prison; it has proved a success and is now being rolled out across the country. Their clients get to attend meetings regularly and can plan their rehabilitation properly. I understand that such meetings outside prison can fail because the client may not attend. In addition, the probation service loses money if they do not attend, so they do not report meetings that do not take place and we do not know how many such meetings actually happen and how much rehabilitation can be offered.
There are the 2,500 extra prison officers being employed and their remit is going to include 45 minutes a week of one-on-one time with prisoners to establish a relationship. It is hoped that they can communicate problems and issues and identify any help that the prisoner might need. However, these prison officers are not trained in relationship building: it is simply not part of the prison officer culture. That is why there needs to be a connection between what the prison officers are doing and what the probation teams are aiming to do. To give prisoners a sense of there being a future—a way forward, as the noble Lord, Lord Bird, described it—there has to be the hope of a better life. There is a need to bring the two cultures closer together: the probation officers’ soft skills and the security-oriented approach of the prison officers.
Prisons are currently, as we have heard, overstretched and collapsing due to a perfect storm of austerity, induced early retirements and the emergence of the drug Spice. It is easy to see how security can take priority over relationship building and rehabilitation, but without these things prisons will be harder to control, ex-offenders will become offenders again and the prison population will continue to rise. I urge the Government to give training to the new prison officers so that they can become part of the solution and not part of the problem.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for bringing this important debate today. It is encouraging to see some new energy in the Ministry of Justice, and some recent government announcements have been very encouraging, not least the female offender strategy. However, as has been said, it is important to acknowledge that so often prison will not be able to meet the rehabilitative needs of the people who are sent there. Many women are often in prison for only a few weeks and very often this exacerbates other issues, not least that of children separated from mothers, while also not enabling any meaningful work or rehabilitation to be engaged with. Alternative provision for vulnerable people must be available, well funded and trusted by those making sentencing decisions. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Vere of Norbiton, will be able to assure me that the Government will make a long-term commitment to funding community-based solutions, both for vulnerable people at risk of offending and for individuals who would be better served by community-based sentences.
I turn to the issue of those serving prison sentences. Safety and rehabilitation do not operate independently; they are mutually reinforcing. Problems with security and drugs are fuelled and exacerbated by boredom and frustration. Purposeful activity and meaningful work are not just essential to the broader goal of rehabilitation, they are necessary for the safe and effective operation of a prison. The Government’s recent announcements on security and training for staff are encouraging, but I fear that they have overlooked a key element, and that is hope. Meaningful activity is important—indeed, essential—because it provides hope: hope that today will bring something more engaging than the sight of a cell door; hope that this week may contain something more interesting, the possibility of building something good for the future; hope that, over the arc of a sentence, there will be an opportunity for key issues to be addressed; a meaningful path away from offending.
I am delighted that women’s prisons have now adopted a trauma-informed approach. At HMP Eastwood Park, in my diocese, prison officer numbers are being boosted, under the offender management in custody initiative, in order to implement key workers, which will allow more work directly with women. What cause do prisoners have for hope? Can the noble Baroness assure me that resources for appropriate rehabilitative engagement and meaningful work will be a cornerstone of the Government’s plans? Though it is coming from a bishop’s mouth, hope here is not an intangible concept or even a faith-based one: it is a very practical, on-the-ground concern about how prisoners approach and experience their sentences. It is a concern about rampant drug use and self-harm. Hope gives the motivation to be constructive rather than destructive. The Secretary of State has promised a new vision for prisons, which I hope will give each person in custody hope and a vision for their sentence.
My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bird, on securing this important debate as concern is rising about the state of our overcrowded prisons, especially the growing violence fuelled by drug use. The independent review of sport in youth and adult prisons by Professor Rosie Meek of Royal Holloway College examines the current provision of sport in justice, with a particular focus on health, reoffending and youth custody. Her excellent review, published last month, has met with a positive response from the Government, and I wish to highlight some of her important findings that could affect safety and rehabilitation.
Meek argues that sport, and the relationships that sport can foster, can motivate young men with complex offending histories—some with especially challenging and disruptive behaviour—to change their attitudes, behaviour and lifestyle. It can improve mental and physical health, reduce violence and tackle reoffending. We know that effective rehabilitation is key to tackling reoffending, and more creative thinking is necessary if we are to overcome the revolving door whereby 29% of adults and 42% of children reoffend within one year of release. Professor Meek found that the use of sport across prisons and youth custody is inconsistent and underdeveloped, although good practice does exist, which proves that it can be achieved. All prisons should devise an integrated physical activity and well-being strategy, which requires a partnership between gym departments and healthcare, education and wing custody staff, underpinned by an establishment-wide commitment to improving mental and physical well-being.
However, as with staffing levels for prison officers, there is concern about the number of physical education instructors, which dropped from 743 in 2013 to 647 in 2017. I welcome the Government’s intention to increase the number of PEIs across all YCS establishments, but it must be urgently implemented. Effective rehabilitation cannot be achieved if prisoners are kept in their cells for most of the day without productive and worthwhile activity. Last year, more than one-third of young adult prisoners aged 18 to 21 reported being locked in their cells for at least 22 hours a day. To effect real change, Meek recommends that prisons should offer nutritional advice as part of their physical activity and well-being provision and promote a readily available range of healthy eating options. Diet and nutrition have a direct impact on behaviour and mood and could help cut the chaotic and violent atmosphere in these institutions.
One recommendation that, sadly, the Government have rejected, is to reconsider the national martial arts boxing policy and pilot targeted programmes that draw on boxing exercise qualifications and associated activities. Professor Meek has shown that where these boxing-related programmes are offered, they are highly valued, both as a behaviour management tool and as a vehicle to facilitate education, discipline and communication. There should be more creative, targeted interventions to help harness people’s passions and interests and to encourage hope and greater self-esteem, in order to equip them for life outside.
The report also calls for the development of a physical activity strategy for women and girls in prison, to meet their unique and particularly complex needs, which takes into account the high levels of trauma that often they have experienced before entering custody. Greater use of release on temporary licence could mean that more offenders benefited from work and training placement opportunities in the community.
We have a chance to improve the lives of those in prison by encouraging effective rehabilitation in a safe environment. That will cut reoffending and ultimately the numbers of victims of crime, thereby saving public money.
My Lords, I add my thanks to my noble friend for introducing this important debate. I will focus on the needs of people with learning disabilities, who make up a surprisingly high number of prisoners, given the low prevalence of learning disability in the population at large. I declare an interest as the founder and chair of Beyond Words, a charitable social enterprise, and as president of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists.
Prison is a confusing and frightening place for people who may not understand how the system works. Not being able to read contributes to such feelings and fears. There are many reasons for low verbal literacy, including dyslexia, adverse childhood experiences and more complex developmental disabilities. But people who struggle with words may have good visual literacy skills and will look for visual clues to help them make sense of their environment. Reading prison information, filling in forms, remembering and following instructions and rules can be impossible. Staff in prison may use unfamiliar words or words that mean something different from their usual meaning outside prison. It is not easy to ask for help, and people with literacy difficulties often try to hide this for fear of being ridiculed or bullied. We do not know for sure how many people in prison have a learning disability, and they are not easy to identify. One estimate is that up to one in 10 adults in prison has a learning disability. And they have very high reoffending rates—one estimate is 40%.
Prison staff should notice if a prisoner needs extra help. Someone may be very quiet or get picked on or bullied by other prisoners. They might not look after themselves properly. Not getting the help that they need may mean that they are often in trouble. Prisons have duties under the Equality Act to make sure that people with protected characteristics are treated fairly by making reasonable adjustments to the way services work. The adjustments needed will vary from person to person. This means that every department in the prison must adapt what it does.
I suggest that there are a number of low-tech ways in which prisons could make use of a person’s visual literacy to build their understanding, empathy and co-operation with prison life and rehabilitation programmes, and to help them keep safer. In the reception area, presenting information in pictures to explain the strip-search procedure might help to reduce anxiety. In the education department, a choice of picture books to read—comics, graphic novels and wordless books such as those created by Books Beyond Words—would provoke less anxiety than offering just written materials. Such books could also be offered digitally through the Virtual Campus, and used therapeutically.
Some more able prisoners volunteer, in schemes such as Toe By Toe, to teach people to read. Such volunteers could also introduce wordless books, including ones that address aspects of both prison and community life. Picture books about how to get and keep a job could be useful to probation officers and to occupational therapists— who are increasingly playing a role in prisons—working with individuals on specific rehabilitation goals.
I am grateful to officials from the Ministry of Justice who met me recently to discuss some of these ideas. I ask the Minister: do the Government have any plans to improve the rehabilitation outcomes of this particularly vulnerable group within young offender institutions and prisons?
My Lords, I am grateful to be allowed to speak for a minute in the gap. Muslims are thought to represent between 4% and 5% of the UK population. In prisons, sadly, that proportion is between 14% and 15%, which is very alarming. The Muslim community—the parents, wives and children of offenders—are crying out for help to get their family members out of this vicious circle, as many of these prisoners are reoffenders.
I ask the Minister: what will the Government do to help those families reduce the number of people getting into prison in the first place and, even more importantly, to reduce the rate of reoffending in that community and bring the numbers down to something approaching the proportion of Muslims in the population, rather than being three or four times higher.
My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for introducing this debate, which has demonstrated near unanimity on what the problems are with our penal system and on the outcomes that we need to achieve. Yet the ever-worsening crisis—to describe it in this way is more understatement than exaggeration—is not being addressed in practical terms. In prisons we have unacceptable and increasing levels of violence, assaults by prisoners on other prisoners, violence between prisoners and staff, homicides, suicides and self-harm. This was the central point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bird, and it was emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, with all his experience.
Overcrowding—cell and prison capacities being exceeded, or, which is just as bad, being massaged upwards—continues to rise. Understaffing, as my noble friend Lord Dholakia said, leads to prisoners being locked in their cells for completely unacceptable periods of time—the noble Baroness, Lady Healy, made the same point. Purposeful activities—work, education and training—suffer, often because there are insufficient staff to organise movement around prisons, leading to lack of employability and more reoffending.
The facilities for addressing mental health issues and drug addiction are still poor. Insufficient attention is paid, still, to issues that particularly affect women, including those with children. Peter Clarke summarised it, in words that have been quoted in this debate, at the beginning of his third annual report:
“The year 2017-18 was a dramatic period in which HM Inspectorate of Prisons documented some of the most disturbing prison conditions we have ever seen—conditions which have no place in an advanced nation in the 21st century”.
I agree with the emphasis that the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, put on the importance of our inspectorates.
However, we are not tackling overcrowding. Prisons Minister Rory Stewart must move from expressed desire to genuine determination to cut the number of short sentences and to combat sentence inflation—something considered in July by the Justice Committee—even in the face of sections of the media and public opinion. We must release IPP prisoners kept in custody well beyond their tariff dates. We need to look at greater use of early release and home detention curfews.
Young offender institutions suffer from all the problems of adult prisons, compounded by a shortage of educational and training opportunities, as highlighted in Charlie Taylor’s review. Children with little schooling, often those who have been in care, suffer worst. Charlie Taylor’s review put education first. He summarised it as treating young offenders,
“as children first and offenders second”,
in a system,
“in which they are held to account for their offending, but with an understanding that the most effective way to achieve change will often be by improving their education, their health, their welfare, and by helping them to draw on their own strengths and resources”.
These were all points well made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins. Will the Minister report on progress in implementing Charlie Taylor’s recommendations?
In the probation service, there is complete demoralisation at the failure of the community rehabilitation companies—the CRC. While the remaining National Probation Service, though underresourced, performs its function moderately well, the CRCs are failing miserably. Underresourcing, redundancies, inadequate contract management and unhappy staff have led to a failure to deliver on the Government’s transforming rehabilitation programme. Through-the-gate supervision of prisoners on release has almost entirely failed. As Dame Glenys Stacey put it:
“In those cases we inspected, only a handful of individuals had received any real help with housing, jobs or an addiction, let alone training or else getting back into education, or managing debt”.
“CRCs are too often doing little more than signposting and form filling”.
We have failed to increase the involvement of the voluntary sector and what we must now do, I suggest, is to increase co-ordination between the prison and probation services, but not by renationalising all CRCs. It is outcomes that count, not ownership. Prison services, the youth justice system, all the probation services and the voluntary sector must work far more closely together, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, argued. All noble Lords have concentrated on rehabilitation, with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester expressing that in terms of hope. Rehabilitation saves money, as the noble Lord, Lord Bird, said, but much more importantly it turns around lives.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bird, on successfully securing this debate. It is both timely and important. As his Question implies, one of the key purposes of prison is rehabilitation. Virtually all prisoners are released one day, so one key job for our criminal justice system must be to do its best to ensure that they do not reoffend. As part of that process, while prisoners are in the care of the justice system they should be safe—not just because that is right but because a dangerous and hostile environment increases reoffending. We would not be discussing this now if the system were working well. It is not.
Thousands of prison officers have been axed since 2010 and the recent turnaround and promised increase is too little too late, while we lose the institutional knowledge and experience of those staff who have left. The staffing shortage has driven the crisis in our prisons, exacerbating levels of violence, undermining officers’ ability to deal with a surge in drugs and affecting levels of prisoner care. Prisoners are spending more time in their cells and less time on useful activities that aid rehabilitation and reduce reoffending rates. It is widely acknowledged that the record levels of violence and self- harm in our prisons are largely a consequence of the significant cuts to prison staffing levels in recent years.
Overcrowding in prisons undermines rehabilitation. Prisoners are held in degrading conditions and often moved far away from families, jobs and other support networks, which are essential to effective rehabilitation. The Government previously announced a £1.3 billion plan to build 10,000 new prison places. Despite repeated questions from Labour, the Government have failed to explain how these places will be funded. Sixty-five per cent of prisons and young offender institutions have learning, skills and work activities that are deemed not good enough by Ofsted. Were this the school system, there would be a national outcry.
Our prison system is suffering an epidemic of mental health problems, with self-harm and suicide at record levels. The figure of 300 deaths in prison custody in the 12 months to September 2017 was up more than 50% since 2010. The Royal College of Psychiatrists says this is in part due to,
“failures in reaching prisoners who need general medical and specialist healthcare”.
Those 300 deaths in custody should be a matter of shame for us all. We have a duty of care to these people; they are human beings and citizens. They may be offenders but, at the end of the day, we have that duty of care. If they were workers, they would fall under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974; society would have a duty to reduce the risk to as low as is reasonably practical. We clearly fail that. Something must change, and soon. We must rid this shame from our society.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bird, on securing this debate and I greatly appreciate all contributions made by noble Lords. My officials have been very busy in scribbling answers. I have not a hope of getting through them all but I will make sure that all questions asked today are answered in writing.
Turning first to safety across the adult estate, particularly in male prisons, our first duty is to keep our staff and the people in our custody safe. To do this, we need to provide full and supportive regimes in a calm and civil environment. I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester that perhaps there might even be a culture of hope. At the heart of this is the relationship between staff and prisoners. Prison officers must have the time and skills to support and incentivise the right behaviour, and to challenge and disincentivise poor behaviour. The second key factor is the availability of drugs, including new psychoactive substances, in our prisons.
On staffing, we have invested £100 million and we had hoped to recruit 2,500 new prison staff. We have not done so; we have recruited an additional 3,650 prison staff. Another 2,096 have job offers or are booked in for training. Furthermore, we are working hard on retaining and recognising our more experienced staff by making better use of financial incentives, including an above-average pay increase of 2.75%, improving opportunities for promotion and reviewing and strengthening learning and development opportunities for governors and, indeed, all officer grades. Having the right number of staff with the right skills and experience allows prisons to run full, high-quality regimes. It also means that we can more quickly roll out the offender management in custody scheme. OMiC provides each prisoner with a key worker model: a trained prison officer who meets with the prisoner one-to-one to discuss their opportunities for meaningful activity and any challenges they may be facing.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Harris, that all prisoners are somehow vulnerable. It is my belief that the OMiC system will help to identify those vulnerabilities and give those prisoners the support they need. They will have a named individual and the meetings will be regular. I would disagree with the comment made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, that prison officers do not have soft skills. They really do; furthermore, they are trained in those areas. There are 116 prisons in the country. OMiC has been fully rolled out in 10 of them and is under way at a further 50, so we are over halfway. Early and anecdotal feedback from prisons that have rolled this out completely, such as HMP Liverpool, is extremely positive, from both the staff and the prisoners.
However, safety is also impacted by the availability of drugs. We must spare no effort in rooting out this scourge because it impacts behaviour in our prisons. We have to tackle the use of drones and are investing in physical security countermeasures, such as netting, to frustrate their progress. We have to stop drugs being brought in on the bodies of visitors and are investing in high-tech body scanners. We have to find the drugs already in prisons and we have 300 specially trained sniffer dogs. We have to monitor ongoing drug use so we have introduced mandatory random drugs tests, including testing for psychoactive drugs. This is the first time that has happened in any country in the world. To smash the organised crime networks responsible for so much of the supply, as mentioned by my noble friend Lady Bottomley, we have specialised intelligence and disruption teams, which work very closely with law enforcement, and mobile phone blocking technology to prevent communications from inside the prison and those from the outside. Related to this, our corruption prevention units work very hard with local law enforcement to root out corruption among prison staff.
Over the summer our Prisons Minister, Rory Stewart, announced a number of initiatives. This was mentioned by many noble Lords. These included a flagship programme targeted at our 10 worst prisons. We are using these 10 prisons as a pilot group and investing £10 million to fight the scourge of drugs in them. They will serve as models of excellence, which we will roll out across the rest of the estate.
On rehabilitation, it is critical that we have full and supportive prison regimes in a calm and civil environment if rehabilitation is to be successful at all. We want prisoners, while in custody, to be able to learn and gain experience that will lead to them securing a job on the outside. No prisoner should be left behind. We should make sure that we do not leave behind even prisoners with learning difficulties, who perhaps cannot read, write or do basic maths when they get to prison. We must make sure that they are included in the learning and employment activities that we are now able to offer. We want them to have access to health providers, including drug rehabilitation services so that they can lead healthy, drug-free lives. We want them to maintain their relationships with their families and friends. We want them to get settled in accommodation and play a full and positive role in the community.
In the area of learning and gaining experience, in May we launched the education and employment strategy. It creates a system in which each prisoner is set on a path to employment. This is not a top-down, “every prison needs to do exactly the same thing” programme; we are empowering the governors and giving them responsibility for creating their own education and employment strategies locally. It will not work unless governors can engage with local employers and ensure that people have the skills for their local communities. So when people say, “Oh, there’s no strategy for the prisons”, in fact there are—the governors will make the strategy for their prison because that is right and they will have control of the budget.
On living a healthy and drug-free life, many noble Lords will know that the National Partnership Agreement for Prison Healthcare in England has recently been updated and is much more cohesive now. Health services in prisons and outside in the community work much more in co-operation. We recognise that suicide and self-harm remains a major challenge, as noted by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. Prison staff are receiving revised and improved suicide and self-harm prevention training. This is under way and has been completed by 17,000 staff to date. It is also important to note that we have acted on the vast majority of recommendations from the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman’s investigations of deaths in custody. Any death in custody is a tragedy, even more so if we do not learn from it.
On transitioning from prisons, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Marks, the community rehabilitation companies have had mixed results. We are taking that bull by the horns and looking at the future and the way we work with them on their contracts. I am fairly sure that there will be more on that in due course, as we finalise exactly what we will be doing in future.
I turn briefly to young offender institutions. Many noble Lords have noted that the number of children and young people in those institutions has fallen dramatically. That is commendable but improvements still need to be made. We have the youth justice reform programme, which was launched in January last year. Again, we know that since then Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons has highlighted improvements in all the under-18 sites that it has inspected. We are also recruiting 120 extra staff into these institutions, including sports instructors, as noted by the noble Baroness, Lady Healy.
I am afraid I do not have time to go into great depth on the issue of women now but I will do so in my letter. The Female Offender Strategy was published in June and I will be able to provide much more information on that.
There is much more that I should like, and indeed need, to say, so I will set it out in writing. This is my third debate on prisons. The first was probably four and a half hours long. I never tire of this debate as it is an important subject. I am proud of the work that the Government are doing, and I hope noble Lords will have heard that we have lots of plans in place. We now need time for these plans to bed in, and I am confident of improvements. Once again, my heartfelt thanks to all contributors and, most of all, to the noble Lord, Lord Bird.
Northern Ireland Executive: Update
My Lords, with the leave of the House I would like to repeat a Statement delivered by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the other place. The Statement is as follows:
“Northern Ireland needs devolved government. It needs all the functioning political institutions of the Belfast agreement and its successors. As significant decisions are taken at this critical time, Northern Ireland’s voice must be heard. With new powers coming back from Brussels and flowing to Stormont, Northern Ireland needs an Executive in place to use those powers to meet the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. As relationships evolve, a functioning North/South Ministerial Council is vital to ensure that Northern Ireland makes the most of its unique position within the UK and in relation to Ireland.
Other critical strategic decisions also need to be taken for Northern Ireland—on, for example, investment, reform of public services and future budgets. Critical cross-cutting programmes such as addressing social deprivation and tackling paramilitarism are stalling, following 19 months without devolved government. As this impasse continues, public services and businesses are suffering. The people of Northern Ireland are suffering. Local decision-making is urgently needed to address this.
The only sustainable way forward lies in stable, fully functioning and inclusive devolved government. So, with determination and realism, we must set a clear goal of restoring a devolved power-sharing Executive and Assembly. In the absence of an Executive, I have kept under review my duty to set a date for a fresh election. I have not believed, and do not now believe, that holding an election during this time of significant change and political uncertainty would be helpful or increase the prospects of restoring the Executive, but I am aware of the current legislative position.
In order to ensure certainty and clarity on this issue, I therefore intend to introduce primary legislation in October to provide for a limited and prescribed period in which there will be no legal requirement to set a date for a further election. Importantly, during that period an Executive may be formed at any point without the requirement for further legislation. This will provide a further opportunity to re-establish political dialogue, with the aim of restoring the Executive as soon as possible.
While Assembly Members continue to perform valuable constituency functions, it is clear that during any such interim period they will not be performing the full range of their legislative functions. So, in parallel, I will take the steps necessary to reduce Assembly Members’ salaries in line with the recommendations made by Trevor Reaney. The reduction will take effect in two stages, commencing in November. It would not reduce the allowance for staff as I do not think that MLAs’ staff should suffer because of the politicians’ failure to form an Executive. I commend the key role that the Northern Ireland Civil Service has played, during the period in which there has been no Executive, in ensuring the continuity of public services in Northern Ireland.
Following the recent decision of the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal in the Buick case, I recognise that there is a need to provide reassurance and clarity to both the Northern Ireland Civil Service and the people of Northern Ireland on the mechanisms for the continued delivery of public services. So the legislation I intend to introduce after the conference recess will also include provisions to give greater clarity and certainty to enable Northern Ireland’s departments to continue to take decisions in Northern Ireland in the public interest and to ensure the continued delivery of public services. I intend to consult parties in Northern Ireland over how that might best be done.
I will also bring forward legislation that will enable key public appointments to be made in Northern Ireland, as I set out in my Written Statement on 18 July. At the same time, I am conscious that this is no substitute for the return of elected Ministers taking decisions in the Executive and being accountable to the Assembly. I therefore also intend to use the next few weeks to engage in further discussions with the parties and the Irish Government, in accordance with the three-stranded approach, with the intention of establishing a basis for moving into more formal political dialogue that leads to a restoration of the institutions. These discussions will also seek views from the parties on when and how external facilitation could play a constructive role in the next round of talks.
No agreement can ever be imposed from outside Northern Ireland. It must be reached by those closest to the issues, those who have been elected to represent the people of Northern Ireland. I believe that the people of Northern Ireland want to see a restoration of their political institutions, and that is what the Government are committed to achieving. This Statement represents a clear way forward and a plan for Northern Ireland, and I commend it to the House”.
My Lords, obviously we welcome the Statement by the Minister indicating that there is going to be a fresh attempt to restore devolution in Northern Ireland. I remind the House that those in Northern Ireland who resist being part of a devolved Executive and Assembly go against the fundamental principles of the Good Friday agreement. The people of Northern Ireland voted in favour of the establishment of these institutions, as indeed did the people of the Republic, so it is very important that they are set up, as well as for many other reasons.
I accept the point the Minister made about the salaries of MLAs. It is not easy to do because we want to ensure that there is a class of politicians in Northern Ireland that can continue governing when devolution returns. He is responding to the mood of the House and of the people of Northern Ireland. I agree too that elections at this stage would be pointless because presumably, they would not change the electoral arithmetic an awful lot. What is needed is an impetus to ensure that the parties in Northern Ireland want to set up the institutions.
A day or two ago I mentioned some of the ideas that the Minister could take up. One is that the talks—which should be intensive, formal, with a timetable and a deadline and which might even go somewhere outside Northern Ireland—ought to involve all the parties, not just two. Of course, the DUP and Sinn Féin are the most important because of the electoral arithmetic but other parties should be properly involved in these talks.
The Minister said that external facilitation means somebody coming in from outside and chairing the talks, like George Mitchell or Richard Haass—at least, I think that was what he said. This is very important because it gives people confidence and it is a fresh approach. The two Prime Ministers also ought to be involved in intensive negotiations at a certain stage, using the gravity of their offices to ensure that there is an arrangement for bringing back the institutions.
Without the institutions, this will drift into direct rule. A descent into direct rule is in nobody’s interests, least of all the people of Northern Ireland. I wish the Government well in their endeavours. The Opposition will do anything they can to assist them.
My Lords, I too thank the Minister for repeating the Statement in this House this afternoon. As he knows, we have pressed him on many occasions to see more action from the Government as a matter of urgency to restore the talks process. With this in mind, will he and the Secretary of State formally thank Naomi Long, the leader of the Alliance Party, for bringing together the five main parties for informal talks on Monday? This is the first time that all the parties have engaged in round table talks in the last six months. Naomi Long should be congratulated on this initiative.
As the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, said, the Statement makes reference to,
“when and how external facilitation could play a constructive role in the next round of talks”.
Given the length of time that Northern Ireland has been without a Government, it is clear that the political parties would benefit from outside thinking and a fresh approach. So, can the Minister say when the Government plan to appoint a mediator to manage a fresh talks process? Have the Government given any consideration to other creative solutions to get the talks going again, such as legislating here on issues such as the Irish language and equal marriage? This would relieve some of the pressure on the parties and allow a different starting point for the talks.
Will the Government also consider reconstituting the Assembly department scrutiny committees in parallel to a talks process? Assembly committees could undertake the functions of scrutinising budgets and providing political advice and guidance on key policy decisions such as Brexit. In this critical phase of the Brexit negotiations, does the Minister agree that it is essential to introduce some kind of formalised mechanisms to consult and take into consideration the views of all political parties in Northern Ireland—not just those of the DUP?
We are pleased to see that the Government intend to legislate to allow public appointments to be made. The clearest need is for the Policing Board to be re-established, but there are other bodies for which appointments are needed to enable vital work to continue. We also welcome the Government’s decision to take forward Trevor Reaney’s proposals on MLAs’ salaries. We are particularly pleased to see that staff will not be included in this. We do not believe that the current stalemate is in any way the fault of the hard-working constituency and Assembly staff. We are also pleased that there will be further clarity for civil servants in the future.
We on these Benches continue to believe that the best solution for Northern Ireland is devolved government and a well-functioning devolved Assembly. We sincerely hope that there will be significant progress in the very near future.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for their contributions. They were both very positive and constructive, recognising the difficulty and dilemma we face at this moment.
The key now is a fresh start—a new impetus. It is an opportunity, but also a reminder. It is probably the last opportunity by which we can comfortably secure a functioning Executive and a restored Assembly. If we are not able to take advantage of this moment in time then, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, we will descend into direct rule. We do not wish to go there.
Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness were correct to identify the notion of an external facilitator. As I have said on previous occasions in this House, nothing can be off the table. We welcome thoughts from anyone as to who may participate in this approach. I offer formal thanks to Naomi Long for bringing together, for the first time in quite some time, all the parties in Northern Ireland. It is essential that all voices and all political representation are part of the sustainable solution to restoring an Assembly and a functioning Executive.
We are committed to ensuring that the appointments to the public bodies are taken forward in a sensible and sensitive way. It is not just the police authorities. There are others, all of which require these voices to be put forward.
As the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, said, we need a clear, intensive and structured approach with deadlines. If it needs to be something other than a particular tried and tested forum, then we should explore this as well. Nothing can be off the table but, importantly, this is the moment at which we must do all we can to restore the Executive. Once this window closes, we descend into a far more chilling and darker time which would be bad for all those who care about Northern Ireland.
My Lords, if nothing is off the table—and we all agree with that—can I repeat something that I said to my noble friend yesterday? Forming the Executive is of paramount importance, but the Assembly exists. Its constituent bodies can exist. Can it not be called together? Can I add a suggestion? When it meets, even if it has to be in a different room from the Assembly Chamber, cannot the Prime Minister be there to speak to all the members of the Executive. If she wishes, she can be accompanied by the Taoiseach. She should say that devolution, which was so long fought for, was a remarkable achievement, signalled by the Good Friday agreement. We would be failing future generations if we did not use every ounce of vision and imagination to ensure that it survived.
The noble Lord raises important points. It is important that the MLAs themselves seek to exert as much pressure as possible on all the participants to secure the return to a functioning Assembly and an Executive drawn from it. This must be the primary objective, but I will not lose sight of the other point raised again. The experience contained in the Assembly cannot be lost. This is why any ongoing dialogue must draw upon this knowledge to construct a better way forward.
My right honourable friend the Prime Minister and, I do not doubt, the Prime Minister of Ireland, are committed to bringing about the restoration of a functioning and sustainable Assembly in Northern Ireland. The Prime Ministers continue to give that commitment and will meet parties in the near future to bring about and facilitate the necessary dialogue.
My Lords, I very much welcome at least part of the Statement, and I welcome the positive approach of previous speakers. Coming from my situation, based on experience over the years of the ordinary people of Northern Ireland, I think that there is one other element to this situation which we ignore at our peril. Many people in Northern Ireland have lost total confidence in the body politic. They see the frustration of what is happening. They see the failure to address urgent domestic issues. Above all, they see an atmosphere, transmitted in their terms, where those elected do not represent what they feel. That frustration at ground level is one of the most dangerous elements of the situation that the Minister has tried to address in his Statement.
When we come to suggestions of how we could approach differently the way forward, there are many elements in Northern Ireland which are not strictly party political. There has been tremendous progress among the Churches. There has been great progress based on the trade union movement. There have been local efforts in many situations to bring people across the traditional divide. If Her Majesty’s Government are looking for a new way, apart from an external influence being brought to bear, should not all those positive signs in Northern Ireland be brought to bear to show the frustration that people have with the parties that are, at the moment, their elected representatives? What is happening is a general sense of frustration, particularly among young people—a new generation—and we ignore it at a cost.
We cannot ignore the frustration that must be felt by all those in Northern Ireland whose concerns are for the everyday well-being of the people of Northern Ireland, whether it be for a better education service or improvements in public health, whether it be those in rural communities who want farming to be supported or the fishing industry assisted. Each of these is an integral part of the well-being of the nation. Without them, when politicians become so divorced that they believe that their issues, their politics, matter more than the day-to-day well-being of the individuals who live and die, work and play in the Province—when those politicians place those issues before all others—we indeed reach that point of darkness.
In order for us to see some light, the noble and right reverend Lord is correct: we must draw not just on the political parties but, rather, all those in civic society who have something to say, whether that be the trade unions or the Churches, because each represents in a different fashion the people of Northern Ireland. They often represent them without the partisan components which others may have drawn on and sometimes exploited.
We need now to think afresh, and those voices must be drawn into the chorus calling for change now, to get back to a time when in Northern Ireland we are focused on the things that matter to the people of Northern Ireland. It must be the elected representatives there who deliver that. I should like to think that in any future election, those who have failed to hear those voices will be held to account—that is how elections should work—but we are not at that stage yet. We have for a moment a window during which we must put every resource we can into bringing about the restoration of a sustainable Executive, drawing on the wealth of knowledge in an Assembly democratically elected. All voices must be part of that just now, because it is fair to say that political voices alone have not been adequate.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that for those such as my noble friend Lord Murphy, who negotiated the detail of the Good Friday agreement, and me, involved in negotiating the establishment of self-governance in 2007, which operated as successfully as could have been expected for 10 years, it is especially painful and frustrating to see all that progress blown away? I put it to your Lordships’ House that there is a lack of understanding of how dangerous and serious this impasse is. Does the Minister agree that we effectively have direct rule by proxy? That is the reality as a result of his Statement. I fear an endless drift into avoiding tough decisions, such as resolving the serious health crisis in Northern Ireland and dealing with the problem of victims.
I express one note of dissent to the general consensus: I do not think that cutting MLAs’ salaries by the amount suggested will have much effect. Will the Minister look at withdrawing public funding for the political parties in Stormont, which is millions of pounds and would really bite? I would also give their staff three months’ notice, according to employment law, so that people realise that this is for real. If not, especially with no elections in sight, they have jobs for life to carry on as they wish without any real sense of a deadline.
The noble Lord puts it on the line. The reality is that there must be consequences for those who fail to deliver a restored Executive. There cannot be jobs for life; it cannot be business as usual; it cannot be continuity with what we have experienced so far. I appreciate the point which he raises: those who are in the room or not in the room seem not to be committed to the outcome which the people themselves are crying out for and, whenever asked, have endorsed. I take on board the points made and will reflect on them, but stress again the key aspect that we have but a short time to deliver this outcome, and those who fail in that will be remembered.
My Lords, the subtext of the Statement is that the Government are hunkering down for a prolonged period of no government. The Secretary of State is jumping before she is pushed by the courts over the elections, because a judicial review is already pending and I do not think she could have defended herself had action not been taken.
Given that it is highly unlikely that there will be any immediate restoration of devolution, I drew to the House’s attention on Tuesday the plight of our National Health Service in Northern Ireland. As the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, pointed out, this should be a completely non-political and humanitarian situation. I ask the Minister to consult his right honourable friend in the other place to see whether they can arrange, in consultation with the other parties—the Opposition, the Liberal Democrats and others—all-party support for restoring those powers temporarily to here, so that we can do something about the hundreds of thousands of people on waiting lists and the 89,000 people who are waiting for more than 12 months for their first consultant-led appointment. We are talking about quality of life and ultimately, I believe, about life and death. Surely we can do something. This is not a political issue; it is a humanitarian issue. I appeal to the Minister to consult his right honourable friend to see whether that could be incorporated in the legislation coming after the Conference Recess.
The noble Lord is right to raise one of the issues that affects all people in these islands, which is the need for a good healthcare service—which should be, one would hope, one of the principal focuses of any Government. The fact that we are living through a time in which, in Northern Ireland, other issues have crowded out that aspect is a chilling reminder of how far some have gone from what I suspect the individuals who live in Northern Ireland would wish to see happen. I will speak with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on these matters. Money was made available through the previous Budget settlement to try to address some of the acute issues—but, without a fully functioning Executive, it becomes difficult to target it.
The guidance which we anticipate being offered through this legislation should give greater support to the Civil Service to act in these areas, but the very fact that I am saying this confirms the view of the noble Lord, Lord Hain, which is that we are broadly moving, albeit slowly, towards direct rule by other names, which we do not want. That is not the way forward, but we must ensure, during this period, that full support is given to the Northern Ireland Civil Service to address the critical, life-dependent issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Empey.
This is for a period; it is time-limited and prescribed and it will end, either with a restored Executive or with something far darker. We have an opportunity now to get this right, and all must be committed to that. In the interim, the Government will continue to push as strongly as they can to ensure the delivery of the very services that are so important to the people of Northern Ireland.
My Lords, I rise to support one of the many suggestions made by my noble friend Lord Murphy a few minutes ago. It is simply this. All experience in Northern Ireland suggests that bringing the parties together is much easier if one has a neutral chair to do so. It is extremely difficult for the Government, who have an interest in the main party in Northern Ireland, to be detached from the process. If there were a disagreement between the Government and the DUP, it would be difficult for the Government to lean on it too hard.
It would make absolute sense to have a neutral chair. Senator George Mitchell showed how it could be done—the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, might volunteer to do the job. It needs somebody who is neutral, and I would have thought that it was in the Government’s interests to do this. It is one way of expediting the process. Otherwise, what is happening? We get Statements such as we heard from the Minister today, and nothing else. Surely we can appoint somebody neutral, bring the parties together and get on with it.
The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, is quite correct. Statements from me will not solve the problem; they never can. All I believe we can push for now is to put in place the right structures that will help to move this forward. That is why I have said that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is open to there being a chair from an external area who can take a role in this. As I said, it is not off the table; it is now under active consideration. That is an important realisation. Whether the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, wishes to put his hat in the ring remains to be seen.
My Lords, having the Assembly, devolution and the Executive restored is very important. Twice in this Chamber recently, the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, has talked about bringing the Assembly back. I do not think the Minister has addressed that point in particular. Is there a legal impediment to that—yes or no? If there is, fine, but if not, the Minister also said that nothing is off the table. We need to know whether the Government are considering that. If it would be useful and helpful, maybe we should think about that. Will the Minister address those specific points?
I always like being asked specific points. I will correct this if I stray from what I understand to be the case, so I ask for a certain tolerance in what I am about to say. Much will depend on the interpretation of the standing orders that the Assembly has constructed and drafted as to whether it can meet in a different formation or formulation. At present that has not happened, but we are having to think afresh. So if there is indeed a role as part of a functioning wider body, which may draw on trade unions, churches or others to bring those voices to bear—whether it meets in a different room or in a different place entirely—none of these things can be dismissed. There needs to be an opportunity for those voices to be heard, but—this is the important point—voices that continue to repeat the worn phrases of the past and bring nothing to refresh the future are no advantage to us in this regard. We need to have new voices with a new focus. If we cannot have that, bringing Assembly voices into it would be a retrograde step—but if they can think afresh, those voices will be welcomed to the wider debate. I will correct that if I am not fully accurate.
I thank the Minister for reading out the Statement, and I reiterate the points made so forcefully by my noble and right reverend friend Lord Eames. There is great frustration in Northern Ireland about the failure to achieve devolution. The measures being talked about today are an attempt to gently push the line towards devolution. I accept that that is absolutely the purpose. It will not be done tomorrow, but over the next few months there is some chance. It probably awaits the resolution of key questions on Brexit. Everything in the legislation gently helps.
Let me also say something colder and more brutal, which has already been referenced in the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Hain. We are moving towards direct rule by proxy. I do not regret the clarity of this, because people who are holding up devolution need to remember that there is a fantasy life in Northern Ireland politics. I have discussed the Buick case and the judgment with the Minister. I am very unhappy with the legal judgment in that case, but the people of Northern Ireland can live with a situation where the United Kingdom supports the Northern Ireland economy to the sum of £10 billion a year but cannot make any reasonable decisions to prevent extravagant economic waste. That cannot go on for ever, and that is why the House is proposing legislation to deal with that.
Equally, there is legislation about the necessity to call an election in the event of a crisis in the Assembly. That legislation has sat on the statute book and been ignored. We live with the ludicrous anomaly that we have legislation on elections but nobody pays it the slightest attention. At least that has been cleared up, too. So we are doing something a little tough here as well. But, in my view, these moves of necessity towards better administration, which are inevitably taking at least half a step towards direct rule, are important for those who want devolution back, and to make people realise that this cannot go on for ever.
I congratulate the Government on sharpening up realities in the Northern Irish debate.
The noble Lord is right to recognise what the Statement represents, which is to provide a safe space in which we can focus on the necessary elements of delivering a sustainable Executive. He is right, again, about the gentle push. But I have discovered that it is easier to give a gentle push to things on castors, so you can move them in a real direction rather than continuing to try to shove against resistance. We need therefore to be aware that if people are resisting and pushing back, we will make no progress at all.
It is correct that there is legislation on the statute book with regard to elections. The purpose of the Statement is to reflect on that and create space on which that election will not be called upon. The reality remains the same: if we are unable to deliver during this period, we will have to move very swiftly towards alternatives. Whether the parliamentary arithmetic will change after another election remains to be seen, but if it does not and we find ourselves ever further along that route towards the very thing we are stumbling towards by proxy, which we are trying desperately to avoid, we need to recognise that good governance is borne of those from the Province recognising what is needed.
Whether there is waste that needs to be addressed wholesale, these things must be done by the critical endeavour of those who are elected to do so, with those individuals held to account and, when they are found wanting, voted out. It must be the functioning aspect of any democracy to deliver what should be good governance—and, indeed, what the people of any democracy would wish to have.
Careers Education for Students
Motion to Take Note
That this House takes note of the case for high-quality careers education and advice to be available to all students.
My Lords, for some years careers education has been the poor relation of education provision. The Digital Skills Committee, on which I served, described it as “patchy”; later, the Social Mobility Committee found that it was “failing young people greatly”. A study quoted in the Government’s new careers strategy found that fewer than two-thirds of year 11 students said they had received any careers education, and only half of those were satisfied. A 2013 Ofsted report found that too few schools are providing careers guidance that meets the needs of all their students.
Yet good careers education and guidance are crucial: first, for individuals to help them widen their aspirations, fulfil their potential and achieve rewarding and satisfying lives; secondly, for the economy, to ensure that we have the right skills and talents to meet our national needs for innovation, productivity, growth and competitiveness in a fast-changing world of work; and, thirdly, for social mobility, so that no one, whatever their background or circumstances, is held back by lack of awareness of opportunities available and how to pursue them.
For some years before joining this House, I ran a small business providing employability training and support to young Londoners, mostly NEET—not in education, employment or training. I saw for myself the challenges of giving them meaningful guidance for their future life and work directions and the skills and attitudes necessary to pursue them. I claim no specialist expertise beyond that, but I am pleased to have obtained this debate and much look forward to the contributions of speakers with much greater knowledge and experience and to the response of the Minister.
I am of course delighted that my noble friend Lady Bull has chosen to make her maiden speech in the debate, and I am sure that she will bring a valuable perspective to it. I am also grateful to the many organisations and individuals working in the field in many capacities who have provided me with input, not least Claudia Harris and her colleagues at the Careers & Enterprise Company—the CEC.
I hope that today’s debate will serve to highlight the current state of careers education and some of the challenges needing to be addressed to achieve the Government’s aim of making it world-class. My own focus will be mainly on careers education in schools in England.
Today’s young people will find themselves in a highly complex world when they leave education. Work patterns are shifting, digital technology and automation affect nearly every occupation, skills need regular updating and lifetime jobs are a thing of the past. To succeed, they need a clear and realistic understanding of the opportunities available and of how to develop the skills and qualities they need to grasp them and progress. That is what careers education is about, and why I believe it to be a key aspect of government policy—up there with related policies on skills, technical education, apprenticeships and industrial strategy, all of which are dependent for their success on a solid foundation of careers education.
In 2011, responsibility for careers education was transferred from local authorities to schools and colleges, but without any associated extra funding. Unsurprisingly, the initial result was a significant decline in the overall standard of provision, as schools sought to tackle this new role within existing budgets. Teachers are not the right people to deliver careers education; most have neither the skills nor experience needed. That is why schools need access to independent, impartial careers guidance from trained and qualified professionals.
There are now clear signs of a new optimism and energy in the careers education field, not least thanks to the groundwork laid by the CEC since its establishment in 2014, and leading up to the Government’s long-awaited careers strategy, announced last December. The strategy has been widely welcomed, and an Ofsted report earlier this year found that,
“careers guidance within schools is improving”,
“The publication of the careers strategy has given schools and colleges a solid framework to build their careers offer around”.
In January, the Government issued statutory guidance for all maintained schools and academies on how they should deliver careers education. All schools should have a formal careers programme, published on their website and headed by a named careers leader. It should be based on the eight Gatsby benchmarks set out in Sir John Holman’s 2014 report for the Gatsby Foundation, which have won almost universal acceptance as a template for high-quality careers education. They are: a stable careers programme; learning from career and labour market information; addressing the needs of each student; linking curriculum learning to careers, so that careers education is embedded throughout the curriculum, especially in STEM subjects; encounters with employers and employees; experiences of workplaces; encounters with further and higher education; and personal guidance.
Schools should measure their progress against these benchmarks using the Compass online assessment tool, developed by CEC. Almost 3,000 of the 3,800 schools in England are already using Compass, and the number achieving some or all of the eight benchmarks is rising markedly. The Government’s laudable, if optimistic, expectation is that every school should meet all eight benchmarks by the end of 2020. Schools are strongly encouraged to work towards an updated quality in careers standard, administered by the Quality in Careers Consortium.
CEC is also funded to provide up to 500 bursaries to help schools identify and train their careers leaders. Demand looks likely to comfortably exceed this figure, an encouraging sign that schools are engaging with the strategy, but which also raises the issue of how this demand can be met.
The strategy also covers the creation and support of 20 careers hubs around England, modelled on a two-year pilot with 16 schools and colleges in the north-east. After two years, 88% of them were achieving at least six of the benchmarks, with three schools achieving all eight; none was achieving more than three at the start. The new hubs will focus their activities on groups of young people and areas most in need of targeted support, to help deliver improvements in social mobility.
A major, and very welcome, theme of the strategy is the need for careers education to introduce young people to a range of different work opportunities and environments through encounters with employers and workplace experiences—the sort of thing I was doing in my former life. The guidance states that every pupil should have at least one meaningful employer encounter each year for seven years, from years 7 to 13, and at least one workplace experience by the age of 16, with another by 18. At least one encounter should be with a STEM employer. My noble friend Lady Bull may share my regret that there is no similar focus on the arts and creative sector, which is so valuable to the UK economy.
I would also like to see a stronger focus on using these encounters to promote apprenticeships, especially since reading that a recent report by the Junior Engineering Engagement Programme found that 68% of the young people that it interviewed do not know what an apprenticeship is—although, in another poll, two-thirds said they would be very or fairly interested in an apprenticeship. I regret the lack of any reference to SMEs in this part of the guidance, but there is at least one reference to entrepreneurial skills, which are also important.
Schools have often found it hard to engage with employers, particularly in areas with a limited number of suitable or willing businesses. Although the Careers & Enterprise Company’s role has since been broadened, it was originally created with a focus on improving links between schools and employers. Working with all 38 local enterprise partnerships, it is setting up a nationwide network of volunteer enterprise advisers, with a target of having one in every school by the end of 2020—over 2,000 are already in place. They come from a wide range of business backgrounds, large and small. It is too early to assess the results being achieved or the overall quality of people taking on this role, though they are already having some effect in increasing the number of employers that schools are working with and the number of encounters provided to students.
There are some exciting independent initiatives seeking to tackle the challenge of providing more employer encounters, often making innovative use of digital technology. Founders4Schools, for example, offers a work experience programme, Workfinder, which links teachers, students and employers in a way that enables students to organise their own work placements online, with guidance from their teachers. Many of the employers involved are innovative, successful and fast-growing SMEs, and the programme aims for wide national coverage. MiddletonMurray, an independent training and apprenticeship provider, has launched its own careers advice campaign, “Limitless”, with a series of podcasts entitled “iwant2ba”, in which Angela Middleton, its founder and CEO, interviews mostly young high-flyers in a range of different fields about how they got to where they are, in a format designed to appeal to young, technologically savvy people. They serve as valuable and much-needed role models—more of these are needed.
Online access to, and automation of, career education resources will surely become increasingly essential. Perhaps the National Careers Service website should include signposting to resources such as those I have mentioned. The NCS was set up in 2012, focusing mainly on providing tailored careers support for adults nationwide, including bespoke services for people with special needs, but it also provides career-related information for everyone, including young people, via a central website, which is due to be upgraded shortly as an engaging one-stop shop for all government careers information. This should be a valuable resource, although “engaging” is not a word I would often associate with GOV.UK websites—something rather jazzier may be needed to appeal to the young target audience.
I will end with three challenges I see facing successful delivery of the careers strategy, on which the Minister may like to comment. The first is funding, concerns about which are common to almost all the briefings I have received. The funding announced for training 500 career leaders and to support 20 careers hubs is welcome, but what support will be available to other schools, four-fifths of which are not covered by the career hubs, and when? What incentives might be offered to encourage schools to devote more effort to careers education? Could they perhaps be offered some funding contingent on their making a commitment to working towards and achieving the quality in careers standard? There is also likely to be a growing shortage of enough skilled careers professionals to meet the important eighth benchmark recommendation that every pupil should have at least one personal guidance interview with a qualified careers adviser by the age of 16, with the opportunity for another by age 18. How might training for these new careers professionals be funded?
The second challenge relates to delivery: how will the progress of the careers strategy be tracked? What indicators will be used to measure performance? What will happen if schools are not achieving their targets, or if too few employer encounters or work experience places are available, or if disadvantaged local areas are failing to keep pace? Careers-related provision is covered in Ofsted inspections but perhaps needs greater emphasis. The CEC is providing tools like Compass, and is looking at ways of assessing benefits for individual recipients of careers education. The main outcome indicators currently used are the impact of careers education on the number of people who are NEET, and data on the destinations of pupils when they leave school. These should be beefed up, with much better destination data, tracking not just what students do immediately after leaving school or college but how their careers develop over time, how much they earn, and how they feel about their lives and careers. I hope that the Minister will say something about how the overall performance of careers education will be monitored and assessed.
My final challenge relates to communication. Despite the good work of the CEC, the NCS and others, awareness of what careers education is about, why it matters, what it can offer, and how it relates to opportunities such as apprenticeships and T-levels is still very limited. An ongoing process of effective communication is needed, using the most appropriate channels, including online media and other technologies, and with strong case studies and role models, to reach those affected: parents—not least—teachers, school governors, large and especially small employers, young people, and everyone in employment who may find themselves facing or wanting a change of direction. This should be a positive, good news story, and we could do with more of those.
As I have discovered in preparing for this debate, careers education encompasses a wide range of issues. I am conscious that there are many I have not touched on, and I hope that other noble Lords may do so. But I am optimistic that a strong infrastructure is taking shape, with a clear and ambitious strategy in place to set the future direction. There is still a long way to go, but I trust that the Government will now maintain the necessary commitment and resourcing to deliver their world-class aspiration, with all the benefits it offers for individuals, the economy and society.
My Lords, I warmly congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, on securing this important debate. I share his optimism that this is an area where there is genuine change and development. I notice that former colleagues from another place are in the House: my noble friend Lord Deben and, in particular, my noble friend Lord Baker, who did so much to focus on careers in schools.
An exciting new framework is now in place. I have been rather stunned. I never believe a word any Government say—I assume it is all baloney; instead I go to my own sources and telephone people in the areas I care about to ask them what is really happening. I have therefore spoken to my former colleagues in a prosperous area in Surrey, but I have also checked up in the area where I have a particular commitment in Hull, and in the Isle of Wight, which is another area of significant deprivation and low expectation. Out there, and across the country, the new strategy is working. It is exciting, things are happening and people are engaged, and I have not met the customary cynicism. I agree that the branding is not particularly high but I am more excited by the activity on the ground.
In his maiden speech, the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, described careers education as,
“the bridge from education to employment”.
I respect his comment, also from his maiden speech, that,
“what matters most is not what is guaranteed but what is delivered … delivery must cover all the skills, attitudes and expectations needed by our young people to make a successful transition into employment and worthwhile careers, to the benefit of our nation”.—[Official Report, 26/11/09; cols. 505-6.]
I am optimistic that that is what we are seeing at the moment.
I also have to make the link to our previous debate in which we discussed prisons and some of the severe problems in them. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester talked about giving people in prison a sense of hope. Of course there is no greater sense of hope for anyone in the prison institutions than the sense that there will be employment and opportunity in the future. I have worked closely with Working Chance, a wonderful initiative to help women in prison get work experience and job training so that when they leave the prison they can rebuild their lives and have active employment. Obviously, we are talking about schools, colleges and universities, but this initiative is so important for all sectors of our society.
This debate, as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said, is particularly timely, because of the urgency of addressing our productivity gap, in the context of profound uncertainty around our exiting the European Union, and the rapidly evolving patterns of work and employment. The latest report from the Office for National Statistics on international productivity comparisons exposed a disturbing shortfall versus the rest of the G7. Britain’s productivity was revealed to be 22.6% lower than that of the US, 22.8% lower than France’s and 26.2% lower than Germany’s. A significant contributing factor is inefficiency in the allocation of workers to careers. The mismatch between the skills young people choose to prioritise during their education and the skills sought by employers results in inefficient deployment. Many industries struggle to find suitable labour; others place individuals with superfluous or irrelevant training in jobs for which they are overqualified. As we leave the EU, this issue of skills shortage will be all the more central; it is high time we looked at the talents and skills of all our pupils and students and helped them find worthwhile employment.
Even more significant is the whole disruptive change in the workplace. The Institute for the Future estimated that 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 have yet to be invented. That is not some distant future—students who will enter the workforce in 2030 are already in school today. Britain and the rest of the world are experiencing disruptive change in the jobs market at an unprecedented rate. Cyber-physical systems, robotics, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, additive manufacturing, fifth-generation wireless technologies and autonomous vehicles of the fourth industrial revolution all accelerate the transformation of our work environments and the skills required. I am afraid that, if I were required to have any of those skills or qualities, I would be on the employment scrapheap immediately.
We must ensure that our careers education and advice not only gives young people aspirations and prepares them to follow their goals but also supplies them with vital employability skills that are transferrable in an unpredictable jobs landscape where, above all, technology will be an underpinning, as my noble friend Lord Baker has long advocated. Patterns of work are moving away from the traditional “job for life”; young people will have to navigate their careers differently, expecting to change role more frequently than in the past. We have to prepare them for this changed world, regardless of social class, ethnicity or gender. We must look to every individual in society and see how they can make a contribution.
In discussing careers education, social mobility has rightly and understandably taken an ever higher profile. An essential component of any effective strategy for advancing social mobility is good careers guidance and education. This should begin as early as the primary stage. Careers education benefits pupils from all socioeconomic backgrounds, but the biggest difference is made to those in society who are less well-networked and less affluent. The education system needs to be strong enough to bridge the gaps in informal networks, to ensure greater equality in how young people set their aspirations and develop their awareness of the world of work.
One cannot overstate the advantage of informal networks—friends, family and colleagues. But it is evident to us all that the difference between the opportunities such networks offer to many in Surrey, for example, compared to those in the Hull Humber region, or perhaps the Isle of Wight, is stark.
Beyond simply making sure that all pupils have the knowledge and confidence to make informed decisions for their long-term career path, we need to invoke excitement and passion about what the future can hold. I enormously welcome the careers strategy published last December. There is no substitute for giving pupils hands-on experience in work environments; hearing, seeing and meeting have far more impact than simply reading.
I give great credit to a number of key women: the former Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities, Nicky Morgan; the present responsible Minister, Anne Milton; the chairman of the Careers & Enterprise Company, Christine Hodgson, a formidable businesswoman; and the hugely talented chief executive, ex-McKinsey, Claudia Harris. These four women have made it their cause to ensure we see real results and put a practical careers strategy in place, and I will quickly give some examples.
Looking to the Humber, the Careers & Enterprise Company does wonderful work there. The Greenpower Education Trust, for example, has engaged local schools with STEM by challenging students to design, build and race electric cars. The University of Hull, where I am chancellor, played a major role, constructing on campus a “green power garage”—it funded over 30 cars and provided the tools and equipment. All this is achieved in partnership with the LEP, where the noble Lord, Lord Haskins, is chairman. Again at the LEP, two excellent women—enterprise co-ordinator Jenny Vincent and director of skills education and employment Teresa Chalmers—have really taken this to heart. They did so much in the City of Culture, with others.
I so welcome our new noble Baroness, Lady Bull, who I knew during my years as Secretary of State for Culture for the formidable and talented individual that she is. How right that skills and opportunities in the creative arts have so much to offer this next generation. I am excited about the progress being made by the Education and Employers task force, getting people with practical skills to teach careers education, not simply teachers; and I have huge confidence in the Gatsby benchmarks—at last, we have a measure to assess progress.
Getting Skills Right, the UK report by the OECD last year, found that 40% of British workers were either overqualified or underqualified for their jobs. Increasing the effectiveness of our careers guidance in education will enlighten learners to the paths for which they are best suited, allowing them to hone their subject choices and prepare for the world of work. We want people in work, fulfilling their skills and playing to their personalities—not feeling undervalued and resentful about their gifts and how they are being used.
My Lords, I am pleased to take part in this debate and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, on securing it and on the way that he introduced it. His commitment to this area has served us well in previous debates. I am delighted that there is somebody who constantly puts this item on our agenda, and I thank him for that. I very much look forward to the speech from the noble Baroness, Lady Bull. The fact that everyone will say how much they are looking forward to hearing it will make her very nervous, but we know of her background and what she brings to this House, and I genuinely look forward to her comments.
I had made myself a note to say at the start of my speech that I suspected that no one would say that careers education had ever been as good as it should be or that it is as good as it should be now, but I have just been proved wrong by the previous speaker. I will not be as glowing as the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, about the state of careers education but I will try to share some of the optimism, because I think that work has been done over the last three to four years. I want to recognise that but I also want to raise some questions about where we are going and what the evidence is for that.
We have never got careers education right because we have never had the sort of society that indicates that we are getting it right. The fact that social class mobility is slower in our society than in our competitor nations shows that we are not giving opportunities to young people from all backgrounds. That there is such a big mismatch between the skills that a modern economy needs and the skills of our workforce shows that we are not getting something right. Whatever good has happened in the past, the evidence is that it has not been good enough to get this country and its people to where we want to be. However, I want to recognise some progress. We batter ourselves over the head and take away our energy and our ability to improve.
I want to make three points. First, we should look at the way that women—not all but many women—have more opportunities, do better in schools and aspire to jobs where, when I started teaching in the 1970s, the door would have been closed to them. That is an achievement. Secondly, we should look at the number of children and young people now taking maths and science A-levels in order to go into maths and science jobs. That is an achievement. Thirdly, I get cross when people moan about the increase in the number of people going to university, because they are from backgrounds where young people would not have gone to university in previous generations. That too is an achievement. Therefore, we can do these things but we have not done them as much as we should have done.
It is very difficult to deliver on those things. The north-east is what the Careers & Enterprise Company calls a cold spot. There is a figure showing that fewer children there go on work experience placements than children from other areas. Who is surprised that on Wearside and Tyneside and in areas further south, such as Hull, fewer children have work experience placements and meaningful encounters with employers? Therefore, it is not just about careers education; it is about the sort of society that we are. It is about how many mums and dads have the confidence to aspire for their children; it is about how much social capital we put into our communities; and it is about how many youth organisations there are, and so on. We should not just batter schools and careers education but ask deep questions about the sort of society that we are and that we need to be.
I think that there has been a problem in careers education and I take as much blame from my time as a Minister as anyone else. We dithered between a centralised and a devolved service. When I was a young teacher, I was also a careers teacher—it was one of the things that I did. In truth, it has never been high enough on anyone’s agenda. This debate has made me think back to my days as a careers teacher. I am not saying that it was brilliant then, because it was not, but I taught in a school in a local authority in Coventry that had a particularly strong careers service.
When I taught careers, we had something called a business-education partnership which co-ordinated the activity between schools and employers. Every one of my year 10 students went on work experience for two weeks. I did not have to organise that; it was organised by somebody working for the careers service. We had one and a half careers officers and one employment officer permanently based in our inner-city secondary school. If you said to the Careers & Enterprise Company, “Go and deliver that in every school next year”, it would say, “Come on, you’re joking”. Why did that service disappear? It was not because it was a failure or was not needed; it went because, when the cuts came, it was not thought to be important enough. If it is really important, you protect it when times are bad. In truth, we have not protected careers education.
However, we are where we are and I think that this bit of the revolution started in 2012. Increasingly I think that the Education Act 2011 was the most damaging Act for our education service for many a long decade. One thing that it did was to devolve careers education to individual schools. It broke down their partnerships and their relations—the bits that helped schools to deliver careers education. It required schools to secure access to independent and impartial careers guidance. Just as the noble Lord, Lord Nash, in his time in the Department for Education, had to rebuild a fragmented schools system through multi-academy trusts and chains because devolution to individual schools did not work, so the noble Viscount who is now in charge of careers is having to rebuild that partnership. Leaving schools to do it by themselves does not work. That is the journey that we are on. We tried to mend the terrible damage done by the 2011 Act, so we started again rather than building on the sorts of experiences that were around when I was a young teacher in inner-city Coventry.
I have not changed my mind about this. You have to do three things. You have to give the kids knowledge about the opportunities. You have to give them the skills to understand and analyse themselves so that they know their strengths and weaknesses. Then you have to give them the ability to make effective decisions. You have to do all three things and, if you do, you get it right.
I suppose the Government will now say that the Careers & Enterprise Company and the requirement for schools to develop and publish a careers programme are the means to get that right. I congratulate the Government on bringing that forward. Given the damage of 2012 and the financial climate, it has not been easy, but we have to be tough on this because we cannot get it wrong again. However, I acknowledge that it is a good effort—people are trying and I think it is a government priority.
I want to say what I think is good. A positive thing that I absolutely applaud is the Gatsby benchmarks; I think they are great. I do not want to sound as if I am claiming credit, but they certainly cover the three areas that I have always thought were important. However, I challenge the Government’s and the careers companies’ approach. The eight benchmarks are a whole: you cannot deliver two and think you are improving. It is like teaching maths and saying, “We will teach you to add and subtract, but we will skip multiplication and division, and then say we’ve taught you arithmetic”. You cannot have one without eight, or two without six. I am worried that success is considered to be delivering two of the Gatsby benchmarks—9% using the Careers & Enterprise Company. That is not going to work. If delivering five or six Gatsby benchmarks is thought to be success, it is not going to work.
I turn to the Careers & Enterprise Company. I wish it well, but I worry about what it is doing. Having said that, I want to acknowledge that it delivers a very good programme in Birmingham, where I do some work. The company has set up the National Careers Service, enterprise co-ordinators, careers hubs, careers leaders, enterprise advisers and links with higher education—all at a time when we are redefining apprenticeships and introducing T-levels. That is all right if you are sat in a quango in London, but if you are a busy teacher at a school in Hull or the north-east or anywhere else, it is a minefield to understand. I worry that the Careers & Enterprise Company has spent too much time, money and effort on constructing a structure and not on delivering it. I will be honest: we can talk about its little projects, but I suspect that the projects named by the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, were existing charitable organisations that are now being funded by the CEC. They are not things that the CEC has made up and brought to the table—that is not what it does.
I finish with a list of questions for the Minister about the CEC. Is it driven nationally or locally? It sets up local structures, but I do not know whether it is a nationally or locally driven organisation. Is it a grant giver—it does give grants—or is it meant to be developing a strategic plan for the whole nation? Is it universal or is it targeted? Is it required to reach every child and young person, or will we settle for just a touch in the cold spots? Is it meant to be leading the development of careers teachers and leaders? I do not know about that or about defining success.
Finally, if we think about ourselves, what helped us was a decent, broad and balanced education. If I think about how I got my ambition to go into politics, what I loved most at school—I did awful at school—was not the lessons but the debating society. That is what inspired me. I was also encouraged by the teacher who had the time in the school week to talk to me and tell me I could make it, not in the careers lesson but just in the time that seemed to be available in those days. Are we absolutely sure that we are providing schools with the time they need to do things beyond their statutory careers education?
My Lords, I start by declaring my interest as a patron of Careers Connect and vice-president of the Local Government Association. I thank all those people who have sent briefings, particularly Gateshead College. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for securing this important debate. He said he was looking forward to hearing the experiences of Members of this Chamber. I think we all have experiences in careers. All of us had to apply for a job at some stage, and we know the pitfalls that that entails. We also have children, and we want them to get good jobs and have a career. Actually, although we talk about careers, most young people talk about a job. They do not talk about careers any more, and maybe we need to reflect on that.
Like the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, I am optimistic. The careers strategy is probably one of the best I have ever seen for developing careers education in schools. I went to the All-Party Group on Education, where the Minister talked about the strategy. I was impressed that she had a real understanding and grasp of what needed to be done. On every single question, she was very positive and committed.
Having said all that, it is not just about having a strategy, as good as that strategy is. It has to be about changing our mindset. What do I mean by that? My experience of careers education was: “Here’s a cupboard full of university prospectuses. Go and choose which university you want to go to”. Perhaps schools these days think that we ought to have a member of staff responsible for careers education. But who do they give that job to? Invariably, it goes to the person with the shortest timetable and who has spare time—it might be the French teacher or the PE teacher. Here, I must declare an interest. My wife was a PE teacher and she drew the short straw. She had no training and no experience, it was just, “Could you do careers advice, please, Mrs Storey?” That is no way to develop careers education in a school.
The other problem is this: head teachers want their pupils to go into the sixth form. The number of pupils in the sixth form is seen as a mark of the success of the school. Why? Because every pupil who goes into the sixth form comes tagged with a sum of money—the more pupils in the sixth form, the more the budget is. Actually, for the majority of pupils in many schools, going into the sixth form is not the answer. Probably, a vocational course is the answer—and God forbid that they should go to a further education college. It is very important that we change that mindset.
We have to realise that careers education is not just about strategies and changing the mindset. Sadly, it also has to be about resources. In the cuts of 2010 and 2011, we gave responsibility for careers education to schools but took out of the budget £196 million. Those resources have not reappeared in schools.
In opening—that was my opening—I also look forward to hearing the contribution from the noble Baroness, Lady Bull. I am sure it will be uplifting.
The word I want to use is “students”, although I would prefer the term “every student”. Every young boy and girl begins to dream of what they would like to be when they grow up. At a young age, they also begin to form an opinion of what they do not want to do. That is why careers education, in its broadest sense, should begin in primary schools, and it is easy for primary schools to do this.
When I was a primary school teacher, we invited parents from a whole range of professions to come and talk to the children. We used a carousel or speed-dating system, and, suddenly, the children’s perception of the world of work changed. We are not allowed to show things in the Chamber, and quite rightly so, but a wonderful careers game has been developed by a not-for-profit company in Milton Keynes. Do noble Lords know the game of Top Trumps? Well, this version is on careers. Children can look at every career and at how much you earn, what training is needed and how you go about the job. You can see primary school children in the playground playing Top Trumps Jobs—it really works.
People should also be given the opportunity at a young age to go and visit a factory floor or an office and talk to people there. You learn more—the sponge is readier—when you are nine or 10 than when you are 14 or 15. That is hugely important. Also at an early stage, children need to know what is possible and equally what is not. Playing for Liverpool in the premiership or in the Women’s Super League is not a realistic ambition for 99.9% of schoolchildren, nor is being on “Big Brother” or “Love Island”, thank goodness. They need to know about the range of jobs that they can aspire to—one far greater than when any of us was thinking about our future.
This is where every child matters. Although secondary schools have a statutory duty to provide independent careers advice, evidence points to the fact that both the amount of careers advice and the quality of it is not good in all schools. Five years ago Ofsted’s inspection of careers education found that only one in five schools was providing adequate careers advice. This is due to budget constraints to some extent but it is also perhaps about school indifference. Parents who can afford it—and I guess that is many of us here—make sacrifices to do what is best for their children. There is no shortage of independent careers advice available: you just need to search the internet. In addition to paying for one-to-one advice, for an additional fee the adviser will help to write your CV. For the sixth-formers, they will give one-to-one careers advice and guidance—this is often a critical factor in raising the ambitions of young people.
Why is careers advice so vital? It is democratising and promotes social mobility. Good, impartial, student-centred careers advice has the potential to be transformational, offering people the chance to realise their potential whatever their background and attributes. Good careers advice often makes the biggest difference to students who might otherwise not get it. A good careers adviser can equip a young person with the right information to take the best decisions in their own interests. At a vital time in children’s development, good careers advice should inform, motivate and inspire the next generation. Professional input is vital because some students do not have the support of parents or their parents may be out of touch with the modern world of education or work opportunities. Parents who went to university may have an unconscious prejudice about the relative merits of technical routes and a suspicion about what they may see as inferior options. Parents who have never worked will have no first-hand knowledge of the world of work or the range of careers available.
Finally, we are all familiar with government rhetoric about social mobility and the burning injustices that prevent young people reaching for the stars. We also know that these fine words have not buttered a single parsnip. It is now much less likely that a girl or boy from a working-class background will become a lawyer or an accountant—two examples where jobs are principally available to sons and daughters of partners in those firms. As a primary teacher I followed the careers of my pupils with interest. Although it was a working-class area, I can count lawyers, nuclear physicists, doctors, teachers and even an actor among the children I taught. High-quality careers advice was crucial in helping them reach their goals. I am grateful for this debate and I hope we learn from everything we hear.
Can I ask noble Lords to stick to their time as we have people who want to speak in the gap? If they could, that would be helpful.
My Lords, I will endeavour to meet that edict. I too welcome this debate and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, on securing it and introducing the issues so comprehensively. I am looking forward to the maiden speech that follows. The noble Baroness, Lady Bull, brings huge experience to our House and I join in the warm welcome that has been given to her.
I have the privilege to chair your Lordships’ Select Committee on Communications, which has a remit to consider the media and creative industries. My contribution today focuses on careers advice for the creative industries, but it probably has some wider application.
The committee has produced two reports in recent years, which considered skills in the theatre industry and in the advertising industry respectively. The creative industries are an increasingly important part of the economy and are likely to be even more important in the future because creative jobs are highly resistant to automation. Automation will change whole industries. It is estimated that up to half of all existing jobs could be automated in the next 20 years. That is not just jobs in manufacturing and transport. Jobs in many professions will be taken over by the robots in the not-too-distant future. We are therefore fortunate as a country to have a world-leading, economy-driving and life-enhancing creative sector, just at the time when it will be critical to the economic future success of nations.
Darren Henley, CEO of Arts Council England, in an excellent account of why creativity matters gave us the superlatives—the fastest-growing sector employing 2 million people and exporting £20 billion worth of services. Sir Peter Bazalgette, in his review of the creative industry, convincingly estimates that the sector could add 1 million jobs by 2030.
So what does this have to do with careers advice? If the industry is thriving and creating jobs, surely it will attract the people it needs. The advertising industry that we studied does have a challenge. It is a global business. To continue to thrive globally, it needs to be diverse and to attract the very best talent in a whole range of roles. It needs young people with a fusion of artistic and science skills and young people who can use those skills in a creative environment. Therefore, it needs to offer these exciting, secure roles to the most talented people from all social backgrounds. A properly diverse workforce is both essential to the business model for our creative industries and it is the right thing for our country.
The industry and the wider sector have taken effective measures to increase diversity on screen and off, but there is much more to do. Social class remains the biggest barrier to entry, as so many industries, hollowed out by AI and automation, will not provide the jobs of the future. The jobs that will be nourishing, rewarding and enduring in the creative industries cannot simply be available to middle-class recruits. What needs to be done? It needs to start in schools. First, the Government are right to champion the promotion of STEM skills and focus on the digital skills gap, but in the modern workplace, employers are looking for a fusion of science and artistic skills in young people who can use those skills creatively. It is these blended science and art skills that will enable young people to thrive. I hope that my noble friend will recognise the importance of this rounded education in state schools and accept the important point that teaching arts subjects and the soft skills that come with them is not just for artists, writers and performers but an essential component of an education that will equip young people for the roles of the future.
Secondly, we found that recruitment practices must change. More outreach and more welcoming environments are needed if companies are to have a truly diverse workforce that reflects Britain today. In particular, we call for an end to unpaid internships. Thirdly and very importantly, in our report on the advertising industry and in the evidence that we received in our inquiry into the UK theatre industry, we saw a real issue with the quality of careers advice in schools and in universities too. In too many schools, roles in the creative industries are simply not on the agenda when teachers help students to choose subjects or university courses, select apprenticeships or identify employment routes. The vice-chair of the National College of Creative and Cultural Industries told us that there is a complete lack of awareness of the careers available in the creative industries.
There is also a perception problem. Pursuing a career in the creative industries is considered risky and in some cases inferior to careers in medicine, accountancy or law. This is a particular problem for parents from poorer backgrounds, as pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Storey. Young people, teachers and parents need to be made aware that these jobs exist and are good jobs. They also need to be shown how to access such jobs. Careers education needs to begin at a young age and continue through university.
In addition to the core creative roles, the creative industries rely on a surprising range of jobs, such as engineers, technicians, project managers, accountants and roles that require digital and analytical skills. Not enough young people who would like to pursue a career in one of these roles are made aware of the opportunities for them in the creative sector. Data roles are found in our advertising industry and are crucial to its future, but we found an inclination among students with these qualifications to be nudged in the direction of more traditional IT industries.
Understanding the breadth of roles in different sectors is important. When we looked at this problem, particularly through the prism of the advertising industry, we saw an important role for not just government but the industry. We welcome the Government’s commitment, which I hope my noble friend the Minister will affirm today, to provide resources for career advice at all levels of education. We call for more resources to ensure that pupils get meaningful interaction with potential employers well before they choose their GCSE subjects and start to close down their options.
We saw a significant role for the industry too—an advertising campaign, in fact. We called on the advertising industry to provide tools to schools with a view to introducing pupils, parents and teachers to the roles available in the industry and reaching out with many more visits to schools. But the industry could go further. The advertising industry and other commercially successful industries in the creative sector depend on the overall success of the wider sector. They should consider launching a significant and well-resourced initiative to promote careers in the sector to pupils from all backgrounds and provide the resources to do the job well and comprehensively. We have the great fortune as a country of being well prepared for the post-automation age with a thriving creative sector. It must now, in its own interest and that of society, step up and give meaning to “opportunity for all”.
My Lords, it is a great honour to speak here for the first time and to follow such a passionate and cogent case for the creative industries from the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert of Panteg. The welcome I have received from all parts of the House could not have been kinder. The support from Black Rod, the Clerk of the Parliaments, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, and all their staff has been invaluable. At every turn, I have had cause to thank the omniscient and omnipresent doorkeepers and I have already benefited from the excellent service of the Library staff. I am indebted to my supporters, my noble friends Lady D’Souza and Lord Hall of Birkenhead, and my noble friend Lord Clancarty for acting as my mentor and meeting all my questions with patience and sound advice. I also pay tribute to the late Baroness Jowell, who did me the great honour of supporting my nomination to join this House.
My route here has been somewhat unconventional. For 20 years, I was a dancer with the Royal Ballet. I progressed, via a career in the media, to the Royal Opera House, where I became creative director. I then went to King’s College London, where I serve as vice-principal for London. I now have the great privilege of joining your Lordships’ House. Mine may well be an unusual career trajectory but this life of careers, in contrast to a career for life, could well prove the norm for young people in future. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Aberdare for securing the debate and allowing me to make my debut on this stage on a subject that is so close to my heart.
As we have heard, good careers guidance is about so much more than helping young people to get a job. It is about an individual’s well-being and fulfilment. It is about meeting the needs of future employers and ensuring the success of the economy. It is about reducing the costs on society of people not in employment or training. Crucially, it is about equality and fairness: we are all created equal but we are born into a world that is not.
Our ideas about what we might do in our adult lives are shaped by our experiences and by the examples around us. If you are brought up in a community where the majority of employment, where it exists, is in low-skilled sectors, your expectations are likely to be shaped accordingly. How else can we explain the fact that in 2017 only 4% of doctors, 6% of barristers and 11% of journalists came from working-class backgrounds? We know that just 24% of pupils eligible for free school meals go on to higher education, compared to 42% of their peers from better-off families. Over a quarter of this gap in participation relates to students with the same levels of attainment at GCSE, so this is not a question of academic ability but of the choices that these pupils perceive as being available to “people like us”.
For this reason, good careers advice is of disproportionate value to pupils from disadvantaged families. It does not just open doors—by exposing young people to a variety of previously unimagined professions, to self-employment or entrepreneurship as a viable career, it reveals that those doors exist. It connects students with individuals who have themselves broken the mould—people whose lived examples help to raise aspirations, tackle stereotypes and challenge choices that may be based on gender, ethnicity or class. This is why I take part in Robert Peston’s excellent Speakers for Schools initiative, which puts inspirational speakers into state schools. It was set up in 2011 when he noticed that all the invitations he received to speak came from independent schools.
In addition to this important role in enabling social mobility, good careers guidance is vital to help young people navigate the changing employment market, and to ensure that the skills they gain during education match the needs of the jobs that they will go on to fulfil. Now, more than ever, it is very difficult to predict what the future of work will be. According to the World Economic Forum, 65% of pupils entering primary school this week will find themselves working in a job that does not yet exist. One of the key skills they will need in order to thrive in this uncertain future is creativity—the capacity to imagine and then to invent the roles that they themselves will fulfil. Too often, creativity is seen as the preserve of artists—of people like me—but it is as important to the scientist or the engineer as it is to the musician and the dancer. The world’s most pressing challenges will never be addressed by technology alone, but when creativity is employed to imagine how machines can best serve human needs, the results can change the world. It is notable, and no coincidence, that many of our leading tech entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley CEOs are graduates, not of science and maths but of arts and humanities. All the evidence shows that arts-based learning is key to developing the creativity that drives innovation.
Much airtime has been given to STEM subjects in discussions about looming automation, but with machines set to take on the more routine elements of work, human skills such as creativity will be at a premium. The global innovation foundation, NESTA, has concluded that creative occupations—not just artists, but roles that depend on a high degree of originality and the production of new artefacts and ideas—will be much more resistant to automation than other jobs. And they are likely to grow: workforce projections used in the industrial strategy suggest that creative jobs will grow at double the rate of the UK economy as a whole over the next six years.
I know that it is not the business of a maiden speaker to court controversy but, given everything we know about the future of work, can it really be controversial to challenge the prioritisation of STEM subjects in the otherwise laudable Gatsby benchmarks that the Government’s 2017 careers strategy adopts? The statutory guidance issued in January encourages schools to arrange meetings with a range of professionals that,
“should emphasise the opportunities created for young people who choose maths or science subjects”.
Why only these, when we know that creativity will be such a vital skill, and that creative occupations will be the most futureproof to computerisation?
Mine was an education in which careers advice had no part, focused as it was, from the age of 11, on a singular destination. I was among the 1% who the noble Lord, Lord Storey, alluded to: I dreamt of becoming a ballerina and I became one. I come from a family with no history of participation in higher education but I had the benefit of powerful role models in my parents, to whom I am eternally grateful: a mother who was determined that her four daughters would imagine a world beyond our own backyard, and a father with the courage to enter further education at the age of 30, moving a young family from Derby to Kent to take up his hard-won place at Rochester Theological College. I also had the inestimable benefit of an education in which arts and culture were never considered as secondary or an inferior choice.
I promise not to fulfil a role in your Lordships’ House as some kind of cultural “Thought for the Day”, inserting arts or creativity into every possible debate. But if I look back over the journey that has brought me here today, it is clear that what has sustained me in a career beyond the arts are the skills I learned through an education in which arts were integral: collaboration, communication, originality, resilience and creativity. These are exactly the skills that the Federation of Small Businesses is calling for in future employees and they are the kind of skills that NESTA predicts will be most in demand in 2030.
Given all this, we surely need to recognise that any advice that fails to position on equal terms careers in both STEM and creative occupations can never be considered either high quality or fit for the future.
I am honoured to have had the chance to contribute to this debate and I look forward to working as a part of this House on this and many other issues.
My Lords, it is my great privilege to be the first to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, on her really excellent maiden speech, and to welcome her to our debates.
I have only one complaint about what she said: she said pretty much all of what I wanted to say and said it all a lot better than I am likely to say it. I therefore apologise in advance for not matching her eloquence. It is, however, a huge personal delight to be the first to speak after her, because I met the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, 20 years ago for the first time at the Royal Opera House, where she was at the height of her very distinguished career as a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet. I am sure I am not the only one among your Lordships who remembers the power and eloquence of her performances, both in the classical ballet repertoire and in the many roles that she created with contemporary choreographers. However, nobody then—or since—could be in her company for long without realising that there is a great deal more to the noble Baroness than her consummate artistry. Her wider influence, and her skill as an advocate for the arts—which she has just demonstrated—began to be felt through the writing, broadcasting and lecturing that she started while she was still dancing.
After she retired in 2001 she turned her demonstrably formidable energy and intelligence first to creating the artist development initiative at the Royal Opera House and then to leading ROH2, which did so much to open up the Royal Opera House to new influences. Since 2012, as she told us, she has led the cultural institute at King’s College London, where she is now vice-president and vice-principal.
Most of us never manage to be exceptionally good at even one thing. The noble Baroness has demonstrated through her career that she is exceptional in everything she undertakes. She showed in her speech today the same power and eloquence that she once expressed on stage, and we are extremely fortunate to have her with us.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, on securing this debate, and, like the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, and the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, I will focus on the creative industries and particularly on the theatre. As I said, I apologise in advance for repeating things already said very forcefully by other noble Lords. In doing so I must declare an interest as the deputy chair of the board of the Royal Shakespeare Company. I must also record particular thanks to Jacqui O’Hanlon, the RSC’s inspirational director of education, who frankly has forgotten more on this subject than I shall ever know and provided me with excellent briefing for this debate. I make no apology for having digested quite a lot of it wholesale into my remarks.
It is of course encouraging that the Government have launched a careers strategy for schools and we have heard many signs from other speakers of optimism about how it might improve things in the future. It is good that there are criteria and a timeframe for it to be delivered, but please let us not forget the immense pressure that schools face to meet all the new expectations put on them while also struggling with reducing budgets. It is also vital, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, said, that the strategy should not concentrate solely on the STEM subjects with which the Government are so preoccupied. Guiding young people towards a career is challenging and always has been, but particularly now because, as the noble Baroness remarked earlier, the World Economic Forum assessed in 2016 that 65% of young people in education today will go on to work in jobs that have not yet been created.
In such a fluid situation the need for students to develop flexible, adaptive, collaborative skills, along with an ability to think critically and independently, has never been more important. These skills, which studying creative and arts-based subjects crucially help to develop, are precisely those which employers of all kinds say are most important to our future prosperity. How sad then that these subjects are being increasingly marginalised in maintained schools, as recent statistics show all too clearly. It is also sad that, as the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, said—I declare a further interest as a member of the Communications Committee of your Lordships’ House, which I may say he leads brilliantly—employment opportunities in the creative sector itself are not well understood in most schools, so students are not being helped to recognise them.
DCMS figures reveal that 6% of all UK jobs are now in the creative industries. The sector has many self-employed freelancers and micro-businesses. Getting a job can often mean creating your own, rather than working for one of our national arts organisations, and career pathways are not always predictable. The sector is diverse, as are the qualifications necessary for industries that include craft, design, music, film, performing arts, cultural heritage, galleries and tourism —of course, all the areas in which digital skills are now so vital. But this diversity is not a bad thing; it is absolutely necessary if the entrepreneurial innovation and ambition which we will rely on more than ever in the coming decades is to thrive. Any careers strategy must include a commitment to sharing knowledge of the opportunities in the creative industries. This will require close co-operation between the Department for Education and DCMS. Can the Minister tell us how that is coming along?
We also need the cultural sector itself to make concrete connections between its education and outreach work and career pathways into the industry. This is already happening in some places: the RSC’s “Next Generation” talent and career development programme is a good example. It targets young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, recruited from schools across the whole country with which the RSC is in long-term partnerships, and offers them opportunities to work with the RSC both onstage and backstage. This can be a life-changing experience for the young people involved, for the sorts of reasons already mentioned by other speakers. These are to do with how little contact many young people have with any sense that these industries might be a place in which they could aspire to work. I hope the Minister will agree that encouragement and resources from government to allow other organisations to follow suit with this kind of programme would be an excellent investment in our future.
Lastly, the Motion tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, refers to “all students”. Jacqui O’Hanlon reminds me that in talking about career opportunities, we must not forget those with special educational needs and disabilities. Current employment rates for young people with additional learning needs are very low, taking in only 4.9% of those who would like to work. Here again the RSC is on the front foot with a pioneering programme of supported internships, developed with one of its partner schools, Woodlands in Coleshill, which has resulted in 61% of participating students getting into paid employment.
Other organisations are also doing amazing work. I take this opportunity to mention, as I have several times in your Lordships’ House, the astonishing achievements of Chickenshed in north London, an inclusive theatre company that has been going since 1974. Some noble Lords may have heard the founders talking about it with Sue Lawley on “The Reunion” last Sunday on Radio 4. Chickenshed welcomes into its theatre groups children and young people of all abilities aged from five to 21, and creates wonderful productions in its purpose-built theatre. If time allowed, I would tell your Lordships about “Stig of the Dump” and “Mr Stink”, but I am afraid I will have to save that for another time. However, Chickenshed also runs educational courses in inclusive performing arts at BTEC, foundation degree and BA levels, and many of its graduates go on to have careers in the arts. It is a shining example of how involvement in the performing arts can transform not only the lives of young people but the perceptions of audiences.
The cultural sector in all its diversity offers opportunity and hope—“hope”, today’s watchword—for the future. Let us ensure that it is not overlooked as the Government’s career strategy develops.
My Lords, I share with the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, whose wisdom I have been delighted to receive this afternoon, the fact of belonging to a family where there was no prior history of higher education. The only careers advice that I received at school as a working-class boy from south London was to read extra Latin in the sixth form—and look what happened.
Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Storey, as a priest of my generation I have never applied for a job; I have always been sent. When I was a young priest, I was invited to take up a university chaplaincy. I went to see the Bishop and waved this at him and he said, “No, you’re going to Sunderland”. I said, “Well, I should consult the family”, and he replied, “If you mean the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, I’ve done that. You’re going to Sunderland”.
So I am all the more grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for calling this important debate and to join in support for the Minister in all that he is seeking to undertake in delivering the strategy for careers education. However, we need to understand that any strategy will survive only if it lands well in every place. It is quite an uphill struggle, as the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, was saying. The June Public Accounts Committee report suggests that careers education around the country is “insufficient and inconsistent”. It is not only a lack of quality; it means that there is a lack of opportunity in the provision of careers education, which fundamentally flouts the notion of equality and access and social mobility for all young people—for all the students that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, refers to.
The Church of England Vision for Education issues a challenge to the Church and the rest of the educational community to seek the flourishing of every child and young person through and beyond the education system, regardless of their socioeconomic or family circumstances. At the heart of the vision is hope for all young people and the dignity of every young person, with no one to be written off.
However, the State of the Nation 2017 report from the former Social Mobility Commission draws a stark picture of exclusion and disadvantage. The east of England, where I serve, is not the most affected area, but the report highlights the denial of social mobility to young people in isolated rural communities and in coastal towns, which are very much characteristic of my region. There is a shortage of specialist teachers and sparse access to employers. The report is very firm in saying such areas are dire for youth social mobility outcomes.
The provision of goods careers advice, frequent interaction with employers and labour market preparation of students at school and college are vital. Regional universities such as Anglia Ruskin in my diocese and the University of Lincoln, which is not so far away, are working hard at building on all these connections. I understand that Lincoln, in particular, is noted for its contribution to economic regeneration and job creation. No doubt, the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, will have more to say about that.
We need the fullest possible rolling out of the careers strategy, given that some of the targets and target dates have already passed. One of those targets has been to ensure that schools give providers of technical education and apprenticeships the opportunity to talk to all pupils. Yet research from the Sutton Trust, published in July, indicates that less than half of young people have had the opportunity even to discuss doing an apprenticeship. It also found that more than 60% of teachers would rarely or never advise high-performing students to opt for an apprenticeship over a traditional university course. It is nigh on impossible for a young person to make an informed decision about their future if the careers advice is incomplete or biased.
Students use their own enterprise to research online and it is not helpful if the only outcomes taken note of are about earnings. This is important because we need to encourage young people to aim at those professions which do not have the biggest pay cheque, such as in health or education and across the third sector.
I hope that we can have a pattern of careers education and advice which is available to all—not limited to one form of employment or reputation of employment, but an opportunity for all to prosper. Hope for all young people and the dignity of all young people should be our watchwords.
My Lords, it is always a great pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely, who has done so much for Church schools.
I welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, to your Lordships’ House and congratulate her on an excellent and moving maiden speech. It is wonderful to see people who have been so successful in the world of the arts joining your Lordships’ House. We have little in common in our backgrounds—I have been a philistine businessman all my life—but I know that we share a birthday.
I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for securing this debate. I am delighted to see that careers education finally seems to be taking a real leap forward. As the noble Lord said, this is thanks to the work of the Careers & Enterprise Company. I join my noble friend Lady Bottomley in congratulating and thanking my previous boss, the right honourable Nicky Morgan, for starting this initiative. I pay tribute, as my noble friend did, to Claudia Harris, who so ably runs the CEC, and to Christine Hodgson, who chairs it so well. As the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said, Ofsted has recently reported some encouraging news, and the CEC has reported an improving picture across the eight Gatsby benchmarks which are so central to the Government’s career strategy.
It has been generally accepted wisdom for some time that the old-fashioned concept of careers counselling on its own was, for most pupils, a fairly ineffective way of giving careers advice. The best impact was through engagement with the world of work on active projects. McKinsey’s pan-European study some years ago showed that. The Education and Employers task force, which does such great work, has also shown that four or more encounters with the world of work mean that students are 86% less likely to become NEET. When one discusses young people’s experiences as a result of active involvement either in the workplace or with people from the world of work, one sees their eyes literally light up. It gives them a direct line of sight to the workplace and an understanding of why their studies are so important—indeed why they are at school at all.
As the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said, the CEC is now in partnership with all LEPs. It has created a network of more than 2,000 schools and colleges and 2,000 business volunteers to ensure coherence in the way employers and schools engage with each other. That coherence is so important: co-ordination between employers, schools and colleges.
The noble Lord, Lord Storey, referred to the old-fashioned, part-time, unqualified careers adviser or careers teacher. I have long believed that, for this coherence and connection to work well, there needs to be one person in each school whose focus is on this and nothing else. Individual schools may find it hard to find the money for this, but the payback would be substantial. Some of them may find the money from local businesses to pay for such a person to help that co-ordination. In my experience, I have never found businesses slow to come forward once you ask them, but often they just do not know how to engage.
In my multi-academy trust, we have a central person responsible for what we call educational enrichment, which covers a wider range of extra-curricular activities: in careers, engaging with a host of industries, work experience, speakers, work and university visits and engaging with all those charities which provide free help to schools on careers, such as Business in the Community, the highly successful Business Class, Speakers for Schools, which the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, mentioned, Primary Futures and Outward Bound trips.
We particularly like to send our students on trips—for instance, one of our primary school classes went on a trip to Rome this summer—and on Outward Bound courses, because taking pupils out of their home environment greatly enhances their world-view. Studies in the USA have shown consistently for many years that such activities achieve the highest in building children’s self-confidence and self-esteem.
It is essential that schools focus on characteristics such as this—what the Sutton Trust calls essential life skills. Some call this character education. However it is described, it is so important. Indeed, Harvard has said that it is as important as academic qualifications. Characteristics such as resilience, teamwork, creativity, emotional intelligence, presentation and social skills have become even more important in the modern world, as our young people spend far too much time gazing at smartphones. These characteristics can be developed only by engaging in a broad range of activity delivered through extra-curricular activity and, in my schools, an extended school day.
Of course, the best way to help a student’s career is to give them a good education. Schools must always focus on giving their pupils a broad, knowledge-rich curriculum, that cultural capital, that world-view, which is particularly important for children who come from less advantaged backgrounds—homes where there are no books, for instance—because this greater knowledge and wider world-view substantially enhances students’ thinking and social skills. It gives them not just more to think about but more to talk about.
The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, in an, as always, inspirational speech, referred to work experience. I particularly mention the work of the Social Mobility Foundation, so ably run by David Johnston, which organises work experience for young people who do not have those parental social connections.
I share my noble friend Lady Bottomley’s optimism. I think we are seeing the beginning of a sea change in careers education, and I hope it will now go from strength to strength.
My Lords, I add my congratulations to my noble friend Lady Bull on her excellent and inspiring maiden speech. In declaring my interest as co-chair of the All-Party Group on Modern Languages, I want to use my contribution to this important debate to highlight the specific need for careers education and advice to convey the enormous and increasing value of language skills to school leavers and graduates as they make their career choices. This advice must also start early enough for school students to have the opportunity to choose one or more foreign languages among their GCSE options. This means getting focused and well-informed advice during or before year 9—before option choice deadlines kick in, as the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, pointed out.
The other element of this debate which I want to stress is the reference to all students. It is often wrongly assumed that studying foreign languages is just for the brightest students, but I will show how beneficial they can be for anyone, at whatever level, and how better integration of language learning throughout all stages of education could have a game-changing impact on social mobility.
Languages can be the gateway to wider career choices, either as a specialist linguist or in any other role where an ability to communicate in another language is an asset. Foreign language skills are in use in practically every sector in the economy, with higher than average demand in the financial services, IT and telecommunications, passenger transport, fashion and design and hotel and catering industries. They are in use at all levels in the workforce, not just senior management. In fact, the greatest skills gaps are among administrative and clerical staff, and those working at elementary grades. All that is before we even mention the need for languages and linguists in diplomacy, defence and security.
Lack of language skills in the UK workforce is costing the economy £48 billion a year, or 3.5% of GDP. Yet only 36% of business leaders say they are satisfied with school leavers’ language abilities, and the British chambers of commerce say that the UK’s languages deficit is adversely affecting our ability to build export growth. As many as 96% of the companies they surveyed said they had no foreign language capacity. In the British Academy’s Born Global research, companies spelled out that lack of language skills creates operational problems, including client dissatisfaction and supply chain difficulties.
Google Translate can help only up to a point. Human beings, not algorithms, are needed to communicate accurately, fully sympathetically and creatively. In the light of all that, I warmly welcome and applaud Her Majesty’s Government’s recent investment of £4.8 million in the new MFL hubs to boost language skills and the number of linguists. I would appreciate some further information from the Minister on how the effectiveness of these hubs will be monitored and assessed. For example, will they be required to have formal links with the careers hubs that we heard about from my noble friend Lord Aberdare and others?
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages has heard evidence from employers who are unable to fill graduate posts because of a lack of language skills, and they are resorting increasingly to overseas recruitment to meet their needs. Even for the specialists, the supply chain is shrinking dangerously. There are now fewer MFL graduates than there are vacant posts in secondary schools. Yet, with the extremely attractive language teacher training scholarships of £27,500 now available, teaching is a very strong career option for an ambitious languages graduate.
Employers more generally have consistently said how much they value graduates who have had some international and cross-cultural experience, usually by taking a year abroad as part of their degree course, which is an option not only for linguists but for all students. This underlines how important it is that the UK remains a full participating member of the Erasmus+ programme after Brexit, and I should be grateful if the Minister could update the House on where the Government currently are on this vital detail of the Brexit negotiations, which will undoubtedly have an impact on the future employability of our young people. Research has shown that Erasmus students are 23% less likely to face unemployment than those who have not taken a year abroad.
It is also important that we reverse the current trend for foreign language skills to become the preserve of a privileged educational elite. Languages up to age 16 are compulsory in 70% of independent schools but in only 16% of state schools. Despite the incentive of the EBacc, a worrying number of schools are now shrinking key stage 3 into two years, with the result that more and more children in the state sector are denied the benefits of compulsory language teaching after the age of only 13.
The White Paper earlier this year on the industrial strategy recognised regional disparities in the UK’s skills base. Low take-up in foreign languages correlates with regions of poor productivity and low skill levels overall. For example, in the north-east in 2016, only 43% of pupils sat a GCSE in a language, compared with 65% in inner London, and this gap has been widening year on year. We also need Her Majesty’s Government to build languages into their plans for technical education. The National Retraining Scheme for targeting skills shortages is welcome; can the Minister say whether modern foreign languages could be considered as a skill shortage in the next phase of this scheme?
One route to mobility is the language industry itself—I do not mean just interpreters, translators and teachers, but researchers, people who write textbooks, apps, CDs and websites, people who do subtitling and dubbing for films and TV and all manner of other experts. It is estimated that this industry is worth over €20 billion across the EU and has a very high growth rate. As an English-speaking nation, we are uniquely well placed to take strategic advantage of this expected further growth, not only in Europe but worldwide. I hope that our careers service and careers advisers would regard it as part of their responsibility to ensure that our young people get their fair share of the prosperity on offer in this sector. I am also aware of a proposal for a sector deal for the tourism industry, which acknowledges that language skills are vital for increasing the value of inbound tourism and hospitality. Specifically, it says that,
“language skills are an essential business requirement and a significant element of providing good customer service”.
Whether they have sights on being a highly skilled and trained interpreter for the UN, or a hotel receptionist whose work can be greatly enhanced by a conversational ability in another language, all our students, at school and university, deserve to be better informed and better equipped to function as successful members of society in a global labour market and in a country which aspires to leadership in international trade, defence and diplomacy. This means acknowledging that, in the 21st century, speaking only English is as much of a disadvantage as speaking no English. Our careers services and advisers must reflect this and encourage all students to seize the opportunities that an ability to use another language will certainly give them.
My Lords, I am sure that we can all say amen to the noble Baroness and those final remarks of her excellent speech. We are all very much in the debt of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for choosing this subject, introducing it and saying some extremely sensible and cogent things, but I suppose that we will all go away from this debate with one particular memory, that of the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Bull. She speaks against a multi-career background, as the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, reminded us, and she will bring a new breadth and depth to our debates, particularly on the creative industries and the arts. We are grateful to her for what she has said and much look forward to what she will say in the future.
I have been thinking as I listened to this debate of a speech I heard a very long time ago; it was my first full day in the other place, way back in June 1970. In the debate on the Loyal Address, John Nott, the Member for St Ives—I forget whether he was proposing or seconding—used some words that I have never forgotten: that the real poor of the 20th century are those without hope. It is even truer in the 21st century. The whole purpose of a good education is really to give and sustain hope as well as to impart knowledge. We must be very careful about compartmentalising things, because a good education can be given only at a school where the pupils have instilled in them a sense of community, a sense of partnership and a sense of vocation—even if it is not taken to the extremes that the right reverend Prelate suffered when he was given his marching orders by his first bishop. It is sad that he cannot give similar marching orders to some of his clergy—but that is a totally different subject.
The right reverend Prelate referred to the University of Lincoln, and I happen to be a member of its court. It is a remarkable university which in 20 short years has achieved a degree of national prominence and international recognition. One of the reasons for that is the one alluded to by the right reverend Prelate. The University of Lincoln sees itself as at the heart of the community. Although it serves that community, it has students not only from all over the nation but from all over the world, including a sizeable contingent of students from China. What it does, in the aspects of its work referred to by the right reverend Prelate, is to work closely with local schools and businesses. When I talked about a sense of participation, community and working together, I had that very much in mind.
This is a co-operative thing. A noble Lord referred earlier to careers education taught in schools. You cannot teach careers education; you have to co-operate with those who provide employment around the area, and you have to be able to communicate to your students—I speak as one who over 50 years ago had responsibility for this—that there is a world outside. If they do not remain in their immediate locality—and these days few do so for a very long time—you have to point where they can go. You have to work closely with those who are proficient in industry, the arts and commerce, and that will be particularly and increasingly important as we move through this complex 21st century.
Never lose sight of the home base. In Lincoln, the home base is simplified and exemplified by our glorious cathedral. That cathedral, which is one of the greatest in Europe, and indeed in the world, was built centuries ago by those who came from all over Europe—dare I say that?—with their craft skills to create something of permanent and enduring worth, just as some of the very same people did in Ely, not all that far away.
One of the things we are in danger of losing sight of, in our near-obsession that every student is a failure if he or she does not go to university, is the enormous, rewarding nature of a career in the crafts. It is as richly fulfilling to have played a part in creating or sustaining a great building—part of what I hope is our imperishable heritage—as it is to bring to life the music and the skill of choreographers on the stage of a place not far from here. We are not devoting sufficient time to apprenticeships and what true apprenticeships ought to be.
I have the honour to chair a body, under the auspices of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, called the William Morris Craft Fellowship, which I helped to found over three decades ago. We give awards to young men and women—and I am pleased to say many of them have been women, some of them bricklayers, some stonemasons, some woodworkers—who have demonstrated real potential, not only for perfecting their own craft, but for a certain managerial ability to take charge of a site over others. The word “apprenticeship” has been devalued in many ways over the last few years. We should do all we can to encourage young people to realise that this is a richly rewarding career. You cannot work adequately with your hands unless you have a reasonably good head on your shoulders. I very much hope this will not be lost sight of by those who have responsibility for careers education.
I want to make two other brief points. First, careers education should not be concentrated within a single school. Bringing schools together across a city or county and sharing in the expertise available—not necessarily to each one but collectively to them all—is a sensible way forward. My other point is that I would not wish to outlaw unpaid internships; that slightly takes issue with my noble friend Lord Gilbert, who made a splendid speech, Of course young people should not be exploited, but every year, for the past 35 years, I have received in the Palace of Westminster a group of American students who come here to learn about our system as part of their course, without being paid for it; we would not want to lose that.
My Lords, I want to intervene briefly, not to say something about language skills—I will not do that, as I agree with every word said by my noble friend Lady Coussins—and not just because I want to tell my grandchildren that I once carried a spear on a stage adorned by the noble Baroness, Lady Bull. I want to draw attention to a June report by the Economic Affairs Select Committee of your Lordships’ House, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. As a member of the committee, I draw noble Lords’ attention to two paragraphs of the report. The first deals with the problem of how to ensure parity of esteem among all forms of higher and further education—a problem on which the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking, has spoken wisely and eloquently down the years.
Paragraph 254 of the Select Committee report says that:
“The prioritisation of the undergraduate degree in schools, through the use of incentives and targets, has helped fuel perceptions that other routes are inferior. Schools must present all post-16 and post-18 options as equal. Incentives aimed at schools which encourage them to promote sixth form and university should be removed. Every pupil aged 16 should spend one day learning about apprenticeships and how to apply for them”.
Since I feel as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, does about apprenticeships, I do not think one day is nearly enough. I strongly support the thrust of the report.
Secondly, on the issue of how to help the young navigate a career, paragraph 260 of the report points out that:
“There is a clear and well understood process for university applications which is not available for other forms of post-school education. The process for students considering routes other than university should be clearer and less complex. There is merit in a single, UCAS-style, portal for covering all forms of higher education, further education and apprenticeships. The Government should ask UCAS how such a portal could be designed and implemented”.
I strongly support that.
I am not quite as optimistic as some have been in this debate, such as the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley. I see the glass as only half full but I think that it would be relatively easy to fill it and I would be very interested to know the Minister’s reaction to the two suggestions made by the Economic Affairs Select Committee.
My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for introducing this debate, and I acknowledge his commitment and expertise, as well as the very comprehensive way in which he introduced the debate. The importance of this subject is reflected in the excellent briefings that we have received from a very wide range of people and organisations. We are most grateful to them for engaging with us, as we are to the Library for its briefing. We have heard enthusiasm for this topic from all sides of the House.
I add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, on her inspiring maiden speech, which particularly highlighted the need for social mobility. Her expertise will be warmly welcomed in this House and we look forward to hearing from her on many occasions.
If we are sharing our own careers advice, I should tell your Lordships that an adviser came to my girls’ school and said, “Well girls, a few of you will go to university, so we don’t need to worry about you. Most of you will get married, so we don’t have to worry about you. The rest of you can think about being a teacher, a nurse or a secretary”. It was truly empowering.
Good careers education and advice is essential if young people are to find work that matches their skills and aspirations. We face an acute skills shortage, which will be much worse without EU workers, so this is crucial for the country as well as for individuals. However, for many years we have lacked a cohort of professional careers advisers who can open young people’s eyes to a range of work opportunities. If, from very young, they can see work which matches their skills and enthusiasms, not only does school work start to look more relevant but they gain self-confidence, especially where academic work is not their forte.
I entirely endorse the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, the noble Baronesses, Lady Bull and Lady McIntosh, and the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, in eloquently supporting the creative industries. They are enormously important. As a fellow linguist, I also entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, when she says that language learning is very important in gaining a proper and broad vision of careers.
We know that young people gender-stereotype work from a very young age. Boys are seen to be good for engineering, business and construction and for becoming doctors; girls for caring, hairdressing, nursing and teaching. Well-paid industrial jobs are for the boys and the lower-paid service sector is for the girls. But of course skills and aptitudes are not gender-based. We have some brilliant women engineers and entrepreneurs and brilliant men hairdressers and teachers. All options should be open to all. It is vital to break down these stereotypes from the earliest years and to encourage young women in particular to see the rewards of careers in engineering, construction, the police and fire services, flying and many other walks of life which are heavily male dominated. Language in this area is important. We need to be sure that we talk about firefighters and police officers, not policemen and firemen, and to make it quite clear that engineering is not all about greasy overalls, nor construction all about muddy fields. There are great and very varied job opportunities for girls as well as for boys.
I do not think that there has ever been a golden age of careers education and advice, but we did once have dedicated professional careers advisers, who are now a dying breed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, set out. Government policies mean that schools have too many pressures to channel pupils into the academic routes which gain them kudos and funding. Teachers will generally themselves have followed academic routes and they are unlikely to have the time or expertise to set out the skills needed to be a builder, a pilot or a chef, where vocational rather than academic skills are more important than GCSEs and A-levels. The dreaded pressures of GCSE and A-level bedevil those skilled and able students whose inclinations take them towards practical, work-based qualifications.
Non-academic skills such as empathy, resilience and communication have been proved to lead to better well-being, higher academic attainment and greater employability. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, talked about these wider skills. What are the Government doing to encourage schools to develop such non-academic skills in their students? Government policy needs to encourage young people into work which suits them, rather than being pushed towards inappropriate university degrees.
Last December, the Government produced their Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential plan. This was aimed at boosting skills and confidence to make the leap from education into work, raising career aspirations and building a new type of partnership with businesses to improve advice, information and experiences for young people. It aimed to improve social mobility through education and reduce attainment gaps between disadvantaged children and their affluent peers. There has been much mention today of social mobility, including from the right reverend Prelate. God certainly moves in mysterious ways, but He does not seem to consult much.
We have seen the national collaborative outreach programme encourage progression to higher education in areas with lower levels of participation, which raises the question of whether greater support is needed to engage and inform parents and guardians of the post-16 educational opportunities available. Enabling better social mobility is at the very heart of good careers advice. By the way, we should not forget careers advice in universities. We tend to concentrate on schools, which are vitally important, but at university often people have not sorted out what their careers are going to be and advice at that stage is also important.
As we have heard, there is a growing need for STEM skills, but not at the expense of creative skills. Will these plans increase student encounters with STEM employers, including SMEs, to encourage greater interest among pupils? Does greater attention need to be paid to the quality of teaching to ensure that children are well prepared to pursue a career in STEM subjects?
The careers strategy and the statutory guidance which followed in January have been welcome moves by a Government who have not shown much interest in careers for some time. In July, I asked a question of the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Agnew, who was due to respond to this debate but has delegated it to the noble Viscount. I trust he was not frightened off by his somewhat inadequate answers to my questions about careers advice for primary school children, but of course we welcome the noble Viscount in his place. I agree with my noble friend Lord Storey about the excitement and effectiveness of the Top Trumps game for children, although Top Trumps may not be the most appropriate terminology in this day and age.
I pointed out in my Question that the National Association of Head Teachers, to which about 98% of primary head teachers belong, has over the past five years developed a brilliant programme, Primary Futures, which has attracted international recognition—it even gets a mention in the DfE’s careers strategy. It gets volunteers from the world of work to go into schools to inspire and motivate children and open opportunities for them.
The Minister replied that the Government had chosen to ignore the professionals and instead give £2 million to the Careers and Enterprise Company to replicate this work in order to extend the Gatsby benchmark programme. With great respect, I ask again why the Government are not throwing their weight behind the NAHT’s brilliant programme and helping it to be rolled out across primary schools in the country. The programme has been developed by people who devote their professional lives to enhancing opportunities for young people. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Nash, who once upon a time was my noble friend—happy days—in welcoming the CEC. The company benefits from many teachers’ advice, but the NAHT is exclusively teacher and pupil-based and really knows what is best.
We hear from the British Youth Council that work experience has been one of their main concerns. Work experience hubs for 11 to18 year-olds was the number two issue in the 2017 Make Your Mark consultation and was debated in the House of Commons in November 2017. What progress is being made with these hubs?
The Youth Select Committee, a British Youth Council initiative, has raised many concerns about the idea of quality work experience, the role of careers advice and the disparity and provision based on where young people live and the type of school they attend, their household income, and the connections—or lack thereof—of their parents. It is important to address all these things.
The Careers and Enterprise Company has a real task ahead of it. It needs to act, and act fast. What progress has been made in the rollout of enterprise advisers in schools and what impact are they having, particularly in disadvantaged schools? Does the CEC have plans to trial and identify what works in careers advice for pupils from lower socioeconomic backgrounds? Surely it is time for a powerful national strategy, with national support for good, professional careers education and advice. Our young people deserve no less and the country needs it.
My Lords, I start by paying tribute to what I regard as an outstanding maiden speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Bull. It was powerfully delivered, containing wisdom, perception, humour and—which I particularly liked—a determination right from the start of her membership of your Lordships’ House to hold the Government to account. I predict that her name will become one of those that makes noble Lords hurry to the Chamber when they see it on the annunciator—and I shall be one of them. I feel a sense of some shame that I did not include in my speech the need to highlight to young people careers opportunities in the arts and culture sector, as the noble Baroness and my noble friend Lady McIntosh did.
Not for the first time, the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has done your Lordships a service by securing this important debate and, as ever, introducing it so effectively. The workplace is changing and careers advice must change with it. In fact, there must be a change from careers advice to careers education, which of course are not the same thing. With the likelihood that as many as a third of jobs could become obsolete over the next 20 years, more must be done to ensure that learning is targeted at the skills needed to deliver success, not just at the personal level but for the UK economy as a whole. As various noble Lords have said, including the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, and the noble Lord, Lord Storey, it is about “jobs” not “careers”. The changing world of work will necessitate several changes of job, and possibly career, with consequent upskilling and reskilling. Learning, therefore, will and must become lifelong.
Careers education should be a means of improving social mobility by encouraging young people to embrace careers and areas of work that they might not otherwise consider. In their careers strategy launched last year, the Government rightly argued that improving careers education was especially important for students from working-class backgrounds.
The Government had earlier recognised the huge mistake of devolving responsibility to schools by establishing the Careers & Enterprise Company in 2014. To some extent, that continued when they agreed to accept the so-called Baker clause in the Technical and Further Education Act 2017. It requires that all state-funded schools and academies in England allow the providers of technical education and apprenticeships access to pupils to inform them about these routes into employment. But this has not been universally welcomed by head teachers. Some colleges have reported that, on the basis of responses they receive from schools they approach to speak to students—or perhaps more importantly, the lack of them—it is difficult not to draw the conclusion that the careers advice offered is often limited and selective and, as I said, too often it is careers advice and not careers education. Colleges also say that because schools with sixth-form facilities remain heavily incentivised by government to retain their students, this has had a direct knock-on effect on the breadth of careers education offered. They also report that, since the introduction of the Baker clause in January this year, there has been little, if any, positive difference in access granted.
At a time when schools are struggling with increasingly limited resources, these are often focused on areas of a pupil’s development that are directly reflected by accountability measures, at the expense of other areas that are equally crucial for a young person’s future life chances, such as good-quality careers guidance. Such an environment surely will not help to advance the Government’s careers strategy.
That strategy has been generally welcomed, and I am on record as saying that it provides a firm basis on which careers education can be developed. It provided for the Gatsby benchmarks to be included in the updated statutory guidance for schools and colleges published at the start of this year, and it listed actions to be taken by this month. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has detailed those, so I will not repeat them.
In July, the Secretary of State announced the names and locations of 20 careers hubs. This announcement was welcomed by the Association of Colleges, although it seems that the central fund for these hubs would be equivalent to only £1,000 per school or college. I ask the Minister: is that really enough to make a meaningful difference? The hubs are co-ordinated by the Careers & Enterprise Company, whose representatives I met last week to discuss their work to bring about progress after the recent stagnation in careers education. They initially identified the so-called cold spots that define where young people most need careers support, and they update these statistics each year. Their enterprise adviser networks and enterprise co-ordinators are already having an effect, and the careers strategy handed the Careers & Enterprise Company increased responsibility in the delivery of the Gatsby benchmark standards for careers provision.
I thoroughly agree with my noble friend Lady Morris that only the achievement of all eight benchmarks should be regarded as meriting success. All schools are supposed to have achieved these by 2020. It will, to put it mildly, be interesting to see what the position is in two years’ time.
The Careers & Enterprise Company provided progress reports, including on a steady rise in the number of schools meeting the eight Gatsby benchmarks. It would be helpful if the Minister could say what percentage of schools and colleges have now met all eight benchmarks, as well as how many have met this month’s deadline for providing website information on careers and the appointment of a careers leader.
The introduction of careers leaders, tasked with driving forward a careers strategy in every school and college, is welcome. However, they will be funded by each establishment and so will be part of the culture. It is arguably unrealistic to expect them not to exercise some bias in their approach to student retention. There is evidence of schools with dedicated careers staff being told by their senior management not to engage with volunteers from the business sector. That smacks of head teachers being more concerned with their own careers than those of their students. It is an attitude problem that the DfE needs to root out, and quickly.
I referred to lifelong learning earlier, and that is central to any meaningful response to meeting the country’s future economic challenges and opportunities. The appeal of earning while learning for younger learners is increasing. It is essential that schools’ career leaders make the young people they are offering guidance to aware of alternative styles of post-school learning. For instance, among 18 to 20 year-olds distance learning, two-year degrees, evening degrees and degree apprenticeships are all gaining in popularity.
This is at one end of the student age scale, but much can be achieved at the other end. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said that SMEs could be more involved in careers education. The Federation of Small Businesses is a strong supporter of, and a contributor to, careers education as part of the curriculum in secondary schools. But that organisation also recognises the need to target careers education at primary school pupils. That is why it works with Primary Futures, an alliance formed by the National Association of Head Teachers and the charity Education and Employers.
I sat through the entire debate thinking it was really strange that no one had mentioned Primary Futures or primary schools and then in the speech immediately prior to my own, the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, did just that and stole my thunder. None the less, Primary Futures carried out research showing that young people start to rule jobs in or out when they are as young as seven, specifically around gender stereotypes, with the patterns of jobs chosen by seven year-olds remarkably similar to those selected by 17 year-olds.
Primary Futures aims to broaden horizons and raise aspirations for primary school children by involving volunteers from the world of work. It is now accelerating its rollout to engage up to 50% of primary schools across England, providing the opportunity for over 250,000 pupils to access volunteers from the world of work. I echo the call from the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, that the Government should be looking at supplementing the finance provided by the National Association of Head Teachers and Education and Employers to Primary Futures because of the very important and effective work it already carries out.
I conclude with an issue raised by several noble Lords during the debate. I asked the Minister to set out how the Government will measure success in their careers strategy. Clearly this will be a process, with the initial steps taking effect this month. They are important, but how will the Government monitor progress in careers education and how will they deal with schools that continue to resist attempts to refocus their priorities from routes to higher education to apprenticeships and other opportunities that will be vital to the economy in the future?
More work is required if the Government are to achieve to their goal, as stated in the careers strategy, to support everyone, whatever their age, to go as far as their talents will take them and have a rewarding career.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for securing this important debate. I declare an interest. I spent much of my career working in human resources in industry and the City of London and have worked as an executive search consultant and as a recruitment adviser.
There is little more important than young people being given the right careers advice. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, described it much more eloquently: it helps them to understand their own strengths and weaknesses, to build confidence in themselves and to understand that there is a world of work waiting for them that offers many great opportunities. We must inspire young people and help them understand the arts and science pathways which offer equally fantastic careers that will allow them to spread their wings beyond their home area, as my noble friend Lord Cormack mentioned.
That is why we are so lucky to have with us for this debate the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, who gave such an excellent maiden speech. Like the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, I have been fortunate to have attended several performances at the Royal Opera House when the noble Baroness held starring roles as a ballerina. If that background were not enough as a shining inspiration for people to take up careers in the performing arts, she continues to lead and influence the cultural sector in higher education and in the wider community. Today, she has highlighted the importance of creativity and I am certain that the House will benefit much from her wisdom, experience, knowledge, energy and perhaps, as she alluded to, actions rather than thoughts in the future.
The noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, explained the importance of language skills in an increasingly global labour market. I can confirm that we announced the names of the schools that will lead the modern foreign language hubs on 3 August and will announce further details this autumn about how we will monitor their work. We are also conducting a range of pilot initiatives that will inform the policy development and final design of the National Retraining Scheme. As we move into a post-Brexit economy, languages will become ever-more important in ensuring that we can compete in the global marketplace.
The noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, asked for an update on ensuring that the UK remains a full member of Erasmus+. The UK is open to exploring participation in the successor scheme and we are considering carefully the Commission’s proposal for the next Erasmus programme. We will continue to participate in discussions while we remain in the EU. The decision on future UK participation in Erasmus will be decided as part of the future partnership negotiations.
Whether in the arts, sciences, modern foreign languages or another area of interest, we want everyone to understand that there are different routes into work and how to plan their steps to get there. We recognise that people may experience several careers in their lifetime, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, mentioned, and that learning is a lifelong experience. The House will know that we have had two recent debates on this subject.
Let us look first at our successes in taking action to improve the careers system. In 2012, we gave schools a duty to provide independent careers guidance for all 12 to 18 year-olds, and I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Baker of Dorking, who was here earlier but is no longer in his place, who more recently proposed new legislation that requires schools to allow technical education and apprenticeship providers to talk to pupils about what they can offer. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely mentioned the lack of awareness of apprenticeships. Perhaps I can reassure him a little: there is work to do on this, but the Apprenticeship Support and Knowledge for Schools programme went into over 3,000 schools in 2016 to inform and inspire young people.
Also in 2012, we established the National Careers Service. The service offers face-to-face support for adults, particularly if they want to develop new skills or retrain. Careers information is also available through a website and helpline for people of all ages. In 2014, Ofsted published a report that identified employer engagement as the weakest aspect of careers provision. In response, the Government established the Careers & Enterprise Company, much mentioned in today’s debate, to work with schools and colleges to build relationships with local businesses and employers. I am pleased that there is general support for the CEC, particularly from the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and from my noble friend Lord Nash. I am pleased that he is with us today.
The noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, raised several points about the role and purpose of the CEC. I could give her quite a long answer, but the short answer is that the CEC’s priority is to build infrastructure and develop relationships on the ground through its enterprise adviser network and funded activities. The focus is on tailoring the offer locally with resources focused on the areas of greatest need—so-called cold spots, which again have been mentioned today. The company set up a new enterprise adviser network. Senior business volunteers help schools and colleges to build relationships with more employers, drawing on their business experience and contacts. The noble Lords, Lord Aberdare and Lord Watson, spoke about the lack of reference to SMEs. I can give some reassurance that 42% of enterprise advisers are in fact from small businesses.
The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, asked what progress the CEC has made with the enterprise adviser network in schools and what impact it is having. I can tell noble Lords that that the network is supporting over 46% of schools and colleges in England and will support all of them by the end of 2020. An independent evaluation last year found that each school and college in the network is working with three new employers on average. They range from multinational firms to local small business owners. For example, Dale Power Solutions in Scarborough, apprenticeship employer of the year, is one of hundreds of employers supporting local students to increase their employability skills. This can include mentoring and help with online applications—which I know are challenging for young people—CVs and interviews.
The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, also asked whether the company trials and identifies what works in careers advice for pupils from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. As the House knows, social mobility is an important cornerstone. The company has developed a model to help us to understand which parts of the country are most in need of support with careers activity provision—now known as cold spots, as I said. I assure my noble friend Lady Bottomley that this funding extends to areas such as Hull, Humber and the Isle of Wight, where the company is funding a number of excellent organisations to support disadvantaged young people, including the Prince’s Trust, Young Enterprise and EngineeringUK. This approach is helping the Careers & Enterprise Company to focus limited resources on areas of greatest need. All programmes are evaluated to improve our understanding of which interventions are most effective.
The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, mentioned the need to raise awareness of careers strategy and what is available through the CEC. I agree that this is important. The CEC has run a series of roadshows for schools and has an annual conference, which I did not mention to the right reverend Prelate earlier. The company has awarded £13.7 million through two rounds of an investment fund, which has delivered over 24,000 career-related activities across the country that are having a clear benefit on the work-readiness of young people.
We have laid the foundations for an effective careers system but we recognise that there is more to do. It is good that experienced people such as the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, keep holding the Government’s feet to the fire on this subject. In 2016, the ASPIRES study found that fewer than two-thirds of students in year 11 said that they received careers education. Of those who did, just over half were satisfied with the careers education they received. Clearly more needs to be done, which is why the Government published a careers strategy in December 2017.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bull, asked about the impact of future skills on careers guidance. Our careers strategy is a long-term plan. It is vital that individuals have access to high-quality labour market information on new and emerging industries to help them make informed choices. It has been mentioned that the choice of jobs will change substantially in the coming years.
The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, rightly identifies softer skills such as communication, resilience and empathy as essential for careers. Employer mentoring is an effective way of developing these skills. The CEC supported the “Make the Grade” programme to deliver employer mentoring to over 7,700 participants, 88% of whom reported that this increased their confidence and motivation. Jobcentre Plus advisers work with schools to offer young people an insight into the softer skills needed for the world of work and advice on traineeships and apprenticeships.
As mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, the careers strategy has been developed in partnership with Gatsby, a charitable foundation set up by the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury. It has developed eight Gatsby benchmarks, which define an ambitious framework for careers guidance that works for schools, employers and, most importantly, young people and their families.
The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, made the point that we must not forget those with special educational needs and disabilities. We welcome the fantastic work of Chickenshed, and the Government agree that we must make sure that those with special educational needs get the support that they need. The careers strategy announced a £1.7 million fund to test new careers approaches in this area.
The careers strategy asks all schools and colleges to adopt the benchmarks and meet them by the end of 2020. Gatsby funded a pilot with 16 schools and colleges in the north-east of England to look at the impact of putting the benchmarks into practice. At the start of the pilot in 2015, no school or college achieved more than three of the benchmarks. After two years, 87.5% of the schools and colleges were reaching six to eight of the benchmarks. The north-east pilot set a model for local delivery of the Gatsby benchmarks and showed what progress can be made with good leadership and a clear sense of purpose.
Our careers strategy will spread that good practice across the country, with an expanded role for the CEC. The company is setting up 20 new careers hubs. Up to 40 schools and colleges will build networks with universities, training providers, employers and careers professionals to improve careers guidance in the regions. A hub lead will co-ordinate activity. To answer the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Watson, we believe that this is enough at the moment, but we will certainly be keeping our eye on the numbers. Hubs will receive a share of £1.25 million to spend on careers and employability activities.
The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, asked about funding for schools not being in the careers hubs, but there are other funding streams available, including through opportunity areas and local enterprise partnerships. Many careers organisations are also offering free resources that schools can access.
In addition, the north-east pilot found that every school and college needs a careers leader who is responsible and accountable for the delivery of the careers programme. That is why we have also asked the CEC to work with providers to develop training for careers leaders. The Government’s careers strategy made £4 million available for at least 500 places, as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said. He asked, though, with only 500 careers leaders’ bursaries, how extra demand might be met, if needed. An online careers leader training package will be made available, which I hope provides some reassurance.
My noble friend Lord Nash highlighted the research from the Education and Employers task force. We expect secondary schools and colleges to provide every young person with at least one employer encounter per year and a further, first-hand experience of the workplace before the age of 16, in line with the requirements in the Gatsby benchmarks.
I can reassure the noble Baronesses, Lady Bull and Lady McIntosh, and my noble friend Lord Gilbert that we expect young people to meet employers from the creative industries. The Careers & Enterprise Company has enterprise advisers from employers including Galleries for Justice, Rising Arts Agency and Shakespeare’s Globe. Our commitment to cultural and creative industries can also be seen in our significant investment, spending almost £500 million between 2016 and 2020 to support a range of music and arts education programmes. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, in particular, will say that we have more to do; it is certainly something that we will keep an eye on.
The Gatsby benchmarks include an expectation that every young person should have a personal guidance interview by the age of 16. This can help them to make significant study and career choices, or offer vital support for job applications and interviews. The work of the Career Development Institute, the single UK-wide professional body for the careers sector, is raising the status and profile of the careers profession—an important point to make. It produces excellent resources to help schools and colleges, including a commissioning guide and a UK register of careers professionals.
We recognise that parents can influence the career choices that their children make—something I do not believe was raised in today’s debate. It is a work in progress, but we want to bring all government careers information into one place—a one-stop shop, if you will. That will help parents with older children to research the different ways to pursue a particular career.
The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, and the noble Lord, Lord Storey, spoke about primary schools and careers. They will know—I think I have mentioned it before in the House—that Australia is looking at starting careers advice or guidance at the age of eight. The noble Lord, Lord Watson, spoke about Primary Futures. Australia may be right: this is obviously not formal careers guidance, but I think we should look at what they are trying to do. It is important that, in line with parents, primary schools work closely to decide what is best, what is right and appropriate at that stage. I agree with the concept that we should start careers education at primary school. We want children at that stage to be encouraged to think about the world of work and to understand the link between learning and their futures.
The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, asked about the role of Primary Futures. We are working with the charity Education and Employers task force, which helps to run Primary Futures, to test and evaluate new approaches to understand what careers activities work well in primary schools. The noble Lord, Lord Storey, asked about careers guidance at primary schools. The Government, to go further on this point, are investing £2 million over two years to support our agenda on primary careers provision.
Much was said in this afternoon’s debate about monitoring progress: it was raised, in particular, by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and by others. We will be monitoring the progress that schools and colleges make in meeting the Gatsby benchmarks and improving their careers programmes. The CEC will publish an annual report on how well, or not so well, thousands of schools across the country are doing against every benchmark. Ofsted will continue to assess the quality of careers guidance when inspecting schools and colleges, and we now include data in school performance tables on the destinations of young people after leaving education or training. Outcomes are important, and this data shows how well schools are preparing young people for adult life. Noble Lords will know now much importance I put on outcomes at university level, but we think it is just as important at school level.
We believe that the careers strategy is bold and ambitious, and I hope that in this respect we are at least “sustaining hope”, in the words of my noble friend Lord Cormack. It is good to have broad support from a number of Peers on this. My noble friend Lady Bottomley, and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, were sufficiently supportive to say that they think we are going in the right direction. I am, however, the first to say that there is more to do. We are already seeing signs of progress: in June, Ofsted highlighted improvements in careers provision in schools. We must build on this. As the noble Lord, Lord Storey, said, we must give every young person the inspiration to find the career that is right for them, and advice to help them plan their route there. We must equip every young person with the skills to perform well in an interview and the attributes they need to succeed in the workplace.
The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, raised a couple of points on the Economic Affairs Committee report. I realise that he is on that committee. I can reassure him, without giving a direct answer to those points, that we will have a debate on the report and the Government’s response, though I cannot provide a date.
In conclusion, if we can transform the careers support that we offer to young people in this country, we can help them achieve the futures they deserve. Our economy will benefit and we will truly become a country of opportunity for everyone—something we all so want to happen.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, which I have found highly instructive and enlightening. I join the chorus of congratulations for the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, who more than lived up to her star billing, and I look forward to many encores. I also thank the Minister for a typically thoughtful and comprehensive response to the debate. I was particularly delighted with the emphasis placed by several noble Lords on the importance of the arts and creative sectors—which is not to downplay the importance of STEM but to make sure that we do not forget that the arts and creative sectors are important, if not equally important.
I will not try to summarise the debate—I will be cut off in my prime if I do—but I ended up more encouraged than not. I am not quite sure whether the glass is half-full or half-empty, but I sense that it is beginning to fill up rather than empty out. I am amazed by and in awe of the stamina of the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, who has put her name down to speak in three of this afternoon’s debates and has evidently done all sorts of research into maiden speeches before this one.
I end by saying, as someone apparently did say in a maiden speech a long time ago, that what matters most now is that we move from promises—very encouraging promises from the Government in their careers strategy—to delivery. We need to focus now on delivering against the targets that the Government have set, while recognising the very important and valuable points that so many Lords have made. I beg to move.
United Nations General Assembly 2018: IRC Report
Question for Short Debate
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the Report from the International Relations Committee The United Nations General Assembly 2018 (4th Report, HL Paper 156).
My Lords, this is the second report on the United Nations and its affairs from your Lordships’ International Relations Committee, the first being at the time of the appointment of the new Secretary-General 22 months ago. It may not have been a bestseller but I am glad to say that Senhor Guterres and his advisers were reported to have found it useful. One of our members even spied it on the Secretary-General’s desk, so it may be that our work was not in vain. Anyway, this is the second one and it marks the annual opening meeting of the General Assembly of the UN later this month. I am very grateful to all those involved that we have the chance, even in a brief debate, to comment before the UN General Assembly meetings take place in the last week in September.
I have no direct interest to declare, except that I hope to attend this event in New York as part of the so-called High-Level Group on Governance of the Commonwealth and its reform, and that all the world’s expanding networks in the digital age—the modern Commonwealth being one among them—are of rapidly increasing relevance to the successful operation of the UN as a whole. That its operational mode should work and succeed in bringing peoples and nations together to address global issues was never more important than in this puzzling and directionless new world we have entered, driven paradoxically by connectivity of amazing power yet also by fragmentation of almost equal power. Yet that the UN institution is under the most severe challenges for many years past cannot be doubted either. Not only is its central structure still related to a past age, that of the post-war world, and suffering from the same paralysing consequences at Security Council level as way back in the Cold War years but, as power is redistributed through the web and the communications revolution, the task for the UN of keeping in effective and co-ordinated contact with all the new regional groupings, non-governmental agencies and centres of power, such as the communications giants that now dominate the globe—and with multiple new networks and civil society—becomes increasingly difficult and urgent.
Our brief report, for which I warmly thank my colleagues and our excellent support staff, who were as usual extremely helpful, seeks to address some new challenges but it cannot possibly touch on them all. At the heart of the problem lies the clash between the democracies and the autocracies, notably Russia and to a lesser extent China, about how the UN should perform its tasks—a clash which hobbles the influence of the permanent five in the Security Council and leaves many of its agencies in a deep dilemma. How can a UN-authorised force keep the peace when there is no peace to keep, or when the very nature of conflict is changing fast or it is not even clear who the conflicting and warring parties are? How can UN agencies concerned with development and poverty eradication succeed when not only are different models and views competing in the development field but the very nature of the problem has altered? How can it cope when American support is wavering under President Trump—the American view seems to blow hot and cold on the UN and its future—and the rules-based order of the past 70 years is openly flouted, or when disarmament momentum has stalled, or when the real roots of climate concern are ignored despite what was promised so hopefully in the Paris agreement?
Those are the negative questions but the scene is not all negative—I would not like to give that impression —especially when one focuses on the excellent work of many UN agencies, as we sought to do in our committee. According to official UN figures, while 20 years ago 35% of the world was living in poverty by its definition of $1.90 a day, the figure in 2013 was down to 10.4% and by some estimates is now down to 6%. Of course, for those in that percentage who are trapped in that world, the situation is still appalling and completely unacceptable. But the old picture of a planet divided in two like an orange between rich and poor countries—developed and developing countries—has been completely overtaken by modern events.
I was frankly a bit disappointed to hear the Secretary-General talk the other day about development as though it was still a “we and they” world with a yawning gap between donors and recipients. The reality today is different. Most people in most nations are in that gap, moving into conditions that would have been described a few years ago as developed. Gigantic new middle-class middle-income consumer markets are emerging in what used to be called the developing worlds of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Inside some countries, especially in the West, wider inequalities may have emerged or been perceived, creating dangerous political tensions and instability—although the measures are far from reliable. I gather we are shortly to have a visit from UN officials to survey the position here in our own United Kingdom. But in the world as a whole, inequality has been substantially reduced. That can be chalked up as a triumph and a major success for the UN agencies, among others.
The great world tragedies, and the focus points for the UN, have now shifted. The prime, truly global tasks now are to bring peace instead of war; to bring humanitarian relief where the ashes of peace have left horrific deprivation and the need to rebuild from the rubble, as in Syria; to co-ordinate moves against terrorism and the roots of terrorism; to begin bringing some principles of behaviour to the Wild West of cyberspace, which is full of dangers for us all; and to push ahead with the new proposals for addressing migration and defining more clearly the distinction between refugees and economic migrants, now disrupting the entire world, and certainly the whole of Europe, on an unprecedented scale.
In those tasks the UN will need the support and co-operation of all the powers, the non-governmental organisations and the regional networks and alliances that now weave the world together. If it cannot command that support and focus on those tasks, then other regional and bilateral alliances and coalitions of the willing will simply take its place, and in some cases I am afraid they are already doing so. If it cannot speak for the democracies and the true upholders of human rights, others will do so. Our report today points to some of the steps that the UN must take in establishing the new and stronger role that is now needed, but none of us can guarantee that these steps will be taken or that they will prove to be enough.
The pattern of international relations has changed, and the distribution of global power has shifted, beyond recognition. To retain and deploy the power and authority that the UN ought to have as a truly effective global institution, it too will have to change considerably—indeed, some would say “beyond recognition”—or be left behind as the digital world moves on into entirely new territory.
I trust that our comments on our hearings and our report will allow your Lordships some useful opportunity to think about the forthcoming UN General Assembly and the way in which Britain can play an effective role in an institution that must survive for the peace of the world.
My Lords, in the report Mr Hochschild draws attention to areas of particular concern. He specifically mentions Israel-Palestine, where the peace process is “suffering a major setback”. Much of my work is in the Middle East and from 50 years’ experience I can see now that, as indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, unity work must be conducted vertically at three levels of relationships: at country level, between communities, and then between individuals within communities. Without progress and cohesion at all three levels, we will remain stuck in the paradigm whereby we are repeating the same old processes that we have seen since the 1990s.
I would like to share some examples of initiatives and projects covering these three levels that I visited last month, and which need to be aligned with the work of a reformed UN. Starting at country level, the Alliance for Middle East Peace—ALLMEP—is the largest and fastest-growing network of Israeli and Palestinian peace and co-operation groups. Its campaign is to create an international fund for Israeli-Palestinian peace, using the same plan as the transformative fund for Ireland set up 10 years before the Irish peace process took bite. It takes a generational approach. It is creating a $200-million-a-year fund, endorsed by the UK earlier this year, and $50 million has already been pledged by the US Senate. It will scale investment in peace, focusing on international actors, through a single mechanism so that we can shape generations on each side of the green line who in the short term have become resilient to the violence and extremism, but who over the longer term deserve support towards genuine peace between both peoples.
After 1945, Her Majesty’s Government played an integral part in establishing the UN to prevent wars between countries. This system and organisation is now stretched in dealing with the modern crisis that is wars within nations such as Syria and other Middle East countries, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Myanmar.
Search for Common Ground is a great organisation which I came across in Israel and which is helping to resolve conflicts there. During the last year, in the DRC, old grievances boiled over in the Tanganyika province between Pygmies from an ethnic Twa group and the Luba, a Bantu group. Villages were burned. Women and children were tortured and more than half a million people fled their homes. It remains one of the most underreported crises yet, as negotiations broke down and the United Nations struggled to keep peace, Pygmy and Bantu youth stepped forward, with Search for Common Ground’s help. Village by village, they are setting up committees, with members from both ethnic groups, meeting with the militia commanders and local leaders to prevent attacks and clearing a way for displaced people to return home.
In the crisis in Yemen, Search for Common Ground is fanning out throughout the country, helping humanitarian workers negotiate access to communities in need. As Her Majesty’s Government crafts their position at the UN, they should ensure that these reforms help widen and deepen partnerships with these international and local non-governmental peacebuilding organisations.
However, all this work should start with individuals. Here, I mention the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mindfulness. On the Parliamentary Estate, there are now 400 individuals—Lords, MPs and staff—who have completed an eight-week course on mindfulness. Mindfulness techniques are, with our help, now in another 13 Parliaments across the world. There are many testaments as to how mindfulness has allowed people in Parliament to work with greater compassion, understanding and patience. Compassionate mindfulness allows me, in fraught situations in the Middle East, to listen to others who have completely different histories and cultures and to understand and accept that their narrative is their truth, so that we can develop together projects with win-win solutions.
Last week, Ben Avrahami, an adviser to the Mayor of Jerusalem, took me on a visit to show how, despite media reports to the contrary, Palestinians and Israelis, Muslims, Jews and Christians in east Jerusalem are working together for a better future. I met people on the street in different neighbourhoods who felt they were benefiting from co-operating together. I was impressed by the quality and commitment of Ramadan Dawash, a Palestinian from east Jerusalem, who will stand at the election next month for a seat on the municipality of Jerusalem. I hope the city will benefit from the perspective and input of him and others like him. In Ariel, Israel Twito, the founder of a settlement factory called Twitoplast, is employing Palestinians, Israelis and Russian immigrants. He is providing them with good pay and conditions, health services and education at all levels, and everyone is thriving. All employees are encouraged to progress according to their merit without being obstructed by their nationality. This could become a win-win situation as it was at SodaStream and PepsiCo.
Listening mindfully to each of the people I met on these visits allowed me to see how people with mutual respect could find ways to help each other. Perhaps Her Majesty’s Government would like to offer our experience in facilitating mindfulness techniques and skills to people in the UN.
The world is more interconnected than ever—vertically by individual, community and country, and horizontally across the globe. The UN should, therefore, continue to reform itself. It should incorporate mindfulness and compassion in its training of its people, work in communities with the best NGOs, such as Search for Common Ground, and build alliances with organisations such as the Alliance for Middle East Peace across countries. We in the United Kingdom have a long experience of such techniques and organisations. Her Majesty’s Government would do well to influence the UN in its reform to move towards a greater vertical synergy to achieve its objectives.
My Lords, it feels a bit like a question of: follow that! I was not expecting to follow a speech about mindfulness. I am tempted to suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Stone, not recommend that the UK advocate mindfulness to the UN but rather that he brief the Cabinet about mindfulness, because it might assist in some of its deliberations about some of the other issues on the agenda, notably—dare I mention it?—Brexit.
Clearly, I do not intend to make a speech about Brexit any more than about mindfulness, but one implication of Brexit will emerge in my speech shortly. I am one of those who has the honour of serving on the committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. I would like to make a disclaimer. There are quite a lot of Smiths in your Lordships’ House—I think there are eight of us: three Baronesses and five Lords. However, someone in the printing process has created a new Baroness Smith so, according to the paper, we have a new Baroness Smith of Cardowan, which seems to be an amalgamation of me and the noble Lord, Lord Reid. I just say that it is definitely me who sits on the committee, and I do not in any way attempt to hide my identity as Lady Smith of Newnham.
Having disclaimed that and said that I really was on the committee, I turn to the evidence that the committee took, which has been referred to by previous speakers. Fabrizio Hochschild talked in part about the UK’s contribution to the UN. In particular, he stressed that the UK is second only to the United States in our financial contribution to the UN and also makes the third largest contribution in personnel. In the light of the United States’ approach to the UN under President Trump, it is highly possible that the United Kingdom could become the largest contributor to the UN, so it clearly has a major role to play.
I want to divide my comments into two areas: first, on the general approach that the UK takes to the UN and how we see our role in the context of the post-Brexit world; and, secondly, on the two specific issues of human rights and the compact for migration. There is a clear question about how the United Kingdom can influence debate and decisions in the United Nations. When the International Relations Committee was producing our first report, giving guidance to the Secretary-General and taking general ad hoc evidence, it was made very clear to us that, at the moment, the United Kingdom caucuses with the other EU member states in our deliberations in the UN. Obviously, in the context of Brexit, the United Kingdom remains a member of the UN and of the P5, but it will lose one of the fora for networking and caucusing ahead of decisions.
Have her Majesty’s Government thought about how they will prepare for UNGA and future UNGAs post Brexit? Will there be fora for talking to the EU 27 member states, just as we might want to network with the Commonwealth and other UN member states once we leave? As the Secretary-General has pointed out, there are multiple centres of power in the post-Cold War world, and the United Kingdom has been part of a centre of power in the European Union. What role does it see for itself post Brexit?
I turn to the specifics that the United Nations will examine at the General Assembly, and particularly human rights. Her Majesty’s Government pride themselves on their support for human rights, but can the Minister tell us what work will be done behind the scenes—obviously not in detail—and what preparations might be made for conversations about Iran and the situation for two people: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, whose name frequently hits the headlines, and Kamal Foroughi, whose son talked to some of us at the International Relations Committee after a previous hearing? Do the Government intend to raise those issues in informal conversations with the Iranian Government? Do they intend to raise the issue of Myanmar and the case of the Rohingya? Are they willing to accept that this is, or should at least be considered as, a case of genocide?
Finally, I turn to migration, which the European Union has been focused on for years. We have been looking at regional solutions but, arguably, there is a much greater case for global solutions. A global compact for migration has been suggested at the highest levels. Your Lordships’ International Relations Committee believed that this was a useful way forward and that a compact could offer rules of the road. It agreed with Mr Hochschild that the existing approach of dealing with migration challenges at a bilateral regional level and outside the UN system is now inadequate because of the proportion and trends of the challenge. Do the Government agree? Are they willing to support the idea of a global compact for migration? Are we likely to see some positive British statements at the forthcoming General Assembly?
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Howell on setting out so clearly the background to our debate today on our committee’s short report, and indeed on securing time for the debate before the meeting of the 73rd UN General Assembly later this month.
I value the opportunities that I had to attend UNGA. I often heard it described as speed-dating for leaders and Ministers. I shall not comment on my meetings on that basis. It is certainly a cost-effective way of discussing sensitive issues with the widest range of country representatives in one city in one week or so. It is attended by thousands of politicians, NGO representatives and their staff. There are hundreds of official and unofficial public events which take place around New York City, as well as the events in the UN building and the hundreds of ministerial meetings arranged by the country delegations.
I record my thanks to all those who work so tirelessly at the UK office in New York. I visited the UN six times as a Minister, twice for UNGA, and was always impressed by the high regard in which their expertise is held by other country delegations. Last month was hectic for our UN team because the UK presided over the Security Council. Now they prepare for the influx of Ministers to UNGA. Will my noble friend the Minister confirm which Ministers will be attending?
The theme of the high-level general debate this year is “Making the UN Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies”. It gives the UK the opportunity to continue to champion multilateralism and to be at the forefront of efforts to make the UN more effective in dealing with international challenges. To do that, the UN needs enough funding. The battle to negotiate the end-of-year budget agreement is a legendary marathon. What preparatory discussions have the Government had, for example, with the United States in preparation for that marathon? After all, it has been reported that the US is looking at making overall cuts to its contributions to the UN, including to peacekeeping. Can the Minister update the House on the current position?
Peacekeeping is core to the reputation of the United Nations and the credibility of the value of multilateral co-operation. Its reputation has taken a knock over the past couple of years, with revelations of sexual exploitation and abuse by some members of the forces of some troop-contributing countries. In paragraph 52 of our report, we welcome the commitment of the Secretary-General to improve the UN’s response to sexual abuse by peacekeepers, but we make it clear that much more needs to be done. What are the Government’s plans to advocate for more effective action in this respect?
I was impressed by the views expressed by UNA-UK in its letter to our UN ambassador, Karen Pierce, on this matter. Like the committee, UNA-UK believes that the Secretary-General’s efforts to end sexual exploitation and abuse will not bear fruit without robust support and further action by TCCs and the Security Council. UNA-UK makes the point, with which I agree, that sexual violence—a crime in international law—is conduct that should always be treated as criminal, and not as a disciplinary offence. Surely, if uniformed personnel commit such acts, their home country should be willing and able to prosecute them for it. It is true that the Secretary-General can take disciplinary action, such as repatriation, and is empowered, through UNSC Resolution 2272, to ask that member states take action. But if the state does nothing, the Secretary-General has a sticky wicket to protect. If he proceeds to ban the country from peacekeeping operations as a whole, it could spark political arguments and, in the real world, where troops are in short supply for UN missions, a Secretary-General might consider that there are pragmatic reasons for not taking action against TCCs. What is the current position of the UK Government on this matter? Do they consider the powers in Resolution 2272 sufficient to eradicate SEA among peacekeepers? Have they explored what other measures can be taken by the UN to ensure that peacekeepers cannot be deployed until there are processes in place to ensure that they are held to account? What have the Government concluded?
As penholder at the UN on peacekeeping reform, the UK is well-placed to take forward further measures. UNGA gives us an opportunity to do so; I hope that the Government seize it.
My Lords, not for the first time, I find myself wanting warmly to congratulate the noble Lord and his team for having produced this excellent report. I always find them interesting reading and they have established quite a standard and reputation of their own.
It is particularly telling that, on this occasion, the noble Lord has re-emphasised the basic theme that we live in a totally interdependent world and have to find ways of working with that, fulfilling the opportunities that it presents and strengthening the international machinery for meeting the challenges.
It is also important that, in the report, the committee emphasises the importance of multilateralism. I have believed, for most of my life, that multilateralism is the most effective way of helping to build a better world. It would be very unfortunate if we drifted into a situation where we had competitive approaches coming from individual states.
I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, because I totally endorse her plea for a world approach to migration. There is simply no way that we are going to sort this out in the long run unless we have a rational, global approach. I hope that the House will take that plea of hers seriously and that the Minister will respond to it.
As somebody deeply involved in UNA, I also say how much I appreciate the remarks by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. It is good to hear her, with her experience, saying and recognising those things. The work that UNA has done on issues such as sexual abuse has been very important indeed.
If we are talking about interdependence and multilateralism, I think that we can accept that, broadly speaking, the UK’s statements to the UN General Assembly have been positive and strong in support of these principles. Unfortunately, the UK’s conduct has, perhaps increasingly, failed to live up to the rhetoric through, for example, the arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the appalling suffering in Yemen and the UK’s dismissive tone—I find it so distasteful—when it comes to the majority of states that support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. We may disagree, but we talk still in patronising, dismissive terms, which does not help at all.
One of the points which needs to be stressed is that the UN is not something separate from us; we are the UN, together with the other members. There has been a tendency, under successive Governments—I plead guilty to having been part of that myself in the past—to talk about the UN as though it were somehow a separate institution. It is our institution, it belongs to us, and when things are not going well—and sometimes they do not—it behoves us first to look at ourselves in the mirror and say, “What are we doing about the failures to try to put things right?” That comes across as a concept that is very much behind what this report is arguing.
There is also a tremendous need to involve the wider public in understanding the UN and their role in the UN system. After all, the charter speaks of,
“We the peoples of the United Nations”,
and we need to do more to make that a reality. It is therefore good that the present Secretary-General has himself emphasised this, and it becomes important as we approach the 75th anniversary celebrations of the UN. A good starting point—I know this is something believed within the UNA—would be to have a specific centre in the UN on which non-governmental organisations and others could focus in bringing their views and their invaluable experience into play in the deliberation of policy.
Above all, I thank the noble Lord and his team for the first-class work which they have done on behalf of this House.
My Lords, as a member of the International Relations Committee and as someone who started her career working for the United Nations Association in the UK, I was pleased to have been part in producing this short report and to have had the opportunity to hear from Mr Hochschild, whose oral evidence to the committee was extremely valuable. As ever, thanks are also due to our excellent clerks and policy analyst.
I will briefly flag up four issues which I hope Her Majesty’s Government will agree to champion at this month’s UN General Assembly. Before doing so, I also wish to pay tribute to the late Kofi Annan, a superb and stand-out Secretary-General, many of whose initiatives are exactly the ones we would like to see more vigorously pursued and implemented now. I also welcome the appointment of Michelle Bachelet as the next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and look forward to debating at a future date what I hope and trust will be her achievements in that role.
In the light of her appointment, it would certainly be timely for the next General Assembly to recommit in the strongest possible terms to the UN human rights agenda and, as our report recommends, for Her Majesty’s Government to take a clear leadership position in advocating this. It was disturbing to hear from Mr Hochschild in his evidence to the committee that there had been a,
“global pushback against human rights”.
His view was that many parts of the world have seen a retreat from the protection and promotion of human rights in the face of threats of terrorism and the assertion of sovereignty. He observed that conflict is driven by exclusion, and so the links between terrorism and human rights must be acknowledged and acted upon.
The second issue on which the UK should assert some strong leadership is the reputation, authority and credibility of the UN, which Mr Hochschild described as being a “major problem”. This goes to the heart of needing to sustain and constantly articulate the case for multilateralism, which must surely be the only effective way to handle and counter the global challenges of the 21st century—I agree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Judd—including terrorism, climate change, unprecedented population movement and cybercrime. One important aspect of leadership in this regard will be to maintain and improve levels of funding and to persuade other member states to do likewise.
The third issue I want to raise, and which itself has a bearing on the resilience of the UN’s budget, is the view shared by Mr Hochschild and the current Secretary General that the private sector should be mobilised to play a greater part in the implementation of the sustainable development goals. This must be right, and there are already many examples of successful partnerships, for example in anti-malaria programmes and in private sector funding for translation and interpreting facilities. I would be interested to hear from the Minister how the Government envisage a greater role for the private sector might be developed, what this would look like and what the UK will advocate at the General Assembly to support it.
Finally, I ask the Minister whether Her Majesty’s Government will seek to strengthen the text of the global compact on refugees, which is being put to the General Assembly, specifically in respect of language issues—and I declare an interest as vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Linguists. The draft global compact acknowledges the importance of language education for integration but would be significantly strengthened if it provided explicitly for the right of refugees to information in a language they speak and understand so that they can access relevant protection and assistance. This right would need to be backed up by systematic data collection on language and improved resourcing for interpreting and translation, so that help for refugees can be better targeted and more effective.
I am grateful to the splendid organisation Translators without Borders for alerting me to these issues. I hope the Minister will be willing to see that they are raised at the General Assembly later this month, along with the issues flagged up in the Select Committee’s report.
My Lords, great appreciation is due to my noble friend Lord Howell for his dedication and expertise. In another place, he served as an enlightened chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. He continues to add tremendous insight, eloquence and authority as chair of the International Relations Select Committee in this House. We are all in his debt.
I fear I may have tested your Lordships’ patience today, but I need to declare my personal interest in that my grandfather, Maxwell Garnett, was Secretary of the League of Nations Union from 1920 until 1938. It was his life’s work and we were all brought up on the work of the League of Nations Union. He worked extremely closely with the father of the noble Lord, Lord Judd. We used to hear a great deal about “Judd”; we had no idea who he was, but he was a subject of conversation throughout our childhood.
In these troubling and difficult times, I wanted to make a contribution. We see a world assailed almost daily by terrorist attacks—thousands killed, and hundreds of thousands displaced by sustained conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. We see insidious nationalism and xenophobia rising up across Europe and elsewhere. Fear and anger manifest themselves in a pervasive backlash against human rights. Our technological triumphs come twinned with malicious and disturbingly opaque aggression, from cybercrime to election-hacking. Liberal democracy is being undermined by persistent backsliding. The Freedom House research institute considers the world to be in its 12th consecutive year of democratic decline. The dangers of climate change carry unprecedented urgency.
The words of Dag Hammarskjöld echo in our ears: “The UN was not created to send mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell”. Let us consider the UN Human Rights Council, for example, which rightly attracts controversy over the anti-Israel bias of permanent agenda item 7. The inclusion of countries such as Russia, China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia can be questioned. Their records on political inclusion and civil liberties leave a great deal to be desired but, nevertheless, many regret seeing the United States turn its back on the UNHRC. As recognised by the United Nations Association UK, during its participation in the UNHRC, the United States positively influenced effective steps towards reducing bias against Israel. Its departure may compromise this progress.
The array of threats and challenges makes international co-operation and multilateral action all the more essential. With an “America First” United States shunning the long-held mantle of global leadership, with Britain potentially weakening ties with our European neighbours, and with the world feeling the growing pains of a shift towards a multipolar system, the UN represents a crucial platform for dialogue and co-ordination. Its agencies can create indispensable opportunities to manage change and to tackle the challenges of the world. I was pleased to hear my noble friend describe the work of many of the agencies as absolutely excellent.
Clearly, the UN can benefit from review and criticism. For the UN to continue to flourish, it is essential that criticisms are sought, considered and acted upon. I am delighted that the Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination is already introducing a number of steps, promising management restructuring, the elimination of duplication, increased structural efficiency, greater transparency and, splendidly, an increase in the number of women in the UN Secretariat and its agencies. Over 50% of the senior management group and the 50 most senior individuals in the UN are now women for the first time in its history—a significant accomplishment.
I particularly applaud our first female ambassador to the UN, Dame Karen Pierce. She is a formidable diplomat, evidently thriving in her role. She uses the UK’s position as a permanent member of the Security Council and as a substantial financial contributor to push for collaboration in tackling the security, stability, development and prosperity challenges of today. I also applaud the Secretary-General’s proactive and explicit commitment to gender equality.
The horrific revelations of peacekeeper misconduct have already been mentioned. It is critical to abolish an intolerable culture of apparent impunity demonstrated by some UN operatives.
I am proud that the UK continues to be placed among the top financial contributors. It contributes more to multilateral institutions than any country other than the US, and our contributions are more than double those of the US in per capita terms. This is an unequivocal demonstration of our commitment to supporting the rules-based international order through which we work in concert with other countries to promote security and liberal values across the world. I have great confidence in our new Foreign Secretary, the right honourable Jeremy Hunt—my successor in my former constituency. I know that he sincerely and deeply holds to the values and importance of the UN and the rules-based international order.
We should take pride also that we were the first major economy to meet the UN’s 0.7% target on foreign aid and expenditure. Just this week, there was a welcome announcement from Alistair Burt, the Minister for the Middle East, in support of the UN Relief and Works Agency to help ensure that vulnerable Palestinians can access vital healthcare and education services. The additional aid will help keep schools open for 500,000 children and provide medical care for 3.5 million refugees.
The legitimacy of the UN is inextricably connected to its effectiveness in preserving peace and resolving conflicts. I fully support the Select Committee in urging the Government to discourage strongly the use of vetoes, especially when such behaviour hinders responsiveness to humanitarian crises. Of course, we have not used the veto at the Security Council since the 1980s, but that is not the case for other members, and we have seen the veto used more commonly over the past 12 months than at any time since the Cold War.
I conclude by echoing the noble Baroness’s comments about former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who died last month after an extraordinary life of dedication to building a fairer and more peaceful world. Around the turn of the century, Secretary-General Annan said that,
“if the United Nations does not attempt to chart a course for the world’s people in … the new millennium, who will?”
My Lords, I too thank both the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and the International Relations Committee for producing their report and therefore for prompting this debate this evening in advance of the UN General Assembly. The report is timely and the debate will, I hope, be a positive contribution to the impact that the UK can have at the General Assembly and at the associated events over the next month.
I want briefly to reference Kofi Annan. He was probably the nicest, most diplomatic but almost the most determined international figure that I had the experience of meeting in my ministerial life and since. His death is a real loss to the international community, but his impact lives on in the agreement of the millennium development goals, the endorsement of the original concept of responsibility to protect and a whole number of other areas. He moved the United Nations into a new century with real leadership and he is sadly missed.
I refer to my register of interest, in particular my position as vice-president of UNICEF, which no doubt will be launching many new initiatives over the next three weeks.
I will focus on the issues identified in the report. The report is strong because it has at its heart the issue of human rights, which are in so much danger these days in so many different parts of the world. The report also identifies the complexity of the current challenges facing the United Nations and the international community. It identifies the importance of the sustainable development goals and rightly identifies the great work being done by the current Secretary-General and others to initiate and deliver reform inside the United Nations system.
As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has said, we live in a world that is increasingly interdependent, where the solution to problems has to be complex, as the problems themselves are increasingly complex. In a world where conflicts may in most cases be internal within countries but have impacts far and wide across the globe; in a world where climate is changing and the response to that is so inadequate; and in a world where international finance and the resultant impact on technology, poverty and job creation across the world is so complex for individual countries to handle, the role of the United Nations and other international organisations becomes much more important. Their reform, to make sure that they are efficient, deliver for people and have the trust of people, is essential.
As these international organisations are facing so many challenges and the rules-based system is being challenged by so many leaders, either by their actions or their words, I would like this Chamber to hold a specific debate in which we could discuss the wider issues of that rules-based international system—not just the United Nations but other organisations, including the World Trade Organization, which is perhaps going to play a more prominent role in our future over the coming years. I would like to see a proper debate on that in this Chamber over the coming months.
I will address migration in the context of the sustainable development goals. When I was in New York last year, the Secretary-General made the valid point that in a place such as the Sahel in Africa, the complexity of the challenges that lead to mass migration—poverty and economic challenges, conflict or climate, or all three—lead us to one conclusion: that the sustainable development goals are the answer. The comprehensive nature of those goals is the answer to these complex challenges. The pace of delivery on the SDGs in 2018, three years into a 15-year programme, is just not good enough.
What will the UK do at this year’s UN General Assembly and in the Security Council and the other meetings that take place? One year in advance of our voluntary national review next September at the United Nations, what will the UK be doing to up the pace of delivery of the SDGs? What will we be doing to make sure that the data is available and that countries are producing honest strategies and measuring themselves against the goals they have set? What will we be doing to make sure that the whole UN system, in every agency and every arm, is focused on delivering the goals?
In particular, what will we be doing to make sure that goal 16 is not relegated to the bottom of the pile and ignored, because peace, justice and strong institutions are vital for the delivery of all the other goals? Will we be supporting the UN’s role in peace building—not just peacekeeping—to make sure that the conflict prevention work identified by the Secretary-General as his top priority gets the support it deserves from us and from others?
My Lords, I begin by declaring an interest as the co-chair of the All-Party Group on the UN and the former chair of the UN Association. I join the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, in paying tribute to the work done by the UN Association, which is quite outstanding considering its minuscule resources.
The report by your Lordships’ International Relations Committee that we are debating, and which has been so excellently introduced by our chair, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, reaches one overriding conclusion: that the rules-based international order, to the sustaining and development of which the Government—quite rightly, in my view—attaches the greatest importance, is facing greater threats and more stress than at any time since the end of the Cold War. The UN, which has primacy among the institutions underpinning that order, is under considerable strain, to put it rather mildly. Our debate, which should perhaps have come in full time in this Chamber, is both topical and relevant.
Many of the strains at the UN relate to the malfunction of its Security Council, the permanent membership of which is frequently referred to by Ministers as a jewel in the crown of our foreign policy, but which is in fact not much use if the institution we are talking about is not functioning terribly well. We need to be deeply concerned about the way that the Security Council has, in recent years, been paralysed by vetoes such as those used—abused, I would say myself—by Russia and China on Syria and by the United States on the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Improving the functioning of the Security Council, and in particular preventing it being frustrated by these sorts of vetoes when gross violations of international humanitarian law are taking place, should be a high priority for any British Government. I hope the noble Baroness is able to confirm that it is.
We will, unfortunately, get little help at the UN from our principal ally, the United States. Its lamentable withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, from the agreement with Iran and from UNESCO, its flouting of Security Council resolutions on the status of Jerusalem, its cutting of funding to UNRWA, and its refusal to participate in the negotiations of a global compact for migration are all heavy blows, and there are probably more to come. Neither President Trump nor his national security adviser, John Bolton, has any time at all for the United Nations. Let us not kid ourselves about that: they are on the record saying so.
If we are to sustain this organisation through these difficult times, we need to try to group around the UN what is often in New York called “friends of the UN”. In my view, we should be principal among these friends, along with our EU partners, whose policies at the UN so closely match our own.
Two important areas of policy at the UN are surely deserving of our full support, and I hope that the Minister will be able to say something on both of them: migration and cybersecurity. In those cases, the best—that is to say, legally binding international treaties or laws—is probably beyond our reach at the moment, and it could well be the enemy of the good. It is quite right to look in terms of international rules of the road rather than binding treaties for both these. I hope we will endorse the global compact when it is put to the members of the United Nations later in the autumn. There is a real need to inject a little humanity and a little bit of respect for human rights into the handling of this extraordinarily vexed and sensitive subject. Secondly, there is surely a need to avoid drifting—as I believe we are—towards what I would call mutually assured damage, which currently characterises the cybersecurity scene. I hope that we will lend our support to efforts to mitigate that.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said, resources are always important and they are certainly important at the UN. Our 0.7% gross national income commitment remains a crucial support for the achievement of the UN’s sustainable development goals. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond positively to the committee’s recommendation that we make a clear multi-year commitment at the General Assembly this month to the UN Secretary-General’s resources for conflict prevention and peacebuilding, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord McConnell. The UN Secretary-General needs more resource and help in those fields.
In return, we should look to a reinforced effort to stamp out sexual abuse by UN staff, whether peacekeepers or civilians, and I join totally with the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, in what she had to say on that subject. She made a notable contribution when she was on the Front Bench. We should also ask of the UN that we make progress in breaking down some of those silos in which policy-making there is so burdened—as one sometimes discovers it is in this capital too. It is a heavy agenda, perhaps, but one that is really important. It is in troublesome moments like this at the UN when you really know who your friends are. I hope we will be among them.
Finally, I join in the tributes to Kofi Annan. He was a personal friend but he was also a great Secretary-General. He made a massive contribution throughout his life to the work of the organisation. He was hugely respected and achieved a lot. I hope that his memory will inspire us to continue to support the UN to the fullest of our ability.
My Lords, we can all endorse the final remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay.
In her clear and effective speech the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, outlined the title of the 73rd General Assembly: “Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies”. One might think that not much has been left out from that description, but the first part—“Making the United Nations Relevant to All People”—is perhaps the critical aspect. Making it relevant in a world where the system of norms and practices developed over more than two generations has been upended in many regards over the last year needs to be the overriding priority, not only of the Secretary-General but of all those committed to a rules-based international order such as the United Kingdom.
That priority seems hard to deliver—as the chairman said—not only in a more complex world but in one where, as many noble Lords have said, one of the founding fathers of the United Nations, the USA, is currently undermining so much of its work and that of its agencies. Alternative transactional approaches seem to be gaining some kind of support in some countries. That is clearly against our interests—I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Judd: we are the United Nations.
Prior to the General Assembly, a political declaration on peace in the name of Nelson Mandela is being sought. I want to focus my short remarks on this and simply phrase it as investing for peacebuilding. In that regard, I endorse the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Stone, on the search for common ground. He and I were both at the awards ceremony earlier in the summer and I pay tribute to its work around the world.
If this is to be successful in this multi-conflict and tense world, we need to focus more on upstream resilience to violent radicalisation in individuals and communities. Territorial boundaries are often irrelevant to this; often, they are the cause. The General Assembly needs to focus its efforts now on channelling more investment into young people in the future.
Over the summer break, I was in the Middle East and North Africa twice. In that region, 8 million children are now entering the new school year overcoming significant challenges such as displacement, poverty, child labour, poor school transportation, overcrowding, a lack of teachers and facilities and low-quality education. One in five children across the region live in conflict-afflicted countries. Those children not only deserve our admiration, but consideration of the role that the United Kingdom can play, and what we can lever through the General Assembly to allow them to have more stable and prosperous regions where they can realise their ambitions.
Only a tiny proportion of those young people may become violent as a result of radicalisation, but their violent behaviour has an impact on the wider age group. If peacebuilding in the name of Nelson Mandela is to be served by anything, it is an almost exclusive focus on young people. Nearly a third of the region’s population is aged between 15 and 29, with a further third aged below that. This demographic momentum will therefore last for at least two decades and the phenomenon of some young people using violence as an extension of their extreme views may also now be a long-term issue that will require long-term solutions.
The demographic challenge, including those such as migration mentioned by my noble friend Lady Smith, is most acute in this conflict-afflicted region. It is clearly present in Africa and some parts of Asia, where tensions matched with economic inactivity are a threat. Research by UNICEF shows that in 11 League of Arab States countries the under-18 population stands at approximately 118 million or 6% of the world’s child population. If the General Assembly is to chart a new course for relevance, it needs to make sure for the youngest generation in the world that we have policies and funding that supports their work.
This is my second point. Sources of support and the trend for funding now need, as the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, says, to take a step-change up. The OECD expects the world’s economy to strengthen in 2018 and 2019, with most G20 countries expected to experience improvement. As countries recover from the global financial crisis, it is time to rethink how our commitments to address the development financing made in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the European Consensus on Development might be met. It is not just about overall totals, but about where the support is directed to. Humanitarian aid has risen by two-thirds in real terms in the last decade, reflecting conflict and disasters, and in-donor refugee costs rose by 300% in real terms.
By contrast, the growth in ODA for bilateral development projects, with its longer-term type of investment, both in economic opportunities and in supporting education and upstream activities, programmes and technical co-operation, was only 4%. That is the area we need to focus on in UNGA. I absolutely support the increased role of the private sector in levering the growth in philanthropic support. With the UK’s leadership, it could make a significant impact.
Overall, the strengthening global economy is not yet translating into increased percentages of incomes supporting ODA from some of our closest allies. Indeed, in Australia, the Netherlands and, most recently, Germany it has dropped, as it has in Austria, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal and Spain. The United Arab Emirates and some other new members of the OECD are turning around that trend but, nevertheless, the United Kingdom, having given a commitment to long-term stable investment into ODA, including into technical assistance and development support, is a world leader.
Therefore, I would like the Minister to confirm that, on each of our bilaterals, British Ministers will show leadership in working with our closest allies, not just the United Nations but in Europe and around the world. If they meet their long-standing commitments as we have met ours, working with the private sector and philanthropists, providing leadership and support for long-term investment in young people across the Middle East, North Africa and around the world, this United Nations General Assembly will be a great success—and not only for the family of nations in this more complex world. It will also become more relevant to young people around the world, and it will be the United Kingdom supporting the United Nations that will provide that relevance.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Howell, for his introduction and his committee’s second report on the UN. There is consensus across the Chamber over the committee’s conclusions that the UN is under considerable strain and that the General Assembly represents an opportunity for the United Kingdom to continue to champion multilateralism—a point made by my noble friend Lord Judd.
Like noble Lords, in the other place today my right honourable friend Emily Thornberry paid tribute to Kofi Annan, who sadly passed away three weeks ago. She referred to his 2007 speech to Parliament, marking the abolition of the British slave trade. His words then resonate just as strongly today. Of the men and women who fought to abolish the slave trade, he said that they,
“represented a moral truth that seemed remote from the ways of the world, a moral passion that must at first have seemed utterly impracticable. Yet by persistence, by resolve, by eloquence, and by imagination, they changed history. They showed that moral persuasion could prevail over narrow self-interest”.
It is the same challenge today. We are living through a period where the world order and the international rules that are supposed to underpin it are under greater threat than at any time since the 1930s. The noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, acknowledged this in April at the high-level meeting of the UNGA when welcoming the Secretary-General’s vision for building and sustaining peace, particularly the renewed focus on conflict prevention. As said by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, in an earlier debate on the UN Secretary-General, the UN—for all its weaknesses—remains an essential global institution and the linchpin of a rules-based international order, which it is in Britain’s interest to support.
However, a real concern raised by Mr Hochschild to the committee is that some world leaders have signalled that they may not be willing to support the United Nations to the same degree as previously. That is putting it mildly, especially as the Administration in Washington, seem ready to disregard their international obligations—as highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay—on refugees and on paying the UN’s assessed contributions for regular and peacekeeping budgets. Sadly, whatever Trump has done, the Government’s hand has remained outstretched in the hope of some mythical free trade deal to solve the mess they are making of Brexit. If we are to have the international security and stability that we seek, diplomacy, development and defence have to go together.
Rather than those three Ds, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, summarised the Government’s approach as four Ds: diversification of the tools deployed by the UN to promote and sustain peace; development, with more effective interventions to address the drivers of conflict; diplomacy, to de-escalate crises and create the political conditions for long-term peace; and finally, perhaps most importantly, delivery in efficient partnerships with others. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, was making this point. Can the Minister tell us what form this approach will take at the forthcoming General Assembly? How will we work with our partners to deliver this strategy? On development, the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development, a network of more than 1,000 organisations, suggests that the UK is performing poorly on three-quarters of the SDGs. How will the Government use the General Assembly to engage with other member states on their respective strategies for meeting the 2030 agenda? On delivery, the problem we face comes down to countries ignoring the rules that should govern our world. It is incumbent on all of us to stand up for the world order, to stand up for human rights and international treaties and to insist on working, through the United Nations, for peace.
If we want a world order based on international rules, then we must apply the same rules equally to every country, whether they are military allies or not, whether we trade with them or not, and whether Donald Trump wants us to or not. This is the only way we will restore what Kofi Annan called moral truth, moral passion and moral persuasion to our country’s foreign policy.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Howell for tabling this timely debate and for his lucid and analytical speech, as I thank all noble Lords for their thoughtful contributions. The Government welcome the International Relations Committee’s report on the forthcoming 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly. The report identifies a number of interrelated issues facing the UN, and I shall refer to these as I respond to noble Lords’ points.
It goes without saying that, as a founder member of the United Nations, its third largest financial donor, a permanent member of the Security Council and a growing contributor to UN peacekeeping, the UK plays a significant role in the organisation and will continue to do so in the period ahead. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, made a pertinent observation when he said that the United Nations is not some abstract organisation. He is quite right: it is our United Nations, as it is the United Nations of all the other member states.
The UK takes its responsibilities as a permanent member of the Security Council extremely seriously. As noble Lords will be aware, we have just completed our latest month as rotating president of the council and, under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Ahmad, we focused the council’s attention on the importance of mediation in the UN’s conflict prevention and resolution work, particularly the vital role of women mediators. We were fortunate to benefit in that debate from the participation and experience of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury.
My noble friend also chaired a Security Council briefing on the situation in Burma and the plight of the Rohingya people. It is the Government’s intention to maintain a spotlight on the Rakhine crisis until such time as the Rohingya people are able to return home in peace and with dignity. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, who specifically raised the matter of Burma, that the United Nations fact-finding mission’s report reaffirmed the appalling human rights violations that so many in Burma have suffered. As Ministers have stated in the UK Parliament, this has been ethnic cleansing and may be genocide. I assure her that that there cannot and must not be impunity for such acts.
I turn to the UK’s engagement with other protracted conflicts. The Government actively support the efforts of the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, to bring the parties together and to work towards a political agreement. Similarly, in Syria we continue to support the Geneva-based political process led by the UN Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura. In both cases, the complexity of the conflict is such that only an inclusive political solution will enable those countries to emerge from conflict and rebuild.
The noble Lord, Lord Stone of Blackheath, raised a number of issues, including the Alliance for Middle East Peace. The UK believes in the work that ALLMEP conducts and we support its objectives. ALLMEP’s work in developing an international fund for Israeli-Palestinian peace is a concept that the UK supports. He also raised issues in Tanganyika and across the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We share his concerns there: as well as supporting the work of the UN stabilisation mission in the DRC, we supported a resolution at the 38th session of the Human Rights Council in June this year that mandated an investigation into human rights abuses across the DRC.
The noble Lord raised a very important and cogent point about mindfulness, while the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, was a little less charitable in her reaction to that. It is a technique that raises awareness of one’s thoughts and their effects on behaviour towards oneself and others. Perhaps we might want to think about it in this House. It is encouraged in government departments and we can see how it might be useful to apply it in the context to which the noble Lord referred.
A number of noble Lords referred to terrorism—not least the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, and my noble friend Lady Bottomley. As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary noted in his recent speech in Washington, Islamist-inspired terrorism continues to be a challenge to the global order, and we welcome the UN’s recently refreshed global counterterrorism strategy. In this 73rd session we will work with the United Nations’ new Office of Counter-Terrorism and with the General Assembly membership to strengthen counterterrorism policies and programmes, including those on aviation security and preventing terrorists’ use of the internet.
Not surprisingly, a number of noble Lords mentioned the issue of human rights: the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, and my noble friend Lady Bottomley. The UK has played a key role in United Nations human rights fora since their inception, and we remain committed to promoting and safeguarding universal human rights, both because they are important in themselves and because defending them is in the national interest: human rights violations lead to less stable, less prosperous and less democratic societies. We warmly congratulate Michelle Bachelet on her appointment as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The UK will remain a strong advocate of the UN Human Rights Council and the tools and mechanisms at its disposal for strengthening human rights protection.
On migration, which was referred to by a number of noble Lords, unmanaged migration continues to pose a significant challenge across Europe, and it is clear that bilateral and regional efforts to address this challenge are by themselves insufficient. A number of noble Lords also asked about the global compact for migration. The UK recognises the value of safe, orderly and properly managed migration, and the Government welcome that global compact, which was agreed in New York in July, as an international framework towards achieving a more orderly and managed process. We look forward to its implementation. In this context, I also noticed a very interesting observation by the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, in her point about language and translation, which will be noted.
On sustainable development goals, on which, understandably, a number of noble Lords focused, my noble friend Lord Howell identified positive progress. The committee’s report rightly highlights delivery of the sustainable development goals as a priority—indeed the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, underlined that. The UK remains firmly committed to delivering the goals, both at home and abroad, and next year at the United Nations we will be presenting a voluntary national review of progress towards these goals.
I think the noble Lord asked specifically about sustainable development goal 16, which is concerned with peace, justice and strong institutions. We continue to work to meet these indicators. For example, we are contributing to reducing conflict and violence through our conflict prevention work, as set out in our strategic defence and security review of 2015.
We are leading in the Security Council on protecting children and women in armed conflict, and on peace and security. Indeed—this is related but not directly connected to that issue—the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, gave a very interesting account of his recent visits to Africa and an illustration of progress in education on that continent. On the broader issue of sustainable development, it is important that the Government’s commitment to spending 0.7% of gross national income on development remains steadfast.
A number of noble Lords’ contributions covered peacekeeping, as well as increasing our own participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations. We continue to work closely with the UN and other member states to support peacekeeping reform. We remain focused on three priority areas: better mission planning; more pledges of quality equipment and personnel; and stronger performance and accountability. We also fully support the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance approach to sexual exploitation and abuse.
My noble friend Lady Anelay, in a characteristically informed contribution, raised some important questions which I want to try to deal with. She asked about ministerial attendance at UNGA. There will be a stellar cast: the Prime Minister; the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; the Secretary of State for International Development; the Minister for Women and Equalities; our colleague my noble friend Lord Ahmad; and the three other Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers Alistair Burt, Harriett Baldwin and Mark Field. I would also pick out Karen Pierce, who my noble friend Lady Bottomley very rightly referred to and who is regarded as a most influential presence in the forum.
My noble friend Lady Anelay also asked about UK discussions with the US regarding the funding of peacekeeping. Our Government have had a number of discussions with the US in relation to peacekeeping finances. The allocations for individual missions were agreed at the fifth committee of the General Assembly in late June for the current peacekeeping financial year, which runs from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019.
My noble friend also raised the important matter of sexual exploitation. I reassure her that we have strengthened language on the protection of women and girls, participation in peace processes and mainstreaming on gender perspectives in all peacekeeping mission mandates over the last 12 years. I think she specifically raised Resolution 2272; we remain committed to the full implementation of that resolution.
In connection with peacekeeping roles, the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, also raised the greater role for the private sector. Let me reassure her that the Prime Minister will chair an event during the UNGA ministerial week, designed to bring together state actors, NGOs and the private sector to stimulate employment and enterprise, particularly in Africa to harness the huge potential of its youth. That is an indication of our strong support for bringing the private sector into play.
My noble friend Lord Young is reminding me that we are rapidly running out of time. There are points I wanted to cover, as some very good issues were raised. I undertake to write to Members if I have not managed to respond to them specifically in the context of this debate.
Reform is an important issue, raised by a number of contributors. I thought that my noble friend Lord Howell spoke eloquently on that. Secretary-General Guterres’ work on UN reform has made solid progress during the 72nd session, but there is more to do. Let me assure your Lordships that the UK will play its part in assisting the Secretary-General to secure and implement the reforms needed to enable the UN to meet future challenges.
We also noted that the report referred to the significance of cybersecurity as a priority for the Government. We agree and think that UNGA 73 presents an opportunity to be ambitious and develop common understandings about that issue.
In his recent speech in Washington, the Foreign Secretary reminded us that to address successfully the range of challenges facing the global order, we must restore confidence in our multilateral institutions. The UN is pre-eminent among these.
In conclusion, it is perhaps fitting that I make this comment. I was struck by the number of contributors who specifically singled out Kofi Annan for favourable and positive comment. He was arguably one of the most successful holders of the office of Secretary-General, and I thank all those who acknowledged and paid tribute to him. We must seize his legacy and work to transform the UN into an institution ready to take on the complex challenges of today and tomorrow. As the 73rd session of the General Assembly approaches, the Government will do their part in delivering that legacy for the benefit of the UK and the international community.
House adjourned at 7.19 pm.