House of Lords
Thursday 29 November 2018
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Worcester.
Sexual Health Services
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact on public health outcomes of people being turned away from sexual health services, as reported by the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV.
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. I refer your Lordships to my registered interests; in particular, I am patron of the Terrence Higgins Trust.
My Lords, local authorities in England commission comprehensive open-access sexual health services based on the needs of their communities. Services have responded to meet increased demand, with attendances at sexual health services increasing by 13% between 2013 and 2017, from 2.9 million to 3.3 million.
I thank the Minister for that response. Much has indeed been achieved but there are worrying trends. As we know, sexual health services are funded by local authorities, which have endured reduced funding year on year and, to maintain other essential services, councils have disproportionately cut funding to sexual health services. Clinics have closed, staffing levels have reduced and capacity has reduced further because walk-in sessions have been replaced by appointment-only sessions that cap demand. The overall effect has been to reduce access to screening and treatment, with subsequent increases in sexually transmitted infections and considerable public health impacts, notably infertility, teenage pregnancy and HIV transmission. I therefore ask the Minister, in the context of these worrying developments, how the Government will ensure that councils maintain an adequate level of comprehensive sexual health service provision.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising this important issue. First, it is worth saying that the public health grant to local authorities is ring-fenced, and that is meant to provide for sexual health services among others. He mentions STI rates and says attendances have increased. I know that service configurations are happening and there are changes in different parts of the country. It is important that attendances have increased. I think there is a mixed picture on STI infections; some are increasing but there is good news. The noble Lord mentioned teen pregnancy—not that that is a sexually transmitted disease, of course—the rates of which are down. HIV diagnoses are down and we see a positive picture in the new data today, so there is cause for optimism. As we look to the future in the spending review, we will be making the case for improved services at sexual health clinics through the public health spend.
My Lords, what impact will the closure of sexual health services on the one hand and the reduction in the capacity of other services on the other have on the prevention strategy for HIV in particular and the PrEP trial?
As I have just said to the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, we are seeing a change in services. More services are going online, for example. An e-service for sexual health was launched in January 2018, with 20,000 kits being distributed. So there is a change in the health services being provided. I can tell the noble Lord that there has been no impact on the PrEP trial; indeed, we have already recruited nearly 10,000 of the 13,000 people to that trial, and we are hoping it will be successful.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a trustee of the Bloomsbury Network. Does my noble friend agree that, with the advent of PrEP and the certain knowledge that people on effective medication cannot pass on HIV, we now have within our grasp the possibility of eliminating new HIV infections, and therefore the burden on sexual health services? Will the Government make a clear commitment to achieving that noble goal of zero new HIV infections by 2030 and ending once and for all this horrible disease?
My noble friend makes an excellent point: we have cause for optimism not least because of the work that he, the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, and so many others have done. I mentioned the decline in diagnoses year on year. The UK has met the UN’s 90-90-90 ambition in every part of the country, including London. Having done that, which is a huge achievement, of course we should set our sights higher. I should be very happy to discuss with noble Lords exactly what our target should be. Clearly, a zero infection rate must be where we want to get to in the end.
My Lords, given the Minister’s Answer to the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, about the general population, does he agree that the over- representation of people from black and minority ethnic communities, with high incidences of HIV and late diagnosis, is a continuing problem that Public Health England has yet to address?
I agree with the noble Baroness that that is a continuing problem. Infection with certain diseases is disproportionately distributed. Testing and screening are not taking place uniformly among different groups. Public Health England published an action plan about a year ago on how to improve sexual health services and is trying to address that specific issue.
Following on from the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, what is the current assessment of the undiagnosed incidence of HIV? There is usually a quantum that is reckoned to be about where we are with undiagnosed incidence. The Minister says that diagnoses have gone down and that that is a good thing, but it is not necessarily. Can he give us some information on that?
Of course, I am very happy to. In this case, it is good news that diagnoses are going down because 92% of people with HIV in the UK have been diagnosed. The UN target was 90%, and we have exceeded it. That leaves 8% to reach and, clearly, we want everyone diagnosed and on treatment, with their viral loads suppressed, so that no new infections can take place.
My Lords, the importance of PrEP has been mentioned by noble Lords. The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV has shown in its survey that in the past year, in 25% of local areas there was reduced access to PrEP and in 11% of areas no access at all. What are the Government doing to ensure equity of access to PrEP across the country?
I shall certainly look into that issue. This is the largest trial of its kind in the use of PrEP, and we are determined to ensure that all 13,000 people are recruited to it, and that they are spread across the country. As I said, we have already reached nearly 10,000. I shall do a little more digging on that and write to the noble Lord.
My Lords, what actions are the Government taking to end HIV-related stigma and discrimination, which unfortunately still exists?
First, we are giving it an extremely high profile. Indeed, Governments have given it a high profile since the noble Lord the Lord Speaker raised the issue in the 1980s. All Governments since have been committed to that and this Government continue to be so. We do that through a mixture of public health campaigns and working with schoolchildren to ensure that there is no stigmatisation or bullying of any groups of young people with HIV.
My Lords, as there is a moment left, I ask the Minister to return to the question I asked him. Forgive me if I misunderstood his answer, but I do not think he said what the current assessment is of undiagnosed HIV in any of the populations. If he has that information, perhaps he could let me have it in writing.
I thought I said that 8% are currently undiagnosed across the country. As to how that is split across different socio-demographic groups, I shall have to write to the noble Baroness with more detail.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to support the global fight against tuberculosis, in the light of tuberculosis being the leading cause of death globally among people living with HIV/AIDS.
The UK is a global leader in the fight against TB and HIV and fully recognises the interrelationship between these diseases. We are the second largest funder to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, which provides treatment for people with TB and those living with HIV. We are accelerating research on prevention and treatment, and strengthening health systems to improve access to quality healthcare, including for TB and HIV.
I thank the Minister for that response. Between 2000 and 2014, implementation of the collaborative TB/HIV activity saved an estimated 8.4 million lives. Will the Minister tell us what steps the Government are taking to ensure that their bilateral investments in HIV programmes support the integration of TB and HIV services, as recommended by the WHO?
As the noble Lord knows, most of our giving, which is very generous, on behalf of the British taxpayer is through the global fund, and we believe that that multilateral body is the most effective way of delivering support. We are the second largest donor to it, giving £1.2 billion in the current round, which is helping to treat 2.2 million people, so we continue to keep that as our focus. Of course, we will keep under review the advice from the World Health Organization about whether there are specific bilateral programmes that we ought to support more.
My Lords, can the Minister update the House on the reply he gave me on 2 November about the serious shortage of TB drugs in Uganda? While he is doing that, could he return to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, about the integration of HIV and TB services, as recommended by the World Health Organization? Are we doing that? What are we doing about the $1.3 billion funding gap in research?
I believe that the specific case in Uganda, which the noble Lord raised with me, has now been resolved through the Global Drug Facility. A six-month supply of the drug has been provided, following the closure of the factory in China which was the principal supplier. We keep that under review through the World Health Organization. The noble Lord also asked what more we could be doing in that area to close the funding gap. The Secretary of State, Penny Mordaunt, attended a very successful UN General Assembly high-level meeting specifically on tackling TB at the margins, where a target was set for a level of treatment and funding. At at that event, the Secretary of State also announced further funding, from us, of £7.5 million for the TB Alliance.
My Lords, earlier this year I visited a lab in London that is at the centre of efforts to develop to develop HIV and TB vaccines, run under the auspices of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. Since then, breakthrough clinical trials have shown that an effective TB vaccine could be possible but, despite this, the Government no longer fund this work. Yet we know that without vaccines, we will not end the epidemics. Will the Minister revisit this decision so that we can support UK science and deliver on our SDG promise to end TB by 2030?
We work closely with my noble friend at the Department of Health and Social Care on the specifics of vaccines. DfID has funded some candidates for potential vaccines in the past. It is a very long-term project. There is such demand for scarce resources that we have to allocate them correctly, but if there are promising candidates for a vaccine we would very much want to look at the possibility of funding them.
My Lords, I was rescued from the clutches of this disease by wonderful NHS treatment. Does the Minister agree that TB can remain dormant in the human body until a time of great stress or malnutrition? Therefore, it is the combination of drug efficacy and, I am afraid, poverty that can exacerbate this problem.
That is very true, and that is why the vast majority of cases of TB around the world—an estimated 10 million new cases in just the past year, leading to the potential deaths of 1.6 million people—are predominantly in low-income countries, which is also where the UK aid budget is focused most.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the greatest barrier to tackling HIV and its comorbidities, such as TB and hepatitis, is the continuing burden of the criminalisation of homosexuality in so many countries, which makes proper health education almost impossible? Will he restate the Government’s strong and very welcome commitment to tackling that scourge of criminalisation?
We will of course do that. I think some 72 countries around the world criminalise degree same-sex relationships to some, and 36 of those are Commonwealth countries. That is why we mentioned that at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. We have to strike a note of some humility there; in some of the conversations I had at that meeting, it was pointed out to me that the legislation came from British colonial rule. We therefore need to be humble and careful in how we approach the matter, but it is absolutely right that we should highlight that these laws should be changed. They are something from the past and they inhibit the tackling of this prevalent disease.
My Lords, it is good that we are such a major donor to those trying to solve this problem. Nevertheless, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, pointed out, there is still a huge funding gap. What attempts are being made to draw together international partners to give this a much higher priority, and in particular to ensure that we can fund these relatively low-cost, very effective TB drugs, which are making such a difference?
The best thing we can do is lead by example. That is what we were trying to do in organising the high-level meeting in the margins of the UN General Assembly in September, and we can do that by deciding how we allocate our resource. However, it is for a lot of other wealthy countries to step up to the plate. A commitment was made by all those who attended and signed the political declaration at the UN General Assembly that they would treat 40 million people between 2018 and 2022. If that is to happen, there needs to be an awful lot more money in the system. The UK can do its bit, but other countries need to do more.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether their 25-year environment plan will be underpinned by legally binding targets.
My Lords, as announced in July, we will bring forward an ambitious environment Bill early in the second parliamentary Session, building on the vision of the 25-year environment plan. We are exploring possible wider legislative measures which could be included in that Bill. Furthermore, the Bill will establish a new independent statutory environment body to hold government to account on environmental standards. Draft legislation on environmental principles and governance will be published before Christmas.
I think the Minister for that reply. However, can he explain the difference between the draft indicator framework—a horribly technical term—which currently seems to be being developed, and which seems to be about monitoring the current status of the environment, and, on the other hand, legally enforceable targets? Those are the only way to guarantee improvements in areas such as air and water quality, soil health, biodiversity gain and resource efficiency, which the plan indeed promises. Is there any truth in the press reports that, once again, the Treasury is blocking Michael Gove’s attempts to make those targets legally binding?
My Lords, the noble Baroness indicates the work that is going on with 100 experts from Defra and arm’s-length bodies on the framework, including the Natural Capital Committee, so that we have indicators from the plan that ensure both transparency and accountability. This will come forward as draft legislation, and I cannot pre-empt that, but there will obviously be pre-legislative scrutiny, and I very much hope that noble Lords will engage in that. That is precisely what we should be doing, because we want to advance the environment—the whole basis of the 25-year environment plan—and put it on a statutory basis.
My Lords, I understand, and hear very often, that this Government have a commitment to protect the environment and, indeed, to leave it in a better state than they found it. Can the Minister explain how he reconciles this ambition with the fact that the budget for the body charged with protecting habitats and species in England, Natural England, has been slashed by 45% during the last five years? According to its chairman, Andrew Sells, Natural England is now gagged by Defra so that it cannot make independent statements to the press. In case this is seen as part of overall austerity, I remind noble Lords that Defra has increased its own headcount by 1,300 staff.
My Lords, the 25-year environment plan will involve: environmental land management; an environmental net gain principle; a resources and waste strategy coming forward; a clean air strategy coming forward; a review of national parks already in place; and we are reducing plastic waste. These are just some examples of the Government’s intent, the strongest possible intent, that we shall be the first generation to enhance the environment. As for Natural England, it does a very good job. All public bodies have had to ensure that we find enough money for essential services during a very difficult time after 2008, and that has borne fruit. That is how the vulnerable, at a very difficult time, were cared for.
My Lords, as the Minister has indicated, the targets are due to be published shortly. Polling has consistently found a high public demand for targets in law to protect the environment, which is very dear to the public’s heart. Will there be public consultation on the targets and, if so, when, given that the targets are about to be published?
My Lords, after the draft legislation on the environmental principles and governance has been published, there will be a period of pre-legislative scrutiny. Indeed, there has already been consultation, and responses to that consultation, on the principles and governance. That will also be published; we are continuing to analyse the responses. There is a lot of work in process, and a lot of that will come forward so that there is pre-legislative scrutiny and, indeed, further public reflection.
My Lords, I would like a better answer if possible to the original Question. Legally binding targets are, quite honestly, non-negotiable for many of us here. Secondly, there is no point to those targets if we do not have a body with the powers to hold public and private organisations—the Government and, for example, car manufacturers—to account. Will the new body have those tough powers?
My Lords, I apologise that I am not in a position today to go beyond a certain point because I must not pre-empt what is coming forward. All I can say is that these are issues that have come forward and been aired in the consultation. We will bring forward proposals; Parliament will have time to look at them before Christmas, I hope. We will make sure it is possible for Parliament to reflect on this, and will ensure further observations too. We want to get this right. It is essential that we enhance the environment.
My Lords, will the Government welcome the present campaign called “Extinction Rebellion”? It is designed to give people time to reflect when they are stuck at traffic lights that they are sitting in a very polluting vehicle in the middle of a city. I do not know how many noble Lords have been held up by traffic. I understand the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, was held up for seven minutes and looked extremely happy to be reflecting. Is this not something we should be taking more seriously, to help implement the IPCC’s report, which came out last week, on global warming targets?
My Lords, the noble Lord has said something very important. The City of Westminster has also had a “stop idling your engine” policy. This is all about how we ensure that, whether near schools or traffic lights, wherever there are jams people switch their engines off. This is where we get the accumulations of pollution in particular. We need to think about it; I agree with the noble Lord. We need to be doing more ourselves to counter pollution.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to improve (1) early diagnosis of, and (2) survival rates for, cancer.
My Lords, we know that early cancer diagnosis improves survival. Last month, the Prime Minister announced a package of measures to be rolled out nationally with the aim of seeing three-quarters of all cancers detected at an early stage by 2028. Since 2010, cancer survival rates have improved annually and are currently at a record high. Around 7,000 people who are alive today would not have been had mortality rates remained at the 2010 levels.
My Lords, the targets set by the Prime Minister and the progress made are obviously welcome, but the Minister will be aware that data from the national cancer registration service has shown that the early diagnosis rate for cancers has been static for the last two years, with 16 CCGs showing a decline in the rate. Patients are reluctant to go their GPs, GPs refer less than in other countries and hospitals are overwhelmed by referrals. How are we going to see a step change in the approach so that our success rates are more closely aligned to those of comparable countries, and does the Minister agree that we need to see the spread of rapid diagnostic centres?
I do agree with that point, and indeed it was one of the policies announced by the Prime Minister in October. Of course we need to make more progress on early diagnosis. One-year survival rates have improved in the last 10 years but we still lag behind our continental neighbours, as we have done for decades. The noble Lord mentioned GP referrals, which have been in the news this week. The threshold for referrals from GPs to specialist cancer doctors has been reduced in line with the NICE guideline. The consequence has been that in the last seven years the number of people referred to a specialist cancer doctor has increased by 1 million—that is, an increase of 115%. Therefore, we are seeing more referrals at an early stage. We are seeing many more appointments and of course those will feed through over time into our survival figures.
My Lords, what is the Government’s estimate of the funding needed for better radiological equipment; to train radiographers to be able to report, given the shortage of radiologists; to develop AI, given that the diagnosis of malignant melanoma using AI has been shown to be as accurate as diagnosis by a dermatologist; and to invest in pathology services? Without quantifying the amount and making sure that NHS England and CCGs sign up to these things, I worry that our diagnostic facilities will never catch up with those of other countries.
The noble Baroness pinpoints some really important issues that we need to deal with. The good news is that the number of radiographers has increased by 3,500 in the last eight years, but of course we need to do more and the cancer workforce plan includes plans to recruit more specialists. Greater investment in equipment is taking place, the Prime Minister has announced investment in specialist cancer centres, and the first proton beam therapy centres in this country have now opened. Finally, AI has extraordinary benefits. It is now able to diagnose some tumours better than most expert specialists. We have made some commitments in this area through the expansion of digital pathology and radiology, and we will be doing more.
My Lords, there is a complete postcode lottery for breast cancer care. It starts with appointment delays—first with the GP and then with the consultant— and then very often, as the noble Lord has said, the equipment is old and is very expensive to replace. Are there any grants that NHS England can make available to hospitals to help them purchase this equipment sooner?
One reason that our cancer survival rates are not where they should be is that there is huge variation. The truth is that in some communities cancers are detected far too late as a matter of course. One way in which we are trying to address this problem is through the cancer strategy, which has provided about £600 million, £200 million of which has been to support cancer alliances in every corner of the country to make sure that we eliminate some of that variation and ensure that there is much more care for anybody suffering from cancer.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the best cancer strategy is prevention? In that regard, I congratulate the Government on their recent decision to extend the HPV vaccination to all young boys as well as girls. I know that my noble friend has had great influence in that area. Does he also agree that this decision has the potential to save thousands of lives that would otherwise be lost to cancer in the future?
I am grateful to my noble friend, not just for her recognition of that fact but for her campaigning on this issue. It is a really important step forward. The rollout of HPV vaccinations to boys will make a big difference to cancer rates, as it is doing for girls and women. It is part of a world-class screening programme in this country. A few issues need to be dealt with, and Mike Richards will be looking at those, but we are determined to make sure that our screening programmes get better and better.
My Lords, the Minister’s statements about the targets for 2028 are not consistent with the terrible and chronic staff shortages that NHS pathology departments are suffering. This will definitely be exacerbated by Brexit. Only three of 100 departments report to the Royal College of Pathologists that they have enough staff. Given that these are vital to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, what are the Government’s plans to rectify this very serious problem?
I absolutely recognise that it is a problem. As I said, we have increased the numbers of doctors in a range of specialties. Pathology has been a challenge, it must be said. There are two answers: the first is to continue to recruit more people, either domestically or internationally. The second refers to the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, made: we are determined to utterly transform this service through technology while also delivering better results.
My Lords, pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers. One in four sufferers survives for less than a month after diagnosis, and only 7% survive for five years. What is more, the outcomes have hardly improved in the last 40 years. Will the Minister join me in welcoming the Demand Faster Treatment campaign led by Pancreatic Cancer UK, whose ambition is that by 2024 people with pancreatic cancer will be treated within 20 days of diagnosis? Will he assure the House that the Government will play a leading part in helping to achieve that goal? I declare my interest as an officer of the Pancreatic Cancer All-Party Group.
The noble Lord is quite right. We have seen incredible improvements in outcomes for some cancers, whereas others, pancreatic cancer among them, have just not seen improved survival rates. We need to do a lot more, and part of that is early diagnosis. I understand that while pancreatic cancer becomes symptomatic in the last six months of a person’s life, it can be in the body for up to 14 years, so making that early diagnosis and using new technology such as liquid biopsies will help us achieve that noble goal.
Brexit: Bank of England Report
Private Notice Question
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the Bank of England’s report, EU Withdrawal Scenarios and Monetary and Financial Stability.
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question of which I have given private notice.
My Lords, the Bank of England’s analysis has been produced for the Treasury Committee and Parliament, and it is rightly produced and presented by the Bank independently of Government. The analysis shows that under an economic partnership similar to the Government’s deal, there could be an improvement in the economy’s performance for the next five years compared to the Bank’s latest forecast. Over the long term, our economy will remain fundamentally strong. We are confident that the deal we have agreed provides certainty, is the best available for jobs and prosperity and allows us to honour the result of the referendum.
My Lords, in its scenario looking at terms closest to the May deal, the Bank of England analysis actually shows that GDP by 2023 will be nearly 4% below the pre-referendum trend—below what it would have been under remain. Will the Government now tell the British people very clearly that their chosen deal leaves the country not just marginally but significantly poorer, less productive and with a smaller economy than remaining in the EU? Will the Government now treat the country fairly and allow the people to vote with this full information at hand?
Similar claims were made before the referendum took place. The choice that will be faced by Parliament—by the House of Commons on 11 December —is between the deal that the Prime Minister has negotiated and no deal. The focus should be on that. The Bank of England analysis and that produced by the Government yesterday to inform that debate show that the deal proposed is overwhelmingly better than no deal. That is what we will work towards.
My Lords, in producing the report, the governor is fulfilling his obligation in preparation for the Treasury Select Committee, as the Minister has indicated. So let us have no nonsense about the fact that the governor is exceeding his powers in any respect. We would expect the Bank of England to be well informed about the present situation and to be in a position to offer warnings to the Government. The basis of the warnings is the preparedness of British industry and commerce to adjust to the catastrophic position of a no-deal Brexit and to the Government’s proposed position. Is it not clear that the Minister needs to convey to his colleagues that there is enormous anxiety about the lack of preparation for the development of deals, which will be far below the level anticipated when the negotiations began? The governor is quite right to have identified in his report the Bank of England’s anxieties.
The noble Lord is absolutely right: the Bank of England has a statutory duty to inform its own analysis and to look at the worst-case outcomes to ensure that the economy is resilient to meet them. That is for the Financial Policy Committee and the Monetary Policy Committee to undertake, and they do so routinely. What is different about this analysis is that it was prepared at the request of the Treasury Committee in another place to inform the wider debate that it will have. Next week, the committee is taking evidence from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that will all be thoroughly debated ahead of the vote on 11 December.
My Lords, I greatly admire the economic acumen of the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, and I agree that these long-term projections for GDP are a bit scary—but they are probably not very accurate. However, is she not, along with many other people, confusing the narrow and misleading measure of GDP with the real drivers of our welfare and prosperity? Does my noble friend agree that many economists today realise that, to measure our welfare and prosperity, we have to look at much wider factors that assess our national dynamism and innovation? Economists today are facing an economics revolution, and are putting in its place the wrong-headedness of focusing just on the old GDP figure, which frankly belongs to another age.
We do indeed need to look at a range of figures. The most reliable measure is what business is doing. Businesses are hiring people, which is why we have record levels of employment; businesses are exporting, which is why we have record levels of exports; and businesses from overseas are investing in Britain, which is why we have the largest stock of FDI in Europe. That is the true evidence that we need to look at.
My Lords, is it not surprising that someone should say that by using the measure of GDP, which is consistent with the OECD and every other major nation’s measure—one could discuss reconciling income, output and expenditure at some other point—the Governor of the Bank of England is inventing some sort of false crisis? Is it not the case that the charge concerning Project Fear has been replaced not by evidence and forecasting for the future but by decisions by industry, which are now being announced? In Britain, FDI decisions—not forecasts—are down 80%.
The noble Lord has great expertise in economic analysis. He will recognise, therefore, that what we are discussing today is a scenario: it is a tool that is used to assess and stress-test risk. What is being put forward here is a worst-case scenario. I am not a pessimist; I am an optimist and a believer in the best possible outcome. I believe that that is the Prime Minister’s deal, which I hope will be supported.
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the report assumes that imports into this country will decline by 15% because of what it calls additional customs checks? However, customs checks are carried out on the basis of risk. The customs computer selects 1% of consignments for physical checks. The head of Customs and Excise and the head of sanitary and phytosanitary services have said that there will be no additional checks post Brexit because there will be no additional risk attaching to imports into this country. We were told that the Bank of England was acting independently of the Government: is it acting in ignorance of the Government’s own policy?
We do not want to detract from the fact that the Bank of England has a duty to stress-test the economy against a range of possible outcomes. Normally those scenarios are considered in private to inform the work of the various committees of the Bank in reaching their decisions. Perhaps uniquely in this case, they have been made public along with the assumptions which underpin them, as my noble friend has highlighted. However, these are worst-case assumptions. It is right that the Bank should look at a range of outcomes, but it is also right that we should consider other analyses, such as the analysis the Government produced yesterday.
My Lords, in answering the first question the Minister referred to the mismatch between predictions made prior to the referendum about the growth of the economy and what happened subsequent to the referendum—not subsequent to now but subsequent to the referendum. There were numerous forecasts. Will he helpfully put the various forecasts that were made—including from the Treasury and the then Chancellor, for example—in the Library so that we can see the evidence that the Liberal Democrats’ spokesman was asking for and have the facts about the colossal mismatch between previous economic forecasts on this issue and what has actually happened?
We were covering that very point when the Office for Budget Responsibility produced its forecast along with the Autumn Budget. This showed that the forecast made in April about what would happen was underscored, and actually we achieved more. It increased its forecast going forward because it believed there would be more employment, more taxes and less debt.
My Lords, in defence of the Governor of the Bank of England, can my noble friend confirm that these are not forecasts but scenarios whereby the Government think of three impossible things that could happen before breakfast and then ask the banks to plan accordingly to show that they would have the capital required to meet those extreme conditions? To present these as forecasts is misleading and undermining the Bank of England in carrying out its responsible activities.
My noble friend has immense experience in the financial services sector and banking. What he sets forward is precisely the position. These should not be misinterpreted. They should be placed in the wider debate going forward and not taken out of context. I wholeheartedly agree with him.
Goods Mortgages Bill [HL]
A Bill to make provision for a new form of non-possessory security which may be created over goods owned by individuals; to repeal the Bills of Sales Acts 1878 and 1882; and for connected purposes.
The Bill was introduced by Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Business of the House
Motion on Standing Orders
That Standing Order 40(1) (Arrangement of the Order Paper) be dispensed with on Wednesday 5 December to enable the debate on the Motion in the name of the Lord Privy Seal to begin before Oral Questions.
My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal, I beg to move the first Motion standing in her name on the Order Paper.
Business of the House
Timing of Debates
That the debates on the Motions in the names of Baroness Morris of Yardley and Lord Harris of Haringey set down for today shall each be limited to two and a half hours.
My Lords, I beg to move the second Motion standing in my noble friend’s name on the Order Paper.
Draft Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill
That the Commons message of 27 November be considered and that a Committee of six Lords be appointed to join with the Committee appointed by the Commons to consider and report on the Draft Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill presented to both Houses on 18 October (Cm 9710), and that the Committee should report on the draft Bill by 28 March 2019;
That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:
Blunkett, L, Brabazon of Tara, L, Byford, B, Prashar, B, Stunell, L, Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
That the Committee have power to agree with the Committee appointed by the Commons in the appointment of a Chairman;
That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;
That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;
That the Committee have leave to report from time to time;
That the Committee have power to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom;
That the reports of the Committee from time to time shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House;
That the evidence taken by the Committee shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published; and
That the quorum of the Committee shall be three.
Brexit: Attorney-General’s Advice
My Lords, I will repeat the Statement in response to the Urgent Question:
“The Government recognise the legitimate desire of Members on all sides to understand the withdrawal agreement and its legal effect. That is why my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster confirmed to the House on Tuesday 13 November that the Government will publish a full, reasoned Statement setting out the Government’s position on the legal effect of the withdrawal agreement. This is in addition to the material the Government have already published; for example, a detailed explainer of the withdrawal agreement and a technical explanatory note on the Northern Ireland protocol. My right honourable and learned friend the Attorney-General will also make a Statement to the House on Monday 3 December about the legal effect of the agreement and will answer questions from Members”.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Statement, but with the greatest of respect, what have the Government to hide? The Motion passed in the other place the other week was completely unequivocal. It demanded the full and final advice provided by the Attorney-General to the Cabinet in relation to this deal which Parliament is being asked to approve. Surely it would be nothing short of contempt for Parliament not to disclose the full and final advice without delay.
My Lords, the observations of the noble Baroness simply underline the prematurity of this Question. A Statement is going to be made by my right honourable and learned friend the Attorney-General on Monday. To anticipate the content of that Statement in the way proposed by the noble Baroness is wholly inappropriate. As regards the suggestion that the Government are hiding anything, perhaps I may quote the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, who said that advice from the Law Officers is,
“covered by legal professional privilege, and is subject to a long-standing convention which prevents disclosure of the advice (or even the fact that the Law Officers have been consulted)”.
That explains why it is not appropriate for me to go further. However, to anticipate a Statement that has not yet been made is, I suggest, wholly inappropriate.
My Lords, given that we are so fortunate to have my noble and learned friend—
My Lords, in March 2003 the Government resisted publishing the Attorney-General’s full advice on the legality of the war in Iraq, publishing a summary only. That episode showed how misleading a summary can be and how such tactics discredit government. Will the promised full, reasoned Statement to which the noble and learned Lord referred amount to more than a summary, and will it be the work of the Attorney-General? Are the Government determined to repeat the mistake of 2003, and this time in defiance of a binding Motion on a humble Address requiring publication of the full advice? Do the Government have any proper basis for defying that Motion? The noble and learned Lord has not addressed that question. Is not the only possible inference that the Attorney-General has advised that the Prime Minister’s deal would tie the United Kingdom to the backstop unless and until the European Union agrees to its release?
My Lords, again, the observations of the noble Lord merely underline the prematurity of the Question that is being posed. I think that noble Lords have to be realistic about this. No, we do not intend to repeat the mistakes of past Governments, nor will we. With regard to the advice over the Iraq War, I will not go into detail on that; it is a matter of history. The issue that was raised was whether the Cabinet had been shown the full legal advice or merely a summary, which, in the latter event, would have been contrary to the then Ministerial Code which indicated that when advice from the Law Officers was included in ministerial papers or in papers for the Cabinet, the full advice should be annexed to any summary. But that issue does not arise here at this time. Again, the whole Question that has been raised is one of prematurity. I am not going to comment on the issue of legal advice in a way that would intrude upon the Law Officer privilege.
My Lords, does the Minister believe that there are circumstances in which the will of Parliament in a resolution should be ignored?
I am not suggesting for a moment that the will of Parliament is going to be ignored.
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Marks, for my earlier enthusiasm. My question is not precisely on this point; it is on a point that I raised yesterday which I believe has a very material impact on the decision that Parliament is about to take. In July last year, the European Commission said explicitly that, once triggered, Article 50 cannot be unilaterally reversed. Will the Government make it clear, before Parliament has a meaningful vote on whether to accept or reject the deal, whether they accept that point of view?
My Lords, I spent an interesting day on Tuesday before 26 judges in the Court of Justice of the European Union, where this matter was addressed. I am advised that the Advocate-General to the court will deliver his opinion—of course, it is not an opinion binding upon the court itself—on 4 December.
My Lords, I am sorry to intervene in a subject on which I am not expert, but it seems to me that the Minister is saying that there is nothing to worry about and we just have to wait until 3 December. Do I infer correctly from that that the Statement to be made on 3 December will fully comply in every detail with the resolution that was passed in the other place?
My Lords, it is not for me to implore Members of this House not to worry in either the short or the long term, and it would be equally inappropriate for me to anticipate a Statement that has yet to be made by my right honourable and learned friend the Attorney-General.
My Lords, can the Minister tell us whether the legal advice will take account of the interesting additional sentence in Monday’s Statement that opened up the prospect of there being a trade relationship but, if that were later altered by a future Parliament, the Irish backstop not coming back? What would be the legal implications of that for the European Union’s understanding that we will respect the Good Friday agreement and not bring back a hard border in Ireland—that is, we could chop and change whatever happens initially in the permanent relationship?
I am not going to anticipate a Statement that has not yet been made. With regard to the interpretation and application of the withdrawal agreement, this is not the time or the place to indulge in a detailed analysis of its effect. However, the withdrawal agreement is in the public domain, and it is open to anyone and all to take appropriate legal advice if they consider that that is required with regard to the interpretation of that agreement.
My Lords, I apologise to the noble and learned Lord for intervening. As he said that he would not anticipate what is to come, I thought that he was going to stop.
Given the references to things that I have said in the past, I thought that I should intervene for a couple of moments. First, I do not agree with or accept the characterisations that have been made in relation to what happened in 2003, but that is for another day. Of course, all the advice given on Iraq was disclosed in the Chilcot inquiry and looked at in great detail. It is important to recognise that. Secondly, I want to press the noble and learned Lord on the point that he has not really dealt with. In 2003, no resolution or humble Address was ever made by the House of Commons to the Government; they could have released whatever they wanted at any time. I am interested to know what the Minister has to say about the effect of the Commons resolution.
There has been a resolution in the House of Commons. We are aware of its terms and its scope. We will await the Statement from the Attorney-General to see to what extent it is considered by the House of Commons to meet the resolution that was made.
My Lords, as I understand the noble and learned Lord, the Attorney-General’s report, whatever form it takes, will be published only the day before the debate. Why is it being left to that late date?
I do not believe that it is being left at all. It is a question of timing and the availability of the Attorney-General to provide any report and to address the House on Monday regarding these issues. Again, I emphasise the prematurity of the present questions. If noble Lords have an issue arising in the light of the Statement clearly we will respond to that.
My Lords, I fully respect the position the Minister is in, but he is not being asked to divulge anything about the content of the Statement that might be put before the House of Commons on Monday. He was asked, for example in the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, about the intention behind that Statement. If he is not able to say that it is his right honourable friend the Attorney-General’s intention to meet the requirement of the Motion passed in the House of Commons, that is quite a serious matter.
I quite understand the noble Baroness’s observations, but let me be clear that my right honourable and learned friend the Attorney-General is aware of the Motion made in the House of Commons and will be conscious of it when he comes to address that House.
Motion to Take Note
That this House takes note of the impact on schools of Her Majesty’s Government’s approach to school funding.
My Lords, I draw Members’ attention to my entry in the register of interests as chair of the Birmingham Education Partnership. I suspect that there will be differences of opinion during the debate. I hope there will be and that is as it should be, but I acknowledge and accept that every person in this House, no matter their view on school funding, values education, understands its importance, and would have the highest ambitions for our children and nation. Indeed, that is what makes this such an important topic to debate. We all know of its importance and we all know what happens when we get it wrong.
I also do not think that funding by itself will solve all our problems. I know it depends on how the money is spent, good leadership and good-quality teaching, but without money those things cannot happen. I am not one to say, “Give schools money and everything will be right”, but when I talk to teachers, visit schools and read what is happening I see that there is a crisis out there. Teachers are saying that it is the biggest problem they face. It makes a difference to what and how we can teach children, the pressures on teachers in a very demanding job, and, in the end, the prosperity of our country and the strength of our families and communities.
What is most worrying about this topic is that that sense of crisis and the reality of what is happening in schools is not reflected in what we hear from Ministers. It seems we have a Government who are not yet at the stage of acknowledging that there is a problem. If we achieve nothing else in the debate, if I could hear the Minister say, “I acknowledge that there is a problem and I am going to try to do something about it”, it would be well worth having.
I do not now trust what the Government say about statistics on school funding. On five separate occasions, the UK Statistics Authority has pulled Ministers up for misusing statistics. Let us look to organisations that are neutral and can give us impartial advice about what is happening. The Institute for Fiscal Studies and the National Audit Office say that, after a period of sustained increased funding from the previous Labour Government, they now find that this generation of teachers is the first for 15 years to have to run schools and teach at a time of diminishing budgets. Over 2016 we saw a real-terms drop in funding per pupil in schools of 8%. If you have been a teacher for the last 15 to 20 years you will have seen a 50% increase between 2001 and 2010 under the previous Labour Government, funding held steady and protected by the coalition Government, and an 8% real-terms cut since this Tory Government came in in 2015. Within those groups, some children and some sectors have suffered far more than others. The sector for 16 to 18 year- olds in particular has had a raw deal: down by 8% for them in further education, but in school sixth forms the amount of the cut is 20% in the last few years. That is what people are having to deal with in schools and the impact on the learning of those children can only be imagined.
I also want to draw attention to what is happening in special educational needs. I know from my experience that the money in the high-needs funding block is going nowhere to meet the demands placed on it. The LGA is doing a report at the moment the initial findings of which show a shortfall of £536 million in this financial year. Put that alongside the area where the Government claim they are doing good work—capital funding—and we can see that that is a problem as well. The Government say that they are tackling the problem of shortfall of places and building more schools, but they are actually shifting the money from the maintenance of school buildings for all schools, putting it into pet projects such as free schools and academies, and saying that that is creating the extra places. We have seen the budget for maintenance of schools fall from £4.7 billion to £2.4 billion. But it is worse than that: what has happened with the capital money is that of all the free schools that have opened, 54 have closed. That includes 12 UTCs and some studio schools as well. So even where they have invested money in the creation of new places and building new schools, we find that they have squandered that money. There has been poor stewardship of the money spent. Even the recent annual academy accounts show a £2 million operating debt as well.
This is not a blip or a little problem in schools that has to be dealt with along with everything else that is happening. It is a crisis, both in revenue funding and in capital funding, and there is no hope on the horizon that things will get better. It draws the energy out of what is going on in our schools. It saps the enthusiasm of our school leaders and our teachers. What saps the enthusiasm most is when the teachers hear the Government telling them that there is no problem. All that does is to create mistrust and resentment between politics—our business—and teaching and education, the jobs that we are supposed to be supporting.
This should not be a debate about figures, in truth—about, across the House, whose statistics we can believe. It should not be about trading £1 billion for another £1 billion. It should look at the consequences in schools of that cut in funding. That is what I want to look at. One thing we have to remember is that 80% of money spent on schools is spent on staffing. If you have to find cuts to your budget, it is very tough to do anything but cut the money you spend on teachers, support staff and clerical staff: that is where we have seen the biggest cuts. When the department inquired of teachers what they were doing to manage the cuts in expenditure, they said that they were replacing experienced, highly paid teachers with younger, less experienced teachers. They said that they were putting more teachers on temporary contracts rather than permanent ones, senior staff are teaching more, non-senior staff are losing more of their non-contact time and teaching larger classes, and there is less teaching of non-EBacc subjects. All that not only drains teachers’ energy, it means that the learning experiences that our children get are not as good as they should be.
I looked at what the Government are doing on teacher workload. They have a toolkit for this, a toolkit for that and a bit of advice for the other, but all those good attempts to reduce teacher workload count for nothing if we place more work on teachers because of the funding crisis. It is no good giving them a toolkit to improve communication or a bit of advice as to how to save time on marking if, day by day and week by week, we give them less contact time, more children to teach and more pressures because of less money.
I acknowledge one thing that the Government are doing which we did not take on: to try to change the funding formula. Good luck with that, because it is a job that probably needs doing. But to try to do it with one hand, during a time of making school budgets fall with the other hand, probably makes that nigh on impossible without asking some schools to suffer a great deal. Money matters. All the political parties that we represent have “We pledge more funding” in their manifestos. I have never heard of a competition between the political parties as to how they can raise school standards with less money. That is not a debate we have, so money matters. We pledged money, as did the Tories and the Liberal Democrats. Look at London Challenge and the pupil premium: that shows what can be done if you marry together extra funding of a sizeable amount, target it well and ensure that you work with teachers and school leaders to deliver the best for children. All that is a long, long way from the funding for the “little extras” that came out in the Chancellor’s Budget—but that is the sole response we have had to what is happening at the moment.
I want to remind people about the context in which we are asking schools to work. There is not a generation of schoolteachers of whom more has been asked than the generation in our schools now. Very often, it is we who ask them to do these extra jobs and they pick up the consequences of our policies and decisions in schools. This is the first generation which has been asked to succeed with every child, when previous generations were not. It is schools that pick up the pieces from increasing poverty, broken families and fractured communities. It is schools that have to work out how to bring up the next generation in a world which is globalising rapidly, and how teaching and learning changes with the digital revolution that faces us. Whatever the answers are to all those questions—I do not claim to know them—there needs to be investment in the schools and their teachers, in the fabric of their buildings and the equipment they use. There needs to be thought and investment in time and in space.
Quite frankly, if politics is about choice then the Government are making the wrong choices as far as school funding is concerned. It is never the right choice not to invest in the future, whatever the circumstances. It is never the right choice for business, commerce and industry because their success depends in part on schools getting it right now. It is never the best choice for individuals, families or communities because we know that education can be the key to giving them strength, enabling them to raise their heads and then to not only fulfil their individual potential but be stronger contributors to the world in which they live. We have now seen almost a decade of falling budgets. If your Lordships think about it, that will have been most of some children’s time in school. It is not fair or right that their schooling years should be during a time of diminishing budgets.
What I want to know, and what I think the nation wants to know, from this debate is simply: what are the Government going to do about it? We need to know that they understand the problem and acknowledge the consequences of their decisions and actions. We need to know that they will be champions in government of the teaching profession and all who care within education to try to turn this around. I would like to be reassured about the level of fight taking place as the next spending review approaches, so that there will not be another decade of this happening and children suffering.
I have always thought that education is a joint business, and I think that view would be shared across the House. We all have something to put in because we all get something out. It is up to families and parents, as it is to every citizen and business. There is not a soul without a role to play as a citizen in our country. However, politicians and politics have a role that no one else has. One of their roles is to make sure that our education system is funded well enough to do the things which we ask it to do for individuals, and ensure our country’s prosperity as we go into the future. I beg to move.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Morris on her excellent plea for education and on phrasing the debate in the terms she did. She is right to say that our education service is at a crisis point, and that the Government have to make their mind up about what they want to do with education—where they want to take it and how they see the future.
The Chancellor, in announcing a budget increase, as he put it, for primary and secondary schools, made probably one of the most patronising throwaway remarks ever when he said of the £400 million that he was giving out that it was, “money for little extras”. He should have left it at “little extra”—at least that would have been more honest and accurate. It gives a primary school on average £10,000 extra and a secondary school £50,000 extra. Few of us on these Benches know of a state school that is not struggling to keep within its budget. Local schools in my area, Brighton and Hove, have long had banners outside their gates telling local residents that the average loss to local schools is roughly £200,000 a year—and parents tell me that they can tell.
Yet still the Government, in a flurry of statistics, try to explain it all away by saying that the dedicated schools grant, delivered through the new funding formula, will mean that, as Schools Standards Minister Nick Gibb, claimed:
“Core schools funding will rise from … £41bn last year, to £42.4bn this year and £43.5bn in 2019-20. This means that real terms per pupil funding in 2020 will be more than 50% higher than it was in 2000”.
What this bland assertion ignores, of course, is the truth that, as the IFS—the respected independent fiscal analysts—pointed out, the 50% increase was during Labour’s years in office, between 2000 and 2010. The IFS placed the changes in a wider financial context and stated:
“Total school spending per pupil fell … in real terms between 2009-10 and 2017-18, and will only be … 14% higher in real terms in 2017-18 than in 2003-04. This adds on the additional effect of a … real-terms cut in local authority service spending and a real-terms cut of more than 20% to … sixth-form spending per student between 2009-10 and 2017-18”.
The Government’s reaction is to retreat, as they always do, to assertions such as, “schools funding is at record levels” and that changes are part of a “historic move to fairer funding”. No doubt we will be treated to this mantra later from the Minister. He will also tell us, no doubt, that schools standards are rising and that disadvantaged pupils are doing better than ever.
Fortunately, we are blessed with independent-minded observers such as the National Audit Office. In December 2016, it reported on the financial sustainability of schools based on the Government’s spending plans. It concluded that, while the schools budget was protected in real terms, it did not provide for funding per pupil to increase in line with inflation. It also pointed out that with the increase in numbers—174,000 in primary schools and 284,000 in secondary schools—there will be a real-terms reduction when inflation is taken into account. The NAO went on to say that department estimates show that mainstream schools will have to find savings of £3 billion a year to counteract cumulative costs pressures. These they identified as pay rises, the introduction of the national living wage, higher employer contributions to national insurance and the teachers’ pension scheme—plus non-pay inflation and the apprenticeship levy. By 2019-20, this will amount to an 8% per-pupil funding cut. It is no surprise, then, that the professionals on the ground who teach in and manage our schools are beginning to feel the effect of this continued austerity squeeze.
So those are the figures and that is the theory—but what is the practice? I decided to take a look at one of our more affluent London boroughs—Barnet—to see what professionals there were saying. They believe that they are providing a world-class education for Barnet children, and they are rightly proud of their achievements, but head teachers recently wrote to Nick Gibb, and I think also met him, about school funding. They said that they are seriously concerned that current levels of funding are now seriously threatening this high-quality provision. They pointed out that 95.5% of Barnet pupils attend a good or outstanding school and that most schools in the borough are full or over-subscribed. They pointed to the cost pressures that the IFS drew out. What worries Barnet’s head teachers is the impact on the education service they run.
In their open letter to the Minister, they listed 27 areas where budget cuts are reducing the quality of education. I shall give eight items from the list: staff reductions in teaching and support posts; curriculum reduction, including languages, the arts and sport; increases in class sizes; SEN service reductions; fewer teaching assistants; ICT equipment not being replaced; reduced book budgets; less training; and reduced school building maintenance expenditure. These are not trivial impacts; they are core to a school’s activity. They stretch teachers. Heads battle with budgetary control. They report that fundraising for core educational activity has become standard practice, which displaces management and leadership time for heads and senior staff.
The responses from the Barnet heads are disturbing. All 53 reported significant issues for their schools, including budget cuts varying from £43,00 a year to £150,000 a year. Most no longer have significant numbers of teaching assistants. One head reported 20% fewer staff than five years previously. Class sizes of 35 are now not uncommon. Another school reported a contingency fund of just £1,000 to cope with emergencies within a year. This is economic educational madness. A prominent secondary head in the borough recorded that two years ago the school had a surplus of £800,000 which has now gone and that insolvency for his school is a real prospect. Of course, the things that go first are the extras that my noble friend pointed to, such as providing additional places when they are needed and all the SEN work which targets those most in educational need. In-year deficits are now commonplace in Barnet schools, overspends are standard and teaching assistant and support staff reductions are obligatory. Several schools report running without deputy heads, senior staff and the specialists needed to have a full curriculum.
I say to the Minister that Barnet is a Tory flagship borough, and I presume the Government are proud of its quality service claims. On the data recording the borough’s educational service they should be, but, like all boroughs, Barnet has vulnerable pupils and areas of low attainment. They deserve the support which is now beginning to disappear.
Young people are our nation’s future, they are its intellectual capital and, in an increasingly service-dominated knowledge economy, that will always be the case. What sort of sense does it make for us to run down IT and ICT investment when it should be rising to meet the challenges of the AI revolution? What sort of sense does it make to underinvest in our teacher workforce to lead this work at precisely the moment when we need it most and when our nation faces an uncertain economic future, where investing in that knowledge economy may well make a difference to our national destiny and prosperity in a post-Brexit world?
My noble friend Lady Morris is a distinguished educational leader and has done great service in bringing this debate forward. She has given great service to our nation in the field of education. I hope this debate brings intelligent reflection from our Schools Minister and a change of course on funding the future.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, on her excellent introduction and on bringing this subject to our attention. I can find almost nothing to disagree with in her analysis of the situation.
It will surprise no one in this Chamber that I want to concentrate on special educational needs, which both the previous speakers have mentioned. When you have, as we do, a crisis of funding and the fear of a lack of funding, which is affecting planning and structuring, it is not surprising that it is funding for the groups that are seen as being the most expensive that causes some of the greatest consternation. In his Oral Question a few days ago, the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, raised the fact that very high costs are being incurred by local authorities fighting, usually unsuccessfully, against education, health and care plans, the successor to statements. People are winning on appeal and local authorities are running up at least tens of millions of pounds—I think the Times said £100 million but I do not know how accurate that is—in debts, so we are effectively subsidising a branch of the legal profession as opposed to helping those in the education system. In such a situation, the children who end up getting helped are those with a “tiger parent”—I was lucky enough to have one—who will go out and fight for them. So those who will benefit the most are, let us put it this way, the exam-passing classes. They are the ones who will get the help, and money and energy are absorbed into that battle as opposed to being spent on the rest of society.
In the past we wrote off large sections of our population academically, but there were jobs for them to do and they did not need a qualification. That is no longer the case. If you look at the dyslexia world in the round, you see the very high needs of this community. I should mention that I am president of the British Dyslexia Association, and my other interests are in the register. There are large numbers of people who discover late on that they have the problem, and it becomes apparent that that is why they have never passed an exam and probably why their brothers and sisters have not either. You cannot get away with not passing exams or filling out forms now. You cannot work on a building site without doing a health and safety check and knowing how to fill out the form correctly.
People with other special educational needs have similar problems, although not quite the same. One of the personal revelations that I go through is, “Oh, you mean you’re like us but you’re not”—there is always a slight change. However, all of them have problems with the classroom and going through the system.
Information provided to me is that 20% of the primary school population have problems with reading. Reading is a problem that in many cases tends to correct itself later on but is never quite as good as other people’s. Spelling is usually a more permanent problem. However, we are now discovering that in secondary school that group seems to disappear; I think the figure for those registering with a need is just under 3%, where the figure is something like 20% in primary education. However, we then discover new people in universities. So what is happening to support in the secondary system? Something is not right. We are ignoring a whole section of that group. Our system is confrontational and expensive. I am one of the few left in this Chamber who was around when we initially discussed statements. They were designed for the few high-end needs that had been identified at the time. The system really had not established that this was a mass problem.
Dyslexia accounts for about half of the neurodiverse community, both those who have it by itself and those who have it as part of their problems. That is 10% of the population who have a different learning curve and will learn in a different way. How do you get the best out of them? You do not do that by taking them off to a small area at the side for specialist help. Everyone who has worked in this field knows—this is not just a problem today but a historical problem—that getting a teaching assistant without proper qualifications who sits and nursemaids someone is a very common experience. Indeed, a member of my family—surprise, surprise, neurodiverse problems run in families—who has now successfully got himself through his A-levels remembers that his statement meant that that was what happened.
We must ensure that we invest in highly qualified teachers, the very people who become expensive and are being got rid of or sidelined at the moment. The only way we can do this with the existing stock is by improving continual professional development. To address this problem, we must ensure that we have teachers with a better understanding and who know how to deal in the classroom with commonly occurring conditions: the 3% of the population who are dyslexic, perhaps 5% dyspraxic and 2% or 3% who are suffering from dyscalculia. They will be present regularly and there needs to be training to handle different learning patterns. Otherwise—this is another example where if you do not invest, you get more costs later—you encourage the parent to fight to get special provision under the plan, encouraging legal costs, slow development and being in conflict with teachers. Just think about what that does. Little Johnny does not have a problem—he is a problem. The parents who are supportive and helpful are the problem. The conflict being built up here is massive.
We can address this only if teachers are equipped to deal with the situation in the classroom. When we talk about educational attainment, we ask, “What’s his spelling like?” I am sorry to return to dyslexia again, but it is my subject. You are not going to pass a spelling test by putting extra effort in, you need to know how to deal with it by different learning patterns—for instance, increasingly, using computers. Even the standard computers that we are given here have a special needs support package. True, I have not been taught how to use it properly, but I am waiting to be taught. I am told that the specialist set I have on my computer is still better. These things are available.
How do you work that into a classroom? How do you take stress off the child’s mechanical skills so that they can do work that leads to examination success? These are all known and existing pathways, but we do not teach our teachers how to get the best out of our children. At the moment, the most expensive block is becoming a problem that people are trying to avoid.
I pray in aid our discussion inspired by a document from Warwickshire County Council which said that dyslexia does not exist. To be fair, the entire House took a huge intake of breath and said that that was not on, but the council published that. It found the one academic who supports that point of view. Think how much money you could save if you took 10% of your problem out of your schools or did not have to do anything special for them. Which group will be next if we allow that to happen? I thank the noble Lord, Lord Agnew, because he intervened and helped. If that is the culture, we must do something to address it very quickly. I suggest that finding a bit more money for education and investing in staff to enable them to handle the problems that they are statistically almost guaranteed to meet day to day would be a very good start.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, for securing this important debate on school funding and for her impassioned and powerful introduction to it. I fear that she is right that there is a crisis in school funding. Head teachers in the diocese of Worcester speak of the stress they are experiencing due to funding worries; of not sleeping due to such worries, which impacts negatively on all they are trying to do; of a sense of letting down children with significant needs; and of a feeling that they have nowhere to turn to be truly heard. One head of a school who has been asked to double its numbers has not been provided with sufficient funding to do so, throwing his school into financial insecurity and causing immense stress.
Of course, that stress and anxiety is not unique to the diocese of Worcester, nor to head teachers. According to the 2018 Teacher Well-Being Index, 67% of teachers reported that they were stressed at work, which has led to taking time off work for extended periods. That, of course, not only affects people’s progress and attainment but puts additional pressure on schools, which have to hire cover teachers, often at a much higher level of pay.
Following on from what the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said in his speech, despite the increase in high-needs funding for those with complex educational needs, school leaders still report that funding is insufficient to meet the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities who attend their schools. One such case in my diocese is a school that has had to cut its speech and language individual intervention support to one afternoon a week, and is unable to support more specialist provision. That has led to a significant number of children not receiving appropriate intervention programmes.
In some cases, the strain on funding for children with special educational needs becomes too much, as has been implied. The Commons Education Select Committee heard evidence from the National Education Union that,
“in the current climate, schools are cutting resources to vulnerable children and permanently excluding instead and saving thousands of pounds”.
It is surely a matter of extreme concern that exclusions should be made on a financial basis and that children with special educational needs are being denied appropriate education because of lack of funding.
Turning to multi-academy trusts, they are witnessing a rearrangement of funding to reflect the needs of individual schools in the trusts, with the surplus of more prosperous schools being used to meet the deficit in the schools that are not thriving. The Minister has spoken about the additional benefits of the economies of scale that can be achieved by joining a multi-academy trust. That is undoubtedly true; it can be of great benefit, but there is a problem when schools are not receiving support and, as a result, fail their pupils and may be forced to close. For small and rural schools, for example, the financial challenges can make them inherently unattractive for academy chains or multi-academy trusts. Thus, they may be unable to provide the access, support and security that being part of a MAT provides.
There are particular difficulties with small and rural schools, and I know that the Minister attended a conference on their needs at Lambeth Palace earlier this week. Such schools are hit much more severely by external factors and are generally less able to adapt. For example, a small school that suddenly has one fewer pupil than expected would lose a larger proportion of its funding and would be less able to adjust to the effect of that reduction. There are also many additional associated costs in running small rural schools that are not reflected in funding structures. For example, because rural locations find it harder to attract young newly qualified teachers, the teachers they do attract are very often paid more, so rural schools have higher associated staffing costs. That is just one of the many instances in which circumstances are stacked against rural schools.
Anyone who has spoken to educators will know that there is a real struggle to make ends meet at present, which could well be described as a crisis. It is of course necessary and right that deficiencies should be pursued, but there is a real danger of perceived efficiency leading to deficiency. We should be looking to those setting the best examples when it comes to making cuts, to learn from best practice. At the same time, it is surely crucial to ensure that funding matches the needs of schools once sensible efficiencies have been made. Efficiency should not compromise the education of any child. I fear that that is now happening.
My Lords, let me start by reminding your Lordships of my education interests in the register, particularly as one of the chief officers of TES. I thank my noble friend Lady Morris not only for instigating this debate, but for the passion and clarity with which she opened it.
Our schools are struggling, particularly our secondary schools. Four statistics tell the story. We have heard the Institute for Fiscal Studies statistic about an 8% real-terms cut over the last eight years. At TES we have done the calculations as a result of the surge in pupil numbers coming through secondary, and predict that in 2024, this country will be 47,000 secondary school teachers short of what it needs to maintain current pupil-teacher ratios. This week, NHS Digital published statistics which tell us that one in five of 17 to 19 year-old girls in this country self-harm or attempt suicide. An Opinium survey for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Inclusive Growth found that 56% of teachers believe that our school system is no longer fit for purpose. I happen to agree.
What is going on? I commend to your Lordships the BBC2 series “School”, which you can catch up with on iPlayer. It is slightly depressing but insightful. In it we see a head teacher, James Pope, struggling to improve standards at Marlwood secondary school, a rural comprehensive in south Gloucestershire that has been put into special measures by Ofsted, while simultaneously being expected to cut nearly £1 million from his annual budget.
Austerity is biting. Funding reductions mean that schools, as the OECD tells us, are employing younger, cheaper teachers, who are often less resilient. More are now leaving the profession than are joining it; I see from today’s statistical first release that initial teacher training recruitment targets at secondary level were missed again for the sixth consecutive year. What then happens is that reduced local authority support, especially for special educational needs, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, talked about, creates more problems. Those problems often start with an increase in low-level disruption in the classroom, which grows. Teacher stress then grows and, with that, illness; the Education Support Partnership reports that one-third of teachers in this country have mental health problems. That increases the numbers off sick and the need for more expensive short-term supply teachers and, as a result, behaviour gets worse and learning falls. Teachers start to leave as their workload increases because they are left to do the planning and paperwork that supply teachers do not have to do, and as they struggle, the behaviour management problems grow.
As teachers leave, the school tries to recruit in the normal way to fill the vacancies, using the usual vacancy service, but finds that the candidates looking for jobs are not there. The school then re-advertises if there is time, or it may have to go to an expensive headhunter. In 2016, PwC reported that the cost of recruiting teachers is rising as recruitment agencies capitalise on the perceived shortage of candidates. Their market share has risen to 25%, at a cost of 65% of school recruitment budgets. If the headhunter fails, the school may ultimately have to get a long-term supply teacher at great cost, and often poor quality. This creates further pressure on budgets, with the promise of free recruitment services delivering a bitter reality, because the candidates are not looking. As a result, the school suffers declining teacher quality, results suffer, the high-stakes accountability system kicks in, followed by parental choice and a collapse in budgets, and the end of the head teacher’s career. This is the spiral of decline, and school and local authority funding cuts are often at the heart of that story.
We currently see a burning platform of rising pupil rolls coming out of primary into secondary—there will be 500,000 extra secondary school pupils by 2025. There will be fewer secondary teachers; if we are to fill all the maths teacher vacancies with people studying maths at university, we would need to persuade 40% of all maths undergraduates to become teachers, which is impossible. We have a narrowing curriculum, with less subject choice. The 20% cut in sixth-form funding, which my noble friend Lady Morris talked about, is cutting the number of subjects available at sixth form, but I am increasingly worried about this fetishisation of the academic over the applied, because we are training young people to be outperformed by machines.
If we train young people just to recall knowledge in tests—machines do that better; they are really good at it—computers will take their jobs. We have to remember what it is like for a young person growing up in this country. They are over-tested; they are looking forward to a debt of £50,000 if they choose to go to university, just at a time when employers such as AXA—an insurance company I was talking to someone about today—have done away with graduate recruitment. AXA prefers to source people earlier and train and develop them to meet its individual needs. It is not alone: Apple, Google, Cosco, Starbucks—all these companies, according to Glassdoor, are phasing out graduate-only recruitment because they want more diversity in their workforce.
The payback on going to university, in exchange for that debt, is starting to diminish. Young people are worried about robots taking the jobs they hope to get if they are successful at university. Their qualifications are starting to be dismissed by employers. No wonder we are facing a mental health crisis among our young people. What most parents want from schools is for their children to achieve according to the cultural norm, to be happy—parents do not want a battle to get them out from under the duvet every morning—and to be able to make a meaningful contribution at the end of the educational journey. That vision for parents is being rapidly eroded by a school system that is not fit for purpose. We have a funding crisis but, as my noble friend Lady Morris said, there is also a lack of hope about that on the horizon. But this is an opportunity for us to build consensus for change in our school system, and for a new paradigm for education. We could even call it a national education service.
We could cut testing. It is estimated that in this country we spend around £2 billion per year on testing in our schools. Let us just say we halve that: £1 billion could go a long way in helping with some of these problems. We should trust teachers more to shape a curriculum that engages young people and uses testing for formative rather than summative purposes as assessment for learning. More applied learning could be inserted on top of a foundation of knowledge and core skills in the curriculum. A more diverse 14 to 19 curriculum could be created, perhaps by abolishing GCSEs at 16 and ending the national curriculum at 14 to free up the years from 14 to 19 for a much more engaging curriculum experience. We should welcome back teachers in creative and applied subjects, so that they can properly develop the whole child; we should reconnect teachers with their vocation, so that they stay in and, at the same time, equip learners to find their vocation in time.
All this should be underpinned by proper resources, focused on learning and child development, not on testing and accountability. I look forward to the Minister’s reply. I look forward also to hearing from the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, and I salute her for having made sure that he Minister is not quite so lonely on his Bench.
My Lords, I declare my interest as a vice-president and former chairman of the Local Government Association. I begin by adding my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, for initiating this very interesting debate on school funding, and it is a great pleasure to contribute to it.
As we know, providing good quality education for our children and young people is absolutely essential. High-quality education provides the skills and experiences we need to get on in life. Education is absolutely essential to improving social mobility in our society and giving people the opportunity to succeed in life. As a nation, we can provide a good education for our children only if we invest in our schools, colleges, universities and local councils. We also need to give these institutions certainty and control over their funding, as this will help them plan their finances better in the future.
The Government have acted on some of the concerns raised by schools, councils and education charities. In July 2017, the Department for Education announced an additional £1.3 billion for schools for 2018-19 and 2019-20, meaning that no school would lose out under the new national funding formula. The 2018 Budget also committed to a further £400 million for schools in England to spend on equipment and facilities. These were positive decisions and we should give credit to the Government for listening. However, despite this welcome additional funding, there are challenges ahead and things that we need to do differently.
I now turn my attention to the support for our children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, commonly referred to as SEND. It is a crucial part of the debate on school funding. SEND services provide vital support for some of the most vulnerable pupils, and of course parents rightly expect to see their child get the best possible education and receive the best possible support. I know that councils are doing all they can to make sure that this support is available. However, we are reaching a point where the money is simply not keeping up with demand and schools are getting into financial difficulties because of the increasing demands. Government figures show that the number of children with SEND continues to rise. The proportion of pupils with SEND who attend special schools increased from 5.6% in 2012 to 8.8% in 2017, and the number of children with education, health and care plans, or SEND statements, has increased by 21.1% since 2014.
Councillor Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, has warned that, if we do not act soon, we risk creating a perfect storm—a storm in which schools will no longer be able to provide the extra support that pupils with SEND need, and this in turn will affect other pupils and teachers, who will get less support in the classroom.
As we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, the LGA, for its part, has commissioned the Isos Partnership, an independent consultancy, to undertake research and to analyse further the high-needs funding pressures facing councils. The initial findings of this research show that councils are facing a high-needs funding shortfall of £536 million for 2018-19. I know that councils are concerned that, without additional funding being made available, local government will not be able to meet the statutory duties to support children with SEND.
Meanwhile, research by the Education Policy Institute published earlier in 2018 found that over the four years up to the end of the last financial year the proportion of local authority-maintained secondary schools in deficit nearly trebled from 8.8% in 2013-14 to 26.1% in 2016-17. The average local authority-maintained secondary school deficit also rose over a seven-year period, from £292,822 in 2010-11 to £374,990 in 2016-17. Since the Children and Families Act became law in 2014, councils have seen a significant increase in demand for SEND support from families, but unfortunately this demand has not been matched by an increase in funding.
The Government have delivered a number of important reforms to education and provided additional resources to our schools. This is to be welcomed and I hope it demonstrates that Ministers do listen when concerns are raised and will listen to those of us who are now raising serious issues with the situation facing SEND. I would like the Government to show further leadership on this issue and find new money in the local government finance settlement to help address the funding pressures on SEND budgets. This will go some way to resolving the immediate pressures facing schools and councils, ensuring children continue to get a good education.
In the longer term, we need to work with schools, education charities, the Local Government Association and local government to review high needs funding and make sure there is sufficient money available to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND. A mainstream education is the best option for many children and young people with SEND, as well as a better use of resources than specialist provision is. For this vision to become reality, however, mainstream schools must have sufficient capacity and funding to meet the needs of all children.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Morris for her passionate, inspired and concerned introduction to this important debate. She is a true champion of true education, as is my noble friend Lord Knight. True education, as someone—maybe one of them—once said, is rounded and grounded. I share their concerns and those of others about larger classes, a narrow curriculum and total school funding per pupil, which has fallen by 8% since 2010, with sixth forms taking a huge hit.
Like my noble friend Lady Morris, I worry about special educational needs, and I salute initiatives such as the London Challenge. I salute schools with hard-pressed head teachers who nevertheless work with classroom teachers on the whole ethos of their schools, trying to preserve art, languages, sport, drama, music, libraries and personal, social and health education. All these are so important to a rounded and grounded education. These schools also spend money on counsellors and pastoral support. But real funding is a depressing problem.
My commitment to education comes from having been a teacher in secondary schools—the best job I ever had—a governor in various schools and the co-founder of a preschool playgroup when my own children were small. I now suddenly see disintegration and an unreasonable focus on passing exams, to the detriment of children and teachers.
In a debate in my name two weeks ago, we addressed life chances and social mobility, including early intervention. I and others put forward the point that early intervention did not just mean in the early years. Adolescents can take advantage of intervention. They undergo massive brain development as well as social and emotional development. This can make them more knowledgeable and aware of the importance of health, education and developing positive relationships. According to the World Health Organization, adolescence stretches from the age of 10 to 19. Schools and higher education institutions can intervene to develop not only adolescents’ academic skills and achievement but social and emotional skills, which employers say they value so highly.
We have a patchy education system, and things are not changing fast enough for many young people who have poor parents, live in deprived areas and go to below-average schools. Successful intervention models such as Sure Start and youth services have been decimated. Between 2012 and 2016, around 600 youth centres and one children’s centre closed every week—a poor record for a Government who say that they care about education and social mobility.
I shall focus mainly on the funding of early years education today. This is not, strictly speaking, about schools, but we all know that education happens in places other than schools, and it happens early. In 2014-15, I was involved in the Select Committee on Affordable Childcare. We carried out a comprehensive review of childcare, which involved a number of providers, both in schools and in the private and voluntary sectors. Government ministries and academics also supplied responses. Some of our findings are still relevant today. Funding systems were complex and often difficult to understand; it is still the same. Provision was piecemeal, with the best being in affluent areas with well-trained staff, and often in school settings; it is still the same.
We know from the Department for Education’s own research that 25% of families earning under £20,000 use their 30-hour free entitlement, compared with 58% of families earning more than £45,000. Only 40% of two year-olds qualify for this provision, yet research shows that two year-olds who have attended nursery have larger vocabularies, are more socially skilled and achieve better in primary school.
My noble friend Lady Morgan spoke in the debate that I have mentioned and highlighted the strange funding disparities in childcare. Government support seems to now focus more on the wealthier: they have moved from supporting vulnerable children to supporting affluent families. Less-advantaged parents, earning under £16,000 a year, are entitled to 15 hours a week of free childcare, and those parents earning £100,000 a year get 30 hours a week of free childcare. Where is the logic in this?
It is rightly pointed out that providing early support to families and children can contribute to preventing anti-social behaviour and crime and support school attainment and good mental health. It makes sense to have the best possible early years education universally, with simple and effective funding mechanisms. Such interventions save enormous costs around later problems. It has been argued, and is mentioned in the report on affordable childcare, that increases in maternal employment of 1% could have a net positive impact on public finances of around £200 million.
We have a great deal of information on all aspects of early intervention, both for children and adolescents. Our superb voluntary sector does a splendid job working with children and provides research that identifies good practice and bears out the need for funding. As I said, funding in early years and adolescence saves later, enormous costs around truancy, delinquency, unemployment and imprisonment. Professionals strive to overcome these problems, but they have a tough job later on.
On 13 November, a debate took place in another place on education funding, and there were many excellent speeches from all sides. I was particularly interested in one from the MP for Burnley, Julie Cooper—I was born, bred and educated not far from Burnley. She pointed out that, in her constituency, the average reduction in school funding is £300 per child, and that the Burnley FE college has had its funding cut by 30% since 2010. She too spoke of early years, and gave examples from her own constituency of deprivation affecting choices and chances. Like me, and like my noble friend Lady Morgan, she is aware of variations in provision and the potential savings for the economy from good-quality provision. Every £1 spent on early years is worth £15 in later years, yet many children have no access to good early years education, and this will get worse unless the Government show a real commitment to sustained support for this vital age group that continues throughout primary and secondary school, and into higher education.
We read in the press regularly, and we have heard today, about per-pupil funding not being protected, and significant cuts so that schools cannot balance their budgets. Schools and further education colleges are having to make dramatic cuts, and local authority funding for the provision of children and family services and youth services is suffering. They are having to focus instead on crises and safeguarding, rather than on creative work with children and families.
The Government have created a volcano and it is beginning to erupt. Teachers are angry, parents are angry and too many young people are feeling the effects of overtesting and stress at school. I am particularly concerned about mental health issues in children and young people. It is a growing problem, and schools are one of the reasons for this. Yet schools should be able to play their part in preventing or defusing such situations. Many do a very good job but, in an insecure early years system, with poorly funded schools and FE colleges and cuts to services for families, it is difficult to perform that function. How will the Government remedy these conditions and do their duty by all our children?
My Lords, I too thank my noble friend Lady Morris for sharing her expertise, as usual, and for giving us an opportunity to debate this key issue. Once again I congratulate the Library on its briefing, which always comes to your rescue when you are trying to prepare for a complex debate.
I agree with one aspect of government policy: the national funding formula is a necessary change because there was a postcode lottery in the distribution of funding. However, although it is right to make that change, surely the challenge for the Government is how it is managed. They talk about a “soft formula” to support a “smooth transition”, but that reminds me a bit of the “managed migration” approach to universal credit. Can the Minister advise the House when the Government plan to publish a review of the transition process to the NFF? It will be important to see how local authorities and schools are coping.
A number of noble Lords mentioned what they have fairly described as neutral organisations, such as the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the National Audit Office. These organisations have pointed out the decline in funding. As has already been said, under the previous Labour Government, we witnessed a 50% funding increase from 1997 to 2010. Now, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and others point to a real reduction of 8%. Why is that happening? The institute states that total spending per pupil fell in real terms by 8% between 2009-10 and 2017-18, and will be only 14% higher in real terms in 2017-18 than in 2003-04. Added to this is the additional effect of a 55% real-terms cut in local authority service spending. I will not quote the figures, because others have already done so. We are also still witnessing a significant increase in the number of pupils, which is another challenge for schools.
I declare an interest as a recent former chair of a board of governors of a primary school. We experienced a need to cut back on staffing. We now have to manage a three-year budget-planning process. That is no bad thing, but it has shown us that there will be a significant reduction in available funding to plan for the increased costs of pay increases, pensions, the minimum living wage, national insurance contributions, the apprenticeship levy and increased pupil numbers. These cannot be discounted; you have to plan for them. As others have said, we used to have the cushion of a surplus but it has now been eroded.
Teachers face huge challenges, including more than 50% of pupils on free school meals, pupils with English as a second language—in my own school, something like 30 languages are spoken—and fewer books at home. These are real challenges for schools to face.
As has already been said, the recruitment of good-quality teachers and head teachers is a more and more demanding process. It is not that people do not want to participate in the profession but that they feel the challenge is too great for it to be a worthwhile and rewarding career.
Does the Minister agree that we should regard education as an infrastructure investment? Why do I ask that? I do so because the Government have stressed in their industrial strategy the urgent need to improve productivity. The demands of the fourth industrial revolution and the digital revolution mean that we need a more-skilled workforce.
My noble friend Lord Knight referred to the demands of industry. We live in an age where the challenge of globalisation—and probably Brexit—means that we need more skilled people. He made an interesting comment about companies taking on fewer graduates than previously; they are looking for people they can train themselves and to move into the apprenticeship field. As someone who has declared an interest in apprenticeships on many occasions, and given the vast amounts of money that is now pouring into student loans, I welcome that.
Employers are looking for people to come into their companies with what they regard as the essential skills: literacy, numeracy, digital skills and the ability to work as part of a team. More and more, we are hearing employers say that it is exceedingly difficult to recruit in areas of high demand. We want more apprenticeships and yet we have cut back significantly on further education.
I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, on her candid analysis. I, too, hope that the Minister listened to it, because she made a number of important points. Her reference to the increased demand for SEND pupil places, the need to meet that demand and local authorities’ inability to rise to the challenge was one of the most important points made today. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, also made the point.
My noble friend Lady Massey mentioned “a rounded and grounded education”—a phrase I like and something that I think all parents seek for their children. However, parents are increasingly worrying whether that sort of education can be achieved. I certainly echo my noble friend Lady Massey’s point about early intervention. We know that if we do not make early interventions, the situation for children as they move through primary education will become increasingly difficult. It is difficult for the child and difficult for the teachers. For every child who leaves primary school not fully numerate and literate, the challenges and costs of remedying the situation at secondary level increase.
Like the other speakers in this debate, I hope the Government are listening. I welcome some of the moves they have made and the increases in funding, but it really is not enough. If they want to meet the targets they have set themselves to improve productivity and meet the skills demand of the new digital revolution, they need to recognise that education funding is a key part of the challenge.
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the gap. I thank my noble friend Lady Morris for her powerful introduction to the debate. One can be beguiled by her courteous and fair-minded approach to everything she says into momentarily not noticing how devastating the analysis she put before us was. She said, very fairly, that money is not everything. She also said, very powerfully, that it is certainly something and when there is not enough of it the impacts are obvious.
I wish to refer to two issues. The first has been mentioned by a number of noble Lords, including the right reverend Prelate, and that is the impact on teachers of the struggles in which they currently have to engage to keep their schools afloat and doing a good job. I am particularly concerned about school leadership because this is where the experience of, in some cases, decades of teaching comes to be used in the service of schools as whole institutions. I see in my own family the day-to-day impact of the pressures on school leaders of these struggles. Does the Minister acknowledge that this not only has an impact on the well-being and mental health of teachers but also on their families, for whom witnessing the kind of stress that many teachers are experiencing at the moment is distressing and sometimes destructive?
This is causing the wearing thin of the fabric of our education system, at both personal and institutional levels. The repeated denial from the Government, as my noble friend Lady Morris said so powerfully, is disrespectful of the efforts that educationalists—teachers in particular—put in to trying to make sure that our children’s future is safe and productive. Education is, as she said—not in these words—a common enterprise and we should all be concerned about it.
My second point is about information that has come out of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in the past 24 hours concerning the current value of the creative industries, which has gone over £100 billion. Those industries are likely to be the source of many jobs and opportunities for the young people currently in our schools. The skills and aptitudes that they need are fed and nurtured by precisely the subjects—I will not enumerate them again because I and other people have done so many times —which are suffering as schools struggle to meet the demands of the EBacc and other curriculum subjects. They have less discretionary funding available to allow pupils to participate both academically and extracurricularly in these creative subjects.
Schools cannot therefore properly prepare children for the opportunities that are out there and available to them. They will not come out with the range of skills that the creative industries need and those jobs will therefore probably go to such migrants as manage to get through our increasingly difficult immigration system. As I have said many times, this is a shocking wasted opportunity and I hope, once again, that the Government will look with more imagination at the restrictions they are placing on the curriculum. This point was also powerfully made by my noble friend Lord Knight of Weymouth.
It is the Minister’s job, and I understand this, to defend government policy. Not for the first time I find myself feeling really quite sorry for him because he does not even have support, frankly, on his own Benches. I hope he will find the courage at least to acknowledge the problems that have been put before him in this debate, even if he cannot yet say exactly how they are to be resolved. Further denials from the Government about the crisis that education currently faces will simply lead to deeper despair, and that in turn will lead to incalculable consequences.
My Lords, I declare my interests as a vice-president of the Local Government Association and a patron of Careers Connect. I know some people think that if a debate does not have dozens of speakers, it is not quite as important, but I think it is better when we have smaller numbers because we have longer to speak and can appreciate the arguments being made. I should like particularly to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, for whom I have huge respect from my days as leader of Liverpool City Council. She came to the rescue of our education service and that debt has always been in my mind.
This debate is being held against the background of the BBC programme “School”. The series follows the pupils, teachers, parents and leaders of different secondary schools in a multi-academy trust. It shows a head teacher, Mr Pope, struggling to improve standards at his school, a rural comprehensive in Gloucester which has been put into special measures, while at the same time trying to find £1 million of cuts from his annual budget. Teaching, leadership and support staff are being decimated. Class sizes are increasing. Morale is falling as pupils and teachers struggle to shake off the label “inadequate”. Last week, in episode three, after a poor Ofsted report, Mr Pope is seen handing in his resignation. He said:
“I started my headship with a vision of what I wanted to achieve and I came to realise that increasingly, I was making compromises … the more you have to compromise, the more you sit there thinking: this isn’t what I wanted to do. This isn’t what I thought my headship would be about”.
What wise words those are.
My noble friend Lord Addington, who is in his place behind me, has been purring because of the number of speakers who have mentioned special educational needs. He is less angry and more content than I have seen him for a long time. For example, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester talked about special educational needs. I began to purr when the noble Lord, Lord Knight, said, “Let’s cut testing”. Hallelujah to that. I think that my party said in its manifesto that we should do away with key stage 2 testing and with league tables that play one school off against another.
I am sure that when the Minister, for whom I have huge am respect because I know he always does his best—whenever there is a problem, he is the first to say, “Come and talk to me and let’s try to sort it out”—gives his reply, he will baffle us with facts and figures about how much is being spent: this or that amount of money and this pot of money. I am sure that, unlike the Minister of State for School Standards, when it comes to blinding us with figures, he will make sure that his statistics are correct. I do not want to talk about the statistics, although I, too, have had all the briefings. I thank the House of Lords Library and many other people who have written in. Sometimes you can be almost blinded by the statistics and they become meaningless. When I thought about how to approach this debate, I wanted to ask what it feels like for an individual school. We have talked about the BBC series, but that is slightly different.
One of my former teachers, Mr Carl Roscoe, is now the head of a successful one-form-entry primary school in Lancashire. I emailed him and said, “I am speaking in a debate. Can you tell me what it is like to face budgetary constraints”—I will not use the word “cuts”—“in your primary school”. He emailed back earlier today, and what he has to say is probably my speech:
“We are now eating in to any money we have held back in case the boiler packs in or there is any roof damage. The site supervisor patches up any problems—as we haven’t got the funds to pay the appropriate people. If teachers are absent I cover … as we can’t afford the supply teacher rates. Our Two Year Old Nursery currently has a number of portable heaters as it would cost too much to repair or replace the old heating system.
“The Children’s Centre has closed so a lot of families are struggling before children attend school so we are seeing more four year olds attend school in nappies. The teacher and the teaching assistant are spending time changing nappies rather than”,
improving their learning. He goes on:
“We are seeing more children struggling with anxiety—so we have used funds to pay for mental health training—I am now the Mental Health Champion. Teachers are spending more time providing pastoral care. The school appears to be the main community hub for everything—including social care support/advice. Teaching Assistant time is being cut so children are missing out on valuable interventions that the class teacher hasn’t got the time to provide on a one to one or small group basis.
“Children who need SEND support are waiting longer to be diagnosed so the school has to find ways to manage the behaviour issues without too much disruption to the learning that should be taking place. There are no places in local behaviour support schools to accommodate these children—even on a temporary basis. Teachers then feel unsupported and are growing more anxious in a job that should be highly valued.
“I still enjoy my job and feel very privileged to be in the job, but I know of other Head Teachers who are feeling the strain and as a result, they are contemplating taking early retirement or walking away from their career”.
That is a bit like Mr Pope.
The Minister, speaking at the School and Academies Show in Birmingham, likened himself to “a pig hunting for truffles” when it comes to finding waste in schools. But the reality is that schools do not have the luxury of trying to find waste; it is about trying to make massive budget savings. It does not take a bottle of champagne or whatever it might be to find these savings because, rather depressingly, they are happening right at this moment. How are those savings being made? We have talked about special educational needs. One of the ways that savings are being made is by trying to ensure that you do not have children with special educational needs in your school because—guess what?—they cost money.
Increasingly, qualified teachers who used to lead nurseries are being taken out as the head puts in NVQ level 3 staff members, excellent though they are. We see schools going through restructuring and, in that way, structuring out their expensive, experienced teachers. Schools are using teaching assistants to teach lessons. Secondary schools are scrapping subjects that are not part of the EBacc because they are expensive. As we have heard, those include music and drama. Perhaps it is easy to make those savings, but they are going on throughout our education system.
By chance, I met a group of people from an organisation called The Key. I believe its representatives have met the Minister. The Key provides information for schools on anything they are concerned about. It has produced a very good study of education in rural schools entitled The Challenges of Leading a Rural School: A State of Education Series Report. It surveyed the head teachers of some of the 5,000 rural schools across England, which comprise 20% of our schools. However, there is a dearth of information published on the unique challenges they face. The research shows that the top problem for the heads of rural schools is not being in a small community, lack of pupils or problems in staffing; rather, half of them said that the problem is not having enough money. Again, some of the comments are quite alarming. One head, Tim, reported:
“This year I need to save £64k from a £285k budget”.
Another, Richard, said:
“My top 3 challenges are finance, finance and finance. We’ll get an additional £200k in the national funding formula but it just means our projected deficit is less than it would have been”.
“People bang on about academies being a business, but our hands are tied—you don’t see the police out there fundraising for their own salaries”.
“We have already cut the number of TAs to the bone”.
“Things like music and drama are expensive to run … We have had to make some tough cuts to the arts”.
All that is happening in rural schools in this country.
For an increasing number of children and their families, the reality before they even start school is that, in their communities, Sure Start centres—a valuable resource for young children and parents—have closed. Local libraries that provide books and toys—an essential part of a young child’s life—have closed. We know the importance of children’s centres. For older children, sports centres, swimming pools and youth centres have also closed. All those things have gone.
Noble Lords may be wondering what that has to do with school funding. Early years settings, primary schools and secondary schools are often picking up the pieces from our social policies. We heard the Prime Minister tell us that austerity is over. If it is, let us celebrate by ensuring that Tim and his colleagues from those rural schools are not saying, “The problem is finance, finance, finance”, but, “We can educate, educate, educate”, to coin a phrase.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Morris for opening the debate with all the passion and authority of a former Secretary of State. I thank noble Lords for their contributions.
As noble Lords have mentioned, it has to be said that on school funding, the Government seem to enjoy less-than-full support from their Back Benches—and not only in your Lordships’ House. In a debate on this subject in another place two weeks ago, many people expressed concerns. Today, only the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, was willing to put her head above the parapet, although she was hardly fulsome in her praise of the new funding formula. Indeed, I am indebted to her because by quoting in detail the shocking figures on school deficits contained in the Education Policy Institute report from earlier this year, she saved me from doing so.
Given his hands-on experience, I suspect that I am not the only noble Lord who regrets that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Peckham, was not able to take part in the debate. However, I doubt that the Minister will feel the same way because the noble Lord clearly called the Government out on funding. He said that schools in his multi-academy trust had already made £12 million of savings but were facing a further 20% real- terms cut in funding over the next five years. He also criticised the Government’s free schools policy as an expensive drain on limited resources. He is only too aware of the impact on schools of the Government’s approach to school funding.
Recently, the Prime Minister promised us that austerity is over but the Budget made it clear that it will continue for years in our schools, colleges and early years providers. All the Chancellor offered schools during the Budget was what were patronisingly labelled “little extras”: £400 million in capital funding after the Government cut the capital budget by £3.5 billion in real terms. That reverses barely one-tenth of the cuts in this area. The Budget did nothing to provide additional revenue funding to schools that are struggling to afford the essentials; per-pupil funding will fall again next year as a result. Further and adult education once again received no support, and no action was taken to reverse the £3 billion-plus of cuts they have suffered since 2010. My noble friend Lady Massey outlined very effectively the impact of that on early years provision.
The Secretary of State should have fought much more vigorously for a share of the Budget that properly recognises the real needs of schools. Ministers may choose to ignore what they regard as politically motivated criticism from opposition parties but they should take note of impartial and respected research organisations, which have highlighted underfunding in schools. I mentioned the Education Policy Institute, for example, and many noble Lords, not least my noble friend Lady Morris, highlighted the Institute for Fiscal Studies report that identified the 8% cut in real terms between 2010 and this year. Of course, that was driven mainly by a 55% cut to local authority spending on services and cuts of more than 20% to sixth-form funding. These figures are alarming. I take no pleasure in repeating them but it is clearly necessary to do so because the DfE and its Ministers are simply not listening. Ignoring a problem does not make it disappear.
The reality is worse than what was outlined by the IFS because it did not take account of future additional burdens that will be loaded on to school budgets—additional national insurance and pension costs that the DfE will not fund, most notably. The Minister needs to tell noble Lords whether he accepts those figures because it seems that only those in the citadel of the DfE refuse to believe that the IFS report reflects the all-too-real difficulties experienced daily by our schools.
As I am sure the Minister has done, I read the Secretary of State’s speech when school funding was debated in another place two weeks ago. As usual, Mr Hinds concentrated on overall spending, ignoring the rise in pupil numbers. He compared current funding with that in 1990 or 2000, rather than 2010—a point made by my noble friend Lord Bassam. Education was not in a good place after 18 years of a Tory Government; being a bit better than that is hardly something to be proud of. I plead with the Minister to spare me the mantra that none of this matters much because standards are rising and since 2010, 1.8 million more pupils are now in “good” or “outstanding” schools. Many of us regard that as code for, “Academies, good; maintained schools, bad”. That figure has little to do with government policy; it is more a reflection of increases in pupil numbers and the result of changes to the inspection system.
Equally, schools that have been rated “outstanding” often do not see an Ofsted inspector for 10 years or more, with those performing less well naturally receiving the most attention. Before I leave this issue, let it be noted that Ofsted’s statistics on outstanding schools have improved much more sharply in the primary sector, where only 25% are academies, compared to secondary schools, 75% of which are academies. So, are academies good and maintained schools bad? The figures tell a different story.
There is an existential funding crisis in schools, which manifests itself in many ways. One way is the growing teacher shortage, which is partly, but not exclusively, a result of pay; workload is certainly an issue too. My noble friend Lord Knight powerfully outlined the spiral of decline that often follows the departure of teachers from their classroom. The Minister should take note of that. Another product of underfunding is the narrowing of the curriculum mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Storey and my noble friend Lady McIntosh. Although the EBacc is a factor, cost pressures are also responsible for schools ending or reducing the provision of subjects such as music, art, drama, design and technology and other creative subjects.
Then, there is the crisis within a crisis: provision of support to children with special educational needs and disabilities. That was mentioned by many noble Lords, not least the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester, who spoke passionately about the effect of funding cuts on vulnerable children. Yet the Government expect local authorities to find the first £6,000 of SEND funding per child from within their existing budgets. I often wonder what world DfE Ministers inhabit. Noble Lords will have noted from the briefing provided by the Local Government Association that councils are reporting huge pressures on the high needs funding block; indeed, they say it is one of the most serious financial challenges they are dealing with at present. We all know that they are dealing with a number of such challenges.
If the Minister remains unconvinced, he should study the survey carried out two months ago on SEND provision by the National Association of Head Teachers. Its general secretary stated:
“Schools are left struggling to meet the needs of our most vulnerable pupils. Without sufficient funding and a more coherent approach, the SEN code of practice is nothing more than an empty promise from government to parents and children”.
These dedicated professionals are in charge of our children’s education. That same group felt so concerned about overall school funding levels that, recently, more than 1,000 of them marched on Downing Street to bring their message to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They are head teachers. Who would have thought that a Government could so comprehensively fail to support the people who run schools and set their budgets that they would be forced into that kind of action? Desperation drove them to it, and the Government should be ashamed that they caused that to happen.
The schools funding crisis even stretches to libraries closing. The School Library Association reports that it has lost 10% of its members since 2015, and recently, one member was told by their head teacher that the library was a “luxury” the school could no longer afford. Many parents regularly receive requests to contribute to the cost of new whiteboards, iPads or playground equipment; in some schools, it is textbooks or stationery. Parental contributions are not always voluntary. Last month, a Guardian report found that 43% of parents have been asked to make contributions in some form, up from 37% two years ago. This should come as no surprise; it is a sign that free education—a right enshrined in the 1944 Education Act—is being eroded.
Of course, there is another side to cuts to school budgets: the scale of the Government’s waste of resources. I have no time to go into the details, but 91 academy trusts have now closed, as reported by Schools Week recently, which used Companies House records to get that information due to the lack of transparency in the DfE and academy trusts. Nominally the DfE bears the costs when an academy fails, but of course it is other schools that do so because they are denied the cash they desperately need. Directors of education in England’s largest local authorities are being paid much less than the chief executives of the largest academy chains, even though the latter are running far smaller organisations.
These skewed statistics might be merely irritating were there adequate funding for all schools, but when schools have had their budgets squeezed to the point where they often cannot afford to replace staff, they become a scandal in which the Government are complicit. I could also talk about written-off debts for free schools before we even get to grammar schools— £50 million was miraculously found earlier this year to pave the way for their damaging expansion. It is one law of funding for the Government’s pet projects and another for the hard-pressed maintained school sector. That is completely unacceptable.
We believe in the value of education and its power to foster social mobility and ambition. That is why Labour has worked widely with parents, teachers and many others to plan a national education service. That is why that national education service does not promise “little extras”. I point out to the Minister that last year’s election manifesto was fully costed on this.
As my noble friend Lady Morris said, it is never the right choice not to invest in the future. Education spending is about nothing other than the future of our children and, through them, the country as a whole. Investing in education is an area in which the Government have been found seriously wanting. The next Labour Government will put that right.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, on securing this important debate on school funding. I acknowledge her great experience on this subject, particularly as a former Secretary of State for Education. It is a key priority for this Government to ensure that every child receives a world-class education to enable them to reach their full potential. We are determined to create an education system that offers opportunity to everyone, no matter what their circumstance or where they live. Raising educational standards is the key to everything we are doing, so ensuring that the financial resources are divided in the right way is vital to that.
However, I know enough about basic psychology to know that most noble Lords will approach this debate with their minds made up. None the less, as ever, I will do my best to show the House that the picture is far less bleak than commonly portrayed. We are making significant progress: more schools than ever are being rated good or outstanding. The noble Lord, Lord Watson, challenges that and says that the framework has changed. I suggest that it is actually tougher than it was seven or eight years ago. The attainment gap is closing—a significant priority for us—and, if we are here for social mobility, then that is one of the greatest pieces of evidence of what we have done. We have launched 12 opportunity areas to drive improvement in parts of the country that we know can do better. We are investing in our schools and have delivered on our promise to reform the unfair, opaque and outdated school funding system by introducing the national funding formula.
As my noble friend Lady Eaton said, we are investing an additional £1.3 billion in our schools across this year and next, as confirmed in our 2015 spending review. This significant additional investment means that core funding for schools and high needs will rise from almost £41 billion in 2017-18 to £42.4 billion in 2018-19 and £43.5 billion in 2019-20.
I take on board the comments from the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, and other noble Lords about statistics, but the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that real-terms per pupil funding for five to 16 year-olds in 2020 will be more than 50% higher than in 2000 and some 70% higher than in 1990. We could put these figures in a different way, and I accept that these debates can become somewhat reductive, but this is another way to deal with it than the way the noble Lords, Lord Bassam and Lord Storey, did. Putting it in the context of an average classroom, funding for an average primary school class this year is £132,000—up from around £124,000 a decade ago and £84,000 in 2000. That is in today’s prices. Those same children will receive an average of £171,000 when they move to secondary school per class, up from around £161,000 a decade ago and £109,000 in 2000, again in today’s prices.
It is not just the quantum of funding available that matters; it is vital that it is distributed fairly and where it is most needed. Prior to our recent reform of the funding system, schools with similar pupil characteristics across the country had been receiving markedly different levels of funding for no good reason. For example, Coventry received £510 more per pupil than Plymouth, despite having equal proportions of pupils eligible for free school meals. Nottingham similarly attracted £555 per pupil more than Halton. That is why our commitment to reform the unfair school and high-needs funding systems and introduce the funding formula has been so important. I am pleased that it has been this Government who have been able to deliver on that. The introduction of the national funding formula means that this year, for the first time, funding was distributed to local areas based on the individual needs and characteristics of every school in the country. This historic reform is the biggest improvement to school funding for a decade and is directing resources where they are needed most.
On a lighter note, I have a cold—I apologise to noble Lords—and I asked my office to get me some Tunes for my speech. None of them had ever heard of Tunes, so they said that they would google them. They sent a note through the Box just before I came here that said, “We couldn’t find choons”. Maybe my education priorities should be refocused.
Schools are already benefiting from the gains delivered by the funding formula. It has allocated an increase for every child in every school this year, while allocating the biggest increase to those schools that have been most underfunded. This year, schools that have been historically underfunded have attracted increases of up to 3% per pupil. Next year those schools will attract up to 6% more per pupil, compared with 2017-18.
We are particularly focused on supporting children who face great barriers to success, be that because they come from a disadvantaged background, have low prior attainment, or speak English as an additional language. Evidence shows that pupils with these characteristics are more likely to need extra support to reach their full potential. It is vital that we help schools to provide the support these pupils need. The national funding formula has protected the £5.9 billion additional needs funding across the system.
Under the national funding formula, a secondary pupil who had low attainment in key stage 2 will attract some additional £1,550 per year while in secondary education. A secondary pupil who speaks English as an additional language will attract an additional £1,385. A secondary pupil eligible for free school meals and living in one of the most deprived postcodes will attract an additional £2,035. Funding through these factors is all in addition to the basic per pupil funding that the child attracts. These important priorities are often misunderstood or ignored by the commentariat. I accept that it is a complicated system, but it is very much aimed to deal with those children in most need.
My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Lord is about to leave the question of the funding formula, but before he does, could he comment on the observations from my noble friends Lady Morris and Lord Knight that, while there might be some merit in the formula in itself, trying to implement it when the overall quantum of funds available is not increasing sufficiently means there will inevitably be many losers as well as a few gainers?
My Lords, I entirely accept that this is an extremely difficult subject that has been kicked down the road for a long time. Doing it at a time when there are not huge amounts of additional money makes it difficult, but the system puts a floor in the bottom so that no one loses out. Of course, the debate will always be about why we are not moving the bottom ones up quicker. I met a head from West Sussex only last week—
The noble Lord is being extremely courteous and helpful to the House, but what he does not seem to be doing is explaining why it is that all these schools, in experiencing what he is saying are increases in budgets, are also experiencing reductions and losing the ability to provide the level of service that they have provided in the past. The Barnet study is a good case in point, because it is not just one isolated school; it is all the Barnet schools. While I am here, I recommend to the noble Lord that he uses Lockets next time, rather than worry about Tunes.
I thank the noble Lord for that very important piece of advice. There is a very complicated answer to the noble Lord’s question. It goes right back to the 1990s, to a system of training called COSMOs that was given to head teachers then. That training has not been continued and has lapsed, but what it showed senior leaders in the 1990s was how to most effectively allocate resources in their schools. A lot of those skills have been lost. I will cover some of the individual questions that have been raised—I have some figures for the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, on Barnet, for example.
I now turn to high needs. We recognise the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and my noble friend Lady Eaton about funding for children and young people with high needs. We are also concerned about provision for excluded pupils. We have produced a range of support for local authorities to help them best use the resources they have available, including a high needs benchmarking tool by which they can compare spending. We have increased overall funding allocations to local authorities for high needs by £130 million last year and £142 million this year. We will increase this further next year, by approximately £120 million. In fact, high-needs funding will be more than £6 billion next year and will have risen by £1 billion since 2013. Every local authority will see an increase to their high-needs funding per head of the population of two to 18 year-old this year and next, with underfunded authorities receiving up to 6% more next year than in 2017-18.
The noble Lord, Lord Knight, and the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, asked about mental health care for young people. We are very concerned about that—one would be callous to say anything else—and are putting more resources in. Our Green Paper last year set out proposals to support schools to put in place senior leads for mental health, to introduce new mental health support teams working in or near schools and colleges, and a trial of a new four-week waiting time for NHS children and young people’s mental health services. As came up in a Question earlier this week, the NHS itself is committing £2 billion more to mental health, which will include, over the next several years, adding 8,000 mental health professionals to the system.
The noble Lord, Lord Addington, asked about improving teaching for, and increasing awareness of, the kind of challenges that he is so passionate about. We are increasing the level of resources available to help teachers support children with SEN. We have a special resource in the initial teacher training modules. We have online resources for teachers and the department has also contracted with the Whole School SEND Consortium to deliver a programme to equip schools to support children with SEND, which includes dyslexia.
The noble Lord, Lord Addington, was also concerned about education, health and care plans. We carried out a survey last year that showed that 66% of parents are satisfied with the process. This is, of course, a new process and one we aim to improve.
Turning to efficiency and the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Watson, on high pay, I completely share his concern about high pay in academies. The very first thing I did when I took on this job just over a year ago was to tackle it. We went after about 213 trusts, I think it was—more than 200 trusts—and since then 56 have stopped making those sorts of payments, for various reasons. That is a campaign that I will continue. I completely support the noble Lord in calling out those who do that.
On school resource management more generally, we recognise that schools have faced cost pressures. I want to be clear to the House that we are not in denial about that. The idea that I operate in a citadel is a dream that I can aspire to, but the real world is rather different, and that is why we are providing extensive support to schools to help get the best value out of every pound. We recently launched a strategy setting out the support, current and planned, that we have designed to help schools reduce costs. It provides practical advice on how to identify potential savings from their non-staff spend that can be put back into teaching to get the best value. To put that in perspective, we have a non-staff spend of about £10 billion a year, and we believe that £1 billion of that could be pulled out of the system over the next three or four years.
We know that marketplaces can be complex, leading to schools facing higher costs than they need to. The initiatives in our schools buying strategy aim to reduce this complexity when procuring goods and services. For example, we recently launched an agency supply teacher deal to provide schools with greater transparency on costs. We now have 34 national deals to help schools save money on items they buy regularly.
The noble Lord, Lord Storey, referred to my comments at the Schools & Academies Show last week—he is obviously very thorough in his research. The reason I used a somewhat strong or controversial approach there is that, for a year now, I have been going round forums such as that show giving endless speeches pointing out that we have these deals available for schools. In the audience for the address he referred to were 200 head teachers and chief executives. I asked those who had used our deals to put up their hands. Out of the 200, five put up their hands. When I arrived in this job a year ago, I wrote to 1,300 chief executives of trusts and told them about the deals that were in place. I said, “If they are no good, please tell me”. How many responses did I get? I did not get one response. I understand the pressures in the system, but the system also has to respond to us. Since we are trying to help them improve efficiency, they need to tell us how we can help them more. That is why I made those comments the other day: it was not to be glib. I am a huge fan of spreading best practice and if there were schools in that audience that were doing interesting, innovative things, I want to let other schools know about that. It is important to put that into context because the trade magazines made fun of me, which of course is grist to the mill in this job.
We have created a benchmarking website for schools. This allows them to compare their spending with that of similar schools elsewhere in the country. We continue to improve this service and recently introduced a trust-to-trust comparison functionality. This will help school and trust leaders to identify if and where improvements can be made.
I am conscious of time. On teachers’ pay and pensions, we have recently responded to recommendations made by the School Teachers’ Review Body to confirm the 2018 pay award for main scale teachers. It is our aim that schools continue to attract high-quality recruits—I take on board the many comments about recruitment challenges—and this award will support them to do that. We will see a 3.5% uplift to the main pay range, 2% to the upper pay range and 1.5% to the leadership pay range. In the main pay range, it is important to stress for noble Lords, this is the biggest percentage increase since 2011.
The Minister has not mentioned the fact that schools are meant to meet the first 1% of the pay rise themselves, so that is not funded. Can he explain that? Can he also answer my earlier question as to whether he accepts the figures in the Institute for Fiscal Studies report?
The noble Lord is correct that the first 1% of the pay rise is expected to be funded by schools. We believe that that is possible within the efficiencies that I have mentioned. As for the Institute for Fiscal Studies, I believe that it includes within its figures the 16 to 19 year-olds sector, which has seen a tougher regime than the mainstream system: I acknowledge that. We are fully funding the teachers’ pay award beyond the 1%. This will be worth £187 million in 2018-19 and £321 million in 2019-20.
On pensions, we propose to fully fund the increase in pension contributions recently announced for state-funded schools. We know that school budgets for the academic year have already been agreed and, in most cases, schools have allocated those budgets. That is why we have worked with the Treasury to get agreement to implement the changes from September 2019, rather than April 2019. We will consult on the best mechanism to distribute funding to individual schools and announce how it will be distributed in good time, before schools experience the pressures in September 2019.
As we distribute this funding, we will be at the same time more fairly in line with the best available evidence. For example, by using a range of indicators to measure deprivation we are able to ensure our funding reaches all those pupils who need it. It is not limited simply to those who qualify for free school meals. Alongside the additional needs funding in the formula, we continue to deliver the pupil premium, with more than £2.4 billion this year. This is above the funding that we provide through the national funding formula. We will have invested over £13 billion in the pupil premium since 2011 to improve the outcomes for less well-off pupils.
I will now try to address specific questions raised by noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, asked about Barnet but I think he has gone. No, he has not—apologies. Under the NFF for 2019-20, schools in Barnet will attract £4,999 per pupil. This is an addition of £68 per pupil, or 1.3% compared to the 2017-18 figure. The total cash funding will increase by 3.2% and an additional £7.7 million, once rises in pupil numbers are taken into account. Just to explain how important that is, the marginal additional cost of educating one more pupil in a school is not the average per pupil amount. Barnet’s local authority received £48.1 million for high needs, an increase of £1.2 million compared to 2017-18.
My noble friend Lady Eaton and the noble Lord, Lord Watson, referred to the EPI report and the rise in deficits. They are rising, which is a concern, and I am having to spend a great deal of time on that. We are offering advice to local authorities on how to deal with this, but to put things in perspective, 91% of maintained schools reported a cumulative surplus, or that they would be breaking even in 2016-17, with total surpluses of more than £4 billion against a total deficit figure of less than £300 million.
The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, mentioned the shortfall in academy accounts. This is a myth that I want to slaughter early before it gathers traction. The figure referred to is driven almost entirely by an increase in impairment charges, which are non-cash changes to the value of land and buildings. Academies do not have to spend money on impairment charges, and a more realistic figure is that of the net cumulative reserves of the academy sector, which has seen an increase from £2.1 billion to £2.3 billion.
I share the concerns that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester and the noble Lord, Lord Storey, have about rural schools. That is why I attended the Lambeth Palace address earlier this week and met the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely yesterday, when we specifically discussed rural schools. I again make a pitch for multi-academy trusts, which are a very good solution to the problem. It is complicated in rural areas because of distance and how small many schools can be but, as I said in my address at Lambeth Palace, we are committed to always having a presumption against the closure of a rural primary school. They are the glue of these rural communities. My own son went to one, which faced closure last year. Since it was in Norfolk, the noble Lord, Lord Watson, would have been upset if I had intervened, but I did not. However, I am pleased to say that it has now joined an academy trust—one which I can tell your Lordships I have nothing to do with. It is important that we have sparsity funding, which is allocated to rural schools. The NFF allocates £25 million and we also give every school a lump sum of £110,000. When that lump sum is coupled with the sparsity factor, it provides meaningful support.
The right reverend Prelate made particular reference to a school where he said that the head teacher was struggling because the school had been asked to double the number of pupils. We have allocated a tremendous amount of basic need funding, with £7 billion during the current spending review between 2015 and 2021. Over the course of the Parliaments since 2010, we have increased the number of pupils by some 825,000 and they have all been funded. I want to reassure him on that.
The noble Lord, Lord Knight, asked about teacher recruitment and supply teachers, among other issues. I mentioned that we have just created a teacher recruitment service, which is now being rolled out across the country. It is a much more cost-efficient service than that provided in the market generally. Likewise, with supply teachers we have created another portal which has got the main supply firms in the country together. It has made them cap their fees and stopped the pernicious practice of charging a recruitment fee if the supply teacher becomes a permanent employee after a number of weeks. These may be only small things, but they all add up.
The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, raised issues about capital. We have committed some £23 billion to capital between 2016 and 2021 but, significantly, I should stress that we have also reduced the build costs per square metre by some 30%. This rises to 35% per square metre when improvements in efficiency and design are included, so we are very committed to that.
The noble Lord, Lord Storey, gave an example of a friend who wrote about possible boiler problems in his or her school. I am not sure whether he said it was under a local authority or an academy but, if it was a local authority school, we make an allocation to local authorities every year of the school condition allowance. It is then for schools inside a local authority to bid in for that. If it was an academy and had more than 3,000 pupils, the academy trust is given an amount of capital which it can then choose to spend as it sees fit.
This leads me on to the BBC documentary “School”, which I have not seen all of, although I of course will do so. However, I saw the first part and felt it was a very disappointing piece of journalism, because it was clearly set up to show how bad everything was. There are a number of challenges in that trust, but just on repairs one line from the journalist said that there were terrible, draughty windows and that the classrooms were therefore cold. When I looked up the figures for the school condition allowance, this trust receives over £1 million from that a year. The school in question—I think it is called Marlwood—is the biggest and, although we do not publish individual amounts per school, because the academy trust is free to use it as it sees fit, I can assure the House that there was plenty of money to deal with those windows. If it had a better call on its money than windows that increase heating costs, this is the sort of thing I get frustrated about. It is not all as one-sided as people think.
I am running out of time—my goodness, I apologise—and I had better sum up. On efficiencies in schools, I heard the comment from the noble Lord, Lord Watson, about the Harris Federation. The fact is that the Harris Federation is so efficient that it is able to employ centrally 80 school improvement teachers, who go out into its weaker schools—or ones it has just taken on—and provide the extra resource. That is one of the secrets of it being such a high-performing trust. Outwood Grange, a trust in the north of England, does a similar thing: it has 65 centrally employed school improvement teachers doing exactly the same and raising standards. It already has more than 900 pupils registering year-on-year for the schools that it took over from WCAT—a trust that failed—because of the improvements being seen.
I apologise for interrupting the Minister. I just want to be clear for the record that I was not criticising the Harris Federation, for which I have a high regard, but I wish that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Peckham, had the same regard for the Government’s new funding formula.
I had dinner with the noble Lord, Lord Harris, two nights ago and he is always frank in his views. He is a passionate advocate for his schools and what he has achieved is fantastic. I would like that to go on the record.
I would also like to give an example of a relatively small trust, the Thinking Schools Academy Trust in Kent, which has taken the novel approach of paying £2,000 more to its newly qualified teachers when it recruits them. You may say, “There’s no money around, so how has it done that?”. It has done so because its retention rate on teachers is double the national average. It has only a 10% turnover of staff every year, as against a national turnover of 20%. Thinking in ways like that can make such a difference.
I have been told to stop. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Morris—
I am sorry to delay the end, but I asked when the Government were going to review the transition to the new funding formula.
My apologies. We are on a soft programme at the moment that is being reviewed, and then it will be reviewed more formally with the spending review. So I cannot answer that question at the moment. As the noble Lord will know, we are experimenting with giving delegation to local authorities for the high-needs funding block. Some local authorities are using that and some are passing all the funding straight back to schools. That soft launch will last until the funding review, which will be next year.
I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this important debate. Even more, I pay tribute to the hard work of teachers and schools who give their best to raise standards in our education system. I have worked very closely with these wonderful people and I support the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, in what she said about the morale of teachers in the workforce and the fact that they are making a vital contribution.
We are changing the way that funding works. It is not easy, but we are seeing it beginning to bear fruit. This will underpin a further improvement in standards to help create a world-class education system that finally allows every child to achieve their potential, no matter what their background.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who contributed to the debate. I do not think that I have ever been in a debate where there has been universal opposition to the position taken by the Government. Not one Member on either side of the House spoke wholeheartedly in favour of the Government’s approach to schools funding. That if nothing else should make the Government and Ministers think again. Every noble Lord who contributed to this debate has contributed to previous education debates. They have real experience in the real world and they have brought their expertise to our debate today—on SEN, rural schools, smaller schools, teacher shortage and supply, creativity in the broader curriculum, and the knowledge they have as a chair of governors who knows their school well.
I spend some time on that because they, like me, must feel very disappointed that the concerns they brought up on behalf of teachers, pupils, parents and wider society seem to have cut no ice with the Minister. I know that his is a tough job and that he has to defend the Government’s position. But my objective at the start of this debate was to secure some acknowledgement that things are going wrong. I have not heard that, and it is disappointing.
I will not answer all the points, because the Minister spoke for a long time and mentioned a lot of small points. I will take up just two or three. Please do not quote the five to 16 funding. If you are a head in a secondary 11 to 18 school and you have a 20% cut in sixth-form funding, it does you no good to be told by the Minister that the five to 16 funding is not bad. It is that difference between the reality in schools and the rhetoric of Ministers that adds to the pressure on school funding and the crisis it has given us.
Schools do not exist in isolation. Cuts in local authority work, cuts to educational psychology, the increase in poverty, and the lack of money in early years all add to the pressures on schools. I did not hear from the Minister that he understood that—and that concerns me. However, I do think that the Minister is right to offer best practice to the Government. It is easy to laugh at a little idea that a Government Minister puts to schools. I will not do that, because it is right. If we can learn from good tips and hints, there is nothing wrong with that; we should continue to allow one school to learn from another.
However, this debate was not about that. It was not about marginal extras. It was about the fundamental level of funding that goes into our schools—and that was not addressed. The only solution to our funding crisis in schools that the Minister is not prepared to countenance is giving them more money—and that is a problem.
I welcome the debate, and of course I welcome the way in which the Minister listened carefully and the thoroughness with which he tried to answer every issue raised by Members. I am grateful for the extra time he gave us in responding to the debate. It shows his care and concern for the job that he has. I do not doubt for a minute his determination to deliver what he said: high standards for every pupil. I just wish he would work with the rest of us who share his passion so that together we can try to get more funding for schools. If we do not do that, he will find in retrospect that his time in office was more of a disappointment than it might have been.
Offensive Weapons Bill
The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Motion to Take Note
To move that this House takes note of the recent increase in violent crime and the case for a cross-governmental response that includes not only policing, law enforcement and policies on gangs and drugs but also health services, youth provision and opportunities for young people.
My Lords, I am pleased to have the opportunity to introduce this debate today, and in doing so remind the House of my various interests in the register.
Nineteen days ago a man in his 30s was found with stab injuries at the end of my road. He was one of the luckier ones; his injuries were not life-threatening. However, on that same weekend the number of murders in London this year exceeded the total for the whole of 2017—and across the country the latest ONS figures suggest a 12% increase in the number of offences involving a knife or sharp instrument. But these statistics tell us nothing about the human tragedies involved in individual cases: the parents who are devastated and those who are left bereft.
What should be clear is that the causes of violent crime are complex and that there is no single, simple solution. Indeed, those who pretend that there is do a disservice to those who have died and suffered, and a disservice to their loved ones.
Let us also be clear that this is not just about London; it is an issue in all urban areas. However, the response of the Mayor of London has been decisive: creating the violent crime task force with 250 police officers based in the highest-risk localities and deployed flexibly and rapidly in accordance with the intelligence picture. This may already have had an impact on the figures, although it is too early to say conclusively. In addition, the mayor is setting up a violence reduction unit to spread good practice and identify systemic London-wide issues that need to be addressed.
At the same time, the mayor’s Young Londoners Fund—totalling £45 million—will help children and young people to fulfil their potential, particularly those at risk of getting caught up in crime, with 105 local community organisations starting projects in January, supporting 50,000 young people aged 10 to 21, with another round of projects starting in May. The importance of this is the recognition that you cannot simply police yourself out of the problems around violent crime—which is why in London there are local action plans agreed by local partners in each borough.
But the decline in police numbers has had a major effect. There will soon be fewer than 30,000 officers policing our capital city and, with £300 million still to be found from the Metropolitan Police budget in the next year, we will be back to the levels of 20 years ago, while London’s population has risen from 7 million to 9 million.
What is the consequence of that? The imperative to respond to incidents means that there are not the resources available for proactive and preventive policing. Neighbourhood policing is a shadow of its former self, which means that the police no longer have the community insights they had, that intelligence is diminished and that proactive interventions are reduced.
I have talked to council leaders who tell me that low-level drug dealing is often not targeted. If police officers are confronted by it, they intervene, but operations to disrupt such problems are no longer possible. The consequence is that dealing is normalised. Gangs feel that they can operate unhindered. They expand their operations and there are territorial disputes—and then stabbings and murders.
What is the Home Office response? I can tell you now what the Minister will say because she has said it repeatedly in your Lordships’ House. She will say that locally elected police and crime commissioners must set local priorities—she is nodding. That is true, but it is near meaningless if your resources are pitifully inadequate for the task faced. She will say that there is no correlation between police numbers and crime levels. That was true only when a measure of crime was used that showed that total crime was falling because it did not pick up the massive shift towards online crimes. She will say that PCCs can increase the police precept if they wish. Yes, they can, but only within the strict limits set by the Government, who have failed to fund £420 million of police pension commitments. We just heard the noble Lord, Lord Agnew, tell us that schools’ pension commitments are being fully funded, but the police pension commitments are not. No doubt the Minister will tell us why that is and why it is such a beneficial policy, unlike in every other major public service. It is not surprising that PCCs feel they are being left in a worse position than ever before.
These cuts are real. The number of police officers in England and Wales has fallen by 20,000 since March 2010 and is now at its lowest recorded level since the early 1980s, yet we know from the 2011 riots, which occurred before most of that reduction took place, how tenuous the thin blue line actually is. This week, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary highlighted the pressures on the police as a result of what is called the “broken mental health system”. These cuts and pressures are not surprisingly leading to a purely reactive service. This is starkly demonstrated in the latest figures for the number of drug seizures, which were down to 135,000 in 2017-18, the lowest number for 14 years, so gangs feel they can operate on our streets with impunity.
It is not just the police that have suffered cuts. In 2010, £1.2 billion was spent across the country on youth work and youth services. Last year that had fallen to £358 million: a 68% cut. Other public services, such as probation, that help to reduce the risk of crime or support young people have suffered similarly, as has the funding available to charities and the voluntary sector. Our social fabric is being stretched so thin that it has become almost transparent.
The Government’s Serious Violence Strategy—and I am sure we will hear much about it from the Minister—is simply not enough to plug those gaps. It is long on analysis and short on remedies. It recognises that changes in the drugs market have fuelled recent increases in violence but offers little as a solution. The focus of the strategy is supposed to be early intervention, which is a worthy aspiration, and indeed there is a blizzard of worthy but small-scale initiatives in the strategy. There is to be a new early intervention youth fund amounting to £11 million—contrast that with the mayor’s Young Londoners Fund, which is worth £45 million and is four times the size. The early intervention money is to be spent over two years—and that is itself a problem. Ask anyone involved in the field and they will tell you that is simply too short a period for a project to deliver a sustained impact.
I want to say a bit about police tactics and style. To listen to some Ministers, you would think the answer is simply much more stop and search. This analysis conveniently forgets that it was the present Prime Minister, when she was Home Secretary, who restricted police powers in this area and pressurised the police to make much less use of the powers they still had, so much so that the number of police stops fell to 280,000 last year compared with 1.5 million 10 years earlier. Incidentally, the figures continue to show an apparently disproportionate number of black men being stopped and, if anything, the disproportionality has increased.
Of course, stop and search should be intelligence-led. However, the changes in the law around Section 60 stops—Section 60 allows all police stops in precisely defined areas for a specific period—have made it harder for the police to respond proactively and flexibly to intelligence received. The law now requires that senior police must for good reason believe that serious violence will take place and that the power is necessary to prevent such violence. Previously the test was that serious violence not “will” but “may” take place. That change was unhelpful. Reversing it would be far more sensible than the wider loosening of the law advocated by the Centre for Social Justice and apparently contemplated by the present Home Secretary.
Section 60 powers must be used only with community consent. When you ask young people and communities what measures are necessary in a particular locality, they will often want to see more stops to take weapons off the streets and, more importantly, deter individuals carrying knives and other weapons. It requires serious community engagement, and that individual stops are conducted with respect and civility. It is always better if the officers using the powers are familiar with the areas concerned, which is why the approach taken by the Met’s violent crime task force, with teams of officers dedicated to the most high-risk areas, makes sense. The impact of having police equipped with body-worn video means that individual interactions are recorded and are more likely to be conducted in an appropriate fashion on both sides.
Other interventions would be more controversial. I have heard that the Metropolitan Police is undertaking a limited consultation about deploying armed police on foot patrols with their guns in areas where there have been violent incidents. I am not convinced that that would be helpful. It would be seen as provocative. It will inspire fear rather than reassurance. It will hinder community confidence and do little in itself to reduce the number of violent incidents. It would be more positive to maintain or even enhance schools liaison and engagement work. Facilitating data exchange makes sense. The PCC in Stafford wants hospitals to be more willing to share information about those presenting with knife wounds and other injuries. Similarly, sharing data on habitual knife carriers with the probation service and schools makes sense, but too often data confidentiality is cited as the reason why this cannot be done, even when to do so might help save lives.
I want to return to what the Government have said in their Serious Violence Strategy about early intervention and the underlying reasons for the increase in young people turning to violence, carrying knives and getting involved in gangs. We need to focus on the increasing sense of hopelessness and alienation felt by many young people, the absence of life chances, and adverse childhood experiences. A striking proportion of those involved in gang violence have been excluded from school. Too often, schools wash their hands of young people who are seen as too difficult and who are not going to help league table performance, but pupil referral units—even where they have places available, and many do not—do not turn those young people round, and there is evidence of gangs recruiting directly from such units. If at 16 you have been excluded from the education system, have poor literacy and numeracy, no exam results and little prospect of achieving the material rewards that you see others around you enjoying, it is perhaps not surprising that the apparent easy pickings of gang membership seem enticing. If, in addition, you have come from a seriously dysfunctional family with a parent or parents bowed down by substance abuse or where violence is the norm, gang membership may seem like a haven and an escape.
The Government’s Serious Violence Strategy should be ambitious in tackling such matters. Why are so many pupils excluded from school and what is being done about it? How do you stop pupil referral units failing those referred? What is being done about the inadequacy of child and adolescent mental health services in many areas to support disturbed young people, as highlighted in your Lordships’ House on Tuesday by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester? What about the online drivers of violence, such as underage sales via the internet of zombie knives, drill music glorifying violence—it was put to me that they are not musicians pretending to be gangsters, but gangsters pretending to be musicians—or the provocations that appear daily on social media with gangs exulting in their violence and on their incursions into rival territory?
It is of course a matter of enormous regret that the coalition Government dismantled the Sure Start programme that was aimed at giving all children the best foundations for their futures. In 2015, when I was leading the review for the Ministry of Justice into the self-inflicted deaths of young people in prison, we came across research carried out in Washington state in the USA over the last 30 years that demonstrated that providing intensive support to the mother/baby relationship in the first year of life was an investment by the state that paid off many times over in terms of reduced family breakdown, reduced social work and health interventions, and less engagement with the criminal justice system. Addressing those issues would be an ambitious strategy, but that is the scale of the aspiration that the Government should follow if their Serious Violence Strategy is to be more than platitudes and a list of worthy but short-term initiatives.
Tackling violent crime requires an approach that spans right across government. In 2002 the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, convened weekly meetings in COBRA with relevant Ministers and all the responsible agencies to deliver a dramatic reduction in street crime. In London, the deputy mayor for policing is hosting fortnightly meetings in City Hall to bring about multiagency collaboration on knife and gang violence in the capital. Where is the parallel grip and focus at the national level today?
Violent crime is taking lives in our cities—more in a year, incidentally, than died from terrorism in the last 20 years. We are risking the loss of a cohort of young people to gang violence and drugs. Are the Government going to step up and take the ambitious measures necessary? I beg to move.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, on securing this debate. I can think of few subjects that are more deserving of public debate than the violence on our streets and the tragic loss of young lives that this violence has caused in London and elsewhere.
Day after day, we hear harrowing stories of young men being knifed to death in public places yet our national media remains obsessed with other things: alternative approaches to Brexit, the political implications of the latest round of ministerial resignations or the fate of individual football clubs and their managers. Surely that cannot be right. What kind of society have we become when stories about the loss of young human lives are relegated to the inside pages, when we appear to accept these deaths as simply among the more unpleasant features of urban living? I believe that the attitude of acceptance of violence in our streets as regrettable but more or less unavoidable is not only morally reprehensible but is one of the main reasons why such violence persists and why we find it so difficult to reduce if not eliminate it.
I shall explain briefly what I mean. I am afraid that most people, including our political leaders and opinion formers, tend to accept violence on the streets as inevitable because in their heart of hearts they do not believe that it is possible to prevent it, at least not in the short term and certainly not by relying on the police to do so. That reflects what I sense to be a widespread belief that our local police forces simply are not capable of preventing crime and therefore cannot be relied upon to make any significant difference to the level of street violence or community safety more generally.
That belief is not often articulated so starkly but most people, if pressed, think of police officers as “PC Plods” who are there primarily to pick up the pieces: to find missing persons, clear the drug addicts off our streets, try to cope with those who are mentally ill or simply walk the beat and make themselves useful if asked to do so. When it comes to dealing with crime, whether serious crime or so-called volume crime, most people tend to think of the police as concerned primarily with what happens after the event, whether that means writing reports or trying, usually unsuccessfully, to identify the perpetrator. For most people, expecting the police to prevent crime before it happens is totally unrealistic.
That is why, when it comes to tackling violence, the popular view is that the only truly effective approach is through programmes aimed at strengthening families, improving schools, building new and better houses, tackling racism or providing better health services, youth provision and job opportunities for young people, but we all understand that such changes take years to implement and even longer to make a difference to people’s lives, even if Governments could be persuaded to fund them. That is why, even though we talk about the need for urgent action to reduce violence on our streets, most of us do not really believe that there is a quick fix and have come to accept that we are probably stuck with it for a long time yet—10 years or maybe more.
I believe that is a counsel of despair that is both immoral and needlessly pessimistic. I believe the violence that is killing and maiming our young people can be significantly reduced much more quickly and effectively. I believe it can be done now without having to wait for the development of the kinds of longer-term programmes that I mentioned earlier and about which the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, spoke, although I do not for a minute want to minimise the importance of such programmes or the need to expedite their implementation. I believe the violence in our cities can be reduced in months rather than years because I saw it done in New York, Philadelphia and other American cities where I worked in policing from 1996 to 2008.
Before any noble Lords jump to the conclusion that I believe American police officers are more effective than ours, I make it clear that I have worked closely with policing professionals on both sides of the Atlantic and assure your Lordships that our police officers are every bit as good at their jobs as their American colleagues, and in many respects they are better. They are certainly better trained, have higher professional standards and have very much better central support and co-ordination arrangements.
However, American police officers have one great advantage: they work in a society where their political masters believe that they, the local police, can make a real difference to reducing crime and keeping communities safe. In each of the cities in which I worked—New York, Philadelphia, Miami and even tiny Hartford, Connecticut—the police reported to mayors who regarded community safety as their highest priority and were prepared to commit themselves publicly to achieving safer communities by reducing crime and to being held accountable for doing so by their electorates. These mayors in turn set prioritised strategic crime reduction objectives for their police chiefs and held those chiefs accountable for achieving those objectives. The chiefs in turn set clear operational objectives for their senior officers and held these officers accountable for achieving their objectives.
In that way, the whole of the police organisation knew exactly what was expected of it. Everyone knew what they were expected to do and, at least as important, not expected to do. They knew, for example, that if the local newspaper published a leader attacking them for not investigating minor crimes, as the Times did this morning, the mayor would make it clear that this had been his decision and had been taken in order to free scarce police resources—resources were very scarce in each of the cities where I worked—to enable the force to prevent more serious crimes such as violence on the streets. This setting of clear priorities for the police enabled the force to focus on the problems that the community regarded as most important, and this led the community to feel that the police department understood their needs and was committed to meeting them.
I believe that is the approach that we should be taking to tackling violence on our streets. The first step is to believe that the police can make a difference and to act on that belief. That means setting chief constables the clear strategic objective of reducing violence on our streets and expecting them to give priority to that objective. It also means giving chief constables the resources that they need to do achieve that central objective and holding them personally accountable for achieving it.
I am confident that our police leaders, like their American counterparts, would welcome the challenge. Indeed, I believe they would see it as a vote of confidence in their professional capabilities and would deliver the safer communities that we want. The question is whether our political leaders at national and local levels—the Home Secretary, the Mayor of London and local PCCs—are prepared to accept this challenge and take personal responsibility for keeping us safe, or will they continue to blame others, such as the police, the Treasury, the Home Office, the education and health systems and immigrants, for the present violence on our streets?
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey for initiating this important debate. I believe that the Government do support a multidisciplinary approach to violent crime, but they are not providing the means to achieve success. The serious violence strategy has received widespread support, but £40 million to support initiatives to tackle serious violence is, as the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, said,
“a drop in the ocean given the scale of the problem we have to tackle”.—[Official Report, 11/6/18; col. 1513.]
The Home Secretary announced at his party conference that the Government would,
“introduce a statutory duty for all agencies to tackle this problem together”.
He referred to,
“those in health, education, social services, local government, housing—the whole lot”.
My response is that the Government are failing in their statutory duty to fund those agencies adequately. Announcing a £200 million endowment fund to target young people at risk is a publicity sop. Government by weekly funding announcement is a sign of failure. I accept that that is not just a failing of this Government.
It is simply impossible to provide a service with increasing demand and diminishing resources. Local government is a shadow of its former self. Funding to police forces reduced by 25% between 2010 and 2016. We have lost 25% of police community support officers. A&E departments, schools and social workers are all struggling to cope, and preventive strategies are a pipe dream without long-term sustainable funding.
Talking of health in schools reminds me of the consultant surgeon at King’s College Hospital who specialises in knife wounds. TJ Lasoye is an inspiration, and if sainthoods are being handed out, he should definitely be considered. Not only does he save lives; he travels around schools in the area, showing graphic X-rays and explaining the consequences of knife wounds. He told me that one X-ray showed a knife buried four inches into a skull. One pupil put forward the view that it probably did not hurt. Many others thought that a stab wound just needed a few stitches or an Elastoplast. TJ uses his considerable skills to persuade youngsters of the real consequences of knife wounds. They listen and laugh when he says that he hopes he does not see them again.
Trading standards officers are apparently going to be supported by the Government to undertake prosecutions of retailers who sell knives to under 18s, through developing a specific prosecution fund to support that activity. Here we go again: a specific prosecution fund. Can the Minister tell us precisely what that support for trading standards officers is and how it is expected to work?
I turn to social workers, who are an important part of this work. I thank my former union UNISON and BASW—the British Association of Social Workers—for their briefings. There was a debate on the crisis in social work this May, led by my noble friend Lord Kennedy of Southwark. The Government then passed the buck to local authorities. Both UNISON and BASW conducted surveys of their members about the impact of local government cuts and the threat to their ability to carry out their work. The results are remarkably similar and, to my mind, heartbreaking.
I have always been a supporter of social workers, because of the difficult and thankless work they do. It is thankless because they cannot do right for doing wrong. Do too little, they are neglectful; do too much, they are interfering. Without exception, they suffer from high caseloads and administration loads and come up against lack of resources for service users. Cuts in the number of social workers and other budget cuts mean that cases are assessed on budget grounds rather than need. Crisis cases are the easiest to justify, and preventive work is diminishing.
Social workers work an average of 11 hours per week unpaid overtime to keep up with their workload. That is probably an underestimate. This leads to stress, burnout and a high proportion of people considering leaving the profession. One social worker was so stressed that they were considering a career change. They said, “I cannot be the face of a failing service any more”. Another said, “My working life has never been so crisis driven”.
Eighty per cent of social workers think that local residents are not receiving the help and support they need at the right time. Social workers see the wider impact of poverty: housing departments which are too stretched to offer families realistic housing opportunities, forcing more families into private rental accommodation or homelessness. One social worker said, “We struggle to deliver vital services to young children and families because of the cuts—the list is endless in my job”. Another said, “I have seen people sanctioned with no food and no money to feed their children … more frequently in the last three years than I have ever done in my lengthy social work career and” it “feels like it is getting worse”.
Another said, “I work in the substance misuse service, and we are no longer able to give individuals the chance of residential rehabilitation”, which has a higher success rate. One final direct comment: “The most fundamental issue is a lack of social workers due to a lack of funding for local authorities. All my colleagues work unpaid overtime and are still unable to complete 100% of the workload. No amount of restructuring or policy change will resolve this”.
The Local Government Association is quite correct that its role in protecting children and young people from involvement in, and the impact of, youth violence makes it uniquely placed. However, it accepts that,
“an increase in demand for acute services has forced many authorities to divert spending away from preventative and early help work into services to protect children who are at immediate risk of harm”.
The LGA calls for a strong emphasis on,
“and investment towards early intervention and prevention work”.
Does the Minister agree that the multiagency approach to this problem also requires guaranteed sustainable funding commitments to all those agencies?
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, on securing this important debate. I shall focus principally on health—public health in its broadest sense, but also advances in treatment caused by experience of violent crime in emergency departments. Knife crime increased by 22% between December 2016 and December 2017 in England and Wales. The rate of possession over the same period also rose by more than a quarter. Noble Lords have already commented on the connection between pupils, students and other young people already at risk. It is worthy of note that more than one in three local authorities have no vacant spaces in their pupil referral units for permanently excluded children and young people, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and a lack of hope for the future.
I am grateful to Barnardo’s for its helpful briefing, which states:
“Almost 60% of its children’s services managers said they thought they had supported a young person involved in criminal activity over the last year”,
and three-quarters of its staff said that they thought the young person had been coerced, deceived or manipulated by others into criminal activity. We have heard of some of the statistics in London, but we know that it is much broader than that. It is absolutely clear that we need to take a public health approach to tackling serious violence. That has already happened in the Cure Violence model in Chicago and the Violence Reduction Unit in Glasgow. The intervention itself acts as a deterrent to future violence by disrupting its spread by changing cultural norms about the acceptability of violence.
The key elements of any public health approach will be identifying high violent crime areas. The model focuses very much on the epidemiological spread of violence and employs interrupters known to the community, often ex-gang members. Using the map of where violence happens, they seek to disrupt its spread and divert young people into alternative interests, giving them other means of dealing with conflict.
This is the alternative route to facing the lack of services available for young people. We heard in the previous debate of the pressures on schools to do anything other than deliver the barest curriculum. But it is broader than that. We heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, about one young surgeon talking to young people—I will refer to others later—to make them understand the consequences of carrying knives.
Today, interestingly, Sky News has published a report on drug runners and the famous “county lines”. It is very long but certainly worth a read; it confirms that there are over 2,000 county line routes, with operations from big cities to smaller locations. Tellingly, one of the drug runners said, “Once I’ve established an area, I’ll get the kids to go there for me”. The children are paid £300 or £400 a week and are aged between 12 and 16. “The younger the better”, said one dealer, adding, “They need money. Mummy and daddy ain’t got no money, so they come to me as uncle”.
We need to understand that the comments about reduction and Sure Start are absolutely right. Austerity caused massive cuts to local government budgets, which means that children’s services, particularly safeguarding, are under real pressure. All those things are making it much more difficult for any multiagency approach to succeed.
Moving from public health to general health and the survival rate for knife wounds, we heard in August from the NHS that there are more than 1,600 extreme trauma survivors in the UK today. This is not just about stab wounds, but acid attacks, gunshot wounds, and car and motorbike accidents. It has become absolutely clear that the establishment of trauma centres, which ensure that patients receive the right care, even before they arrive in hospital—with paramedics trained to deal with them and with the targeting of trauma victims through the leading hospitals—has meant a reduction from 31% to 24% of patients receiving critical care, as well as a reduction in the amount of time patients spend in intensive care.
It was telling that the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, referred to young people thinking that there was not very much to a stab crime and it probably would not hurt. I shall not read out the detail of a clamshell thoracotomy, but it is clear that medics have to take emergency action very fast. In many past cases, patients would have died before even getting to hospital, so medics have a very narrow window of opportunity to bring them back. Duncan Bew, clinical lead for trauma and emergency at King’s College Hospital in London, says that it is imperative that his team are familiar with this procedure because of the volume of patients in the hospital. He said:
“My team sees more people with stab wounds then it does people with appendicitis—25% of our trauma wounds come through stabbings. Some days it’s higher. Sometimes we go to 50% of injuries. Somebody tweeted that on average there were three stabbings a day in London. Actually it’s much higher than that: we get more than three stabbings a day here in this hospital alone”.
Dr Malcolm Tunnicliffe from King’s says that the most critical stage of treatment for stabbing victims happens before they reach the hospital. At this stage, doctors stabilise patients and prevent many needing that emergency surgical procedure. Pre-hospital treatment includes locating the wound to assess damage to internal organs and blood loss, and very urgent imaging scans and X-rays.
I have questions for the Minister. We know that the NHS has excellent pockets of good practice, but what is happening to disseminate that practice across the country, particularly if county lines practice means that is moving out of our major city centres? Secondly, do the Government agree that taking a public health approach to tackling violent crime, working with local partners to identify risks, is the most effective way to prevent the spread of violent crime in a community? Thirdly, will the Government provide an increase in baseline funding for all services expected to pick up the tab for this, including children’s services? It includes education and the public health budget, which has been drastically cut. Finally, how have the Government been engaging with children and young people who have experienced serious youth violence to inform them of their approach?
My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, for the opportunity to debate the increase in serious violence. It is about not only police resourcing and effectiveness, but a broader tapestry. I was not necessarily going to talk about this but thought I might quickly say at the beginning that it seems that in the short to middle term, the Government will have to address two things: resourcing and police effectiveness. I would tie the two together.
First, the loss of 20,000 police can hardly be said to be helpful. I would caution the Government on two things. Even if they said today that they wanted 10,000 more police officers—50% of the loss—it took the Met three years to achieve that growth. It takes a significant investment of time, resources and lead time to achieve that change. Unless the button is pressed now, we cannot expect a quick result. It is not in itself a quick response, although it is an important one that we have to address.
The second point concerns police effectiveness. I have said here before, and I repeat, that the police must do as much as they can with what they have, and it is not good enough for people to say, “We don’t have enough resources”. They have to do a lot with what they have across the areas that are short-term challenges, such as street-level drug markets, carrying knives and domestic violence, which we have not heard about yet in this debate, but we have previously in this House. Some of the rise in the murder rate has been attributed to the rise again in domestic violence murders, which had reduced over the last 10 years. I am afraid that if the Government were to look at some of the arrest and detection rates for those offences, they might see some terrible reductions in those interventions. That leads in the long term to the sort of rise we have seen in domestic violence.
In the short and medium term, those are the things that I would advise the Government to consider. I have mentioned them before; it is almost my “Lord West moment” of asking for more ships, but £350 million will shortly be put into the transformation fund for policing. It is not transforming anything but it is available to spend, I would argue, on more police, should that be thought to be a priority.
The three areas on which I want to concentrate are, first, the prevention of crime as a strategy; secondly, the academic underpinning of our understanding of policing and what works in policing; and, thirdly, the best structures for ensuring that we deliver on those two foundations. Prevention, as mentioned in the Government’s own serious violence reduction strategy, is what will make things better across crime generally, but particularly across serious violence. It will need partners to work together. It goes on to make good proposals on prevention and the allocation of money and other resources to make sure that the prevention strategy can be achieved. However, I would argue that, generally, we do not have a crime prevention strategy that works in the way that we have seen it work for fire.
Fires are now far less likely because things are designed in a way that makes them less likely to burn. Detection systems make any fire that starts more likely to be detected. I am afraid, however, that we have not seen that determination around crime. We have an ill-health prevention strategy, excellent academic research about ill health and an excellent good practice guide. We monitor clinical excellence with organisations such as NICE. But we do not really have a clear intellectual model on which to base our crime prevention strategy. We do not have the equivalent bodies of the ones to which I have just referred. If we did, instead of having a series of ad hoc responses in reaction to real and moral crises in crime, we would have a prevention strategy that, on the whole, would put us in a far stronger position in the future.
I would argue that there are six elements to this. One is the design of place and things. Cars stopped being stolen because they were designed better. They are just about to be stolen in larger numbers because thieves have worked out how to steal them. Houses are being burgled less because we have better alarms. In place design, we can see how CCTV can be best used. Then there is the use of light, white light in particular.
Secondly, there is an alcohol control strategy. Providing alcohol to underage young people tends to deliver more violence. Unless that is controlled not only by the licensing authorities but by the police, problems will follow. The density of licences needs to be looked at—24-hour licensing has worked but I am not sure whether we have too many licences—both on and off-licences. Clearly, a controlled drug strategy is relevant to the present rise in violent crime. Mental health was mentioned earlier; 40% of people arrested by the police and in prison at the moment have a mental health issue, and it is vital that that is woven into the strategy. Young people are disproportionately affected by crime as victims and as suspects, so it is vital that that aspect is involved. Finally, there should be advice and incentivisation to potential victims to protect themselves. We could all take better action to protect ourselves at times—not to modify our way of life, but to make sure that we are less likely to be victims. That can be incentivised by things such as insurance. Fundamentally, therefore, we have not yet embedded crime prevention in government policy or in the way in which we all react.
My second concern is that we do not have a body of knowledge on which to base that prevention strategy. If you want to be a doctor, you go to a medical faculty; if you want to be a lawyer, you go to a law faculty. If you want to be a cop, you work out how to do it. That is not good enough when 60 million of us rely on about 250,000 people to keep us safe. Our great universities ought to be dedicating research time and work to making sure that this can happen. We in the Met invested £500,000, which concluded with Professor Ben Bradford being selected to be professor of policing at UCL. Should that work, it will mean that in the future there will be more faculties to help policing develop by finding out what works internationally as well as locally.
Even if those two things were in place and we had a crime prevention strategy and that academic research, we must have a structure that best delivers it. I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Harris: when there was a moral crisis around street robbery, one of our previous Governments put in place a system that said we would respond as a country, not as 46 different forces. I argue that, whether through that mechanism or another, there needs to be a catalyst that drives this action forward in the future. At the moment, it potentially just meanders into the future rather than there being a short-term hit, particularly if resources are put into this effort. It is no good investing resources that are not well targeted; a catalyst, whether an individual or a group of individuals, is absolutely vital.
Finally, in our response on health we have a National Health Service, the military responds in a united way, and the security services are all one. When we get to the police, the answer is 46, which I do not understand. I am not saying that the answer is one, but it is not 46. I assure your Lordships that it will be an inconsistent response. Whether it is on this moral issue about violence, or any future issue that we will have to address, if we continue with a 46 model, we will have inconsistency, with marked areas of excellence and marked areas of poor performance. However, the present structure is least likely to deliver excellence in the future, which this country needs, and which the big cities in particular demand at the moment. Without that, we are likely to end up with an inconsistent application of bad practice as well as good.
We cannot blame the mushrooming of violent crime on a single issue, my Lords; it is the sad confluence of many factors. A whole range of problems have brought us to where we are today: increased social breakdown, pressure on public sector resources, nervousness over stop and search, and a lack of funding for critical community groups. These wide-ranging challenges will not be solved overnight. While it is right to focus on the government response, making sure that it is a consistent multiagency approach, business must also recognise the power that it possesses to make a real difference. I will focus my remarks on that point.
It will of course take political patience and bravery but, more than this, we need a meaningful, co-ordinated and targeted approach that includes the private sector. Capitalism is currently a dirty word, but this could be a real opportunity for business to show the genuine value that it brings to society. We know that mentoring and training, for example, can have an extraordinary impact, giving people the skills they need to take a different path. These are all things that companies can and should offer in the communities they operate in. Many of course do already, but it is too patchy and lacks focus. Having worked for BT for over two years, I have seen at first hand how much corporates want to give back to society, but government and business will need to work hand in glove if these contributions are to solve complex issues such as violent crime.
However, there is so much more we can do together to direct efforts strategically and for the greatest impact. Companies would greatly appreciate guidance from government on where they could add the most value. Some firms have more responsibility than others. Companies which play their part in this disruption of society need to step up when it comes to mending it. Social media and technology giants in particular should heed the warnings from people at the coalface. When the likes of Cressida Dick say that social media can amplify violence at a terrifying pace, they need to sit up and listen. They need to start taking this as seriously as they have done with terrorism. Brain power and money need to be spent on more ethical designs for products and on removing harmful content from their sites quicker or not letting it get on there in the first place. I apologise to your Lordships—I feel a little faint and will have to sit down. I hope your Lordships do not mind if I carry on while sitting down. These businesses, more than anyone, should think of creative ways to help vulnerable communities, offering training courses, apprenticeships, jobs or entrepreneurial seed funding. They should inspire young people and help them, working in schools and definitely pupil referral units. We know that gang members come from so many of these institutions, and we should double down our efforts in those organisations.
Heavy-handed state interventions are needed less when we have the opportunity to empower people through businesses and social enterprises. Take the SOS Project, a charity set up by an inspirational ex-offender called Junior Smart. Its programme reduces reoffending rates from 75% to just 12%. This is the sort of project we need to support, expand and augment through collaboration, and we need a more evidence-based approach about what works and what does not.
Another key barrier to progress is apathy. Nobody could fail to be shocked and saddened when we read of young people being killed, and many more being groomed to join the county lines. But all too often, people detach themselves from the problem, believing that it does not affect them or their community. I have already mentioned the obligation that business has not to walk on by, but this has to go further. Let us take middle-class drug users. Many will think of themselves as upstanding individuals, with their recyclable coffee cup to drink their morning latte from, or a monthly payment to a worthwhile charity. But they also think nothing of doing a bit of coke at the weekend with their friends, seemingly unaware of the misery and the fear that helps to bring it to their doorstep. They need to know that it is not harmless fun and to remember how fortunate they are to feel so detached from violent crime. In fact, we should all remember that. Apathy often comes from good fortune, when one has enjoyed a clear path to where one wants to get to in life and therefore one forgets the genuine struggles of others: chaotic home lives, time in care and poor education. As the noble Lord, Lord Harris, mentioned, joining a gang may seem like an appealing option in comparison to what is at home.
In summary, we have spent a lot of time talking about a joined-up, all-systems approach, but now is the time to do it. The co-ordinated commitment shown by government but also business to combating issues such as terrorism and cybercrime has also shown what a tangible difference this sort of collaboration can make. I can stand up now, as I feel less faint. We need to take the same care over the deeply ingrained social issues that can cause violent crime. We cannot just pick things up and then drop them, or just jump at a single, top-level solution. If we are to make a real difference, we need to make a ceaseless effort to attack these problems at their very heart.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey on securing this important debate on the recent increase in violent crime.
London has seen a tragic number of young men killed in knife crime in the last year, and the death toll keeps rising. The cross-party Youth Violence Commission, chaired by my colleague in another place Vicky Foxcroft, published its interim report this July, and I wish to highlight some of its key findings. It suggests that preventing youth violence will require a strategic approach, involving almost every part of Whitehall and the wider government machine. The report states that successful implementation at the local level will also need to involve deep and extensive collaboration with schools, youth workers, police officers and faith and community leaders, as well as parents and individuals, in the creation of a safer, fairer and more positive future for young people.
The Government’s Serious Violence Strategy has been welcomed by the commission for its recognition of the impact on young people of childhood trauma and adverse experiences, the importance of early intervention and preventing violence later in life, and the need for greater integration of services, which is often known as the public health approach. However, concern has been expressed that the strategy lacks sufficient resources. Some £40 million of public funds may not be adequate. The shadow Home Secretary said that,
“in the past 12 months the police recorded almost 40,000 knife crime offences and well over 6,000 firearms offences; the funding allocated to discourage, prevent, divert and detect serious weapons-related violent crimes is therefore just a few hundred pounds for each offence”.—[Official Report, 22/5/18; col. 750.]
The Mayor of London’s strategy on knife crime recognises that effective school and after-school programmes, youth provision and summer activities are critical to deal with some of the factors such as poverty, unemployment and educational failure that result in young people becoming involved in crime. There is no quick fix to youth violence; the root causes are complex, including childhood trauma, undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues, inadequate state provision, deficient parental support, poverty and social inequality.
Research has shown that young people carry knives for self-defence and protection, but some carry to commit crime and must be apprehended. Some join gangs for a sense of belonging. Work needs to be done on intelligent monitoring of gangs by the police, with more resources allocated. There is a need for cross-party support to tackle the long-term nature of this epidemic. I welcome the Government’s decision not to focus solely on law enforcement—especially stop and search—but to encourage partnerships across education, health, social services, housing, youth and victim services.
Early intervention is key, and a successful youth violence reduction strategy will, over time, shift and concentrate resources on prevention activities. But aspirations cannot be fulfilled without long-term funding by the Government. Noble Lords have already spoken of the decline in children and youth services, as well as community policing, and lack of support for parents; austerity has caused much distress to communities and families.
The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies argued this week that:
“Interventions which do not seek to address wider social issues such as inequality, deprivation, poor mental health and drug addiction are unlikely to provide long-lasting solutions to knife violence”.
The Mayor of London is lobbying for more resources for the police, and for local government to receive help to reinstate and expand youth services. He has allocated serious funding for the Young Londoners Fund, as already mentioned. The commission found a clear link between school exclusions and vulnerability or propensity to youth violence; excluded children are more likely to be groomed by gangs to be runners in the county lines drug supply chains.
The Local Government Association has also warned that,
“the targeting of young people excluded from secondary schools is a major feature in the profile of ‘county lines’… In some areas, PRUs become the arena for gang rivalries … where already vulnerable young people get first hand exposure to and experience of crime”.
As the 2017 IPPR report on the link between school exclusion and social exclusion found:
“Excluded children are the most vulnerable: twice as likely to be in the care of the state, four times more likely to have grown up in poverty, seven times more likely to have a special educational need and 10 times more likely to suffer recognised mental health problems”.
The commission’s Safer Lives survey of over 2,000 young people found that drug markets generate violence and create a crime hierarchy where our most vulnerable young people are groomed to enter the lower levels of drug distribution. The damaging lack of trust between the police and some communities must also be addressed. The reduction in community policing must be reversed. Walls of silence will not help police to find the perpetrators, and young people must be listened to with respect. As the commission says:
“Any future violence reduction strategy will have to place a premium on establishing trust and mutual respect”.
We can be quick to blame society’s ills on social media, but the commission found it not to be a root cause of youth violence though it can be a factor in escalating and inciting violence; internet giants should take some responsibility for what they allow to be platformed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, said. The Mayor of London’s strategy rightly involves working with social media organisations to ensure that online videos which glorify knife crime are quickly taken down.
Interestingly, the commission found that debates around the potential impact of drill music on youth violence, already mentioned by my noble friend Lord Harris, are in the main a distraction from understanding and tackling the real root causes. Some projects that help young people to have a sense of their own self-worth by encouraging them to learn to record and produce the music that the media like to condemn are, sadly, under threat because of cuts to youth services.
It is now time for us all to come together to effectively tackle this tragic epidemic of knife violence by long-term investment in our young generation.
My Lords, I too start by thanking my noble friend Lord Harris for securing this timely and important debate.
As most of your Lordships will know, my background is in policing, where I spent 35 years of my life serving the community. It is natural, therefore, that I have been watching the debate develop with regard to police numbers, policing priorities, hate crime and the like, with great interest. I remember back in the day when I was a young constable and we had an inspector who was designated simply to look at “ground cover”—that was his sole job: to make sure that he had sufficient officers on the beat in the area he was responsible for.
Such luxuries, I am afraid, have almost disappeared, and with them the ability of police to nip problems in the bud—to intervene in anti-social behaviour, hate language and the minor frictions in society that can lead to more violent altercations if left unattended. These officers would also get to know the up-and-coming criminals and, probably more importantly, their families. This has led to what I call fire-brigade policing or fortress policing. We seem now to have a siege mentality where police remain in the fort and come out only when called, if they decide to come out even then. I despair when I hear some politicians say that reducing police numbers is not a causal influence in this sorry state of affairs. It is as plain as the nose on your face.
This has damaged police relations with the public, who feel they are getting a reduced service. It has also, incidentally, caused a reduction in valuable intelligence on crime and terrorism. We have to accept that while modern technology is exciting and useful in fighting crime, it is also creating new ways of committing crime and increasing demands on policing. We have cybercrime, with online fraud developing on a massive scale and with people losing their life savings to fraudsters. We have online child exploitation increasing year on year in the so-called safety of children’s own homes. Nearly everyone these days carries a valuable mobile phone which makes them easy victims of thieves on mopeds. We have platforms such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like harvesting data. That is then sold on to companies that use it to target advertising and, perhaps worse, sell it on to hostile foreign Governments who use it to target political propaganda, via social media, to undermine democracy itself.
Then there is the insidious increase in bullying on-screen, with threats and abuse on social media increasingly being passed on to the police for further investigation. The point is that tackling all this new criminal social activity is labour-intensive, and more and more police resources are required at a time when budgets have been cut because of austerity. This has led to a reduction in the number of front-line police officers, as we have heard, of probably over 21,000.
I have not even mentioned the increase in the number of drug gangs distributing and dealing across the nation by so-called county lines, leading to increased turf wars and often fatal stabbings. These operations are often directed with the use of mobile forms. I say this loudly and clearly: there would be fewer young men carrying concealed knives if they thought that they risked being stopped and searched by the police. The police have backed away from this approach for the last few years because of criticism and allegations—sometimes true—of discrimination and racism. Of course, stop and search must be done responsibly, fairly and with justification. As the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said, the introduction of body-worn video cameras by officers now helps such operations to be transparent, and they should be further rolled out nationally.
In my view, violent and offensive language is an important factor. A police presence on the street and in the community, which we are lacking, is an essential way of preventing these incidents at an early stage. Police chief Sara Thornton said recently that the police should not get bogged down with recording new hate crimes of misogyny and the like when violent crime and burglaries are increasing and the number of detections falling. However, we must understand that the drip, drip of hate speech by leaders can affect people’s reactions, as we saw with rabble-rousing leaders of the past, such as Adolph Hitler and Mussolini—proponents of this type of populist leadership. I am afraid that Donald Trump is a modern example. His constant reference to fake news and to journalists as enemies of the people is a very risky strategy. The number of murders of journalists throughout the world has been increasing over the last few years, culminating in the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Turkey last month.
Coming back home, Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, has urged people to assist officers in trouble on the streets. I well recall as a young probationary constable being assaulted at the bus station in Jarrow by a number of youths. One guy came to my assistance. He was a bus driver at the bus station and he turned out to be a special constable. Specials are wonderful allies of the police on the streets and I urge the Minister to encourage citizens to volunteer for this important work. I am delighted to see my noble friend Lord Simon sitting on the Woolsack, because he was a special constable in London for many years. We owe people like him a debt of gratitude.
Since that incident, I have always admired people who volunteer for such duty. I ask the Minister whether the number of specials is rising or reducing. One thing I do know is that criminals will take advantage of a lack of police presence on the streets to prey on innocent citizens. Can the Minister confirm that it is in fact a common law offence to refuse to assist a constable in such circumstances when requested to do so by the police officer?
I agree that we should treat violence like a public health issue. Early signs of it, such as hate speech and abusive texts, are the canary in the mine, and it should be confronted to prevent its spread. This is best achieved by early intervention by the police working hand in hand with communities. We need to harness the other agencies in the community such as hospitals, schools, charities and social services to work with the police to stop this modern virus spreading. I welcome the setting up of the Violent Crime Task Force in London, which is now taking this approach.
The tragedy is that the great majority of victims of violence tend to be those in poorer communities who rely on the police to prevent crime and investigate it when it occurs. Noble Lords will know that those who can afford it—we see this in sharp relief in the United States—will live in gated communities with private security patrols to keep them safe and reassured. Poorer communities turn to vigilante patrols. We should try to avoid such divided communities, which can only bring about a “them and us” mentality.
In conclusion, I often think about my early years as a patrolling beat bobby in the north-east over 30 years ago with very few resources: a torch, a whistle and a truncheon. On the night shift, I used to try shop doors, which is what you did at the start of your beat. Woe betide you if a shop had been broken into and you had not found it. I occasionally found shops that had been broken into. I remember on one occasion a violent burglar attacked me and I received my first commendation. He received nine stitches and six months for his trouble. The point is that, had I been an armed police officer, he might well have been shot.
I often reflect with not a little nostalgia what a different world we live in today, but, as with military operations, quite often the solution is more boots on the ground, and I hope that the Government are listening.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Harris for introducing this debate so effectively. He has long experience of local policing and crime issues, so he speaks with authority.
I have been struck by two recent headlines. One was in the Times, which described the stabbing to death of a 16 year-old boy on a Saturday night. The boy’s sister said that he was stabbed to death because of his postcode. The boy was from Wood End in Coventry, one of the most deprived areas of the Midlands. Knife crime happens most frequently, but not exclusively, in deprived areas. Tackling deprivation and improving deprived areas should be an aim if we are to combat crime of any kind, especially violent crime.
The second story was in the Telegraph on Tuesday of this week. It was about the police facing calls on mental health issues every two minutes. They have thus been distracted from increasing demands to tackle knife crime, child exploitation and other serious crimes. Again, this is significant. First, it shows the increase in mental health issues, long known to be a problem, and, secondly, it demonstrates forcefully that the police are stretched in all kinds of ways—fewer numbers with a greater number of issues to deal with.
Young people are at the centre of all this and they need attention. They must also be listened to, and I shall come on to that in a moment. In a debate that I introduced recently on life chances and social mobility, the noble Lord, Lord Baker, spoke of disenchantment among some pupils by the ages of 13 or 14. They feel that they are not listened to and are not learning anything, and they have high absentee rates and display bad behaviour. Some are expelled from school, as was touched on earlier. I quote the noble Lord, Lord Baker:
“The capacity of heads to expel has now grown out of all proportion ... an expelled child is on the road to a culture of gangland”.—[Official Report, 1/11/18; col. 1437.]
He is right, and I long for the report on expulsions that the Government have commissioned.
We are doing our young people a disservice by not educating them to enjoy learning of all kinds, including social skills and how to work with others. It is well known that our prisons are full of people who are illiterate and have poor mental health and social skills. One in 10 young people has a mental health disorder—three in every classroom. Seventy-five per cent of adults with mental health issues experienced symptoms by the age of 18. Black males are most likely to have mental health issues and are also most likely to be the people in prison. What happened to early intervention for them?
Acts of Parliament, policies and guidelines are welcome and can be the beginning of change but, as many have said, it is at the local level where the real change has to begin: better services for children, which are not just about safeguarding; schools which provide a holistic and respectful culture; help for struggling families and for parents who have difficulties with their children; and local facilities such as play areas, libraries and youth clubs. Sadly, between 2012 and 2016, around 600 youth centres closed and one children’s centre closed every week.
With this barrage of cuts to services affecting young people, we should perhaps not be surprised that there are social problems. Family poverty is increasing, with all the implications of that for depression, deprivation and subsequent trauma. The Government wish to make savings in many areas but these kinds of cuts are storing up trouble—costly trouble, with the long-term effects of crime, unemployment and truancy. Services such as mental health services are striving to deal with these issues, which could have been prevented or dealt with earlier. Do the Government understand that?
I want to turn to the importance of involving communities, and in particular young people, in solving problems. I have been working with groups of young people in seminars and round-table discussions for the last year. These are always chaired or co-chaired by the young people themselves. We have worked on two issues: child mental health and child-friendly justice. Right at the beginning of one seminar, one young woman said, “We are experts by experience; you should listen to us”. I agree with her.
Young people sometimes say that mental health issues frequently underlie disruptive or criminal behaviour. School exclusions are frequently described as unfair and counterproductive. Some children get used to multiple exclusions and constant changes of school or accommodation. Examples have been given of children excluded for trivial things such as having socks not at the right height or the wrong colour coat. This is ridiculous. There were many examples of missed opportunities to intervene and turn a life around. In particular, there was often no consistent adult support available to enable the child to tell their story.
Some young people reported going through up to 40 behaviour interventions without links being made between services and people, and having no single key person as advocate or support. They also said that multi-agency working was a priority. An example was given of a boy aged 9 who was in trouble for selling drugs because his mum needed the money to pay the rent. The underlying causes of youth crime need re-investigation.
There was a feeling among young people that they had no champion and no voice. They felt they could have been engaged in decisions to help them identify the problems. Young people recognised and could give examples of good practice. Some police forces are actively seeking to involve young people in discussions about drugs, gangs and knife crime. Many NGOs have young people’s consultation panels. Some local authorities seek the opinions of young people in matters that affect them. Are the Government also taking into account the views of young people?
My noble friend is right to ask for a cross-government approach to tackling policing, law enforcement and policies on gangs and drugs. We need agencies to work together, as he said. He is right to spotlight health services, youth provision and opportunities for young people. Young people do not come in bits. They are, like all of us, made up of different characteristics and needs in a single person. Health, education, the police and other local services for children and young people need support, encouragement and funding to work together in this way. Our young people deserve no less.
My Lords, this summer our older daughter, a teenager, said to me that she was scared to come home from the tube station in the evenings and told me stories about attacks on her friends and people she knew. What is our country coming to? It was reported in the Times just now that the police ignore a third of all crimes after a single call. According to the Times:
“The Met, which used to send a police officer to every crime if requested by the victim, assesses 37 per cent of reports over the telephone … The force has cited budget cuts and a need to focus on surging violence and sexual offences … In addition, 1.26 million calls to the Met’s non-emergency 101 number were abandoned last year, with callers having to wait 15 minutes”.
It added that, around the country, police are dropping investigations into so-called “volume crime”—
“the lower-level offences which affect the majority of victims—because of budget cuts”.
This is the main issue. As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, a former Commissioner, Met numbers in London have fallen below 30,000 for the first time in 15 years. Cressida Dick, our hugely capable and impressive Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has said that a lack of resources was a factor in homicides reaching a 10-year high.
What are we doing? How are we going to deal with this? The police are defending the new initiative of moped ramming. “Tactical contact” has been used 63 times, which has resulted in a significant reduction in levels of crime involving mopeds. Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, has said:
“Risk-assessed tactical contact is exactly what we need. Criminals are not above the law”.
There are many examples of its use. In Camden, there were 742 moped crimes in October 2017. That has gone down to 72, a reduction of 90%, so it is working. Will the Minister confirm that these police will be backed up, or will they be left to the mercy of the courts? The reason I ask is that, under the law at the moment, officers run the risk of being charged for dangerous or careless driving, because the common standard of “careful and competent driver” applies equally. During its peak, some criminals stole up to 30 phones in an hour, with victims often targeted outside tube stations.
There are more and more accusations that the Government are losing control in the fight against crime. Figures show that offences rose by 14%, while the number of police officers has plummeted to record lows. We have heard about the surge in knife crime. There have been increases in all other crimes, including burglary, sexual offences, car theft and robbery.
The big issue is that the number of police officers has fallen to 121,929, the lowest figure since comparable records began 22 years ago. On top of that, there has been a fall in neighbourhood policing. It has been referred to in this debate as a shadow of itself. I do not see neighbourhood policing officers in the area where we live at all; we used to see them riding or walking around regularly. Overall funding has fallen by 18%, taking inflation into account, compared with an increase in funding of 31% between 2000-01 and 2010-11. Direct government funding has fallen by 25% over the same period. Of course, everyone relies on government funding as well as local funding. This is really serious. The number of homicides has increased hugely. The data is all very frightening. There were 40,000 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument—a 16% increase. What is going on? These figures are corroborated by records of National Health Service hospital admissions resulting from these crimes.
We need to build resilience. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for this debate. How do we build resilience in our youngsters, who risk being drawn into crime? The Home Secretary says he is behind this strategy. We have heard that a public health attitude needs to be adopted to cope with this. The Mayor of London is under huge pressure to give the right support. Again, he says the cuts are to blame. The St Giles Trust, a charity that works with young people involved in gangs and serious violence, also welcomes this strategy. It particularly noted the support for prevention through the early intervention youth fund.
The mayor says he wants to break up the wider culture. The Home Secretary says that he is behind this and wants to take a fresh look. Could the Minister tell us what the Government are doing about this? We hear about good intentions, but we are not seeing the action; we are just seeing the crime figures going up.
On top of that, we now hear that the police are being forced to deal with mental health issues because of a lack of resources in the NHS. Inspector Zoe Billingham said that police are answering mental health calls at the expense of “ordinary crimes”. Does the Minister accept that this is the case? With 1.1 million violent crimes recorded—an increase of 21%—the rising trend has simply continued. Recorded crime has gone up by 9% in England and Wales. These are record figures throughout. The police are under so much pressure that there are reports that here in London, police officers are having to give up holidays and work extra time, and are experiencing stress. On top of that, Rory Stewart, the Justice Minister, says:
“Knife crime is horrifying—it causes catastrophic damage to families with tragic consequences. We need sentences that punish anyone who commits knife crime and deters anyone from doing it”.
Is our criminal justice system good enough to cope with this? There was the following headline in one of the papers: “‘A lost generation’: How austerity has created a vacuum being filled by drug gangs exploiting children”.
Before I conclude, I turn to Brexit. There is now a huge threat that we will lack access to the European arrest warrant and Europol, and that public safety will be put at risk because we will not have the immediate access to the data that we do now. Exchanges take place between European police forces and our police forces that we do not even know about and take for granted. Will that be available, particularly in a no-deal Brexit situation?
This is a very worrying situation. Scotland Yard is a global brand and has historically been respected as the finest police force in the world. We are letting down Scotland Yard and we are letting down our citizens, and the number one priority of any Government should be the security of its citizens.
My Lords, I too congratulate my noble friend Lord Harris on securing this fascinating debate exploring the causes of violent crime and whether there is a quick fix. I have listened with interest to the contributions.
Once again, I congratulate the Library on its briefing. It includes a minefield of statistics, but one thing drew my attention. Last month, the Office for National Statistics noted ongoing improvements to police recording practices but cautioned that,
“for many types of offence, police recorded crime figures do not provide a reliable measure of trends in crime, … they do provide a good measure of the crime-related demand on the police”.
Given that comment, what action does the Minister intend to take to improve the quality of police statistics as compared with the Crime Survey figures?
I looked at the core themes of the Serious Violence Strategy. According to the bullet points in the briefing, they are: tackling county lines and the misuse of drugs, and you cannot argue with that; early intervention and prevention, and we have heard a range of contributions on the role of social services, schools, health services and so on; supporting communities and partnerships—again you cannot argue with that—and an effective law enforcement. I would welcome the Minister’s views on those last words, because a number of comments have been made about the level of policing. If you look at the statistics, you will see that there is not a direct correlation, but in my own neighbourhood I rarely see police on the beat, and I think that we have not quite got the level right. I listened intently to the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman. He did not say that there was a quick fix, but he did say that we should not use that as an excuse for not having effective action. He also mentioned the question of resources, and I presume he was referring to the level of policing.
I want to come on now to the role of the police and the difficulties that they have. My noble friend Lord Harris gave us a potted history of what went on with stop and search. We have debated many times in this Chamber how dreadful that power is and how it causes community friction, and we all recognised that it should be community led. But the situation has changed fundamentally now. Most of the police I see use body-worn video. That is a significant achievement: not only is it an accurate recording of how they behave but, in the past, independent videos were taken on phones, and sometimes doctored, and then used in evidence. We should not underestimate the importance of the body-worn video. We ought to recognise that if young people, and not so young people, feel that they can get away with carrying a knife, they will do. If stop and search is one part of the deterrent process, we ought to back the police.
The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, referred to the serious and threatening increase in moped crime, which really does damage community safety and confidence. The police have now adopted a tactic. I was going to say, “More power to their elbow”, but it is not their elbow; it is the wheels on the police car. Again, there will be people who say that this is not the right approach, but I think that if you have drastic crime, you have to take drastic measures.
The other area is the prosecution of retailers, and more action needs to be taken on that. Retailers are still selling knives and, unfortunately, acid, which is used in terrible crimes.
There is also the role of social media. It never ceases to amaze me that companies can develop algorithms to improve advertising and to target their audience but somehow cannot quite manage to develop the algorithms to remove some of the disgraceful stuff that appears on social media. If anybody is seriously suggesting that the young people picking this up on their smartphones —they all have smartphones—are not influenced by it, they are not living in the real world.
I was interested to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, who has a wealth of experience. What I drew from his contribution is that if the perfect number of police forces is not one, it sure as hell is not 46, and I agree with him on that. I suppose the only thing you could say is that it is 46 opportunities to find out best practice at the moment. I think that was part of his message, and it is one that I wholeheartedly concur with.
I was fascinated by the contribution from the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, who carried on in the face of adversity—well done. I agree with her point that capitalism—I was going to refer to it as industry—ought to be making a contribution, and on the importance of mentoring, training and adding value through apprenticeships. There cannot be any better solution than getting young people into worthwhile employment and inclusion in society and the world of work.
We had a fascinating contribution from my noble friend Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate. It was not quite Dixon of Dock Green—sorry—but it certainly described a different world of policing. The point I took from his contribution was the massive increase in the police workload. We expect a huge effort, but they cannot possibly sustain everything. They cannot cover the waterfront of crime that is out there at the moment. I hope that the Minister will respond to that and refer not only to the number of policemen on the beat but to specials and community support officers, who seem to be missing these days.
This has been a useful debate and I look forward to hearing the Minister respond to some of the constructive points of view that have been made.
Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Young, would address one point. I did not want to interrupt him while he was speaking. He referred to something that the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, talked about—knocking suspects off mopeds—and all our hearts are with the officers who take such action. It makes us feel better that someone took action which seems to have had some effect. My concern is whether, when someone dies, loses a leg or is brain damaged as a result of this type of event, the law will support the officers and their leaders, because corporate manslaughter remains a challenge for the police as it does for others. I would like reassurance from the Government, which is what the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, sought, that the law will support them. Fine words will not support the individual when the law comes knocking on the door of the officers who drive the cars or their leaders who support them in that policy. I have that concern and I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Young, shares it.
I was not being flippant. I hope I was making the point that I support the police in such action. However, having said that, we know that when they do take that kind of action we will have to address the points made by the noble Lord. Again, I hope the Minister will respond. We require regulation of how and when the action will be taken, but I certainly support the approach and I believe that the police should be supported.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for introducing this debate and allowing us to keep our sharp attention on the issue. As many in the House know, I was the founder of Crime Concern in 1988 and served as chairman for 21 years, and the co-founder of Catch22, where I have been vice-president for the past 10 years.
There is no shortage of intervention agencies, either funded by government, local authorities or charity-raising organisations, which all seek to do intervention on this complicated issue. We always get around these debates the intense hand-wringing of what is not working, and we need to do that. However, we also need to address quite sharply some aspects of conduct and behaviour that can change. I want to focus on four areas in this brief amount of time.
As many of your Lordships also know, I work with an extensive network of former gang members across London. I will say no more than that.
My first point relates to stop and search. It does not work. For the vast majority of black young people, it discriminates, irritates and detonates aggression in their communities. It is easy to pick someone up on profiling, but the consequent anguish that is spread through families and friends often inflames fury at the state and drives more young people to take rough measures.
Let me highlight one extreme example. Many watched George the Poet introduce a beautiful poem, broadcast live, on 19 May on the BBC coverage of the way in which the Royal Family were going to conduct the day. Within a matter of two weeks he was stopped and searched near his home. This was because, as a successful young black man, he was driving a decent vehicle. He was strip-searched and humiliated, having been adored in the public gaze, and he was not apologised to by the Metropolitan Police. The spread effect of this approach is simply unacceptable.
There are many other interventions, such as BoxUp Crime from Dartford, which was highlighted on the BBC news and given a great deal of attention. A fantastic young man, Stephen Addison, uses the potency of boxing rings in local communities, conducting more than 20 such events during the course of this August, with funding coming from the Mayor’s office. It has fantastic, valuable, downward impacts upon community crime.
However, as so frequently happens with all of the interventions that I have seen in my 30 years of involvement at the head of charities and organisations as big as Catch22 and Crime Concern, all these interventions are never brought together by the funding agencies, and notably by the Government. I have never once in 30 years been asked to attend, or ever attended, a single occasion in which meaningful interventions have been allowed to share expertise. I recall that on many occasions of lobbying Governments and Home Secretaries and seeking resources from them, they would hint that it was better to keep us quite small and have many of us than to have effective large intervention agencies.
The third area on which I wish to focus relates to prisons. We think in preventing crime we put people away. Tomorrow I will make my sixth visit this year to a category B prison in Kent. When I visit those prisoners, one of the things that creates anguish in them and in me, because of the letters I receive and the phone calls that are conducted by them and their families, is that many of them are on indeterminate sentences. The one whose case I took up recently was given a seven-year sentence and has served nearly 30 years. Some 1,800 mainly black men are in prison still on IPP sentences. The impact of this on communities is that of infuriation. It causes young men to follow in suit and say, “There is no protection in law or certainty of justice”. They therefore find other ways to express their furious anger, often ganging together for protection, which of course many recent reports have admitted. Many young people who should not be carrying knives do so, sadly, for protective purposes.
I turn now to a controversial area. The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, talked about the need for a catalyst in key communities, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, described the need for hope and of course for purpose. It is no surprise that, in the course of the past four years, the areas of London where knife crime has risen most substantially are those where Kids Company had its best operations. We have to accept, like it or not, that in the character assassination of Camila Batmanghelidjh and in the decimation of that organisation, the community response was very clear: this is our home, our safe place; this is our place of love, support, affection and consideration. It provides a sound ear. I have seen young men come in with their knives—on one occasion six of them. I watched that great heroine of justice and tenderness and love disarm them by embracing them. Catalysts and interventions have to be relational. It is far more effective if the police work with irritated, angry, furious black urban communities than to pick them up, search them, sometimes thrust them about and irritate them to the point of detonation. We have to accept that Kids Company, whatever we say of its governance which in some cases is disputable, the person who led it had a response that worked. Without the organisation, those six key communities have suffered the worst rises in knife and violent crime in London. There is a correlation, and we should not try to escape it.
If we are going to be serious about how we respond to these things, there are conduct issues that relate to our police which must be addressed bluntly. There is the need to bring together effective interventions, and the Government have a massive role to play in doing that. Also, please can we stop changing prison Ministers and crime Ministers every time it is convenient to do so? At one point as chairman of Crime Concern, I dealt with 11 different crime Ministers during a four-year period. That is a simply unacceptable parading of ignorance. Please can we deal with IPP sentences and make sure that they are tidied up quickly? Also, can we recognise that the best catalyst of all for angry, hurt and wounded people is a relationship that really cares.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Harris, not least for condensing the issues into a 36-word title for the debate. A couple of months ago there was a fight in my street where someone suffered stab injuries. My neighbour was very upset and disbelieving: “In our street in quiet Mortlake?” I was particularly struck by the large number of police officers who were on the scene for many hours. To me that said: “Resources”.
The expression of disbelief is something that one still hears in connection with domestic violence: “It does not happen to anyone we know”. That is sometimes code for “Not in our section of society”. But it does happen. Perhaps domestic violence is a little less prevalent than when I was a member of the board and chair of Refuge, the domestic violence charity. I declare that as an interest, as I do as a current trustee of Safer London, which works to address and prevent the impact of gang and sexual violence, and the exploitation of young people and their families. Both positions have of course informed me.
We are familiar with the number of deaths from domestic violence, which still shocks, and we know that there is far more abuse than is reported. I understand that research by the College of Policing tells us that there is no clear evidence that criminal sanctions reduce reoffending. Indeed, there is a suggestion that punitive sentences are associated with higher rates of reoffending. We know about the financial constraints on refuges and the support that they can offer, but time does not permit me to range right around that subject.
As regards young people, it is blindingly obvious that the causes of violence run very deep and that a siloed approach is inappropriate. Safer London has for several years been providing for the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime a gang exit programme. London Gang Exit is now referred to as “LGE” within the organisation because the young people involved resent the term “gang”. “They are our family”, they say. Just think what leads a young person to take that view.
One of the threads running through the issue is exploitation. Earlier this week, I heard Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer, the NPCC lead on modern slavery, talking about county lines and explaining that we should not use that term. It is exploitation. It is also something of a badge of honour among those who apply it. We accept, in the sense of recognising, child sexual exploitation. Similarly, we should refer to child criminal exploitation. I saw CCE used in a paper yesterday; it took me a moment before I realised that it was obviously about grooming. County lines—that form of child criminal exploitation—are almost a matter of fashion, according to Chief Constable Sawyer, and will be superseded by another form of grooming and exploitation. There is a danger of compartmentalising drugs, CSE—I do not want using the acronym to diminish the importance of that issue—CCE, slavery and so on.
Shaun Sawyer also emphasised how much intelligence comes from the local level. Neighbourhood policing provides both intelligence and a sense of security. Local officers, whom local people know and trust, can be passed information about the knife-carriers, when they carry and where they hide weapons. That means more accurate stop and search and taking weapons off the streets.
Statistics and talking about categories can mask the fact that this is all about individuals. Supporting individuals, especially through a health approach, is very resource-intensive and painstaking, but it is worth it. Motivation is important, which is why the process finds a young person who has been injured and is in hospital at his most receptive to the work that can be applied.
I want to share Jane’s story with your Lordships. A Safer London report states:
“Jane was fifteen and living in London, when she was referred to London Gang Exit. She was an active member of a gang and unable to leave … She was considered both a perpetrator and victim of violence … We used creative techniques, so she could visually map out her associations and define those which were healthy or unhealthy. Sessions also covered coping strategies and creative work to boost Jane’s notion of ‘self’, her role within society and within her family … Life remained complex and Jane stayed vulnerable to damaging external pressures. At one stage she was found to be on the verge of committing violent crimes and going missing. At this time, we focused sessions on short term goals to build her confidence and determination; we also examined her considerable achievements and commitment to making positive changes to her life … We worked with Jane’s parents around family relationships and boundaries. The family were also close to being evicted and we were able to provide urgent housing advice, which avoided this happening … At the end of the programme, Jane completed an ‘I am Proud’ board which allowed her to reflect on the journey. These are her words: I am PROUD to be Alive … I am PROUD I notice Fake People in my Circle … I am PROUD NO ONE can Keep Me Down”—
I particularly like that one—
“I AM PROUD TO BE ME”.
The report also makes a shorter reference to a programme of one-to-one and group work to help young men to understand healthy relationships and what consent means. It talks about Charles, aged 15, and states:
“Charles was referred to our service due to concerns around his inappropriate touching of younger females at school. He was subject to a Child Protection Plan due to his own experiences of physical abuse. His behaviour consisted of targeting two vulnerable young women … The girls were frightened to report his behaviour as Charles was older and popular … Charles told us … ‘this programme taught me how important it is to make good decisions in your life and you will be safe all the time’”.
We will all have received a briefing from the Local Government Association. Although the detail it gives is powerful, I doubt that any of us needed persuading on the important role of local authorities and the issue of funding. That is always topical, particularly in the context of today’s economic reports; somebody said that we should have read the previous debate on school funding into this debate. The LGA makes the point, as always, on the need for long-term funding commitments. I add to that the trickle-down effect on NGOs and charities working in these fields. So many chief executives have to spend so much time on cash flows and grant applications. To follow the point from the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, there can be competition among them, rather than co-ordination.
The Minister would not expect uncritical endorsement —and I will not give it—but I want to end on a hopeful and positive note: a 19 year-old’s take on the serious violence strategy. She wrote that,
“early intervention education is key, especially for those who fit into a high-risk category, as young brains are easier to adapt and educate, both positively and negatively … I feel assured that the ideas and funding”,
in the serious violence strategy,
“that have been proposed … are not going to be closed away into a document with the hope that violent crime incidents will become a thing of the past … It is settling for myself as a young person to see a strategy that will be actively applied in order to promote a less violent future”.
Let us not fail her.
My Lords, as other noble Lords have done, I thank my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey for tabling this Motion for debate. Since I will refer to local authorities and council funding, I draw the House’s attention to my interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. There have been some excellent contributions dealing with the causes and the very serious issue of the rise in violent crime that we have seen in recent times. I pay tribute to the police and other professionals in the public and voluntary sectors working to keep us safe and deal with some very challenging situations day after day. I fully endorse the comments from my noble friend Lady Donaghy on the work that social workers do day by day, dealing with crisis situations.
In his Motion my noble friend Lord Harris talks about,
“the case for a cross-Governmental response that includes not only policing … but also health services, youth provision and opportunities for young people”.
The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, mentioned domestic violence. It is a wicked, evil crime, hidden behind closed doors. Early intervention is needed here. When I visited the domestic violence unit at Greenwich police station I was very impressed by how closely it worked with the local authority, and by the officers’ real care and concern for the victims. There is no doubt at all that they have saved many people’s lives and, for many people, prevented serious injury.
That got me thinking about the issue in the Motion about the cross-government mind-set. I then began thinking about the debates we have had in this House only recently about the funding for women’s refuges. The noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, who is not in his place, was very supportive of the women’s refuge movement and what it does, but at the same time decisions were made by the DWP that risked their funding model and undermined their work. In the end it was sorted out, but it took people from Women’s Aid, other campaigners and members of all parties in this House and the other place raising the same point again and again until finally the Government acted. That was good but it shows that, if you get these cross-cutting issues wrong, one department can decide something that will have a very difficult and negative effect in another department and be really damaging to policy. This is one of the key problems the Government have in trying to meet various challenges.
Looking at the Library briefing for this debate, with all its various statistics, it seemed to me that one could rely on some of the figures to support any argument that one wanted to prove at any time. For me, that highlighted what a complicated problem this is: if it were easy, it would have been solved a long time ago and there would be no violent crime, or at least very little. I very much endorse the comments of my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey in this respect. My friend in the London Assembly, the leader of our group, Mr Len Duvall AM, has also raised these issues and has written an excellent article for the Fabian Society, making it clear how important it is to have this multifaceted approach to tackling the tide of violent crime. I recommend that all noble Lords read that article, and I make it clear that I am a member of the executive of that society and very proud to serve on it: it is the original think tank.
It is disturbing that you could make the case that crime levels are, on the whole, falling. One can see the figures, but serious and violent crime such as murder and knife crime has seen a worrying increase, along with links to the drugs trade. We have heard about the issues of county lines many times today. The number of police officers has fallen by 20,000 since 2010 and is now, as my noble friend Lord Harris said, at the lowest level since the 1980s. This has had a damaging effect on neighbourhood policing, which is a shadow of its former self, as he said. That has led to crimes not being able to be investigated and to gangs being able to operate openly in communities.
My noble friend Lord Young of Norwood Green made a very important point about the effectiveness of body-worn video cameras. When I was at a police station a few months ago, one officer told me that when they came along he was very much opposed to these cameras. He thought they were a terrible idea but very quickly he discovered how great they are and became a very big supporter of them. They are able to give live evidence on the incidents they go to address and it is very important that we understand that.
Obviously I will wait for the noble Baroness’s response, but if she is going to suggest that there are no links between the levels of violent crime and the numbers of police officers, many of us just do not accept that. The noble Lord, Lord Blair, who is not in his place, spoke in this House on 22 October about the money he had when he was Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the fact that Cressida Dick has 20% less money than he had—and he left the force 10 years ago. Of course, we often hear about sums of money for particular projects or initiatives: that is not going to make up for cuts of that magnitude. My noble friend Lord Harris highlighted the problem this has created, with a totally reactive service in many places.
The noble Lord, Lord Wasserman, made a very interesting contribution. I am confident that the police can and do undertake significant work to keep us safe. The problem for the police and other agencies is the lack of funding in large parts, which makes addressing the problems all the more difficult. My noble friend Lady Donaghy talked about how small budgets for different initiatives are not helping to solve the problem. Some of the really serious issues with gangs need a multiagency approach. I have been out with the police when they have been dealing with issues that cause real problems in town centres. I was in Woolwich a few months ago. The council has spent a lot of money improving Woolwich town centre, but the gangs come in and drive customers away from businesses, making it a place where people do not want to go. It is left to people dealing drugs on the street, and the police have a difficult job going in there every night trying to disrupt their activities. It was not a safe place for local people.
At the other end, youth services that have been decimated and hardly exist at all. The consequence for everyone is severe, not least for the young person who could have their whole life ruined, if they got into a life of crime.
As many noble Lords know, I grew up in Southwark and went to primary school in Camberwell. A couple of years ago I visited a voluntary project on the Wyndham council estate, which is next to my old primary school, St Joseph’s. As a child, I had walked round the estate while walking home almost every day. But some of the young people at the project told me they would not cross the Camberwell New Road to go into Lambeth, as a particular gang operated there and it was their territory. It was a shock to hear that in an area I know really well. The project does great work, while operating on a shoestring, and tries to get children to play sport together—particularly, football—to break down these terrible barriers, but to do that there needs to be a proper youth service and proper youth provision. These problems are not unique to Southwark or south London but they are real and, if not tackled, can have very serious consequences for people who go off the rails, and for the victims of mindless crime and drug abuse.
As many noble Lords have mentioned, knife crime is a particular problem, with so many lives lost and others ruined by senseless violence. I have seen police officers conduct searches of areas outside schools to locate the knives left there by pupils in the morning; when they come back out of school, they pick their knives up on the way home.
I also saw on the news last night some terrible violence with a zombie knife. This leads me on to the role of the internet providers and platforms such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. I very much agree with the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, about the responsibilities of companies. Companies should pay their fair share of tax and spend a little less time on being advised how to mitigate tax. I also recommend that they follow the example of the Co-op by getting the fair tax mark if they pay tax fairly. Allowing zombie knives to be sold on the internet, where other illegal material is hosted—there are, frankly, poor excuses from businesses for not taking swifter action to remove and prevent the posting of illegal content—is just not good enough. The Government will have to take further action to prevent this material being hosted when it fuels hate, abuse and crime. Claiming that nothing can be done, that “We are only a platform and not the publisher”, or that “We are doing all we can” is just not good enough. People are sick and tired of these excuses. I also think that the social media providers which make a proper effort to sort this problem out will benefit, as consumers will flock to them and support their businesses for taking that action.
The destruction of Sure Start has removed from communities a solid support for young parents and children. It has been left a shell of its former self, as the programme was not protected from local government cuts. That has been hugely damaging. Mental health provision has to be part of the joined-up thinking that we need as well. I was shocked to learn of the amount of time that police officers spend dealing with people who have serious mental health problems and need specialised treatment on the NHS—and how often, when attending an incident, it results in people being taken to the hospital rather than the police station when the officer determines that they need to been seen by a health professional first, before anything else happens. I very much support the comments of my noble friend Lady Healy of Primrose Hill about the work of the Youth Violence Commission, chaired by my friend Vicky Foxcroft MP, the Member for Lewisham, Deptford. I also endorse the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick, about indeterminate prison sentences. I know that the Ministry of Justice seeks to deal with this issue, along with the Parole Board, but more needs to be done. I fully accept that these sentences were brought in by a Labour Government but this need to be resolved very quickly.
There is lots that the Opposition can support in the Serious Violence Strategy but, as my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey said, it is long on analysis and short on remedies. I agree with him that the strategy should be much more ambitious. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, has a number of questions to answer so I will ask only one further. Can she explain to the House how she, as a Minister, seeks to have proper cross-departmental discussions with her ministerial colleagues on key policy initiatives which are affected by the actions of other departments? That is crucial in this debate. Finally, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this wonderful debate and my noble friend—my good friend—for tabling the Motion. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I start by thanking all noble Lords who took part in this debate. In all my time as a Minister it has been one of the best debates I have heard, because the contributions were both constructive and far-ranging. They have given me food for thought as we address what has become a growing problem affecting communities across the country. We heard this from the outset as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, gave the stark example of the event along the road from him. It must have had a terrible impact on his community, and the issue faces all local authorities and police forces across England and Wales.
It is a horrible statistic that since the beginning of the year there have been 128 reported homicides in London alone, and the majority have been stabbings. In this month alone three teenage boys were fatally stabbed in separate incidents in Bellingham, Clapham and Tulse Hill at the beginning of the month, and just last week another teenager was stabbed in Romford. It is horrific for families, friends and communities, and it cannot continue. There is no sugar-coating what is going on at the moment.
The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, brought domestic homicides into the mix. I was interested to find out whether the incidence of such homicides had increased. In fact, the figure is static at about 95 a year. Well, the deaths of 95 women through domestic abuse is still far too many, despite all our efforts.
The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, talked about a cross-government approach to this. Almost all noble Lords who spoke talked about this approach, and they were absolutely right to do so. The noble Lord challenged me at the end of his speech to say how the Government intend to go forward with a cross-Whitehall approach to something that is at the heart of the priorities of most Members of both this House and the other place. Having made the commitment to a cross-government approach, I can say from my local authority point of view of the old days that that is something I was very keen on. I looked at it in the context of troubled families and it is absolutely the right challenge for government in the fight against serious crime.
I will talk about our overall approach to the strategy. It is a priority for this Government and it is why we published our Serious Violence Strategy in April of this year. I was pleased to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, talk about the strategy from the point of view of a 19 year-old girl. She challenged the Government by saying that we could not let this girl down. I agree that we cannot let her down. We cannot let down any 19 year-old girl—or any other young person—in what we do to tackle this, because it is one of the most serious problems of our age and of young people’s lives, particularly in London.
The strategy sets out the Government’s response, which involves 61 commitments and actions. It represents a step change in the way we think about and respond to serious violence. We completely agree with the point made by all noble Lords about a cross-government approach and the fact that our approach needs to be multiagency across a number of sectors, including education, health, social services, housing, youth services and of course victims’ services—all the things that most noble Lords, and the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, in particular, talked about. Law enforcement is very important, but we also need the active engagement of partners and different sectors so that we can address the causes of violent crime, especially among young people. That is why we placed our multiagency, early intervention approach at the heart of the Serious Violence Strategy.
The noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord Kennedy, pointed out, quite rightly, that the drivers of knife crime are complex. They are.
The noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, talked about the impact of police cuts, but I think all noble Lords who spoke recognised that there is not a simple solution. I think it might have been the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, who said that if there were a simple solution, we would have cracked this years ago. I am not decrying any factors. I think we can agree that there are multiple factors involved in the rise in serious violence, particularly the notable changes in the drugs market over the past couple of years.
As the Chancellor recognised in his Budget speech, the police are under pressure from the changing nature of crime, and I think the past five years have probably seen the biggest change in the type of crime that we are looking at now and in the future. In addition to the extra money that the Chancellor announced for counterterrorism, the Home Office is looking at how it can ensure that the police have the resources they need ahead of the 2019-20 police funding settlement. To answer the question asked by noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, the Home Secretary has been clear that his priority is to ensure that the police have the right resources in place as well as, as the noble Lord also pointed out, looking at the effectiveness of police forces at the same time. The noble Lord posed a challenge about the number of police forces we have. I think that is probably a debate for another day because we could make a full two-hour debate of it today.
The noble Lord, Lord MacKenzie of Framwellgate, referred to Sara Thornton’s point about less hate crime policing. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, talked about more neighbourhood policing. I am going to irritate him when I say that it is up to PCCs to decide the priorities of their forces. I read an article by Lynne Owens in the paper the other day. She posed the question: are we looking at 19th-century solutions to 21st-century problems? We possibly are. I will leave that question hanging. The reason I raise it is because noble Lords have talked about cybercrime, the harms of online crime and the whole different way in which perpetrators of crime operate, such as county lines, and the advent of technology which makes that pattern of behaviour easier.
I accept what the Minister says about the changing world of technology, but surely, given that a recent survey shows that 50% of the public have not seen a police officer in a year and that neighbourhood policing plays a role in dealing with terrorism and in communicating with the community, there is no substitute for it.
I do not dispute the role that local policing plays. I am trying to set out the broader context and the changing way in which criminals operate. I am not decrying local policing. I am saying that if it is a priority of local police forces, then that is what they should do. I appreciate that local policing gives reassurance to communities, which it definitely does, but I was trying to point out the broader context of the changing face of crime.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, talked about police pensions not being adequately funded. I can tell him that Her Majesty’s Treasury has provided additional funding of above £165 million to cover some of the impact of the increase in employer contributions in 2019-20. Decisions on police funding will be announced at the settlement on 6 December. Funding for 2020-21 will be considered as part of the spending review, so I ask the noble Lord to watch this space.
I think that is a hint. The Minister may not have been listening earlier when her noble friend Lord Agnew said quite explicitly that school pensions were being fully funded by the Government, so why is it that the schools settlement can be determined and those pensions fully funded yet at the moment she is unable to provide that commitment?
What I am trying to trail, without giving any commitments, is that I am very hopeful that the announcement on 6 December will be that the impact of the employer contributions is mitigated, but obviously I cannot make such an announcement.
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt. To return to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, the Minister said that each force has to decide how it applies its funding. Neighbourhood policing has drastically reduced over the last few years; it has been the biggest chunk of the lost 20,000. The problem really, not that it is anyone’s fault, is that this is the part of policing that struggles to make its case. Cybercrime, fraud online and harassment online have gone through the roof, harassment generally has become an offence and sexual offence reporting, including historical offences, has risen by probably 80% in the last four years. These and other types of crime are offences about which we all say something like, “Why are we not doing something about domestic violence or harassment?” That type of offence drags in resources at pace—specialist resources, not merely volume. In comparison, the neighbourhood officer struggles to say, “Actually, I have walked down the street over the last six months and got two informants, arrested three people and intervened in a terrorist plot”. The challenge is how we collectively address neighbourhood policing, partly by resources but also by prioritisation. I think at times we all struggle to say that we did not argue for specialists when we prefer neighbourhood officers.
I totally accept the point that the noble Lord is making. I guess that all the things he is talking about require a specialist response but of course people take great comfort from the presence of the local bobby, even if he is not going to solve the cybercrime that is happening on their computer at home or deal with the terrorist plotting an offence. Those types of new offence have gone through the roof and the public have called for them to be resourced. As I say, we could talk all afternoon about police funding and the police budget. I think we are generally in agreement that a prioritisation process is necessary in any local police force but that the police have to have the resources to be able to carry it out. I think that has been widely recognised.
The noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, asked about the number of special officers rising or falling. In fact it has fallen, and part of that fall has been because recent police officer recruits have come from that cadre.
To return to the strategy, our analysis clearly points to the range of factors in serious violence, and we think changes in the drugs market are at the heart of that. We know that crack cocaine markets have strong links to serious violence. Last time the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, used the catchy phrase “the crack cocaine pizza-delivery model”, which is frightening but absolutely true. The latest evidence suggests that crack use in England and Wales is rising due to a mix of supply and demand factors, such as the increased supply of cocaine from overseas and the spread of county lines drug dealing associated with hard, class-A drugs. However, my noble friend Lady Bertin pointed out the elephant in the room, which is middle-class cocaine use, which people seem to think is harmless and a natural thing to do on a Saturday night. It is not, it is also fuelling demand in the drug markets.
In our analysis in the strategy, we also identified that increases in violence have been accompanied by a shift towards younger victims and perpetrators. I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who talked about those who are both victims and perpetrators. We know that we are not alone in seeing recent increases in serious violence. The US, Canada and a number of other European countries have similar long-term trends.
We recently announced £40 million of Home Office money over two years to support the initiatives in the serious violence strategy. This includes £17.7 million for the early-intervention youth fund, and is in addition to the resources that the Government have already committed through the troubled families programme, the national citizens programme and the trusted relationship fund. Building on the ambitious programme of work in the strategy, the Home Secretary announced in October major new measures to address violent crime.
Finally, there is consultation on a new legal duty to underpin that public health approach to tackling serious violence that so many noble Lords have mentioned. This will mean that police officers, education partners, local authorities and healthcare professionals will have a new legal duty to act to prevent violent crime. The noble Lords, Lord Harris, Lord Kennedy and Lord Hogan-Howe, all talked about early intervention and prevention, as did others. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, said that early intervention was worthy. I am sure that he was not undermining it, but it is an essential part of our strategy, as it is in so many areas of tackling societal problems. We need to develop resilience; we need to support positive alternatives for young people and timely interventions to prevent them being drawn into a life of crime in the first place.
Earlier this month, the Home Secretary announced 29 projects that will receive £17.7 million from the early-intervention youth fund, which will focus on diverting vulnerable young people and those who have already offended away from crime. In addition, the Government are in partnership with the Big Lottery Fund and have invested £80 million—£40 million to the #iwillFund and £40 million to the youth investment fund—to create opportunities for young people to develop their skills and participate in their communities.
I turn to the point about county lines, which so many noble Lords have mentioned. Not only do drugs and county lines have a significant impact on serious violence, they have emerged as the most significant driver of violent crime. Tackling them is a major cross-cutting issue involving drugs, violence, gangs, safeguarding, child criminal exploitation, modern slavery and missing persons. Our response therefore needs to involve the police, a wide range of government departments, local government agencies and voluntary sector organisations.
In addition to delivering a cross-government action plan to tackle the issue, we have provided £3.6 million to establish a new national county lines co-ordination centre to tackle violent and exploitative criminal activity associated with county lines. The new centre became fully operational on 21 September and delivered its first week of intensification in October, which resulted in 505 arrests and—to answer the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton—320 individuals being safeguarded.
On 28 August, the Department for Education announced £2 million for a new national response unit that will be established to help local authorities support vulnerable children at risk of exploitation by criminal gangs. The unit will offer bespoke support to local councils and will operate from 2019 to 2022. It will build on and work alongside existing initiatives to provide strategic support to children’s social care working with multiagency partners within local areas. The Department for Education expect to launch the formal tender for the new service later this month.
I shall ask noble Lords to indulge me because I allowed interventions during my speech and I have another five minutes, according to the clock. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, and the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, mentioned the really important point of exclusions and the effect that that has in drawing children further into gangs, crime and other activities that will not benefit their long-term future. We recognise that a number of risk factors can increase the likelihood of a young person’s involvement in crime, and this is definitely one of them. We are considering what further support might be needed for children who are excluded from school, as we know that they are overrepresented as victims of serious violence.
I was very interested to hear my noble friend Lady Bertin talk about corporate responsibility in preventing serious violence. I was grateful for her thoughts on this the other day, and for raising it today, and I am keen to explore this issue further.
Noble Lords also talked about people with mental health problems coming into contact with the police. It is a very serious issue; the police are not there to arrest them but to support them. As I think the noble Lord, Lord Harris, or the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, said, people with mental health problems need to be taken to hospital and not to a police cell. We have banned the use of cells for children with mental health problems and, as noble Lords will know who have debated with me on this, they are used only in absolute exceptional circumstances for adults with mental health problems. Getting people to a place of safety is the prime objective when the police come into contact with people with mental health problems.
The noble Lords, Lord Bilimoria, Lord Hogan-Howe, and Lord Young of Norwood Green, talked about moped crime. There was an important point about supporting the police in the decisions that they make. Much has been made of giving the police greater confidence to pursue suspects, and when deciding whether to conduct a pursuit the police take into account guidance from the College of Policing on the authorised professional practice on roads policing and police pursuits. The stopping of motorcycles and mopeds has been permitted in the national guidance since October 2015, and the guidance makes it clear that the key consideration is whether the pursuit is necessary, balanced against the threat of this and the harm of the pursuit to the person being pursued, the officer and others who may be affected.
My time is up. There is a whole section on knife crime, but if I go through it, the noble Lord, Lord Harris, will be unable to speak. I shall conclude my remarks there. I thank noble Lords, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for the debate, and I shall allow him to conclude.
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who contributed; I know that the previous debate overran significantly. As we get older, we may all have cause to be grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, for tweaking and developing House of Lords procedure and practice.
A number of noble Lords, including my noble friends Lady Donaghy and Lady Massey, stressed the importance of the multiagency approach. However, what we have heard today from the Minister is that, yes, she understands the importance of it. She talked about 61 commitments and actions to be followed through. Perhaps she needs to go back and ask, not just in her department but across government, who is overseeing and progress-chasing that. It is all very well to have 61 actions, but they can get lost in the miasma of the government machine unless there is someone senior and central. The point of my mentioning Tony Blair’s COBRA meetings was because he had Ministers of State and junior Ministers in the room and would say, “What’s happened since last week? I expect this to have happened by next week”—and, my goodness, it made a difference.
In conclusion, it is not a question of my saying that these things were worthy; my concern was that they were worthy in the context of being platitudinous. My point too is that they are essential. When I reviewed the tragic deaths of 87 young people in prison, the reality was that most of those need never have got into the criminal justice system had there been the appropriate interventions much earlier in their lives by the agencies of the state.
House adjourned at 4.46 pm.