House of Lords
Thursday 18 July 2019
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Newcastle.
Mount Everest: Safety
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what advice they provide to British citizens intending to climb Mount Everest during the autumn and spring seasons to reduce the risk of loss of life; and what representations they have made to the government of Nepal (1) to reduce the number of permits available for climbers in those seasons, and (2) to introduce requirements that all climbers have the necessary skills and training to climb Mount Everest.
My Lords, official travel advice for travellers to Nepal, including for those intending to climb Everest, is available on GOV.UK. The Government offer consular support to British nationals who get into trouble in Nepal, including through wardens in popular trekking areas. The British embassy regularly discusses mountain safety with the Nepalese authorities. The embassy has been in contact with mountaineering experts about how to improve the situation, including through the practices of summiteers and tour operators.
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, in the last five years, there have been 61 deaths on Everest, 11 of them in the spring of this year? In one day, on 23 May this year, there were 250 people trying to summit the mountain. The Nepalese Government have issued record numbers of permits this year—some 380—which will allow some 600 people to tackle the mountain. The result has been that many people have been placed in danger. Will my noble friend urge our ambassador to lobby the Nepalese Government to reduce the number of permits and to make it mandatory that people who go on the mountain, as either outfitters or climbers, are able to demonstrate proper experience and thus will not put other people’s lives at risk? The sums involved could easily be added to the very considerable sums that we provide through overseas aid to the Nepalese Government.
I thank my noble friend. I think that many people will be in sympathy with what he is saying. I reassure him that the British embassy in Kathmandu regularly discusses mountain safety with the Government of Nepal, ensuring that their policies promote safety for all involved. That was most recently done in June, when consular officials met the senior leadership of the department of tourism. My noble friend makes important points, and in fact the FCO travel advice website covers a number of them. But I hear what he is saying and I will certainly take that back.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, that this is a serious situation. In my experience, one of the roles of the guides is to do just such an assessment of the mountaineers. Some of those guide companies come from this country, so there is a role for this country in that process. When it comes to permits, I am sure that the Minister is aware that, while the Nepal side has increased the number of permits, the number of permits coming from the north side—the Tibet side—has substantially collapsed between 2018 and 2019. Does she agree that there is an element of complicating the situation with the Tibet/China relationship? Can she undertake to continue the Government’s work to normalise that relationship?
I am interested in what the noble Lord says. That is an aspect of which I was unaware. The Government certainly endeavour to conduct and sustain a positive relationship with China. As my noble friend Lord Forsyth was saying, this is an issue of fundamental safety. We want people to enjoy an exciting and exhilarating pursuit, but it has to be combined with safety. From the Nepalese perspective, it has to be combined also with the safe and sustainable development of tourism—and some very important points have been made about how that progress may be impugned if proper steps are not taken.
Is the Minister aware that when I went up the Himalayas a few years ago, the Sherpa people there told me that there was not one Sherpa family that had not had a member killed while being a guide in the mountains? It is only when the Europeans came up with this strange idea that you had to get to the top of these uninhabitable regions that these people, because their income is low, started losing their lives. Will the Minister talk to her colleagues in the development department to try to help the income level of those families, so that they do not need to rely on insane Europeans going too high up mountains?
The noble Baroness covers a number of points. I applaud her distinguished experience; I have never been anywhere near Everest myself, and I think I can safely say that that situation is unlikely to change. She will be aware that the United Kingdom has a very good bilateral relationship with Nepal that includes support and financial help. We have been endeavouring to help with advice on, for example, climate change. We have been helping with disaster resilience; we make a very meaningful contribution to Nepal in that respect. Nepal has an interesting economy. There are other tourist opportunities, as the noble Baroness will be aware, apart from climbing these very high mountains. I think the desire will be to support Nepal in its attempts to grow its economy, and tourism is an important part of that, while having regard to the very valid points that the noble Baroness, the noble Lord and my noble friend Lord Forsyth have made.
My Lords, now that the Minister has lightened the atmosphere a little, would she be kind enough to recommend to the incoming Conservative Party leader that he has a go at Everest? Getting to the top of Everest will be easier than getting a new deal with the Commission.
My Lords, will the Minister accept that I have a personal interest, as my father was the first man in the world to fly over Mount Everest in 1933, when it was only just technically possible, and if he had not succeeded I would not be here today? Does the Minister accept that Everest is enormously dangerous for mountaineers? There are beliefs that there has been a substantial element of climate change, and full preparations are absolutely necessary for those who wish to do this.
My noble friend makes some important points—not least that we owe his presence here today to his late father’s flight over Everest. I am trying to make a connection; it may take me a little time but no doubt I will manage. He makes an important point about climate change. There is evidence that Nepal is being affected by climate change; there has been very serious recent flooding. As my noble friend is aware, the UK is committed to tackling climate change. We are well placed to help Nepal to develop in a low-carbon way without sacrificing growth. Indeed, DfID Nepal offers substantial climate support, primarily through the Nepal climate change support programme and the Nepal renewable energy programme. DfID is also providing support for the important new development, the Arun III hydropower project.
Immigration Staff: Recruitment
My Lords, recruitment processes within all Home Office business areas are kept under regular review to ensure effectiveness and compliance with Civil Service policy. The Home Office adheres to the Civil Service Commissioners’ recruitment principles and conducts pre-appointment checks in line with the baseline personnel security standard and national security vetting requirements.
My Lords, some 50 Home Office officials, nearly all from the immigration side of the Home Office, have been sent to prison over the past 12 years for abuses of public office, yet the Home Office continues to deny that there is a problem, indicating that there are just a few rotten apples in the barrel. It now seems to be seeking to conceal the names of those officials. How can the Minister justify on grounds of privacy, as she did in a Written Answer to me on 4 July, the withholding from Parliament of the names of Shamsu Iqbal and Simon Pellett, who were sentenced in open court to 11 years and 23 years respectively for assisting unlawful immigration and smuggling of drugs and firearms? I might say that this is at a time when the Home Office is still trying to stop a judicial inquiry into the trashing of the reputation of Sir Edward Heath. Will the Government now take seriously, with a proper review, the possible deep corruption in that part of the Home Office—indeed, the possibility of enemies within it?
My Lords, I reject my noble friend’s assertions that there is deep corruption within the Home Office. On releasing names, my noble friend will know that the Home Office is legally not allowed to disclose this information. It will not, to ensure that it does not breach statutory and data protection obligations, and that is what I outline to him. Although the names of staff members are known in court, this is not necessarily the same as being in the public domain. The disclosure of names would have to satisfy a high threshold under the GDPR and Section 9 of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, which makes it an offence to disclose the facts of an offence in respect of a rehabilitated person.
In his 2018-19 annual report, the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration states that only half the inspector posts were filled in the last few months of 2018-19; significantly fewer inspection reports were published than in 2017-18; none of the seven published reports in 2018-19 was laid in Parliament by the Government within the eight weeks to which the then Home Secretary had committed in 2014; the Home Office’s focus on managing the fallout of the Windrush scandal and on preparing for Brexit appeared to affect its capacity for other business, including inspections; relationships between the inspectorate and the Home Office were generally poorer in 2018-19 than they had been in 2017-18; and during 2018-19, the chief inspector had just one meeting with the Home Secretary and two with the Immigration Minister. I have heard of an arm’s-length relationship, but that is ridiculous. This is an unacceptable and potentially dangerous state of affairs in a key part of our border control and immigration system. Will the Government accept full responsibility and provide an explanation as to why they have allowed this unsatisfactory state of affairs, highlighted by the chief inspector, to arise and say what they intend to do about it?
My Lords, the noble Lord asked a number of questions, one of which was about border staff. He will know that we have recruited almost all the 900 staff that we undertook to recruit in preparation for Brexit. I will write to him with a longer answer on the inspectorate because I do not have the details at my fingertips today.
My Lords, is the real problem at the Home Office not the culture, which is still being driven by trying to achieve the target of reducing net immigration to the tens of thousands? This House has recently passed legislation that effectively continues free movement of EU citizens in the event of a no-deal Brexit. So, the only way that this ridiculous target can be achieved is by the ruthless pursuit of anyone who can be deported, even for the most minor of reasons. Does the Minister not agree that the hostile environment may have changed its name, but it persists?
As I have said before, the hostile environment started under Alan Johnson and ended under my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. The noble Lord has made the point about culture before, and he is right that the culture of an organisation is key to the way its policies operate. There are no targets of the kind that the noble Lord described. We have a general ambition of reducing net migration but targets—particularly in the hostile environment, as the noble Lord referred to it—no longer operate.
My Lords, I shall be concise, as always. Does the minister accept that there is a serious problem with the Immigration Service, which is that it is hopelessly under-resourced? The rate of removals has halved, and delays are growing all over the system. Does she accept that, if we want an effective immigration system, as the great majority of the public do, we have to pay for it?
An awful lot of people want to come to this country and our immigration teams are very stretched. This requires resourcing, as everything does. We have very high employment in this country and we need people with the skills required to fill those jobs.
Lotteries: Good Causes
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ensure that lottery providers who operate on a national basis, other than the National Lottery, spend a minimum of 25 per cent of their profits on the funding of good causes, which are currently funded by the National Lottery.
My Lords, the Government’s response to the consultation on society lottery reform was published two days ago, on 16 July. As set out in the Gambling Act 2005, all society lotteries must return a minimum of 20% to good causes; the average is 44%. We expect that lotteries will use the administrative costs saved as a result of higher sales limits announced earlier this week to return a higher share to good causes.
I thank the Minister for his reply. Does he accept that when we speak about lotteries, we speak about “the” National Lottery? Indeed, in a Statement on Tuesday, he repeatedly referred to its “unique position”. We have two synthetic national lotteries operating and funding from the National Lottery has guaranteed long-term support which has turned us from a third-rate sporting nation to a first-rate one. Can the players in this field guarantee this long-term support? If they are not prepared to do this, can they be restricted to operating as the other society lotteries do?
The noble Lord is right: we stressed in the reforms that we would preserve the unique status of the National Lottery. That is why we did not raise the annual sales limit by as much as was suggested in the consultation, and by as much as some of the larger society lotteries wanted. We said that the Gambling Commission would take specific evidence and look at the evidence for raising the annual sales limit to £50 million to make sure that it did not impact on the National Lottery. As far as sport is concerned, the Gambling Commission has found no evidence that society lotteries have impacted on the National Lottery in any way. Indeed, they are complementary; in both sectors, lotteries have increased in recent years. I know that sport is of interest to the noble Lord, but there is no reason to think that funding for sport will reduce. Indeed, for next year’s Olympics the amount of money has been underwritten by the Treasury.
It is perhaps a bit forward of me, but I am sure she would never do it herself, and I should like to thank the House for its generosity on this occasion. With changes around on both sides of House and imminent adjustments to the order of things, I risk congratulating my opposition spokesman, who has today celebrated three years in his position in that department. I hope it will last.
May I take it from the recent Statement referred to by the Minister that the Government accept that there is space within lottery activity in this country for both the National Lottery dealing with national causes and society lotteries? The figures he quoted for the percentage going to good causes are good but concerns remain—alluded to, I think, in the Statement—about the transparency of the payments of some society lotteries and the payments they make to individuals.
First, I am very grateful to the noble Lord. I assure him that nobody is more amazed than I am that I have survived for three years. Moving on to society lotteries, it is right that we did what we did. We agree that there is cause to look at transparency, particularly in what society lotteries do with the money they raise and the good causes. They should be clear about that and their expenses. That is why the Gambling Commission is specifically looking at that and consulting on what increased requirements should be in place, particularly if we move from a £50 million annual sales limit to a £100 million annual sales limit, which we have not said we will do. We are taking evidence on that and on whether the very few large society lotteries that the annual sale limit applies to should have increased transparency requirements.
My Lords, research shows that not all lotteries that operate on a national scale make it clear that they are neither charities nor not-for-profit organisations. People often do not realise that. Does the Minister agree that making it mandatory to declare on each ticket the minimum percentage of each pound spent on charity, for both draw-based and instant-win games, would ensure that users really understand just where their money is going?
There is of course already a difference between the National Lottery and society lotteries on that. The National Lottery has no minimum amount going to good causes and no limits. As a result, over the 25 years it has been in existence, it has had an average return of 25% and £40 billion has gone to good causes. Society lotteries already have a statutory minimum limit. They have to give 20% to good causes. The average is 44%, so the system is working well. On increased transparency, suggested by the right reverend Prelate, the Gambling Commission is looking at increased transparency requirements for society lotteries and will be consulting on that.
I am sure that more could be done. I will certainly take that suggestion away. The interesting statistic is that 55% of people who buy society lottery tickets are motivated by supporting a specific charity. On the National Lottery, however, only 15% buy a ticket to support good causes; people want to win large jackpots and life-changing amounts of money.
As we are discussing good causes, perhaps we could return to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter. We bitterly regret her removal from the Front Bench. She and I have had great disagreements over Europe, but we very much regret the fact that she will no longer represent her party on this issue.
Turkey: Russian Missiles
My Lords, we have raised our concerns about the Turkish Government’s purchase of S-400 missiles at ministerial and official level. Turkey is a valued NATO ally on the front line of some of the alliance’s most difficult security challenges. Defence equipment procurement decisions are for national Governments, but all NATO allies have committed to reducing their dependence on Russian-sourced military equipment. We will continue to discuss our concerns with Turkey as a friend and ally.
I thank the Minister for his Answer. This is extremely worrying for NATO. There are real issues with the YPG and with the relationship between the US and Turkey, but I will focus on a military point. The S-400 is a very capable surface-to-air missile system. It demands the input of special IFF settings in aircraft, as well as other features, so that you do not shoot down friendly aircraft. Russian technicians will be in Turkey, getting these settings. We do not wish to give them these factors of our own aircraft. Therefore, does the Minister not think that it is absolutely correct that the Americans should say, “You will no longer be part of the F35 programme”? If that is the case—and I think it is right that they should do this—I hope that we are lobbying to see whether we can get that work in this country, to add to the 15% of the build that we already have of all F35s in the world.
My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord West. He described the situation in Turkey as very worrying. This is why, of course, Turkey is now being excluded from the F35 programme, both as a partner in its manufacture and as an end user. The concerns raised by the noble Lord about mixed information, and the S-400 system and the F35 which counter each other, are very worrying indeed.
My Lords, the Minister stressed the importance of Turkey as an ally and a valued member of NATO. One of the diplomatic issues may be the response of the United States. Have there been any discussions with the US Administration about further possible action they may take, including sanctions against Turkey, which will have a detrimental effect on building positive relations?
My Lords, I am not aware of exact discussions that the department has had on the sanctions issue. We are not imposing sanctions on Turkey but, at the start of the delivery of the S-400s, America is expected to trigger measures under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. The severity and timeline of imposing those measures is still being debated.
My Lords, does the noble Earl accept that the political implications of this matter are just as important as the military ones? Does he recall that Mr Putin has twin foreign policy objectives? The first is the undermining of the European Union—with which he has had some assistance from the United Kingdom. The second is the destabilisation of NATO. The difficulty is that the United States has only recently offered Turkey the Patriot system, while Turkey has bought the S-400. The fact is that Mr Putin will not be laughing up his sleeve in the Kremlin—he will be laughing out loud.
The noble Lord makes a number of points, including in relation to the Patriot weapons system, on which Turkey felt unable to continue negotiations. But the noble Lord’s points in relation to Russia are very worrying, and something about which we have great concern.
I have no information on that at present. The noble and gallant Lord makes a valid point on the worry about the systems that the Turkish military is taking up. The S-400 is a flagship weapon system designed to counter stealth aircraft. It will deny large swathes of territory to enemy aircraft, and this is a worrying position.
This is a challenge for the whole of NATO. Have HMG discussed with the American authorities the decision to block F-35 supplies? It raises fundamental questions about whether Turkey can remain in the alliance and, if it does not, how we can reconfigure to meet the new challenges, which are becoming increasingly dangerous.
My noble friend makes a good point. As I said earlier, Turkey is now excluded from the F-35 programme, both as a partner in its manufacture and as an end user. The noble Lord, Lord West, also asked whether there are opportunities for BAE Systems. The MoD is considering how the suspension of Turkey from the F-35 programme will affect our costs, delivery timeline and possible opportunities.
My Lords, despite the need for a robust defence policy, should we not reduce some of the excessive anxiety about Russia? The United States’ defence budget is 10 times that of Russia’s, and Russia’s defence budget is less than those of France and Britain.
Do the Government think that the decision to buy weapons from Russia is a sign that Turkey is looking east rather than west? What does that suggest for our wider relations with Turkey, particularly given that it still wants to be part of the European Union?
My Lords, there is no indication yet that that is the case. We must remember that Turkey is a valued NATO ally on the front line of some of the UK’s and the alliance’s most difficult security challenges. We pay tribute to its historic contribution in that area. We will continue to work closely with Turkey and seek together to face these challenges as they arise.
Business of the House
Timing of Debates
Amendments to the Rules of Conduct (Conduct Committee Report)
Motion to Agree
As Chairman of the Conduct Committee, I draw attention to my declaration of interest in appendix 2, as an arbitrator, expert witness or consultant in my old chambers in the Temple. That relates to items in the report dealing with the registration and declaration of clients, to which I shall come.
On 30 April this year, the House resolved that the Conduct Committee should take over the conduct functions of the Committee for Privileges and Conduct and the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Conduct, and should include four lay members. We are currently recruiting lay members to join the five Back-Bench Members of this House. The House will be asked to approve those appointments in September.
A key role of the Conduct Committee is to keep under review the Code of Conduct, the guide and the Code of Conduct for Members’ staff. Since 30 April, there have been three weighty reports bearing on possible substantive amendments to the code: Alison Stanley’s, Naomi Ellenbogen QC’s and Gemma White QC’s. The implications of these reports will require close attention after the appointment of lay members to the Conduct Committee.
The report before the House today is a more confined legacy of the former Sub-Committee on Lords’ Conduct, chaired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, who I am pleased to see is in his place and to whom, and to whose committee, I acknowledge our indebtedness. The sub-committee, advised by the registrar, had proposed changes along the lines of those in this report last autumn but, owing to pressure of work, the Committee for Privileges and Conduct could not consider them before it relinquished its responsibilities on 30 April. The Conduct Committee, having now considered the proposals further, takes the view that they should be implemented immediately, and that is what I invite the House to do today.
The report has two sections, the first dealing with the key issues, and Appendix 1 shows the results. I do not intend to detain your Lordships for long but I will just set out a few key proposals from Part 1. First, the description “paid advocacy” will be replaced by “exclusive benefit”—something that noble Lords will no doubt take time to adjust to. The reasoning is that the present code and guide refer to a number of different situations. Advocacy specifically in return for payment is one. A second and wider category is advocacy in favour of some personal concern from which a Member receives payment or reward. Both those should be covered clearly. A third case is advocacy in favour of a personal concern in which the Member has a financial interest—for example, a shareholding. That too should be clearly covered, hence the proposed new wording in paragraph 13 of the report.
Secondly, the present wording of at least one paragraph suggests that a Member must eliminate conflicts of interest, but that is simply not always feasible. The duty is to resolve any conflict in favour of the public interest, which the revised wording states.
Thirdly, on the registration and declaration of clients—an item to which my declaration refers—again, three situations are identified in the guide and they are dealt with inconsistently. Whether and when a Member is obliged to register professional clients or clients of a concern employing his or her services is uncertain. A qualification relating to confidentiality in the case of professional clients is uncertain in its application in an era when the clients of even professionals are regularly identified—indeed, advertised—publicly.
We concluded that the important thing is transparency about the identity of any client at the point at which a Member participates in parliamentary or political business relevant to that client. We therefore propose replacing the requirement to register clients by a more explicit requirement to declare them at any appropriate moment. Of course, the code defines when declarations must be made, not just in this Chamber but when lobbying or canvassing a point with a Minister. I draw the House’s attention, in support of the more explicit requirement, to the wording of the revised proposal, which requires a Member to,
“declare any client of an organisation in which he or she has a financial interest”
—not just personal clients—
“where … they might reasonably be expected to know that it is a client and … the activities or interests of that client are relevant to the matter under discussion”.
That proposal appears at paragraph 30.
Fourthly—again, this is relevant to my own declaration—there is a heading relating to public affairs advice and services to clients. We consider that this is no longer necessary because it was drafted in an era when the definition of “paid advocacy” was not as wide as it will now be. The code will now ban Members from lobbying or providing any other parliamentary advice or services for payment or for a concern in which the Member has a financial incentive. Any activity that might be described as “public affairs” which is not caught by that prohibition—the guide gives, in paragraph 19, some examples that include public relations or communications advice—need not be treated differently from any other job because, by definition, it does not affect parliamentary activity. Accordingly, we propose that this third category, the wording of which has created quite a lot of confusion, should be abolished.
Fifthly, as to Members’ staff, the report proposes that Members’ spouses or partners who carry out parliamentary work must adhere to the code of conduct for Members’ staff in the same way as other staff. Presently, spouses only need to adhere to the code if they have their own email account, which seems a rather strange qualification. There will be some advantage even in requiring registration, not only in placing responsibility on Members to ensure that their staff are aware of the need to comply with the code; it will also give spouses and partners the opportunity to register interests—a protective measure.
Finally, and sixthly, as to inadvertent breaches of the code, the report proposes that it should be explicit that Members who realise that they have inadvertently failed to register or declare an interest should consult the registrar at the earliest opportunity, so that the necessary remedial action can be taken.
Those are the main recommendations. Minor issues are dealt with in Part 2 in a way that I hope will be found helpful. I draw particular attention to the proposal that the threshold for registering gifts, benefits and hospitality is to be increased from £140 to £300, to match the House of Commons. That is in paragraphs 53 and 54 of the report.
I hope that the House will welcome these changes. If they are agreed, a new edition of the code will be published in September. I beg to move.
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will repeat in the form of a Statement the Answer given yesterday by my right honourable friend the Minister for the Middle East, Dr Andrew Murrison, in the other place to a Question with reference to Mrs Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. The Statement is as follows:
“Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family have told us that she was admitted to a psychiatric ward in the Imam Khomeini public hospital on Monday. Her family have yet to be allowed to visit her or to make a phone call. We are lobbying the Iranian authorities to ensure that her family are able to visit as soon as possible, as well as continuing to lobby for consular access, so that we can check on her care as a matter of urgency. We remain in close contact with her family in Tehran and with Richard Ratcliffe, her husband, in London.
The Foreign Secretary spoke to the Iranian Foreign Minister on Saturday 13 July and raised Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case and those of other dual nationals detained in Iran. The Foreign Secretary made it clear, as he has in public, that innocent people in prison must not be used as diplomatic leverage and called for their release. I also raised the case on a recent visit to Iran. The Foreign Secretary exercised diplomatic protection in March 2019, and we will continue to do all we can to reunite Nazanin and her family. The Government lobby strongly on behalf of all our dual national cases, including Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, at the highest levels. The welfare of British nationals in detention is a high priority for us. We have made it clear that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe must be treated humanely and in line with international standards and norms.
If I can say something on a personal note as a parent, this case has rightly gripped the hearts of the British people. I hope that this development is the first step towards a brighter future for Nazanin and her family. I hope that Iran will be generous and humane in its approach to this family, who have been separated for far too long; that we can rely on elements within Iran that we know are decent and civilised; that it will apply international norms and behaviours in respect of this sad case; and that Nazanin and her family can be brought together as soon as possible”.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Answer to yesterday’s Urgent Question. We all share the sentiments in the Statement about concern for the family and the impact that this is having on the health of Nazanin, and also on Richard, who has been tireless in his support for his wife.
The Minister, Dr Murrison, in his highly measured response to the Urgent Question yesterday, recognised that there are many Irans, not simply the Government. He also mentioned the Supreme Leader. He said it was vital that global opinion is mobilised, because those different elements in Iran would be more responsive to that sort of pressure. Can the Minister tell us what we are doing to ensure that other voices are speaking in support of Nazanin? What are we doing with our EU partners to take up this case in particular? In the debate yesterday, we talked about faith groups and how important their opinions are. How we mobilise those voices is really important.
The Statement mentioned that we now have diplomatic protection for Nazanin and have escalated her case to that of a country dispute. Can the Minister say what further steps the Government can take in this respect to secure to Nazanin’s freedom? Finally, I am not asking the Minister to predict who will be Foreign Secretary in a week’s time, but can she assure us that, whatever the eventualities and changes, this case will remain a high priority not only for the Government but for the FCO and the new Foreign Secretary?
I thank the noble Lord not only for his questions but for his demeanour and sympathy in addressing this issue. This case has attracted global attention and Iran is under a magnifying glass. Historically, as my noble friend Dr Murrison said yesterday, Iran has been a country of generosity and magnanimity. For Iran to now do the right thing by Nazanin and her family would send a powerful message that these benevolent sentiments, which we all admire, exist in Iran. It would be a powerful step forward on all fronts.
On the possibility of other forms of dialogue taking place, I entirely agree with the noble Lord. This is a situation where any form of exchange of view, any form of discourse and any conduit for communication is to be welcomed. We would applaud anyone who can make suggestions as to how we might enhance that broader communicatory approach. The noble Lord is aware that the Government are lobbying relentlessly, not only for humane treatment for Nazanin, consular access, and of course access by her family, but for her release.
On the final point, I reassure the noble Lord that whoever is the next Prime Minister, this case will remain at the forefront of the British Government’s diplomatic and foreign and Commonwealth agenda.
My Lords, I too thank the Minister for repeating the Answer and for her comments just now. She clearly recognises, as we all do, that Nazanin is in a desperate situation and her family are rightly worried about this latest development. As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, has mentioned, she was granted diplomatic protection in March. I want to press the Minister a little further on that, as it did not emerge from the questions in the Commons: what progress is being made as a result of diplomatic protection being granted?
On the wider issue, Nazanin and the other dual nationals are obviously being detained at an extremely dangerous time in the region. What are we doing to try to ensure that the even greater instability that has been created by the United States pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal is being countered as we try to assist Nazanin and the others who are in this desperate situation?
I thank the noble Baroness. On her first question, it was felt that elevating the situation to one of diplomatic protection gave the case not only status in the United Kingdom but a global status. As the noble Baroness will be aware, my colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—whether the Foreign Secretary or my right honourable friend Dr Murrison—have been very energetic in their efforts to keep communicating with Iran to relay their concerns. She will be aware that Dr Murrison visited Tehran recently and that de-escalation was absolutely his message. We want matters to approach something that looks a little more normal in relation to the situation of tension that now exists in the region.
I said earlier to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, that there is global awareness of this case; it is on the global radar screen. That is helpful, because Iran has to understand that there is a magnifying glass on it and people are watching closely how it conducts itself. I assure the noble Baroness that my colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are unrelenting in their efforts to use every facility available to them to press the case for Nazanin and her family.
My Lords, can the Minister confirm whether what I have heard is true: that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has now served the proportion of the sentence—which of course, in our view, she should not have been condemned under—that, under the Iranian legal system, enables her to be released? If so, is that not a possible way forward?
I thank the noble Lord for raising an interesting point. He is quite correct: the view of the United Kingdom Government has always been that Nazanin was wrongly imprisoned. Let us be crystal clear about that. I understand that she has served approximately two years of her sentence. I am interested in the noble Lord’s observation; it is something I shall certainly investigate further.
I thank my noble friend. That is a very interesting suggestion and perhaps an echo of a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Collins. There is always a facility for greater use of other intermediaries or interlocutors. It may be that the communities of faith can come together on a cross-faith basis and be a medium for further communication. I see the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle sitting in her place. It may be that the Church, through the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, has some role to play in this.
I was struck by something that the honourable Member for Rhondda, Chris Bryant, said yesterday in the other place—that Islam is,
“a religion of phenomenal humanity, generosity and magnanimity”. —[Official Report, Commons, 17/7/19; col. 853.]
It is possible that there is scope for some cross-faith, multifaith approach. I am sure that if the communities of faith were to consider that and see whether there was something they could do, that would be a very welcome development.
My Lords, I met Richard Ratcliffe when he was working in the House of Commons, and I am absolutely sure that his wife is innocent and that his family do not deserve to be suffering what they have suffered. I ask the Minister to correct her response to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay: she has actually been in prison for three years and, as I understand it, would be entitled for release under Iranian law. Can the Minister say that, yes, we should appeal to the magnanimity and good sense of the Iranians, but also that they should understand that the detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe for any minute longer compromises any positive diplomatic relations?
I thank the noble Lord; I may have misinformed the Chamber. I think she has about two years left to serve of her prison sentence. The noble Lord is quite correct and I apologise for that mistake. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, raised a very interesting point, one that I shall certainly pursue. On the question of diplomatic relations in general, we do not have consular access. We have an embassy in Tehran, as the noble Lord is aware. The difficulty is that Iran takes the view that, because Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has dual nationality, we are not entitled to access. None the less, we strenuously continue our efforts to seek access and reassurance that she is being humanely treated. The noble Lord raises an important point about diplomacy. Diplomatic relations exist to facilitate contact between states for the mutual benefit of their citizens.
Immigration Detention: Victims of Modern Slavery
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat in the form of a Statement the Answer given by my right honourable friend the Immigration Minister to an Urgent Question in the other place. The Statement is as follows:
“Modern slavery is an abhorrent crime, and the Government are determined to stamp it out. In my role as Immigration Minister, I am especially aware of the shocking exploitation of vulnerable individuals from overseas who are duped by the promise of a better life in the UK, only to be trafficked and sold into modern slavery. Identifying and protecting victims of such crimes is a priority. In October 2017, we announced an ambitious package of reforms to the national referral mechanism. As well as improving the support on offer, these reforms are intended to provide quicker and more certain decision-making, in which victims can have confidence.
I must make it clear, however, that being recognised as a victim of modern slavery does not automatically result in being granted immigration status in the UK. There may be victims of modern slavery who have no lawful basis to remain and for whom support is available to leave the UK voluntarily. It is important that we recognise the important role of our immigration policies. Although we are committed to supporting individuals to leave voluntarily, including with reintegration support, there may be occasions where they have exhausted all options and are refusing to leave, and we are faced with the difficult decision of detaining people to secure their return. I want to reassure the House that we do not take these decisions lightly, but it may be necessary to detain individuals, even if they are vulnerable, to effect their removal. When that is the case, we seek to keep the period of detention as short as possible and place their welfare and safeguarding at the heart of what we do.
The Home Secretary made clear his commitment to going further and faster with reforms to immigration detention, including by reducing the number of people we detain, increasing the number of voluntary returns and working with partners on alternatives to detention. We have made real progress in delivering these commitments. A number of women who would otherwise have been detained are now being managed in the community. Other pilots will begin later this year. As we approach the first anniversary of Stephen Shaw’s second independent review of immigration detention, it is important to take stock of how far we have come, while acknowledging that there is much more to do to ensure that our approach to immigration detention is fair and humane”.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Answer to the Urgent Question from the Shadow Home Secretary in the Commons yesterday. Government Written Answers on 20 December last year and 19 June this year stated that where there are reasonable grounds to believe that an individual may be a victim of trafficking or modern slavery such individuals shall not be detained, but that there are no central records of such persons. However, the Government indicated yesterday, following a freedom of information request, that, contrary to the interpretation a reasonable person could put on the Written Answers, they did know of 507 individuals who had been detained.
The Government said that the 507 who received a positive reasonable-grounds decision while in detention were then subsequently released within a few days in most cases. But for how long had they already been detained before they received that decision, and why in those 507 cases were trafficking and enslavement signs not picked up and resolved prior to any detention? It does not seem right that victims of trafficking and modern slavery should be locked up as immigration offenders at all. Why was the factual information apparently obtained from the FoI request withheld, presumably knowingly, from the Written Answers in December 2018 and last month? Will the Government explain the justification for, and reasoning behind, the troubling assertion by the Immigration Minister in the Commons yesterday that,
“a Freedom of Information request will elicit different data to that which is available in parliamentary questions”?—[Official Report, Commons, 17/7/19; col. 861.]
How in a democracy can a Government be held to account when they apparently knowingly seek to withhold some available factual information being sought through a Parliamentary Question?
I thank the noble Lord for his questions. He asked why victims of modern slavery were not detected prior to detention. Quite often, Home Office staff pick up the fact that people are victims of modern slavery. It is not the case that the 507 individuals were detained after getting positive reasonable grounds. As stated clearly in the FoI response, the figure relates to people who had positive reasonable grounds when entering detention or while in it. Further analysis of the figures shows that, of the 507 people in question, 479 received the positive reasonable grounds decision during a detention period. Of those, 328—68%—were released within two days of that decision. In total, 422—88%—were released within a week of the positive reasonable grounds decision. Of the 57 who were detained for eight days or more following the positive reasonable grounds decision, 46—81%—are foreign national offenders.
On the data and the differences in the figures, my right honourable friend the Immigration Minister was absolutely correct to say that there is no central record of those who received a positive conclusive grounds decision and are detained under immigration powers. While the information might be available from the live Home Office case information database, known as CID, it would be for internal management only. For example, some data may be incomplete, and every FoI response is caveated as such.
My Lords, it is not just the victims of modern slavery but survivors of rape and other serious sexual assaults whose details are being passed to immigration officials by the police, with a view to deporting those who are undocumented migrants. Perpetrators of modern slavery and rapists will be telling these victims, with good reason, that they cannot go to the police because they will be deported. Vulnerable people are being raped and then deported because they reported the rape to the police. Does the Minister not accept that this kind of data sharing between the police and immigration officials is preventing modern slavery and rape being tackled effectively, and that it has to stop?
I say to the noble Lord, as I think I said the other day, that someone who is a victim of modern slavery, which may well include those who have been raped—these people are exploited to an insufferable degree—should be treated first and foremost as a victim. The abuse and trauma they have suffered should be dealt with first and foremost. However, it is also true that other issues may be involved, such as immigration control. Quite often, in a number of cases, that immigration control will in and of itself protect the victim, because the whole picture will come out. But I reassure the noble Lord that, if someone comes forward who is a victim of modern slavery, they will be protected and treated as a victim first and foremost, and will get all the support they need.
My Lords, I totally concur with the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. I have two questions. First, is it correct that it is mostly Chinese women who are detained? Secondly, I agree that these kinds of modern slavery cases should not sit with the Home Office, because the issues of immigration, modern slavery and vulnerable people interlink. There are some real sensitivities and we need to do a lot more than just trade statistics. These are individuals with real issues and problems and they need help and support.
My noble friend asked whether it was mostly Chinese women who are detained. I do not think that we can give an answer to that—I do not have the statistics before me. However, we can all see in our day-to-day lives examples of where modern slavery may be going on, and in some cases those people are Chinese. On the claim that this should not sit with the Home Office, I am not sure where my noble friend thinks it should sit. The whole point of the national referral mechanism is that it is a multiagency mechanism which keys into NGOs and other agencies, all of which are there to support the victim and help them to move on from what has been terribly traumatic.
My Lords, a recent report on this under a freedom of information request showed that, with children who had been recognised as victims of modern-day slavery, having been trafficked over here, when it came to being settled and being given leave to remain, the other arm of the Home Office was busy deporting them once they reached their 18th birthday. This revelation has just come out, as I said, through a freedom of information request. I read it yesterday in a report—the noble Baroness may have seen it. Is this not a complete contradiction, driving a coach and horses through the Government’s Modern Slavery Act? Surely, if we are protecting children, we cannot then deport them a week later when they reach their 18th birthday. There is a harrowing example of a Vietnamese girl being sent back to the very country from where she was trafficked, where she is known, and where she will almost certainly be in grave danger. What are the Government doing to stop this and to go back to the basis of what they say they believe in, which is protecting the victims of modern-day slavery?
The noble Baroness will probably know that, first, we do not detain children —she is absolutely right that children are granted our protection—and all children, no matter what the circumstances of our protection here, are reassessed as they approach their 18th birthday. On sending someone back to face a repeated danger, that would be taken into consideration. We would not send someone back somewhere where they would face harm.
My Lords, as a follow-up to the last two questions, in particular the one from my noble friend Lady Manzoor, can my noble friend assure us that there is one unit in the Home Office that deals exclusively with this subject, to make sure that everyone who deals with a victim of slavery knows the ins and outs of modern slavery—or is this part of a more general remit?
Motion to Take Note
My Lords, it is a privilege to open this debate. The original purpose in seeking this debate was to allow this House to acknowledge and record the social progress brought to workers throughout the world by the creation of the International Labour Organization since it was created a century ago, and to show the part played by trade unions in that achievement. But in doing that, I suppose it is impossible for us not to wonder what changes the next 100 years will impose on the world of work, and in turn to consider what laws—and changes in the ways we represent and defend people at work—we will need here in the UK and internationally if we are to maintain and build on the advances that have been achieved for workers and their families.
The International Labour Organization first met in 1920, with Britain as a founding member. It was part of the Treaty of Versailles, created in the wake of the horrors of World War I. Its driving force was the belief that universal and lasting peace can be accomplished only if it is based on social justice. It heralded a unique international tripartite system of decision-making, where Governments, employers and trade unions were tasked with making the world of work a better place—a ground-breaking event at a time when there were no accepted “workers’ rights”.
The ILO’s agenda was a set of principles, among which was the right to freedom of association for working people to form and join trade unions. Its early years are not remembered as years of social progress, as that period was dominated by the great depression and culminated in the even more devastating calamity of the Second World War, but the ILO’s considerable contribution to the development of social justice was acknowledged when in 1946 its role was strengthened as it became the first specialised agency of the United Nations.
In 1969 the ILO was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, reinforcing the truth in its founding message of the immutable link between peace and social justice. Over the years the great and the good—popes, presidents, statesmen and kings—have addressed its conferences, all testifying to the powerful force for good the ILO has proved to be. In the post-war years, the ILO has grown in reputation by leading in the fight against great social injustices, such as apartheid, child labour and modern slavery. By its adoption of a comprehensive range of international labour standards it has created a floor of rights for the working world and become the world’s standard bearer for what it defines as decent work.
There are many Members of this House, past and present, who have contributed to the work of the ILO and many who have in addition served the trade union movement with distinction here and abroad. I had the honour of being the president of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union in this country, but it was in my role as general secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions that I first started to work with the ILO and understand the value of its crucial work. My job with the ICFTU was to represent trade unions across the world, whose combined membership at that time was 165 million. The firefighting part of the job was taking solidarity and support to trade union movements in individual countries, particularly those where trade unions were facing repression, such as Colombia where hundreds of trade unionists were being murdered every year; and helping to organise and lead demonstrations against severe social injustices, such as the march through Moscow against the prolonged non-payment of 20 million workers in Putin’s Russia.
The “building the future” part of the job was taking the social justice aims of the world’s trade unions and turning them into international labour standards through the ILO. There was an urgency at that time to see them embedded as social clauses within the programmes of United Nations institutions, such as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, because, as the globalisation of trade unfolded, the programmes of those institutions were having disastrous consequences for millions of workers and their families in developing countries.
The International Trade Union Confederation, which was formerly the ICFTU, works to ensure that worker delegates at the ILO are organised to vote for new standards and in turn are encouraged to lobby their national Governments and employers for support. It is a tough assignment, and when I was tasked with it, the job was made a lot easier by the formidable presence of the late Lord Brett, who was chairman of the ILO workers group. That game plan continues and has produced excellent results. It is helped by the fact that the ILO has significantly raised its profile and performance under the impressive leadership of its present director-general, Mr Guy Ryder, a former British trade unionist.
Trade unions in all countries are now facing new challenges and seemingly intractable problems. The past 40 years have seen a maelstrom of change that has radically impacted on people’s working lives everywhere, starting with the globalisation of trade which saw 2 billion people brought into the competitive rat race they call world trade. When combined with the dramatic advances in science and technology and, in particular, information technology, that became a catalyst for a chain reaction of change that has totally altered the working world that many of us in this House stepped into. Gone are the jobs for life that we expected, the predictable tools that our fathers—and sometimes our grandfathers—used and the regular hours of work. It is change that is not slowing but accelerating.
They say we are entering the fourth industrial revolution. Who can doubt it, when coming to a workplace near you are artificial intelligence, the internet of things, 3D printing, augmented and virtual reality, 5G and, just around the corner, quantum computing? This whirlwind of disruption has taken its toll on worker representation in most countries, and nowhere more so than here in Britain, the birthplace of trade unionism.
In 1979, with more than 13 million members, the British trade unions were more powerful than any trade union movement has ever been before or since. They used that power to significantly advance the standard of life of this country’s workers and their families. Yes, there were some abuses of that exceptional power, but always with the connivance of pusillanimous employers. Contrary to popular folklore, it was not Mrs Thatcher’s anti-union laws that destroyed the trade union’s big battalions; it was her catastrophic economic policy which was responsible for the dismantling of Britain’s wealth-creating manufacturing industry and, with it, the destruction of millions of jobs. However, the damage to trade union membership was severe and saw the start of a longer-term decline.
For employees in this country now, the world of work has never been more precarious or the need for strong trade union representation more urgent. The British TUC has done an excellent job not only in stemming the long-term decline in trade union membership but in starting to reverse it. However, the long-term trend in trade union membership density now demands even more radical ideas on recruitment and the servicing of members. Let there be no illusions about the magnitude of that challenge.
We were told in this Chamber earlier this week that there are 5.7 million small businesses in this country and that 96% of businesses employed fewer than 10 people. That is not fertile recruitment ground with our present trade union structures. We cannot change business structures, so we must change the way we do things. New technology, particularly communication technology, is shaping the world employees work in. That same technology can and must be used to enable trade unions to talk to them, recruit them and even serve them. Some might say it is impossible. I ask them to look again at the world of modern technology. It is delivering the impossible every year.
Even when British trade unionism is rebuilt—and it will be—there is another dimension that must be part of that rebuilding: the strengthening of the working relationships between national and international trade unions. Trade unions at national level do not always see the relevance of the work of international trade unions to the local struggles they face. I tell them, as I tell this House, that the relentless rise in the size and power of modern multinationals means that not even European laws will offer protection. These companies will move a successful company to the other side of the world in the blink of an eye if there is a penny more profit. Today’s multinationals are trading nomads and predators that can and do run rings around all Governments. Only when there is no country they can move to that does not have a floor of international workers’ rights will the rights we have won be safe. The ILO has spelled out that floor of rights in its centenary declaration on the future of work. It includes ensuring that all workers, regardless of status, enjoy fundamental workers’ rights: maximum working time limits; an adequate minimum wage; occupational health and safety; full gender equality at work; and equality for people with disabilities. Here are the civilising restraints that must bind the multinationals’ capricious activities.
This debate is about the real value that trade unionism has brought and can still bring to society. We live in a world where more than 700 million people still live in extreme poverty, where 60% of the world’s workers are stuck in the informal economy, where there are more than 200 million child labourers, where 2.8 million people die every year due to work-related sickness and accidents and about 40 deadly conflicts are being played out at any one time. The ILO was created 100 years ago in a world that desperately needed the labour standards it went on to set. The world still needs them now. Britain became the birthplace of trade unionism because they were needed then. The future of work tells us that we still need strong trade unions. When do we need them? What other answer is there to that but “now”? I hope that the Minister agrees.
My Lords, I am delighted to follow my noble friend Lord Jordan and I congratulate him on his enterprise in initiating this debate. In so doing I also congratulate the ILO on its 100th anniversary. During that century, as the last surviving League of Nations institution, the ILO, as my noble friend said, has been fundamental in establishing the concept and details of human rights in the workplace and upholding the dignity of people at work. Its core conventions, with commitments to eradicating forced labour, child labour and unfair discrimination, have been important influences in many countries—unfortunately, not all—and also influential has been the continuous campaign to promote trade union rights and decent work as part of the UN human rights framework. The ILO has been able to hold Governments who breach these rights to public account, and so expose abuses. It did this famously in Poland when Solidarność was carrying the torch of freedom in the Soviet era, and did it on a more modest scale in the UK, criticising aspects of the Thatcher era anti-trade union legislation. The ILO also works to secure labour rights in trade agreements: that is likely to be crucial in any post-Brexit free trade agreements that are to be negotiated.
The ILO is run on tripartite principles—unions, Governments and employers working together and, historically, coming up with plans that command consent among the three parties. These principles of tripartism became the basis of post-war reconstruction in most of western Europe after the Second World War. It is a proud achievement of the ILO that the European social model, as it is called, is rooted in the ILO conventions and principles. The approval this year of a convention on preventing violence and harassment at work shows that its system still works to help transform workers’ lives. I thank the ILO for all its work and I will be interested to hear the Government’s current view and how they are helping it, I hope, go from strength to strength for the next century.
Of course, the ILO has been affected by the pressures on trade unions in the last 40 years or so. My noble friend Lord Jordan spelled those out well and very interestingly in his contribution. It is clear that the rise of inequality from the early 1980s onwards has coincided with, and in part was caused by, the decline in trade union membership, and, more particularly, in the coverage of collective bargaining. Today in the UK only about one in four workers has their pay set by trade union negotiations. This retreat has meant that worker influence in companies has lessened. One result has been excessive pay levels in many boardrooms, as they have adopted a help-yourself, self-service practice, often unrelated to performance. The Conservative Government, through their anti-union laws restricting trade union freedoms, from the 1980s through to the Trade Union Act 2016, opened the door to unsavoury and unfair practices by unscrupulous, greedy employers—not all employers, but too many.
Conservative Governments ignored the fact that trade unions play a vital role in ensuring fair play at work. Union workplaces are safer, offer better training, provide more flexible working arrangements and are often more innovative. Their role in creating more equal societies has been endorsed by unlikely allies, such as the International Monetary Fund, the OECD and some central banks, which have come to recognise that strong unions can share out the productivity gains rather more fairly than if they do not exist. There has been some welcome recognition of this from Secretary of State Greg Clark in recent times, with the good work initiative, and plans on information and consultation to make it easier for workers to operate that. I wish him well in the future, and hope that in doing so, I do not seal his fate next week, when he faces his new boss in Downing Street.
What of the future? The UK needs a new settlement, which must involve progressive and responsible trade unionism, committed to raising productivity and performance, promoting long-termism and ensuring that the benefits of growth and the new digital technologies are distributed more fairly. The new settlement must promote a collaborative approach to work cultures, with a new emphasis on respect for workers and valuing their skills. I would like to see a concept of professionalism apply right through the labour force, not restricted to those with degrees and people with significant higher education experience.
I believe, as does the Labour Party, that to do this requires a reform in Whitehall, and the unification of labour market policy into a new, powerful department of work and employment, which would, among its other jobs, promote collective bargaining, a voice for working people and a high-skills, high-productivity agenda. A project of this kind will attract powerful enemies, but it will also attract wide support, including from the better employers. The cause is a great one. British workers must not be treated as second-class citizens. Already they are more vulnerable to job insecurity than those in some other advanced EU countries. Britain led the way in 1919-20 in establishing the ILO. We should take pride in its achievements. As my noble friend Lord Jordan said, many British trade unionists, as well as employers and government officials, have played a significant part in the organisation, going back to Ernest Bevin and Walter Citrine in the early days, and latterly, as my noble friend said, the late Bill Brett, chair of the workers’ group. In the TUC, we take particular pride in the fact that the current director-general, Guy Ryder, is a former member of the TUC staff. This shows that Britain can lead the way. It needs to do so in a whole range of issues on the labour market as the ILO enters its second century.
My Lords, I declare my interest as the president of the British Dietetic Association and, separately, as president of the pilots’ union BALPA. I do so to point out that Conservatives, too, can not only support but actively support trade unions and I pay tribute to the previous speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Monks, who was my predecessor at BALPA. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Jordan, for initiating this most valuable debate. One cannot fill in all the history of the ILO but perhaps I can fill in a couple of bits that are missing.
First, it was in 1916 that David Lloyd George established the first Ministry of Labour, and George Barnes became the first such Minister. It was in that same year of 1916 that the TUC drew up and published the first statement of workers’ rights, to be included in the peace treaty at Versailles. That was a historic document because leading out of it came the ILO; there were of course a lot of other people who had input. In its early years the ILO had a difficult time, largely because of the United States’ refusal to endorse Versailles and the fact that the new Government in Russia—the Soviet Union, as it then was—decided that the ILO was a capitalist plot to undermine the workers. It was attacked vigorously from both sides but then saved by Roosevelt.
When Roosevelt came into power in 1933 the ILO took on a new life, not so much through him but very much with the assistance of Frances Perkins, his Labor Secretary. I shall stop my history lesson in a minute but John Winant, who later became the ambassador in London, was appointed by the Roosevelt Administration as the first senior American to serve in the ILO. He was followed by a series of Americans. I am in no way demeaning the contribution of the Brits but David Morse, who took over as secretary of the ILO in the immediate aftermath of the war and was Truman’s Labor Secretary, undoubtedly shaped it and carried it forward for a long time after that.
We have a lot to thank the ILO for. Even today, when you go to third-world countries such as Vietnam, where I was last year, the ILO plays a sterling role there in getting adherence to its conventions for workers, who are often exploited in that country. The ILO is the one independent voice that can put forward demands for decent working conditions, so full marks to the ILO.
The British trade union movement has problems. It is not that the Tory Government have got rid of trade unionism, but that demand has washed in a different direction. If you ask my children their view of trade unions, I am afraid it is based on Len McCluskey, which is not an attractive view. They do not look at Len McCluskey and say, “This is the sort of world we want to live in”, but you never see the word mentioned in the public prints without the trade union connection being made. The fact of the matter is that trade unions were overtaken by events.
I well recall that when I was David Cameron’s envoy to the trade union movement, he met the general secretary of a very large union—not the T&G, needless to say—and he said, somewhat mischievously, “I want to understand your concerns. Which one of the laws that Tony Blair has passed to help you would you be most reluctant to see me abolish?” There was rather an embarrassed silence. We have to face the fact that, from 1979 onwards, unions have had a pretty rough ride from both Governments, frankly, but that it is also up to them to bring themselves forward.
I commend the TUC because it has not fallen back into its laager. It has pioneered racial tolerance. It would have been very easy for the TUC to say, “British jobs for British workers”—as I remember someone once said—and for it to discriminate against people of colour, but it has not. In fact, it has gone the other way: it has led the public perception that trade unionists stand for equality and fairness, so it has a lot to commend it. I hope the TUC will continue for many years to come to pursue its very positive policies.
Speaking of which, I want to say something to our Minister. I am delighted to see my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe here. At the time of the 2016 Act, the matter of electronic balloting came up very vigorously. The Minister, as she then was, was able to promise that the matter would be carefully examined, and indeed it was. Sir Ken Knight, who carefully examined it, came out in favour of some trials—not the whole thing, but he was willing to try it. It appears that this recommendation has been forgotten, but we want to see it implemented. It is a matter of honour; the Government promised something. They have had the inquiry and, in many people’s view, if we are to have a level playing field and say that we all appreciate trade unions, which I believe both sides of the House do, we now need to see these trials put into operation. As reported at our party meeting the other day, people of 15 years of age are entitled to join the Young Conservatives and vote for the leader of our party by electronic ballot. If we can extend it to all of the members of the Conservative Party, stretching from those aged 15 to whatever age—a very old age—I think we can afford to have a few test ballots to see whether it will work with the trade union movement. I will not make a lot of requests, but I ask the Minister to look at operationalising that commitment, so generously given when we were passing the 2016 Act.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Jordan, for securing this debate and for his panoramic introduction, which really set the scene for the contributions to follow.
Trade unions are not only good for their members and for workers in general; they are good for the country. There is very strong evidence of the positive link between union-organised workplaces and improved productivity, for example. It is also worth remembering that, with more than 6 million members, the trade union movement is the largest voluntary membership organisation in the country.
I start by declaring my membership of Unite the Union, which also pays me a regular pension. TUC figures, as of May 2019, show an increase in union membership over the last year of 102,000. As the TUC has said to those who dismiss the unions as old hat or irrelevant, any newspaper proprietor who increased circulation by 100,000 in a year would be pinning on a gold medal. The increase, however, masks a problem. Membership in the public sector increased by 149,000, while membership in the private sector went down by 47,000; but the public sector is decreasing while the private sector grows. Some 85% of all employment is now in the private sector, with 15% in the public sector.
There are other issues to consider. Young workers move jobs more frequently than their older colleagues. Only 14.1% of workers who have been with their employer for two years or less are in a trade union. In contrast, 44% of those who have been with the same employer for 20 years or more are in trade unions. This causes not only the problem of an ageing or dying-out membership, but the disproportionate influence of one group against another skews union policies and priorities.
Recently, I spent some time working with Unions 21, a loose affiliation of trade unions that work together to build ideas for increased membership, improve involvement of members and increase their influence, impact and effectiveness within the world of work. I chair a group of union leaders and academics, looking particularly at employee engagement and the employee voice. We have been speaking with trade unions from other countries and looking at some of their actions and research. A big message has been the need to develop a positive agenda. Most workers want to enjoy their work; they do not want to consider it in a negative way. They prioritise access to training and to information; they want to be able to speak up for themselves but understand little of the value of collective bargaining; and they want to be more involved than has been the tradition in many union-organised workplaces.
Over half of young workers across the European Union are on temporary contracts, which is close to an all-time high, according to an article in the Financial Times. Far from being hostile towards the trade union movement—most noble Lords will remember the Government’s Trade Union Bill with a great deal of distaste—there should be a welcome and encouragement of organised workplaces, with their knowledge, experience and proven track record on improved rates of productivity.
The British trade union movement—and in particular the TUC—is renowned globally. We have contributed to the development of unions and people’s organisations around the world. We have helped workers in developing countries to receive training, which in turn has helped companies and businesses to develop and grow. After the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, the first organisation on the scene was the International Trade Union Confederation. It managed to develop order out of chaos, so that the families of the dead and injured were not forgotten or left destitute. It was the international trade union movement that kick-started the fall of the Soviet Union. The trade union movement in the UK is part of civil society and deserves to be better understood and treated with more respect.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Prosser. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Jordan, on this timely debate on the future of trade unions, at the 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organization. It is also appropriate to reflect on the history of some of the trade unions because, if you do not understand where you came from, it is difficult to understand where you are going.
I will spend a minute talking about the trade union I was a member of for 20 years, the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trade Union—or, to give it its modern name, the GMB. I would like to thank one person in particular: Will Thorne. Will Thorne was born in Birmingham in 1857. He lived in great poverty and began working in a brickyard at the age of six, working 12 hours a day. In 1882, he moved to London, found employment at the local gasworks and joined the Social Democratic Federation, a forerunner of the Labour Party. He was taught to read and write by Karl Marx’s daughter, and then helped to form a new union, the Gas Workers and General Labourers Union, later to become the GMB. The first success of that union was to get the 12-hour day reduced to eight hours. He moved steadily onwards and, in 1918, won the seat of Plaistow with 94.9% of the vote—a record for a Labour candidate that stands to this day. He retained that seat until his retirement at the 1945 general election, aged 87, and was the oldest sitting Member at the time.
My story is much less riveting. Having passed the City & Guilds exam in gas fitting, I became a shop steward fairly quickly. During that time, as a Lancashire region delegate, I had a strong relationship with the London region delegates at conferences. In the bars and conference centres, I met a young Paul Kenny; a delegate who would go on to become general-secretary of the union and be given a knighthood. I also met a certain Mary Turner, a firebrand London girl who was actually Irish. She eventually received the CBE. Those times helped to form my views on equality and fairness in the wider context of politics, and I could not have had better teachers.
Noble Lords might ask what the point of that small canter through history was, what its relevance is today in a modern, globalised world of work, and whether trade unions are still relevant. On the one hand, that union produced a CBE, a knight of the realm, the largest majority for a Labour MP and me, a humble Member of the House of Lords—not bad for a gasworkers’ union.
On the other hand, I did some research for today’s debate. When I was a shop steward, one of my main interests was health and safety, and so I came upon the most recent report published by the Health and Safety Executive, dated 3 July this year. It shows the following for fatal injuries at work: the headline figure is that 147 workers were killed in Great Britain last year. In basic terms, that is almost three deaths a week. If Members of the other place suffered anything like that mortality rate, something would be done to reduce dramatically those odds. The figure for fatal injuries in construction is the lowest, at 30, but that number has fluctuated over the last five years, ranging between 30 and 47. The point is that fatal injuries in the construction industry are four times higher than across other industries. Is it a coincidence that the construction industry is the least unionised in the country? That is a real example of the value of trade unions: they can save lives, protect workers and improve the quality of life of their members.
However, we need to do more. We need new employment models. Automation and zero-hours contracts have made many current forms of employment and future work prospects extremely unpredictable. People are in work, but they are not necessarily secure in their work. They are working in the gig economy, and the UK framework of employment rights, regulations and protections built up over decades through the trade union movement is now unfit for purpose.
There is a pressing need to maintain freedom of association and to ensure that the rights and interests of employees are properly represented. Indeed, we believe that society will benefit if we do that. We will build a more confident relationship between managers and employees. Liberal Democrats will continue to fight for those principles and to support the wider trade union movement.
My Lords, today we pay tribute to the ILO for its contribution to our social and economic development over the past 100 years. On a personal note, I pay tribute to the late Ernest Bevin, one of my predecessors at the T&G. As Minister of Labour, he contributed much to the development of the ILO and other institutions.
Although there were trade unions as far back as the early 17th century, the TUC celebrated its 150th anniversary last year. During that time, trade unions have provided advice at work and fought to improve pay and conditions, and they have been a force for fairness and social justice. Although membership increased in 2017, it is reported that just 23% of employees are now members of a trade union. There is a growing power imbalance at work, contributing to the massive rise in inequality throughout our society. It should surprise no one that people feel a lack of influence and control at work and in society generally. We are now experiencing public anger and fear for the future at a higher level than I can ever remember.
In a speech in 2017, Andy Haldane, the chief economist at the Bank of England, said that the decline in union density had contributed to the slowest period of wealth growth in over a century. He evidenced a clear wage premium associated with trade union membership, possibly as a result of the greater bargaining power of union membership. He suggested that estimates of the aggregate wage premium in the UK are typically centred in the range of 10% to 15%. Therefore, trade unions are good for workers and good for the economy, with decent pay bringing higher spending and higher tax income. What Chancellor would reject that?
Yet it is reported that the UK is now the fifth most unequal country in Europe and that more than one-fifth of its population live on incomes below the poverty line. The irony is that most of these households are in work, yet every time there is a debate on poverty, inequality and austerity, we hear from the Government that everything is fine because employment is rising. Trade unions can tell the Government why austerity bites, even though you are employed. Among the causes are zero-hours contracts, under which, the TUC states, workers typically earn one-third less than average employees; the gig economy, with workers often waiting to hear whether there will be work that day and for how long; contract work—such workers do not get a job if they do not agree to become self-employed; and outsourced working, including working in some government departments, I am told. Meanwhile the Living Wage Foundation has said that workers paid the national living wage are struggling to keep their heads above water. The Low Pay Commission reported earlier this year that tens of thousands of workers are, illegally, not being paid the national living wage. One is bound to ask what stopped them joining a trade union.
There has been a small increase in trade union membership, and the benefits of joining are attractive. Trade unions offer a full range of services and benefits, wage negotiation, legal representation, insurance, healthcare and more. That is a decent package. Clearly, non-union workers are not getting that message, nor the message that trade union membership is likely to lead to higher wages and better conditions. People are fearful of the future and worry about job prospects for them and their families. The prospect of leaving the European Union has caused considerable unease, as have the new technologies and automation, which are seen to induce and promote low pay in many instances. The isolation that many of these problems brings is the cause of much unrest, yet, as I found when I first joined my union in the 1950s, membership is a community in which we can share problems and work to overcome them, and strength in numbers is important.
Trade unions must find ways to inform the country as a whole—workers and their families, employees, shareholders and government—that trade unions are not their enemy. They are, and should be recognised as, contributors. We have to challenge some of the right-wing press and demonstrate that trade unions can be an asset, not a liability, and that they are essential to business not only as workers but as consumers. Let me repeat a story I heard a long time ago which demonstrates the reality of the workplace. The late Henry Ford was visiting one of his factories in Detroit. His guest for the day was the late Walter Reuther, president of the United Automobile Workers. Henry Ford was describing how he had automated the factory and boasted that the robots would not be asking for a pay rise and that he could rely on their accuracy. Walter Reuther, the trade union leader, replied, “Yes, Henry, but they won’t be buying any of your damn cars either”. My message to trade unions is clear: we have inherited the past, and now you must build the future.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Morris, and to commend the introduction to this debate by the noble Lord, Lord Jordan. On a personal basis, I was particularly touched that he mentioned Bill Brett’s contribution to the ILO. In the last few weeks of his life, Bill Brett was my roommate in Fielden House and I much respected him.
I declare my interests: I have been a member of the GMB for nearly 50 years—a bit longer than the noble Lord, Lord Goddard. I also share a role with the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, in relation to BALPA at this disappointing time.
This weekend, in my adopted county of Dorset, I shall be in Tolpuddle recalling the day nearly 200 years ago when a group of agricultural workers were imprisoned and deported for the simple reason that they had combined to discuss their wages. Regrettably, in some parts of the world, there are trade unionists and workers who are faced with even more stringent sanctions in this day and age. That is where the ILO and the international trade union movement need to play their role. In a globalised world, workers need to reach across frontiers, but so do institutions, such as the ILO, which support those workers. Over the two centuries since Tolpuddle, workers’ conditions and rights have not advanced in a straight line. Indeed, I would contend that here and in several other countries there has been a setback in recent years.
By the end of the 19th century, trade union and workers’ rights had prospered in a number of industrialised countries. At the end of the First World War, it was an important plank of the post-war settlement that the ILO was established and that workers’ rights were seen as part of that settlement to minimise conflict between the nations. A key part of this were the rules that governed not only the standards for workers but their right to associate and, at least to a limited extent, to withdraw their labour. Regrettably, almost immediately after that came a period of setback. In some countries, such as Germany and Spain, which had had strong trade unions, the fascist regimes suppressed them. In so-called workers’ states such as the Soviet Union, they were incorporated into the state and party apparatus. It took till after the Second World War for us to begin to rebuild an international trade union movement; for example, the British trade unions and the TUC helped rebuild the structure of trade unions in Germany and other countries on the continent.
Trade unions grew in strength in almost every industrialised country from the end of the Second World War until the 1980s. Since then, as others have said, there has been a decline; we need to examine the reasons for it, which I see as fourfold. First, there was a changing labour market, as has been referred to. The large places of work were destroyed in the 1980s, in this country and others, by technological change as well as political decisions. That made life for trade unions more difficult because not only is it harder to recruit in smaller workplaces but not having large bases can prevent them establishing their own local lay memberships and shop stewards on which they used to depend.
Secondly, more recently, we have had the move towards the gig economy, with irregular patterns of work, individualisation of contracts—if indeed there are any contracts—zero hours, minimum pay and so forth. For those workers, particularly the younger workers, the benefits of collective bargaining and trade union membership are not that obvious. This has been compounded by the outsourcing by large companies and the public sector of so much of their routine work, in particular. For example, just this morning I spoke to a social worker two miles away who is employed by a private company for Westminster Council. He works for 13 hours because he has to move between appointments but is actually paid for only six hours. That is the nature of the labour market in this country for millions of our workers. At the very rough end—we have just been talking about modern slavery—we saw only last week the impact in this country of European workers being gangmastered totally and utterly illegally, an increasing feature of parts of the labour market.
The third reason is, of course, globalisation, which has its benefits but also its setbacks. Here I focus on the situation in other countries as well: in the same way that we have exported carbon emissions, we have exported some of our bad labour practices. We have responsibilities as consumers here, because the cheap clothes and cheap food we get, which used to be produced in Europe, are now often made by those suffering appalling conditions in, for example, Bangladesh and China, yet we continue to buy them. Within multinational companies, which often pride themselves on standards, their own supply chains and sourcing also make use of those very poor workplaces.
However, there is a fourth reason: the failure of the unions themselves to successfully adapt. We must adapt to new technology and to some of the aspects of the changing labour market. Looking back in history, in the 1880s and the 1890s we saw the growth of new unionism, which created both my noble friend Lord Morris’s union and my own. It organised the manual workers who had largely been ignored by the craft unions. The unions needed to change and operate differently. They needed to accept different employment patterns and attitudes by the employers. We need a new unionism today. I hope the existing unions can adopt it but, if not, different organisations might have to do so.
The back-up to this is the role of the ILO and international standards. As we move away from the EU, with all its failings, we move away from an international labour standard-setting organisation. The ILO is the most important international one. It has its drawbacks and slowness, but it is vital. As we move to new trade arrangements around the world as so-called global Britain, the standards written into those trade agreements ought to be, as a minimum, those of the International Labour Organization, but they also need rather better enforcement. In this day and age it is quite difficult for the workers of the world to unite, and they need some support in uniting. The ILO has, for 100 years now, been that main support.
My Lords, I declare my interests as noted in the register, most particularly as founder and chair of Doteveryone, a small charity championing responsible technology, and as a board member of Twitter. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Jordan, for his fantastic introduction. I was so delighted that technology played such a central role in the way he expressed the past and future of the trade union movement.
As with everything, the world of digital is blowing apart with a tidal wave the ways of working and the sectors in which we have operated in the past. Some of this is miraculous. I am sure that many in the Chamber have enjoyed the extraordinary services of Deliveroo to their front door. I bet many noble Lords have jumped in an Uber, and, considering the quality of the speeches this morning, I think many might put their work on freelancewriting.com, where you can get cheap speeches written for you by experts. We have seen many gains as a society and as consumers from the fantastic pace of change and the flexible and independent nature of work today. But, as I hope to argue in my short remarks, there are many perils. We underestimate them at our very grave risk.
Some 4.5 million people are employed in the so-called gig economy right now. That is one in 10 workers. This is a huge number of people without the stability of employment. While this can be fantastically empowering if you can work on the terms you wish for, it can also be fantastically stressful and make you feel insecure and anxious. Often these barriers fall on the most vulnerable people already; I particularly think of women and those with children or in solo care of a parent, child or other relation. These are complex challenges. I am 46. People of my generation will have around 12 careers in their lifetimes. My first cousin is 25. She is more likely to have 22 careers in her lifetime. If you are 10, half the jobs that will be open to you have not even been invented yet. This is a dramatically changing world, as many noble Lords have highlighted, a world in which it is hard to reflect on how we should help and protect people who want to work in new ways and who face the challenges of the dramatic shifts in workplace.
This is why we face a huge hotchpotch of regulations and attempts by unions, not just here but all over the world, to come to terms with these brave new ways of working. I am sure noble Lords are aware of some of the changes in Scandinavia, where there is no minimum wage but where individual collectives have negotiated with employers—a different model, but one that perhaps reflects more easily the changing nature of work.
Here we have struggled deeply to come to terms with some of these new and extremely powerful organisations. I pick Uber as an example. I have mixed feelings about this company. My own charity, Doteveryone, did some research on how consumers felt about some of the new platform-based businesses. One woman told us that she had been punched in the face twice by Uber drivers, yet continues to use the service nearly every week, for me a profound metaphor for where our relationship with technology sits. We seem to have a reactive view of this company in particular. They are taxed massively, even though most of the fleet are electric cars, while diesel taxis parade around London with no barrier to the exhaust fumes they let off into society. At the same time, we know that an Uber driver’s average wage is about £5 an hour, yet we seem unable to enforce the minimum wage for its hundreds of thousands of workers.
I say this not just to pick on Uber, but as an example of the complexity around how we unpick some of these new ways of working and new businesses. It is not just the so-called gig economy. Even in the main technology sector, the fastest-growing bit of our economy relies deeply on freelance and temporary workers. I have to reflect on Twitter—a company whose board I sit on—Facebook, YouTube and many other content-driven businesses that use a huge number of contractors, not full-time employees, to do the essential work of content moderation. As was exposed most recently by some journalists in the US, their work is often done in unfathomably bad conditions. They are exposed to content that none of us would want to see once in a lifetime, let alone many times an hour.
Again, these are complex problems to unpick. I would like to raise three challenges for the Minister and suggest three small solutions. First—and I am afraid that if you have heard me speak before, I will sound like a cracked record—we desperately need to build the digital skills and understanding of the most vulnerable in our society. This has not happened at the pace we need to build resilience in a strong economy in the future. Many millions of adults still cannot use any technology at all, or have no access to it or ability to pay for it; there are also several million more who do not have the next level of understanding and literacy to be able to look for work and find the opportunities that many of us take for granted. Some 90% of jobs are advertised only online, yet we still have many millions of adults who do not have access to the internet or the ability to use it. We have to keep fighting to build digital skills among our entire working population. I would love to hear the Minister’s thoughts on this.
Secondly, there are specific things that I believe we can do to help the workers in the so-called gig economy. One of the things that Doteveryone looked at was the portability of data. It may sound technical but is actually very important. If I work for one or other of the platform-based services, such as Rated People, as a builder, a plumber or whatever—a fantasy if you look at me, I know, but if I were able to be that skilled—I have no ability to take with me my working history. I can walk out of here and get a reference; none of the people in these platform-based businesses can do that. We argue that it is essential to think of exciting new ways to legislate around how people can move between these different jobs, especially if you think about the number of times people will have to shift careers in future. There need to be specific pieces of legislation, and not everyone has ideas about that.
Finally, as mentioned here many times before, we need to reinvigorate the trade union movement, build its digital skills and understanding and come up with creative new ways to help empower people. I believe deeply that the UK has an enormous global opportunity here. While I salute many people in our Government who stand up and say that we are going to have the biggest AI sector in the world or that this will be the best place to start a digital business, I am afraid I do not believe it. We have to look for other opportunities. We are a small country with a relatively challenging level of digitisation in our society. Protection of workers, clear frameworks of legislation and forward-thinking, digital-based legislation are where I believe we can triumph in the new world.
It is always a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, who made a wonderfully relevant and important contribution to this debate—as did my noble friend Lord Jordan when he opened this debate with a very important speech. He referred particularly to the ILO, and by chance I was in Versailles yesterday. I had forgotten that, as well as the peace settlement in 1919, the Treaty of Versailles set up the ILO. It is quite fitting that we should commemorate that great body today.
I have been a member of a trade union all my life —for 47 years I have been a member of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, now Unite, as well as other unions: USDAW, NATFHE and the National Association of Co-operative Officials, which is now long gone. I came from the industrial valleys of south Wales, where being a member or supporter of a trade union was part of life; everybody was. My father was a member of the South Wales Miners’ Federation and later the T&G. Some 250,000 men worked in the pits and tens of thousands in the steelworks. Eventually they went, followed by the big factories such as—in my former constituency in south Wales, for example—Lucas Girling, the great car manufacturer, and ICI Fibres, which had started life as British Nylon Spinners. My noble friend Lord Morris is of course aware of those two great industries there. Between them, in a relatively small Welsh valley, those two industries had nearly 10,000 members of a trade union, nearly all in the Transport and General but in others as well. That has changed dramatically.
What has come through in this debate today is the changing face of work. Listen carefully to what my noble friend Lord Whitty told us: there are still people in this country who live on not just a minimum wage but a poverty wage. There are people who still need what trade unions give in protecting their pay, conditions of work, pensions, holidays—all the things the trade unions were originally formed to do and did extremely well when we had the big industries and great solidarity between workers. But it is different, and much more difficult to organise, in the current situation. The noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, told us how difficult it was; others will as well. The task—the challenge—is as great today as when the trade unions were originally formed.
The other issue I raise with your Lordships is the importance of the trade unions in shaping our society over the past 100 years. When I first joined the Labour Party in the 1960s, many of our councillors, our Members of Parliament and our Ministers were long-standing members of trade unions. They brought huge wisdom and experience with them to their respective representative roles. As a consequence of that, and of the trade unions being part of the 1945 Labour Government 20 years earlier, the world was changed.
The Labour Party would have been nothing without that link with the trade union movement and as a result we had great figures, two of them, by chance, Welshmen: Jim Griffiths, who introduced the welfare state, and Aneurin Bevan, who introduced the National Health Service, both leading members of the South Wales Miners’ Federation. Of course, we also had the work of Ernest Bevin, who my noble friend Lord Morris referred to, not just as Minister of Labour but as Foreign Secretary. He is widely regarded as one of the finest Foreign Secretaries this country ever had. He came from poverty in the West Country and effectively ensured that NATO was introduced: he was a founder of NATO, with the United States, and a great Foreign Secretary. We forget the role of the trade unions in improving our world and improving our country at our peril.
I do not know what Mr Boris Johnson thinks of trade unions—we will soon find out, I am sure—but I hope he will reflect that it is better to have trade unions on your side, it is better for a big company to have a good working relationship with trade unions, because it works, and it is better to have government working in tandem with the trade union movement. I point to just one example, in Wales. For 21 years now in that country, which has had its own devolved Administration—its own Government—there has been a regular working relationship with the trade union movement, the Wales TUC, and with the big trade unions, and the smaller ones, for that matter. There have been no strikes and no public sector disputes, because of the significant link in that country between the trade unions and the Government. It is not a party link, far from it, but a link that meant the Government saw trade unions as part of the social fabric, not as enemies of the people. I sincerely hope Mr Johnson will take the same view. He might also, by the way, tell us what the Government intend to do with the report Matthew Taylor produced two years ago. The Taylor report came up with some very interesting suggestions, the Government responded and then nothing happened. We live in interesting times, but these times will still be shaped by the trade union movement’s huge significance for our people.
My Lords, my father was a postman for 30 years and the two great heroes of his life were two leaders of what is now the Communication Workers Union, my good friend Alan Johnson and my noble friend Lord Clarke of Hampstead, whose memoirs have just been published. I recommend them to noble Lords; they are an excellent read.
I agree with every word said in this debate so far about how the crisis of social inequality and alienation gripping our societies at the moment is partly rooted in the weakness of trade unions and the growing weakness of unions in the workplace. The remarks of my noble friend Lord Monks, who was a very distinguished general secretary of the TUC, were absolutely apposite. A generation ago, nine out of 10 workers were covered by collective bargaining, largely organised through wages councils. Now, as my noble friend said, it is two and a half out of 10, and that change underpins what has been a dramatic increase in inequality. The work done in this area by Andy Haldane, deputy governor of the Bank of England, has been deeply illuminating. The labour share of national income, which was two-thirds a generation ago, is now barely more than half and workers have been seriously short-changed by many of the developments in the gig economy, as mentioned in a brilliant speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox.
The great question that ought always to face us as practical politicians is what we are going to do about it. The thing that comes through loud and clear is that obviously we need to strengthen the unions. If I may make a comment on the debate so far, the unions need to do more to help themselves. Unions are very poorly organised in the gig economy.
The establishment of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain is one of the most positive developments of recent years. It seeks to organise in the gig economy but it needs a great deal more support from the TUC, if I may say so. Jason Moyer-Lee is doing a great job, but it is a tiny union in comparison with the established unions. We need a new unionism for the next generation, just as unionism has repeatedly renewed itself in the past 150 years when facing new challenges. Given the weakness of the union movement at the moment, but also irrespective of it, because it is a duty of the state, we face a massive problem of lack of enforcement of basic labour standards, which significantly exacerbates the problems caused by weak trade unions. I hope that the Minister will address himself to the biting criticisms made by Sir David Metcalf, the outgoing director of Labour Market Enforcement, on the Government’s poor enforcement record. I will say something about how poor it is and then the steps being taken, so that the Minister can comment on that.
The fundamental fact before the House is that the ILO benchmark for enforcement of labour market standards is that there should be one inspector per 10,000 workers. At the moment, in the United Kingdom there is one inspector per 20,000 workers, despite improvements in recent years, which I recognise. As a rule of thumb, we have roughly half the level of enforcement that we should have. That goes to the heart of our problem with lack of respect for the minimum wage and for basic workers’ rights.
The figures Sir David Metcalf highlights are shocking. Last year, there were 2,600 inspections for the minimum wage out of 1.3 million firms with employees. That means a typical company can expect a minimum wage inspection once every 500 years. This is simply unacceptable as a basis of the state regulating the labour market and enforcing basic standards, which is why minimum wage regulations are so widely ignored. At the moment, we have a complete patchwork quilt of regulators in this area. We have HMRC, employment agencies, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and the HSE. There is no clear demarcation between them. In fundamental areas, no one is responsible for enforcing basic standards.
One of the biggest issues at the moment—a bigger problem than minimum wage regulation—is the non-payment of holiday pay. There is no one whose primary responsibility is to see that firms pay holiday pay. Penalties are hugely important in ensuring compliance, but whereas we have draconian fines for breaches of the Immigration Rules—rightly so—which act as a big deterrent on employers, penalties for minimum wage breaches, even when identified, are paltry. At the moment, the civil penalty for breaching minimum wage law is only twice the wage arrears in question. In the very few inspections carried out last year, the average minimum wage arrear identified was £76 per person. That means that the average fine has been only £150. There is practically no incentive, apart from being good corporate citizens, for companies to observe minimum wage law and regulations at the moment.
As the Minister will know, this is a long-running issue. Why are the fines not larger? Why are there not more inspectors? Why is breach of minimum wage regulations not a criminal penalty, just a civil one?
As in so many of these areas, the Government are moving, but at a snail’s pace. Yesterday, Greg Clark published a consultation paper, the Good Work Plan: Establishing a New Single Enforcement Body for Employment Rights, which is welcome and would bring a lot of the regulatory agencies together. It also highlights that part of the remit would be to enforce holiday pay. I hope the Minister will say more about this in his concluding remarks. The consultation document published yesterday makes no commitment at all to enhancing resources. On the contrary, it says that this new body,
“would not be an exercise to reduce costs”.
That is a great relief, because it is not talking about reducing enforcement. It goes on to say that,
“resource for enforcement would be maintained, but used more effectively”.
Many of us have heard those weasel words in government consultation documents in the past. It is not good enough simply to say that they will be maintained. If this new body is to be anything other than a deckchair moving operation, the resources need to be significantly enhanced. Does the Minister recognise that our enforcement regime at the moment is far too weak, and that this new body, if it is set up, will need significant additional resources and powers?
Finally, on the gig economy, I give some comparative figures to set the debate going. It is estimated that the gig economy, as the noble Baroness said, embraces about 4.5 million workers, which is a huge part of the workforce. To give some comparison, the transport industries, which I am very familiar with, are highly unionised and have 1.6 million workers, so it is three times the size—it is the new frontier of employment. However, the total number of members in the IWGB, the new union for this sector, is 2,500. For comparison, Unite has 1.27 million members and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers—the RMT—has 80,000.
To end on a challenging note for the union movement, I think that trade unionism in the next generation will stand or fall by its capacity to organise effectively in the gig economy. At the moment, it is only just starting.
My Lords, I am really honoured to be part of this debate and am deeply grateful to my noble friend Lord Jordan, not only for his work throughout his life for the trade unions, but particularly for his work with the international trade union movement, and initiating this wonderful debate, which has been excellent and very moving.
It is worth the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, remembering—if he would like to go into the history lessons—that the ILO was negotiated while the First World War was in progress. While the biggest bloodbath in our history was happening, the trade union movements in Germany —and Britain in particular—negotiated this. It is important to say to the Benches opposite that it was not just David Lloyd George who supported it; Winston Churchill also supported this as a pillar of the international order. Noble Lords need only look at Harold Macmillan’s third way, which was very far to the left of my noble friend Lord Giddens’ third way, to see that the ILO was a central feature of this global order that, as my noble friend Lord Jordan said, would create a floor—but not only a floor. William Appleton, head of the General Federation of Trade Unions in 1919, said that the ILO and the Treaty of Versailles was the first time in history that working people had a place at the table, where the peace treaty was not only about the protection of private property, national borders and the rights of capital but workers had a place in it; it was a very noble thing.
It is wonderful that my noble friend initiated this debate. It has unleashed many ghosts that we should remember who have been Members of this House, such as Ernest Bevin. It was the British occupation force in North Rhine-Westphalia that initiated the tripartite system in German industry. We did not do it here—that is our tragedy—but we did it there. It was all those people in the trade unions who initiated the representation of workforce on boards, the vocational economy and the regional banks. All of this was the work of the British occupation force.
The noble Lord, Lord Goddard, has reminded us of Paul Kenny. I have an anecdote about Paul Kenny—
I have plenty.
We all have plenty. Soon after I was elevated to this House, I was invited to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis and to give a talk about the dignity of work and Catholic social thought. I told Paul Kenny that I was going and he said, “Well, that’s not right. You have never done a day’s work in your life, and you’re not a Catholic”. So I took him with me. He spoke at the Vatican and shook its walls with what he said about the gig economy and the way that Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government had denounced three aspects of the ILO: in 1982, the public works and the labour setting; in 1983, the minimum wage mechanism; and in 1985, the concept of a minimum wage. It is interesting that the Labour Government under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown did not recommit to those: they remained undenounced. When Paul Kenny gave his talk, the people in the room at the Vatican were very worried except for one person—Pope Francis—who was beaming and smiling. He came up to him at the end and said, “That was wonderful. Do you have any questions for me?”. Paul Kenny responded, “Yes. Who the hell is Len McCluskey?”.
At the heart of this is that the ILO represents an international framework of law, not a globalised one. We have been too quick to accept globalisation as the only rule. If globalisation just means that capital wins —that there is free movement of labour and capital—it limits the capacity of national democracies to set limits. The ILO opened up those possibilities and offers an inspirational framework through which, when we leave the European Union, we can think about an international order in which labour has an important and primary role.
I thank my noble friend Lord Jordan again. I hope that this is the beginning, not the end, of the debate. The ILO represents a great future. Will the Minister commit to rejoining those conventions that Margaret Thatcher denounced? It is vital that we establish a framework of labour relations in our country that respects the dignity of labour. When we talk about labour, and labour markets, we are talking about human beings. Labour is just another word for human beings. They cannot be moved around, exploited and discarded as they have been. The discontents of our times are rooted in what happened under Margaret Thatcher’s Government, when labour was despised and money and capital were worshipped.
My second question for the Minister is whether the Government can put in to all their trade agreements the right of free and democratic trade unions to be established and organised. That is the very heart of an internationalist, not globalised, foreign policy. I sincerely hope that the Government commit to that and that our party honours the debate today and begins to have a proper discussion about the international order we wish to see.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Jordan on introducing this debate and on the powerful way in which he expressed the issues. It is welcome to hear about trade union matters in this Chamber; they do not feature enough in our deliberations. I declare my interest as a member of the GMB—although I confess that Price Waterhouse did not have many shop stewards from that union. I shall speak today about health and safety and the vital role which trade unions play in its functioning. I have another confession: it was not until I had the role of Minister for Health and Safety that I really engaged with trade unions for the first time and better understood what they were about.
As our briefing describes, and as other noble Lords have said, health and safety is one of a range of issues where the ILO sets international standards which should be agreed by representatives of the world’s Governments, employers and workers. However, these are basic minimum labour standards—a floor of rights, as my noble friend said. They can be distinguished from EU regulations, which must apply to all EU member states and can be enforced by the Commission. There is an expectation that countries such as Britain should have no difficulty in meeting the ILO requirements and should seek to go beyond them. Unfortunately, I understand that this is not the case and we have refused to ratify a number of conventions which, according to the TUC, include ones relating to asbestos, home workers and occupational health. Will the Government itemise all the conventions not yet ratified, together with the reasons why not? To what extent are these covered by EU regs or other provisions?
The engagement of trade unions on health and safety is of course focused on occupational safety. There is a wider agenda concerning road safety, accidents in the home and leisure pursuits. I am aware that my noble friend is also strongly committed to addressing these matters through his distinguished service with RoSPA.
Great Britain can point to a strong record on occupational safety—we have heard some of the statistics—which is in many ways the envy of the world. Workplace fatalities have fallen by over three-quarters in recent years, but there is still much to do, which is why we continue to need strong trade union engagement. The stats are: 147 workers killed at work; 1.4 million people at work last year suffering from a work-related illness; 2,523 people died from mesothelioma, and thousands more from other occupational cancers; some 70,000 injuries reportable under RIDDOR; 30.7 million days lost due to work-related ill-health; and £15 billion as the estimated cost of injuries and ill-health from current working conditions—so there is much to do. Of course, these matters must be measured not only in pounds or euros but in individual lives blighted and aspirations dashed. However good things are in comparison, we should hold in our minds that 147 people who left home for work last year did not return to their family and friends at the end of their shift.
Since the Factories Act 1937, there has been a general consensus on the need for robust health and safety legislation. Indeed, when Lord Robens produced his seminal report on health and safety, one of its key underpinning tenets was the belief that the involvement of the workforce was crucial to achieving good standards of health and safety. This was reflected in the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, which gave legal backing to union safety reps. Numerous studies have demonstrated that worker participation, supported by trade unions, is a major factor in reducing injuries and disease at work. In the late 1990s, a group of researchers identified that employers with trade union health and safety committees had half the injury rates of employers who managed their own.
One of the reasons why unions make a difference is that they seek to ensure that safety reps are properly trained, as they do for member-nominated pension trustees. This is sometimes provided on a joint basis with employers. Concerns have been expressed, however, about ineffective consultation processes which miss out on opportunities to draw on the practical expertise of trade unions.
Trade union facility time and facilities are, as we know, negotiated with employers so that trade unions can carry out their duties. Union reps have had a statutory right to reasonable paid time off since 1975; this is governed by the ACAS code of practice. However, in recent times this became a bone of contention as part of the increasing negativity towards trade unions coming from sections of the Conservative Party. We had a Prime Minister, no less—David Cameron—who talked about health and safety as an albatross around the neck of business, although the reality clearly belies this. The Department of Business, as it was then called, assessed the contribution of union reps to improved business performance. It found that savings to employers and the Exchequer from reducing the number of employment tribunal cases ensued; that fewer working days were lost because of workplace injury and work-related illness; and that there were reduced recruitment costs and an increased take-up of training. A TUC survey found that over half of responding HR professionals considered trade unions an essential part of modern employer-employee relations.
The knowledge of trade unions and their members has been brought to bear in developing approaches to some of our more dangerous industries such as construction, agriculture and waste management. My noble friend Lady Donaghy made a significant contribution to the first of those, which has stood the test of time.
Trade unions are not just about ensuring that regulations are in good order. They are nothing if not campaigning organisations: campaigning to expose risks of asbestos, particularly in schools; joining with others to highlight the continuing risks of carbon monoxide; and seeking to ensure that proper compensation is available where harm is otherwise going uncompensated, including effective tracing of employer liability insurance policies. It took too long but, eventually, with the help of the noble Lord, Lord Freud, a proper payment scheme for sufferers of mesothelioma was established.
Trade unions have been practical universities, which has given an opportunity to countless individuals to play a part and serve over the years beyond their union, on a wider platform, whether nationally, in Europe or sometimes in periods of great national crisis. We should value this service and the organisations that enabled it.
My Lords, I am greatly indebted to my noble friend Lord Jordan for introducing this debate and to the contributions of other colleagues, including my noble friends Lord Morris and Lord Monks, and many other distinguished former colleagues in the TUC. The more the contributions have gone on, the more it has become apparent that we do not have a model of a company, in the private sector in this country, that accommodates where society needs to go. I will come back to that and ask the Minister some questions for consideration, but, in my first few minutes, I will first point out the nature of tripartism.
The ILO was invented 100 years ago. Anyone would think it was at the time of Ted Heath and then dumped at the time of Tony Blair or somebody else, but it was not; the ILO began in 1919 and is going strong in 2019. There is a microcosm of this and the dilemmas it faces in international and smaller companies, and the arrangements described by the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, in her interesting contribution. How does the representation of the workforce fit in to these different models? Otherwise, we will see a continuing decline in labour’s share of national outcome and the atomisation of society, rather than a collective consciousness—what some socialists have called “false consciousness”—and a bitter, xenophobic society based on the appeal of nationalism. I do not need to say more about how far that fits in with the present state of public discourse in this country.
I was very interested when I listened to my noble friend Lord Murphy of Torfaen giving his accolade to Ernest Bevin. I vividly remember an afternoon in 1976 in Bonn, when Helmut Schmidt met Jim Callaghan with, it so happens, Jack Jones, Alan Bullock and me. The Bullock committee was visiting Germany to study both the origins and workings of the codetermination system. He said, “Look, Helmut Schmidt, I want to show you something”. There was a note initialled by Ernest Bevin giving authority to Field Marshal Montgomery and Marshal Rokossovsky to set up the first coal and steel tripartite codetermination system. Of course, it was not done in the Soviet zone, but that was the nature of how different zones were run at that time.
German society has benefited. It is not without difficulties now, but it did benefit—and the world benefited—from that initiative. Ernest Bevin was, above all, the great innovator. Alan Bullock identified three periods of his life in his three volumes: first, the trade unions—the creation of the Transport and General Workers’ Union—then his vital role as Minister of Labour during the war and then as Foreign Secretary from 1945 to 1951.
That is perhaps a good place to go from, because in his bones Bevin believed that socialism was not just to do with the state—and I would say to my noble friend Lord Adonis that this is a debate about the role of the trade unions. It is important that the state gets its role right, but we are looking at the dilemma of how we do the jigsaw between voluntary action in the trade union or workers’ organisation, the role of the employers, who are in some respects part of great multinationals, as well as small clusters organised in collectives—I think the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, expressed something along those lines; she will correct me if I am wrong. This is the cultural range that we are now trying to get our thinking around.
Back in 1995, when my noble friend Lord Morris was chairman of a group in the TUC, of which I was a secretary, we were looking to produce a report called I think Your Voice at Work. We were starting to present three tiers of representation—I am moving on to what we do about this, because we have been light on that in this debate, with respect to all noble Lords. First, think in tiers. Three tiers are an oversimplification, but give us something to think about. One is the individual right of representation. The second is an intermediate right of collective representation in various spheres. If you look at any classic text on trade unionism, you will find that its methods are varied; they are not just collective bargaining. The third has to link with the first, individual representation, and the second, information and consultation—or works councils, if you like. How do you fit this within the third one—collective bargaining—or even a fourth one such as board representation and so on?
Lower establishment size, with small bargaining units of 100, has produced a situation in which our model of 20 years ago is broken. You cannot make progress on trade union recognition with the Central Arbitration Committee, of which I was a member at one stage, looking at bargaining units of 100. It just does not go anywhere. So we need to think about a universal system of some sort of consultation body which can underpin the structure of board representation, because I have no doubt at all that we need a multistakeholder company.
None of this has been flavour of the month in Victoria Street for about 30 years—but Victoria Street has some contribution to make in putting a bit of intellectual firepower behind the rethink of where we are going. One immediate thing to think about is how the new 2% threshold on information and consultation bodies, replacing the 10% requirement, can lead to our being able in the next 12 months to have a big campaign so that we can succeed, with government support, in going in that particular direction, and then see how it fits in with a new structure of company law and organisation for stakeholder involvement.
My Lords, it is a privilege and honour to speak in this debate, secured by my noble friend Lord Jordan, which marks the centenary of the International Labour Organization. While I am here today as a Labour Party Peer, in truth I would not have been here had it not been for the trade union movement.
Earlier this month, the Government published the UK voluntary national review of progress towards the UN sustainable development goals, or SDGs. The 17 SDGs were adopted by 193 member states in 2015 and are part of the United Nations 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Trade unions recognise the adoption of the SDGs as an historical landmark to uphold a universal agenda based on rights and encompassing the three dimensions of sustainable development.
My statement here will focus on the most crucial goal for working people: goal 8, which is about Governments promoting,
“sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”.
Key targets within that goal include:
“Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment”.
Achieving goal 8 is key to meeting several other SDGs, such as goal 5, on gender equality, goal 10, on reducing inequalities, and goal 16, on peace, justice and strong institutions.
My discussions with comrades in the trade union movement have identified considerable concern that the Government’s review of the SDGs lacks both an understanding of what decent work entails and the motivation to achieve it. In particular, it fails to acknowledge the central role that trade unions must play if we are to reduce labour market inequalities and precarious employment, and meet the SDGs, achieving decent work for all.
The voluntary national review is full of familiar claims of high levels of employment and of pay “stability”, albeit over short timeframes. But there is no acknowledgement of the scourge of insecure work and the lack of training opportunities for many workers. An honest account of working life in the UK would note that: real pay remains lower than it was before the recession and is not expected to get back to that pre-crisis level until 2023; a quarter of workers are offered no training other than a new starter induction; workers report crippling insecurity caused by the widespread use of zero-hours or short-hours contracts, and the failure of employers to honour sick pay or holiday entitlements; and the UK still has one of the worst gender pay gaps in Europe, at 17.9%.
Work should provide people with security and fulfilment, but for too many people it is insecure and does not make ends meet. While the Conservatives boast about the recovery of employment, in truth our labour market is failing. Real-terms pay is still lower than it was before the global banking crisis in 2008, and jobs are increasingly low-skilled and insecure.
The Minister will be aware that the Labour Party has promised to establish a new ministry of Labour to ensure that there is a focus on training, reskilling and productivity. We will guarantee the right of every worker to access a union representative in their workplace, and we will turn case law into legislation by ensuring that workers in the gig economy receive the same rights as other employees. We will also make sure that our redundancy laws are in line with those in the rest of Europe, ensuring that British workers are a priority for international investors who want to do business in our country. Perhaps the Minister could confirm to the House that the Government will review their report to the UN to reflect the concerns I have raised on behalf of the trade union movement.
I have already spoken for some time but it would be remiss of me not to touch on SDGs 5 and 10—namely, the obligation on our Government to ensure that everyone, regardless of gender or ethnic background, feels an equal sense of belonging in the workplace. From my 40 years of representation and from recent conversations with comrades around the country, I know the critical role that our trade union representatives play in promoting equality in the workplace. These are our guardians of equality legislation. They negotiate with employers to put in place policies and procedures that advance equality and diversity. They challenge examples of discrimination, harassment and bullying in the workplace, ensuring that complaints are dealt with effectively and promptly by management and human resources teams. They also provide leadership and act as role models in their treatment of others.
Those in this House who have ever had a real job will be aware that equalities and other labour relations legislation can translate into action on the ground only when workers have access to people with the knowledge, skills and time to provide them with representation during times of difficulty—people who can pick up their cause and use the law to fight for their right to fair and equal treatment in the workplace.
This Government have often communicated their commitment to addressing inequalities and disparities in the workplace, including the introduction of gender pay reporting and the hotly anticipated introduction of race pay reporting legislation. Given that it is the primary role of trade unions to ensure that the legislation passed in these Houses is translated into action on the ground, can the Minister please tell the House, first, why the Government are doing so little to respond to the Taylor review proposals to support the trade union movement; and, secondly, if trade unions continue to decline, who will act as the guardians of equalities legislation in the workplace?
Finally, as one of the founding member states of the ILO, the United Kingdom has been a valued partner of the ILO since 1919. It has ratified 89 conventions, including the eight fundamental ILO conventions, and two protocols. A Labour Government will ensure that Britain abides by the global labour standards of the ILO conventions. I hope that this House will join all the workers of planet Earth in wishing the ILO a very happy centenary.
My Lords, it is obvious that trade union membership has been steadily declining since the 1980s, for all kinds of reasons. There has been a decline in large-scale manufacturing industries, the privatisation of public services, the difficulty in recruiting young workers, a tendency to rely on the work of those who are already employed, and government legislation, which in many cases has been hostile. For all those reasons, trade union membership has been declining, and the question that I want to ask is: what are trade unions for?
Some might say that the fact that trade union membership is declining is good—it is what Mrs Thatcher and others would have said. What are we missing and what role do trade unions play in the life of a society? That is the theoretical question that I want to ask about British society and the role of trade unions. A lot of speakers have said a lot of interesting things about British society, in which I am simply a beginner.
If one asks oneself what the trade unions are for, there are three different answers, historically. First, they are there to mitigate the evil effects of capitalism and provide a safety net. Secondly, they are expected to humanise capitalism, enter its very structure and ensure equal rights and opportunities for everyone. The first is simply the law of capitalist society, and trade unions can simply play the capitalist game. The second is a liberal view, but there is a third view, which is that trade unions represent a new civilisation. They are based on the principle of co-operation, as opposed to competition, upon which capitalism is based. Trade unions are there as a harbinger of a new society structured on co-operative principles. I share that view, but not everybody does. Therefore, the question is: how can we ensure that we have a trade union movement which does not simply struggle to get workers higher wages—important though that is—or to guarantee an equal system of rights and humanised capitalism, but which has a genuine, serious, historical role in creating a new kind of society based on new principles?
The International Labour Organization is based on the second principle. The ILO and its literature make no reference to creating a new civilisation or society. It is largely about providing social justice, equal rights and equal opportunities. On its 101st anniversary, which we are celebrating today, I very much hope our efforts will be directed towards restructuring the ILO so that it does not forget the larger goal of a trade union movement, which no other movement can achieve.
Given this, there is a further question. As a harbinger of a new, co-operative society, trade unions are schools of citizenship and democracy. They are places where workers debate, deliberate on their affairs, make a significant input into how industry should be run, and help create a sensible, balanced economy. Trade unions are very important as schools of democracy. Therefore, the question is: how can trade unions play that democratic role of developing citizenship? Obviously, they can do this by extending democracy to the economic sphere rather than limiting it to the political one, so that democracy does not become merely a form of government but a form of collective living—a kind of society where we organise our affairs through deliberation and discussion.
As a democratic body, trade unions also provide a new kind of leadership. One of the regrettable features of modern society, in the absence of trade unions, is the way in which the pool of political talent and leadership which dominated this country 20, 30 or 40 years ago is no longer available. Political leaders move from university to PhDs and roles in research departments or helping Ministers—including my students. The kind of leadership previously provided by people who worked with workers and knew how to manage equals, resolve differences and propagate a common policy is no longer available, because trade unions are no longer available, or if they are, they do not play the role of democratic citizenship.
Lastly, by virtue of the role I have just described, trade unions cannot be simply economic organisations. They inevitably have a political orientation. They are not simply concerned with providing their members with work opportunities. They are also concerned with creating a society in which these opportunities come easily to everybody. In other words, as institutions which are concerned with not just the economy but the larger political framework within which the economy is embedded, they have an inevitable political orientation. Therefore, they come closer to political parties, especially the parties of the left, because these are the parties which are committed to transforming society.
That raises a tricky question which not many trade union movements have been able to face: as trade unions come closer to political parties by virtue of their own internal logic, how are the two related? Political parties would be tempted to use trade unions for their own purposes, but by contrast trade unions would like to use political parties for their own purposes. How can the alignment recognise the different points of orientation while at the same time recognising the points of co-operation? That is where, I am afraid, things in our own country have not always worked out well. Sometimes parties have forced trade unions to behave in a way that is not acceptable to them. Sometimes the unions have tried to lobby or bully the parties into doing certain things, whether it is anti-Semitism or whatever. Creating a space where the two can be aligned to mutual benefit without either being exploited by the other is a very important task which politically oriented trade unions will have to discharge.
My Lords, I too am grateful to my noble friend Lord Jordan for promoting this debate and for the powerful introduction which he gave to it. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken because we have covered a wide range of topics today, not just the ILO but British society, its trade unions and the future.
I was very grateful to be reminded of Lord Brett and the great contribution he made to the trade union movement in the UK and, in particular, on the international organisation front. My noble friend Lady Symons and I introduced Lord Brett to the House; he is a great loss to us. I know the Minister was a neighbour of Lord Brett in the north-west and that they had an association. I congratulate the ILO and all those who have worked for more than a century to make it an effective organisation.
I want to express my thanks to the House of Lords Library for a very comprehensive briefing. If there is any weakness in it, it might be in the area which has just been picked up by my noble friend Lord Parekh and which was spoken to earlier by my noble friend Lord Murphy. The trade union movement is not simply about working to protect its members’ wages and prospects and to keep them secure. It has made a much wider contribution over the past two centuries.
In Westminster Hall, there is a worthwhile exhibition on the Peterloo massacre and the fight for greater democracy in this country. It was led by many workers—by women, but mainly by men—who became leaders of the workers and formed the British trade union movement going back over 200 years. Many of them were killed fighting for democratic rights. There is a long history there that we should not ignore.
Even today, although the movement is not on the scale that it was, it still makes a significant wider contribution to the fabric of our democratic society, not simply at national level but at regional level, and particularly at local level where trade unionists discharge a host of different functions in communities which go beyond their immediate activities in the workplace. That continues and needs to be encouraged; without it, our society will be weaker.
At international level, the ILO is perhaps perceived as being not quite as strong as it was in the 1960s and 1970s. Indeed, some countries made efforts to undermine its functions when they felt that it was not responding to particular national interests. If we look at what is happening in the world, it can be argued—as the noble Lord, Lord Jordan, did—that we need stronger international organisations than we currently have. As identified by other speakers, we see the power of multinational corporations and companies, especially in the digital field; many of these companies have gross earnings higher than those of nation states, and they are much less accountable. They need to be called to account. The ILO is one body that can, wherever possible, exercise efforts to try to do that; we should give it our full support.
Regrettably, as we see the growth of nationalism, there appears to be little appetite for such initiatives, for new international organisations or for international co-operation; but we need it. I anticipate that, as night follows day, the pendulum will swing the other way—I am mixing my metaphors now—and we will see pressure start to grow for unaccountable bodies that exercise such influence to have their overbearing and abusive approaches in certain areas brought to an end. They have been given far too much freedom; for the good of us all, that has to be limited.
There are some healthy signs that grass-roots movements are starting to respond and grow. My noble friend Lord Adonis referred to some of the grass-roots movements within the trade union movement. I have been told that the big industrial relations and employment rights campaigns are often advanced by the grass-roots trade unions that have developed over the last five to eight years. The Uber test case on workers’ status and the case on the rights of Deliveroo riders to seek recognition for collective bargaining have been co-ordinated by a union of just 5,000 members. The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain, mentioned also by my noble friend, began as the cleaners’ branch of UNISON at the University of London. It remains in dispute with the university, calling for its security guards, cleaning and catering members to be brought in-house. United Voices of the World is a union of just 2,500 migrant cleaners and hospitality workers. The growth of these small, grass-roots trade unions should be supported by the trade union movement; they should not be “put in their place” in the way that we in the movement have been apt to do. They should be encouraged.
What are they doing? They are embracing the digital opportunities available to them. I share the view of others who have spoken, particularly my noble friend Lord Whitty, that much more has to be done by the trade union movement to embrace the opportunities of IT. Artificial intelligence and other technological changes present big, new challenges to employers and jobs, but they also present opportunities. The trade unions must try to move these to their workers’ advantage, for recruiting, training, communicating with and involving workers in better controlling their lives, so that together we can reduce the inequalities that we see in our society. In particular, we need to raise low-paid workers out of in-work poverty, which is a modern scourge and the source of so much discontent in UK workplaces.
If Brexit exacerbates this—we hear all the talk of moving, as some want, to a Singapore-style economy—do not be surprised if the anger around us becomes uncontrolled and we start to see reactions that none of us would wish to encounter. There are concerns here that have to be worked through. I conclude by congratulating the ILO on its last century of work and looking forward to another century of that work.
My Lords, I apologise to the House—and in particular to the noble Lord, Lord Jordan, as I unfortunately missed part of his remarks—for my late arrival into the Chamber. I congratulate him on securing the debate. I thank the Deputy Speaker who was on the Woolsack at the time for being so understanding in the event of a genuine misunderstanding and for allowing me to speak.
Liberal Democrats value the role of trade unions and we are great advocates of collective action when those in power display intransigence in the face of injustice and when there is a strong desire for change. Being part of something brings many benefits. Achieving change together and just knowing that you feel the same as others is very comforting. That is kind of what political parties are for, is it not? Many Liberal Democrats are members of trade unions. Indeed, many Liberal Democrat Members of your Lordships’ House are or have been trade unionists. The noble Lord, Lord Glasman, mentioned Lloyd George in the context of the ILO. He, of course, was a Liberal. My membership of a trade union was restricted to a brief period with the NUJ, but my noble friend Lord Goddard talked movingly of his more involved experiences and outlined the crucial role of trade unions in health and safety. He was the first of several noble Lords to do so; the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, made a particularly powerful argument in his remarks.
One of the first Bills I worked on when I came to this place was the Trade Union Bill. I remember the shock on reading it and what it proposed to do. I immediately recognised that it was designed to emaciate the trade union movement and take away much of its power and funding. This was something the Liberal Democrats had managed to prevent in coalition, but now we saw exactly what our not being in government was going to mean. Like my colleagues in coalition, I recognise the importance of balance in good, productive industrial relations.
Frankly, I have never understood why industrial relations should be a zero-sum game. Everybody wins when trade unions and employers work in partnership. Both should benefit from increased productivity, facing the future of their organisation together. This lesson was brought home to me when I was MP for Solihull and difficulties hit the Jaguar Land Rover plant around 2006 to 2007. We feared that either the Solihull or Castle Bromwich plants would need to be closed, but JLR did neither of these things. It came to an agreement with the trade unions that workers from both plants would go on short time and that some staff would take sabbaticals. Skills and jobs were not lost and JLR was ready for the upturn without incurring staff shortage problems and damaging extra costs that it could not afford. The upturn came and the company ploughed billions into investment. Everybody benefited.
Why am I telling your Lordships this? It is because the lesson for me is that to get the best for companies and their workforces there has to be partnership, understanding of each other’s point of view, sharing and giving of information, and a longer-term perspective. Most noble Lords in this House have been around long enough to look back to the winter of discontent, Margaret Thatcher’s efforts to bring down the power of the unions and the suffering caused to us all. We cannot live in those days any more. But in the Trade Union Bill in 2016 I detected an echo of those old, tribal, almost visceral rivalries. We all know that that is no way to run a modern economy.
This year, we celebrate 100 years of the ILO. I did not know very much about the ILO before today, so I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, for the history lesson and the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, for his thesis on the nature of tripartism, which I shall read about again afterwards.
The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, spoke about how trade unions, through the ILO, participate in creating more democratic citizenship. That is a valuable lesson for us. Several noble Lords talked about the importance of the role that the ILO has played and continues to play today. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, talked about the importance of the enforcement of basic standards and how we fall far short of ILO standards. The ILO is not just about the past: it is about the future for us all, so I would like to wish the ILO a happy centenary and wish it on its way for the future.
What then should government companies and trade unions do to fit themselves for the future? Many noble Lords spoke about that. The noble Baroness, Lady Prosser, talked about how trade unions do not attract enough young people in a changing environment. Good luck to her in her work. Several noble Lords mentioned the image of trade unions putting many potential new members off. I hope that they will address that. The noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, talked about dramatic changes in the very nature of work—the poor pay and conditions endured by many in the gig economy and others. I hope that her wish to reinvigorate the trade union movement and to build digital skills will be heeded. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, talked about the need to help more people in the gig economy.
For what it is worth, here is my vision. I want a social contract between everyone in this arena. I want companies taking more responsibility, not just for involving their workforce as prescribed in the corporate governance code introduced last year and not just a mentality of “We’ve got a worker on the board, so we are compliant”. For a modern economy, it has to go far further than that. Companies need to have a social contract with their workers, but also with the communities in which they operate. They are not independent entities operating outside the bounds of society. They are part of the fabric of our country and should be good neighbours, have respect for the environment in all senses and leave it richer not poorer for their contribution.
It is incumbent on those in government to create the framework in which companies operate fairly, pay fairly and treat people fairly. The noble Lord, Lord Murphy, talked about the importance of the relationship between the Government and the trade unions and I hope that in this and future Governments that will heal and there will be a more co-operative approach.
Today is about trade unions. Trade unions need to abandon their old tribal rivalries. It is not about them and us. They are in danger of becoming an anachronism, with membership numbers nearly halving since their peak in 1979, despite a much higher number of people in work. Yet arguably the need for trade unions in some sectors has never been greater. The noble Lord, Lord Morris, spoke movingly about the plight of the working poor, and the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, described working conditions for a social worker who was not paid between calls. The Government have now legislated for that, so I am sure that the noble Lord had advised him or her accordingly. The noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, gave a great insight into workers in the gig economy. They will be hard work for trade unions to represent, as are other low-paid workers on precarious contracts. I hope that we see an important development after the growth of the gig economy and with developments in work. I sincerely hope they step up to the plate and embrace the challenges to come.
My Lords, if anyone had told me when I was a young trade union officer in the early 2000s that I would be responding from the Front Bench in your Lordships’ House, after speeches by eminent trade unionists and trade union leaders, I would have said that they were dreaming. But here we are and here I am. I follow the introductory speech from my noble friend Lord Jordan, a tour de force on the ILO, the trade union movement and some of its challenges. We look at the future of trade unions and celebrate 100 years of the ILO. I declare my interest as a member of the GMB, but I am not receiving a pension from the union yet, unfortunately.
In touching on the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Goddard, about Will Thorne, one of the founding fathers of the GMB and Labour Party, I will bring it more up to date and touch on Sir Paul Kenny, the general secretary who I came in under, and Mary Turner. Mary Turner is unfortunately no longer with us, but she was the epitome of what a trade unionist should be, as well as a fantastic human being. It did not matter who she met, in whichever walk of life; she treated everyone with the same respect. When I was a GMB trade union officer, I saw time and again what a trade union could do—not at the senior political levels, in this House and the other place, and in working with government, but on a day-to-day level, in looking after and supporting individual members, often in dire straits and difficult situations. Helping and supporting those members is probably one of the best things that I have done in my career.
As we mark the centenary of the ILO with this important debate, it does no harm to remember the progress that has been made in the UK in the past 100 years. Annual leave, parental leave, health and safety legislation, the minimum wage, the right to equal treatment and the right to be represented are just a few of the benefits, changes and progresses across the UK. They are almost entirely to the credit and at the behest of the trade unions and their engagement and involvement in politics, pushing and changing government policies, and within the Labour Party. Trade unions are the collective voice of the workers. They play a vital role in representing their members, but also in securing individual workplace rights and, as we heard from my noble friend Lord McKenzie, ensuring health and safety and better working conditions.
Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go in many regards. Compared with some other developed nations, especially many in the EU, workers in the UK face longer working hours, more unequal pay and less time off for childcare, and are less likely to have occupational pensions. Unions in the UK have made many gains but also have much more to achieve in the coming years—but, as we have heard, only if the unions themselves rise to those challenges. The trade unions are best placed to campaign on these issues. Therefore, it is a matter of deep regret that, as a result of years of market deregulation and, as my noble friend Lord Whitty touched on earlier, the changing nature of work and some anti-union policies, we have seen one of the worst declines in union density in Europe since the 1980s. As my noble friend Lady Prosser said earlier, union density in the UK has fallen from 49% in the early 1980s to around 23% now.
However, there are some glimmers of hope and some opportunities. Thanks to the efforts of a number of individual unions in 2017-18—most notably UNISON and my union, the GMB—the number of trade union members has now risen by more than 100,000. But challenges of recruitment remain, and the TUC has identified two in particular. First, there has been great difficulty in recruiting young members. Almost 77% of employees who carry a union card are over 35, and just one in 10 workers aged 20 to 24 is in a union. Secondly, membership in the private sector remains stubbornly lower than in the public sector.
In response to those issues, the TUC has campaigned and taken steps to strengthen unions in the UK, and those actions should be highlighted and commended. They have included promoting policies of expanding collective bargaining and removing the unfair and unnecessary obstacles placed in the way of unions organising in the private sector. With its Digital Lab, the TUC is working with unions to utilise new forms of organising. In addition, TUC Education and the Organising Academy have an outstanding record of providing support by training reps, activists, officers and organisers. If trade unions are to overcome the barriers they face in representing workers in the UK, they can do no better than to work with and take up those examples, led by the TUC.
I should like to discuss the future of trade unions and their work—after all, the Motion before the House explicitly mentions the former. To consider the future of trade unions, we must, first, consider the future of work. Technology is changing the face of work, be it self-checkouts replacing retail workers or ticket barriers replacing ticket collectors. Many jobs are disappearing from the economy and will do so permanently. That in itself is not a bad thing. In the coming years we could see taxi drivers replaced by driverless cars, bricklayers replaced by crane systems, and, if you believe some of the most adventurous prophecies, even nurses replaced by robotics.
The short-term impact of automation has been, and will continue to be, devastating for individual workers, but there are opportunities. The unions must adapt and play their role in the development of policies to make sure that, with different and new forms of work, workers benefit from that new technology rather than become victims of it, as we heard in the eloquent contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox. As work for many has become more unreliable and inconsistent, the unions must offer a voice. Thankfully, be it the GMB, with its deal with Hermes drivers and deliverers, or UNISON supporting social care workers to secure the national minimum wage, unions are continuing to step up to the job.
I remember meeting, in my previous role, the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, who was the Prime Minister’s envoy for trade unions. The one thing I never understood was: why an “envoy”? It sounded as if trade unions were a foreign country. I am sure there could have been a better way forward, but I appreciated that the then Prime Minister was attempting to reach out.
As I finish, it is worth turning back to the ILO, because we are here to celebrate its 100 years. The ILO itself is looking forward to the future. The challenges of globalisation have made international labour standards more relevant than ever. It is worth reading the document. I will not read it out, but it has set out a path to full and productive employment and decent work for all, and 2030 goals. A collective voice will always be stronger than an individual one. In the century since the formation of the ILO, trade unions have time and again acted as the catalyst for change. In the century which follows they will have to adapt and find new ways of organising and campaigning. Fortunately, I have every faith that they will be able to do so.
My Lords, I echo two of the tributes paid to former Members of the House. First, I pick up what the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, said about his late noble friend Baroness Turner. I sat opposite her far more years ago than I care to remember when I was a Social Security Minister in this House. I always admired her expertise and the good trade union negotiating skills that she brought to that side of things.
Secondly, and partly to clear his name, I refer to the late Bill Brett, whom the noble Lord, Lord Jordan, mentioned, as did the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, who shared an office with him, and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, who referred to the fact that the late Lord Brett was a friend and neighbour of mine up in the north-west, where he lived for the last few years of his life. But the noble Lord then said that we had “an association”. I want to clear his name of any suggestion that there was a political association between him and myself, if that was implied. We were good friends and exchanged things across the Floor of the House, but the Chief Whips need not have worried any further than that. He was a great man in the international side of the labour movement.
We have had a very good debate, with a whole range of questions, which I will try to address in some part, and a whole series of challenges has been put before us. If I think again about what the noble Lords, Lord Whitty, Lord Adonis and Lord Lea, said, many of the challenges posed are for the union movement itself. I do not think they are for the Government to address, though I will make it clear that we welcome and value our relationship with the unions. We also value our relationship with the ILO, and I will make that clear as well.
We have had much history, going back over the last 100 years. This happens quite often in this House. For much of it, particularly the part of history familiar to most of us, the 1970s and 1980s—here I excuse the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, who is younger than many Members of this House—I suspect that there was a degree of rewriting, as often happens. After the passage of time, we all have our rather different views of those years. I certainly remember the 1970s and the 1980s. I remember voting for much of the trade union legislation at that time. Much of it—all of it—was very necessary, and I do not remember the incoming Labour Government repealing it in 1997. I almost wish that I had asked my noble friend Lord Tebbit to come along and take part in this debate, because it might have added to the jollity of the occasion. I will certainly pass on details of the debate to my noble friend, who I am sure will find opportunities in due course to take up the subject with those who have spoken.
More importantly, the debate has allowed us to consider the future of trade unions and wider industry representation. On behalf of the Government, I am pleased to recognise the important contribution that trade unions make to our society and to restate our commitment to continue working closely with the TUC—a commitment that I made in the debate we had a year ago to mark the 150th anniversary of the TUC, and which has been repeated by my right honourable friend Greg Clark and the Prime Minister. This year, as has been made clear on a number of occasions, we are marking the 100th anniversary of the ILO, founded at the end of the First World War, with its mission to end “injustice, hardship and privation” in the workplace.
The noble Lord, Lord Monks, asked what we thought of the ILO. I can only go back to the speech that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made recently at the ILO centenary conference in Switzerland. I will make that speech available to the noble Lord, so he can then read it in full, if he has not already done so. She said that,
“the ILO can look back with pride at what it has achieved”,
over the last century, by working,
“with employers, trade unions and governments”.
The ILO has been instrumental in achieving safer workplaces, fairer conditions and better pay; it has been 100 years of steady progress.
Looking to the future, the UK took an active part in negotiations on the ILO’s centenary declaration on the future of work, which sets out its priorities going forward, in the context of the changing world of work. It is right that we look at the future of work, as touched on by the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and others. The changes in technology and culture that we face are already transforming workplaces. That is why, some years ago, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister commissioned Matthew Taylor’s independent review of employment practices. In response to the review’s findings, we are delivering the biggest improvement in UK workers’ rights for 20 years, including ensuring that agency workers are not paid less than permanent staff, improving the enforcement of holiday pay and quadrupling the fines for employers who break the rules.
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, quite rightly pressed me on the question of enforcement of labour standards. We recognise the importance of that, which is why we have increased resources for enforcement over recent years. Today, we spend some £33 million on enforcing the national minimum wage, regulating employment agencies, licensing to supply temporary labour in high-risk sectors, and pressing down on exploitation and modern slavery. I assure the noble Lord that we have committed to do more, including extending state enforcement of holiday pay for vulnerable workers and regulating umbrella companies. We are committed to providing adequate funding for enforcement. We understand the importance of that, although the noble Lord will have to wait for the spending review. We will also consider the need for a single enforcement body.
That brings me to the national minimum wage. It was introduced by the party opposite when it was in government and was improved by the coalition Government and this Government. With the national minimum wage, we are delivering an increase in average earnings of some £690 for a full-time worker, and some 1.8 million workers are expected to benefit from that in due course. There are changes: they are happening and we want to press on with them.
The future of work means that it is important that we invest today in the skills that our people will need for the future. In England, we have created millions of new, high-quality apprenticeships for school leavers and are launching new advanced technical qualifications for young people.
I am pleased that the Government were successful in ensuring that UK priorities, such as the eradication of modern slavery and creating more good jobs worldwide, were reflected in the ILO centenary declaration.
Before I turn to the future of trade unions and wider industry representation, it is important that I say a few words on the important role that trade unions can play in our economy and society. Trade unions have always represented their members and lobbied for wider changes in society. They have campaigned on issues such as modern slavery, tackling child poverty and equality for all. Over the past century, they have improved the working lives of their members, and long may this continue. I shall follow what the noble Lords, Lord Goddard and Lord McKenzie, said about health and safety in the workplace. Throughout the country, trade union health and safety representatives have made our workplaces safer. This has benefitted workers and the United Kingdom economy by reducing the number of accidents in the workplace. We now have an enviable safety record, of which we should all be proud. I thank the unions for their involvement in achieving that and I particularly pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Jordan, for his tireless work on safety issues.
Unions have played a large part in developing the skills of their members and those working in industry. Through Unionlearn, there are some 600 union learning centres, where trade union representatives help those with low literacy and numeracy. Unionlearn projects have also helped to recruit and support thousands of apprentices.
Obviously, the issue goes far wider. The noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, spoke about the importance of addressing the skills we are lacking in the new digital era in which we live. I assure her that within government we are providing additional investment, particularly in maths and digital and technical education. We are providing more money and a new national training scheme to support people to reskill and move on. This is an area where we want to work closely with the TUC. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, that we will continue to have that close relationship with the TUC and will work with it, not just in training but in all matters, and listen to its advice and that of the wider union movement on a range of issues.
Although there have been and will continue to be disagreements, to go back to the Matthew Taylor review, I believe that the TUC has played a key role in helping us shape our good work plan. I hope it will continue to play a role as we bring it forward and bring parts of it into play.
Does the Minister not acknowledge that I made a highly pertinent point—namely, that the future stakeholder model of the company is an alternative to the idea that a company is only the shareholders and that the workers are not members of the company? This debate is huge, and we must have it. Is the Minister not ready to say anything about that at the moment? It is absolutely central to the role of workers’ representatives in the future of the company.
Dare I say to the noble Lord that I was in only the 13th minute of my speech; I think that I have 20 minutes. He was being a bit premature if he was asking whether I was going to sit down. I have a large bundle of answers for the noble Lord; I will try to get on to them but he will understand that I also want to respond to a number of other speakers. I might have to write to him, but I was not about to sit down. It might be that the rest of the House wanted me to but that is another matter.
I want to move on and say a word or two about the legislative position. First, the noble Lord, Lord Monks, and the noble Baroness, Lady Prosser, mentioned the Trade Union Act. I do not believe that it is about attacking workers’ rights or preventing strike action; that Act is about making sure that industrial action is taken only where there is clear support for it among union members. It therefore modernises the United Kingdom’s industrial relations framework to support better the effective approach to resolving industrial disputes.
For that reason, I want to say a word or two to my noble friend Lord Balfe about the e-balloting proposals and provide him with an assurance, since he put it to me and, indirectly, to my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe that they had been forgotten about. Recently, we held round-table discussions with experts, organisations and professionals—the TUC was also invited to the meeting—to discuss that matter further. We will reflect further on Sir Ken Knight’s recommendations and, again, once we have consulted the trade unions, we will issue a response in—dare I say it—due course.
We have heard many views on the future of trade unions and wider industry representation. We have also heard suggestions of what more the Government can do. I think it would be helpful if I set out our legislative position at the moment. Workers have the right to join a trade union; that right is protected under our trade union law. All union members have the right to participate in union activities; that includes members who are union officials. The right to be active in the affairs of a trade union is enhanced where the union is an independent trade union that has been recognised by the employer for collective bargaining purposes. Officials of such a union may seek time off work with pay to discharge certain union duties. Individual workers can enforce these rights at an employment tribunal. In effect, these rights amount to a right for the union, through its individual members and officials, to recruit and organise in the workplace.
Furthermore, I should add that the United Kingdom Government take the view that they should adopt a voluntarist approach to collective issues. Collective bargaining is largely a matter for individual employers, their employees and their trade unions. Most collective bargaining in this country takes place because employers have voluntarily agreed to recognise a trade union and to bargain with it. The Government do not believe that we should be in the business of forcing employers or their workers to enter into collective bargaining arrangements if they do not wish to do so. Instead, we prefer a voluntarist and democratic approach. However, where an employer refuses to recognise a trade union voluntarily, our legislation provides for a statutory recognition procedure. Unions that wish to obtain statutory recognition can apply to the Central Arbitration Committee, which has dealt with over 1,000 cases since the statutory procedure was brought in in 1999. My key point is that, if a majority of workers in a workplace want to organise and be represented by a trade union, they have the right, and the practical means, to secure trade union recognition. That is why the Government do not believe that primary legislation needs to change in this area at the moment.
As many noble Lords made clear, our economy and society are constantly changing, and unions need to adapt to maintain their relevance. The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, asked what trade unions were for. By taking the right approach, by following the TUC’s constructive engagement with employers and government, I have every confidence that the trade union movement can rise to this challenge. If unions can take this approach, I am sure that we will be celebrating their influence for another century to come.
I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate for their exceptional contributions —some encyclopaedic—which added up to a fitting tribute to the ILO’s work. They also produced a wealth of knowledge about what is happening in Britain’s workplaces, showing clearly that, as trade union representation declined, so did the standards and security of workers in this country. The noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, gave a graphic description of the new intangible work patterns. Other noble Lords reminded the House of ever-multiplying miniature workplaces. Trying to recruit in a small workplace is very difficult. For one brief period in my life, I worked at a very small engineering place in London. One January morning, standing by the lathe with iced puddles on the floor, I said to the man next to me, “We shouldn’t put up with this; we should do something about it”. He said: “Yes, we should. I will tell the boss when he gets back; he’s my uncle”.
However incredible, however difficult, recruit we must. It is not going to be a job for old men. We must look to the youngsters—the younger generation whose inventions are creating this brave new, but not necessarily secure, world—to show us how we can connect with those who will help us to rebuild trade union strength. In doing that, we will restore ourselves to a position where we can make Britain a place where decent work is the norm, not the exception.
Palestine: United States’ Peace to Prosperity Economic Plan
Question for Short Debate
My Lords, I have been going to Israel/Palestine and following events there for 50 years, ever since I got married. My wife was the third generation of her family to be born in Jerusalem, her great-grandparents having gone there from America and Germany, for Christian reasons, in the 19th century. The family still have commercial and charitable links in east Jerusalem. We have friends of all religions and political loyalties throughout the region. Over that time, I have seen for myself the tremendous achievements of Israel. The building of infrastructure of all kinds—for example, Ben Gurion Airport, the roads, the towns and the excellent tram system in Jerusalem—strikes one every time. Of course, the Israelis have made great contributions to science, medicine and agriculture, and in many other ways.
This impressive progress in Israel is in contrast to the problems and repression in Palestine, originating in the period of British rule but exacerbated by the present policies of the occupying power. Over the last 50 years, there have been times of hope for peace in Palestine/Israel and times of despair. Oslo was a time of hope, as were the early days of the Obama Administration. The early days of the Trump Administration held out the prospect of a new approach leading to an “ultimate deal”. The word “deal” indicates the businessman’s approach—economics before politics. I have no difficulty with this approach in principle, but the reality is that, in this case, politics and economics are inextricably linked.
I am glad to have the opportunity to draw attention to this long-awaited document. It comes from the White House, rather than the State Department, which gives it added significance. It is a detailed analysis of the way in which Palestine might progress to prosperity and so to peace. I am sure we all agree that peace and prosperity go together, but which is the horse and which the carriage?
The document is advertised as an economic development document, but the chosen wording throughout is drenched with politics. It never refers to “Palestine”, only “the West Bank and Gaza”, thus avoiding admitting that there is such a place as Palestine. It also leaves out east Jerusalem, which the United Nations, the Palestinians, we and others agree is essentially part of occupied Palestinian territory. It never refers to the Palestinian Authority but “the Palestinian public sector”, even when discussing essentially governmental activities such as tax collection. It frequently mentions “Palestinian people” but never “Palestinian nation”. In other words, it systematically tries to pick off the individual people and not allow them any nationhood at all. It denies the two-state solution and looks entirely to one state—otherwise known as annexation.
I want to refer briefly to a few of the specific proposals for the economic development of Palestine which expose the way the American Government are looking at this situation in the document. Page 22 offers help to:
“Support … a new … university in the West Bank and Gaza”.
At present, the occupying power makes life as difficult as possible for the existing 14 recognised Palestine universities. Page 27 offers support to:
“Construct new roads throughout the West Bank and Gaza”.
There are of course some excellent new roads built there by the occupying power. However, they are not for the use of Palestinians, but solely the army and the settlers.
Pages 32 and 34 offer help with power and water supplies. At present, the settlements have ample power and water, but the neighbouring Palestinian villages often have supplies for only a few hours a week. In Gaza, it is of course much worse. Page 40 offers help with agriculture, including irrigation, but the occupying power takes the water for irrigation and has taken much of the best land for farming—for example, in the Jordan valley, which is as far away from Israel as you can get without going into Jordan. Page 41 talks of improving mortgage facilities to build more homes, but planning permission is given for building large blocks of settlements—whole new towns—and constantly refused to Palestinians, even for house extensions or schools in east Jerusalem or Area C. Page 67 is about improving healthcare, when the problems in Gaza include bombed hospitals and children wounded by high-velocity bullets.
Gaza needs access to the outside world, but this document does not refer to building an airport or seaport. The international community actually did just that some years ago; Israel promptly bombed them flat. Looking further north, it does not talk as it might have done, for example, of reopening Kalandia Airport from the Mandate and Jordanian days, between Ramallah and Jerusalem. These days, Kalandia is known only as the busiest and often most difficult checkpoint in the West Bank and for its large refugee camp. The airliners were replaced by the military.
The proposals in the document are not novel, for the most part, and nothing is said about where the money is to come from. This ignores the fact that the USA has just withdrawn its funding to UNRWA and Palestine. What is principally needed for the economic development of Palestine is for the occupying power to stop crushing local initiative and stop building on occupied land. The document analyses what is required for Palestinian development but is also, in its way, a terrible indictment of what the occupying power has used its effective best to prevent happening.
I say to the Americans who wrote this document that peace is possible. There is undoubtedly a deep longing for peace with equality among many on both sides. But peace will not come from ignoring the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, nor from brutal repression. The document deliberately ignores Israel’s security problems and policies; that is not what it is about. The fact is that the policy of the present Government of the occupying power is not based even on the Biblical “an eye for an eye” but on “a bullet for a stone”. Such policies are wrong and never work—and I condemn the rockets from Gaza as much as the airstrikes on Gaza.
Her Majesty’s Government know that there is no peace to be had in the so-called one-state solution. They are right to continue their support for a two-state solution, as the Prime Minister did the other day. That now requires the recognition of the second state of Palestine, just as the PLO recognised Israel many years ago. The Government are right to go on helping to build Palestine, but this plan is no help to that end.
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Cope, I have tried to follow the initiatives for peace between Israel and Palestine over the past 50 years. Sometimes, as he said, there appear to be signs of hope, as under Prime Ministers Rabin and Olmert, and in the early years of the Obama Administration. Some plans have begun by addressing the core issues—Jerusalem, borders and refugees—and others start with more minor confidence-building measures and hope to build incrementally on them. All have failed.
Now we are presented with what President Trump calls the “deal of the century”. It envisages a major capital investment in education, health and infrastructure for the Palestinians, but makes no mention of Jerusalem, the settlements, boundaries or Palestinian statehood. As the noble Lord, Lord Cope, said, politics and economics are inextricably linked. Are these proposals more likely to succeed?
I will look briefly at the context, the US promotion and the likely response. The context is depressing. For Israel, there is of course the existential question. The Netanyahu Government have acquiesced in the status quo and have drifted from a position of strength—save that in Jerusalem and the territories they are building more facts on the ground. However, they appear to seek no destination, even though the facts of democracy suggest that now is surely the time to seek a solution from a position of strength. The Palestinians are divided, bankrupt and rudderless. Their leadership is elderly and weak. They peddle illusions such as a vast return of refugees, which can only destroy the State of Israel.
Now we come to the proposal by the United States. Some 88% of Palestinians believe that the US is partisan, and, as all signals from the US have shown, it is. It can hardly be a trusted, honest broker. The US proposal is constructed by economists and management consultants, irrespective of the politics of the area. As is well known, the heart has its reasons, which reason cannot comprehend.
As a German politician said at the time of the Treaty of Versailles, the hand which signs this treaty will be signing its own death warrant. This is well known to the Palestinian leadership. The plan will surely be stillborn.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Cope and Lord Anderson, for their words.
Many people said in advance of the US initiative that we would be disappointed—and it has lived up to that disappointment. The Palestinians boycotted the conference in Manama, rejecting the plan out of hand. The Israeli government representatives were not invited to attend. In my view, no plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians will have any chance of succeeding unless Israelis and Palestinians face each other across a negotiating table.
President Trump portrays himself and his family as masters of making a deal. For a deal, one needs a willing buyer and a willing vendor; as with all deals, there has to be a level of compromise on both sides. A state of Palestine has to be on the table. Security and recognition of Israel have to be on the table. Hamas needs to drop its aim of removing Israel from the map and stop firing rockets. As a first stage, Israel needs to cease expansion of settlements outside the land swap area.
But let us try to be positive. Bahrain’s Foreign Minister said the Palestinians had made a mistake by boycotting the conference. The Saudi Finance Minister would support anything that,
“brings prosperity to the region”.
The Finance Minister of the UAE said:
“We need to give this initiative a chance”.
The argument for accepting the money and the plan as a foundation for the economy, with an empowered Palestinian people with an effective Government, should be seen at the very least as a step on the way to greater progress.
There is, of course, legitimate doubt about how the Trump White House envisages final status arrangements. As previous speakers said, the UK should continue to stress the need for a two-state solution. What role can the UK play in advancing some of those proposals? We could of course remind people of the Jews from the Arab lands—about 850,000—who fled there. As an example in the short time available, there were 76,835 Jews in Baghdad in 1947 and there are none now. That is the other side of this disaster.
What do the Palestinians have to lose? That is the question. It does not, as a Palestinian spokesman said, kill the aspirations of the Palestinian people. They should have aspirations and we should support them. Is the proposal faulty and does it fail to address the underlying disputes? Of course; it is incredibly faulty. It is a property developer’s plan without any regard for the people—but it should be seen as a positive move in, at the very least, improving the lot of the people in Gaza, the West Bank, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.
My Lords, I reaffirm my declaration as set out in the register. Political horizon and Palestinian support for this economic development plan are both essentials for proper management and supervision of regional donor-funded projects. Both are lacking. Palestinians have given the Kushner plan a thumbs down. The Kerry initiative was considered to have held more credibility, offering a more solid economic approach and identifying the enablers, most of which remain unfulfilled.
The Kushner plan is heavy on infrastructure projects, capacity-building and ideas to entice investors, but light on who will pay, which Government will oversee development and where the land is. The projects listed are old initiatives and ones never executed because of the refusal to grant permission to allow the movement of both people and goods. It calls for a multilateral development bank to oversee distribution of funds for the projects. The architects have failed to recognise that only the Palestinian Government can lead the development of their national economy. No donors will make a significant outlay of funds in an uncertain political environment, particularly with the regular destroying of donor-funded projects.
It should also not be forgotten that the United States and European countries have designated Hamas as a terrorist organisation. The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act prevents the PLO and the PA accepting economic aid from the US. This therefore excludes the US as a donor. Additionally, EU and Saudi donors expect a political framework with established borders, with the objective of a Palestinian state with a shared capital of Jerusalem.
A possible call by any new Israeli coalition Government for the annexation of Area C, including 62% of the West Bank, which is required for agricultural initiatives and any large-scale infrastructure projects, including for water, wastewater treatment, energy and transportation, would therefore be a further complication. The natural resources necessary for projects include water, quarries, gas, minerals and tourism sites under Israeli control. The plan does not envisage Israel relinquishing its control. Although a major road between Gaza and the West Bank is called for, sovereignty over the corridor is not.
The plan, for the reasons I set out, is dead in the water and falls foul of perceived contrivance through the back door. The pain and dilemma therefore continue.
My Lords, I add my congratulations to those already offered to the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, on this timely and important debate. As many of your Lordships may know, I generally visit the Holy Land twice a year. Each January, I accompany the Vatican’s Holy Land co-ordination group to the area as the sole Anglican bishop. I have experienced much Israeli and Palestinian hospitality down the years. I am only too well aware of the State of Israel’s just concerns for its security and its safeguarding of the holy places of Jerusalem, but I have witnessed Bethlehem walled in on three sides, Palestinian agricultural land divided and appropriated by military structures, and the acquisition of swathes of the West Bank and east Jerusalem for the settlement of Israel’s citizens and the exclusion of Palestine’s.
I acknowledge the important emphasis in the published document on increased investment, exports, tourism and better governance and indeed the interest of the current US Administration in these matters. However, I regret that I do not find in the current US proposals a means to end the occupation. I do not detect a dialogue between the US Government and their Israeli allies on this matter. Nor is any consent sought from the legitimate representatives of the Palestinians.
The Peace to Prosperity initiative is meant to convey a sense of progress and, if implemented, rapid transformation. But without a proper relational settlement, this is a chimera. Israel must be free, and Palestine must be free. It is the position of the Churches that a two-state solution must be brokered. I hope that Her Majesty’s Government will consider expeditiously past resolutions of this and the other place on recognition of the Palestinian state. While Palestine is under occupation and that is an implicit factor in international affairs, this plan and any like it will be destined to fall.
My Lords, I thank my good and noble friend Lord Cope of Berkeley for his powerful opening of this debate and for giving us the opportunity to discuss the Peace to Prosperity plan.
The vision of this economic plan, unveiled in Bahrain last month,
“to empower the Palestinian people to build a better future for themselves and their children”,
is an aspiration which has been widely held for many years, not least by the Palestinian people. I am privileged to have been able to play a small part in the economic well-being of Palestine as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to the Palestinian territories. I declare my interests as the president of Medical Aid for Palestinians and president of the Palestine British Business Council.
That the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, almost seven years ago, appointed a trade envoy to Palestine as one of eight trade envoys to be appointed around the world, shows the importance that the UK attaches to Palestine and her prosperity. On one level, I can understand the enthusiasm of the plan unveiled in Bahrain for boosting the Palestinian economy; we have all been there. Anyone who has spent any serious time in the West Bank, Gaza or east Jerusalem cannot fail to be impressed by the intelligence, ingenuity, resilience and decency of the Palestinian people, or want to find a way to unleash those qualities.
When I came back from my first trip as trade envoy, I was fizzing with ideas: IT, tourism, infrastructure, the agri-economy—none of them new or original ideas, all in the Kushner plan. But I soon came to realise that, however enthusiastic and ambitious you may be, you cannot avoid the occupation, which not only subjugates the people but frustrates the normal rules of economics. There are some amazing Palestinian companies and entrepreneurs, and their ability to thrive in this environment speaks volumes for what they could achieve in a free, sovereign Palestinian state. As my noble friend Lord Cope said in a speech earlier this week, the Prime Minister emphasised the UK position of a safe and secure Israel, living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, based on 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps, a realistic settlement for refugees and with Jerusalem as a shared capital of both states. That is the first, not last, step to peace and prosperity, and the only key to unleashing the phenomenal potential of the Palestinian people and their economy.
My Lords, the one thing that has come out so far from President Trump’s “deal of the century” is the offer of large amounts of money to the Palestinians; not all of it American money, of course, but then he is first and foremost a businessman. It is to build a prosperous and vibrant Palestinian society. Trump is not someone who has much grasp of the history of the Middle East. Certainly, money is needed, but he should know that bribery will not work while the basic problems around Jerusalem —refugees, settlements and security—remain unchanged.
The history of Palestine has shown repeatedly that simply offering money has never worked. In the 1920s and 1930s there were debates in this House in which much was made of the belief that, since the Palestinian Arabs were then so much better off than their cousins living in Egypt and Syria, they would automatically accept their country, as they saw it, being taken over by the influx of foreign invaders from Europe. The Zionists were certainly bringing increasing prosperity, with rising employment and better wages and living conditions, and Arabs from elsewhere were immigrating in increasing numbers, but never for one moment did the Arabs accept the idea that they were not being given the independence to govern themselves, as was happening in Syria, Egypt and Iraq, and that they were powerless to stop the influx of the Jews. Prosperity and money did not talk then, and it will not do so now.
When partition of the land was proposed in the Peel report of 1937 and repeated in the UN in 1947—two-state solutions, if you will—the Palestinians would not have much to do with the idea, and they have been somewhat resistant for most of the time since. We still have partition but not two states. I believe, as others have said, that a two-state solution is the only show in town. We in the UK should take advantage of our position of relative trust with both sides to press the case: to press the Israelis to move on the settlements and the other restrictions; and equally importantly, to persuade the Palestinians that Israel is there to stay. It is not about to disappear, and we should use our influence with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf states to put pressure on the Palestinian leadership to give up their anti-Israel rhetoric and incitement and restart direct negotiations. These Arab states are anxious to do a deal with Israel and there are opportunities now that did not exist a few years ago. Will the Minister say what efforts our Government are making to work with our allies in the Middle East? We certainly cannot rely on Trump, in whom I fear the Palestinians have lost trust.
My Lords, it is a very great privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, who is a great expert on the subject and some years ago wrote an outstanding book on the need for peace and for two states between these two countries. I warmly thank the noble Lord, Lord Cope, for his initiative in launching this debate today. He has a brilliant record of deep knowledge of the problems in this area and has fought for justice for Palestine for many years; I thank him for that.
I have been a friend of Israel for many years. It is a fabulous country, which used to be much more cheerful than it is now—I am sad to say that. We know that the development of extreme right-wing politics under the Netanyahu Government has made people more uneasy about the future, even though their triumphalism makes it look as though they are being successful. That is a huge problem and it is going to get worse, unless Netanyahu’s Government in Jerusalem, with their lack of wisdom, change their mind fundamentally on these points. This has been a theme that has come through in every speech in this debate: it is essential that they do that.
Unfortunately, the erratic, inexperienced and ignorant President of the United States—the worst President that that country has ever had the misfortune to have—does not know anything at all about this subject and just takes one side; and not even the side of Israel as a country, but that of the Netanyahu Government. That is a foolish stance to take and leads us nowhere at all down this vital road.
I have always admired Israel as a wonderful country, but I am convinced that if justice is given to the Palestinians, next door to it another wonderful country will be created. With full peace and justice between them and all these decisions resolved, they will shake hands and work together as two of the most dynamic countries in the Middle East to promote not only their own reciprocal prosperity, strength and political security but that of others in the area as well. It is so foolish of the narrow-minded Netanyahu Government to ignore these realities.
So many Israelis are frustrated beyond belief at the attitude of this Government. It is a terrible election system anyway, because there are no constituencies—only the national list system, which inhibits the representation of a lot of people who would like to be better represented. Because of that, and due to the lack of a threshold, we see odd, eccentric, minority parties joining coalitions all the time, now with an increasingly right-wing texture. That is causing a doom-laden future to come through more and more.
The reality is that the Israeli Government have to accept that they must change. If they do, Israel and Palestine will come together. Palestine cannot be the only UN member state in the world to be denied its sovereignty.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord for securing this debate; he introduced it with wisdom and a devastating critique of the document issued by the White House.
The region is a tinder-box, made more volatile by the USA pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal. This makes it even more important to find a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the end of 2018, Trump announced that his “ultimate deal” for Israel and Palestine was about to enter the pre-launch phase. He has remained extremely secretive about the political contents of the deal. Astonishingly, the proposal seems to be to seek to work around, rather than engage, the Palestinians—not a recipe for sorting out any conflict. Economic development is severely constrained by the lack of a political solution to the control of land, resources and borders. Trump has further undermined that economy by pulling out support.
Daniel Kurtzer, US ambassador under George W Bush, tweeted:
“The authors of the plan clearly understand nothing”.
Dan Shapiro, who served under Barack Obama, said that,
“there are two big problems. First, the US had aid programs to support all these goals, but the Trump administration cancelled them. That kills our credibility in asking others for money. Second, you can’t get others to invest in this effort without knowing the political backdrop”.
Arab states have announced no pledges of funding. They reiterated support for a two-state solution based on the Arab peace initiative. Meanwhile, the future of a Palestinian state continues to be undermined by huge settlement expansion.
Can the UK therefore use whatever relationship it now has with the US to convey a message that a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires negotiation and, as my noble friend Lord Palmer said, the inclusion of the Palestinians as well as the Israelis in that process? Meanwhile, it is vital to reinstate support for human development, especially education and health.
Will the UK reiterate its commitment to a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital for the two states, and its opposition to the expansion of settlements? Does it accept that the time has come for the UK to recognise the state of Palestine, as 137 of the 193 member states of the UN—71%—have now done? Does it think that the US can be a trusted mediator? I look forward to the noble Baroness’s reply.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Cope. He was absolutely right: this debate is about whether the cart has been put before the horse. When I recently met the PLO’s secretary-general—the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, was there too—he stressed this point, making it clear that there can be no discussion about the economic situation without first discussing the political one.
As the noble Lord, Lord Cope, mentioned, and my noble friend Lord Turnberg has highlighted, Kushner’s plan completely failed to mention any of the key political factors that are barriers to Palestinian economic development, including the occupation of territories and lack of a Palestinian state; the security challenges to both Israel and the occupied territories; the settlements in the West Bank; US cuts to UNRWA and other aid programmes, as we have heard in the debate; and Hamas control of Gaza. These are all key factors that have to be addressed and discussed first.
The economic plan also fails to address the impact of the cuts that Trump has made to projects funded by USAID, which have had a devastating impact throughout the region in Palestinian areas, as well as in areas with high concentrations of Palestinian refugees. Even more galling was to see photographs of those exact projects in the published plan—that beggars belief.
In addition to the cuts to UNRWA, Trump has also cut other USAID programmes, including cross-border peace and reconciliation activities. I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Turnberg, who has spent a great deal of time focusing on those inter-community activities which are building confidence on the ground between the two communities. They are essential ingredients to any sustainable peace. I would like to hear from the Minister about how we are doing more to support those initiatives on the ground, as well as protecting against some of the impacts of those US cuts.
As everyone has said, the best way of achieving peace in the Middle East is a two-state solution with a secure and viable state of Israel living alongside a secure and viable state of Palestine. I hope that the Minister will repeat that commitment and set out a way that we can deal with how it is to be delivered.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Cope of Berkeley for tabling this debate and all noble Lords for their thoughtful and informed contributions. I shall try to respond to all the points raised. If I may, I would like to touch on both the United States’ Peace to Prosperity economic plan as well as the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
My noble friend asked for our assessment of the economic plan, launched by the US Administration at the Peace to Prosperity conference in Bahrain at the end of June. The UK Government welcome US efforts to support development of the Palestinian economy, which is fragmented, with slowing growth and rising unemployment among a young and growing labour force. I recognise that neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority were represented at the workshop, but it was none the less a useful opportunity for the international community to consider how we can support the Palestinian economy. That is why we were represented at the conference by the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, my honourable friend Robert Jenrick MP. I reassure noble Lords that at the conference, we engaged closely with European and international partners.
As noble Lords are aware, the economic proposals outlined by the US were based on a proposed $50.67 billion investment plan into Palestinian and regional projects covering a 10-year period, and setting out to halve Palestinian unemployment, double Palestinian GDP, create 1.3 million Palestinian jobs and halve the Palestinian poverty rate. Of the costed projects and programmes across multiple sectors, some of which are already under development, over half are based in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, with the remainder split between Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon.
The plan therefore proposes valuable programmes that seek to address a number of significant barriers to growth in the OPTs, and the proposals encourage international discussion on the development of the Palestinian economy, which is vital to reducing unemployment, promoting growth and improving Palestinian livelihoods. At this time, there are no political components to the plan and, for the time being, the occupation continues. The UK remains of the belief that a negotiated political settlement, leading to a viable and sovereign Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel, is necessary. A two-state solution—a negotiated political solution—must be the umbrella to any economic proposals, and my noble friend Lord Cope identified that sensitive balance.
I also noted that the noble Lords, Lord Anderson of Swansea, Lord Palmer of Childs Hill and Lord Collins, the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, my noble friend Lady Morris of Bolton and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, all reflected their concerns about that missing element in the Peace to Prosperity plan.
My noble friend Lady Morris of Bolton, from her experience as a trade envoy to the Palestinian territories, spoke knowledgeably about the importance of trade and the economy. I thank her for her commitment and dedication in that role. I say to both my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Collins, that we continue to focus our economic development support in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and we shall double the amount of UK aid spent on economic development in the OPTs to nearly £40 million between 2018 and 2023. This UK programme is focused on helping to address restrictions on movement and access, and improving water and energy supply, particularly in Gaza.
The current impasse on the transfer of clearance revenues, which Israel is withholding, threatens the collapse of the Palestinian Authority. We believe this is in no one’s interest and that it endangers stability and security. We are working with the parties to support the implementation of the Paris Protocol agreement on the transfer of revenues to the Palestinian Authority that are collected by Israel on its behalf. We will also support the transfer of customs functions if the parties can reach agreement on this issue.
On the distressing and perplexing issue of refugees, we remain one of the largest donors to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. UK funding enables the agency to provide protection, health and education services for nearly 5.5 million Palestinian refugees. The UK’s programme of work in the OPTs reflects our desire to see the creation of a sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian state, living in peace and security side by side with Israel.
My noble friend Lord Cope raised the issue of Palestinian nationhood, as did the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark. The UK’s position in this matter has been consistent over a very considerable period. We will recognise a Palestinian state at a time when it best serves the objective of peace. Sadly, we have not yet reached that point. In support of this ambition, we maintain pressure on the parties to end all actions that undermine the viability of the two-state solution. This includes Israeli settlement activity, demolition of Palestinian property in the West Bank, and evictions of Palestinians from their homes, particularly in east Jerusalem; equally, the Israelis have the right to live in peace and security, free from the threat of terror from Hamas and other militant groups. However, settlement development and related activity call into question Israel’s commitment to peace. We would strongly oppose any move to annex all or any part of the West Bank.
For the Palestinian economy to improve, Palestinians and Palestinian goods must be permitted to move more freely and on an equal regulatory footing. Palestinians need to be better able to exploit trade opportunities within the region and beyond. The recent memorandums of understanding between the Palestinian Authority and Jordan are a welcome sign of the Palestinians’ and Jordanians’ desire to increase trade between them. We call on Israel to allow this. We remain clear that the main constraints holding back Palestinian economic development are those imposed by the Israeli occupation. These constraints must be lifted to stimulate the Palestinian private sector. This can be done without compromising Israel’s security.
I emphasise, as my honourable friend the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury made clear in Bahrain, that the UK remains committed to a negotiated two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as a shared capital. I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, of our commitment to that objective. I also pay tribute to him for his book, Beyond the Balfour Declaration. I have been reading parts of it—I cannot claim to have read it all—and what I have read impresses me. It is one of the most analytical and balanced commentaries I have come across; I think that was the book the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, was referring to.
The noble Lord, Lord Dykes, also laid out a very welcome and positive vision of what might be possible for Israel and the Palestinian Authority—a vision that I think we would all share, nurture and want to encourage. We should thank the noble Lord for that optimism, and we should all be prepared to hold true to it and see what we can do to let it fructify and materialise.
I reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, that the UK Government remain in regular contact with the US Administration on this issue and have been clear about our parameters for the minimum requirements for peace. The Foreign Secretary has discussed this directly with Jared Kushner on a number of occasions.
We welcome US efforts to improve the Palestinian economy. However, a negotiated political solution must be the umbrella to any economic proposals, if we are to ultimately unlock lasting and sustainable economic growth for Palestinians. We therefore continue to encourage the US Administration to bring forward detailed proposals for a viable Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement that addresses the legitimate concerns of both parties. We have been clear that we believe the only way to achieve this is through substantive peace talks leading to a two-state solution.
In the meantime, we believe that much can and should be done to improve the economic situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. As I have indicated, the United Kingdom is doing what it can to provide support, help and encouragement, and we call on Israel to engage and work with the Palestinian Authority to that end. The United Kingdom looks forward to continuing to support all efforts towards peace.
This has been a perhaps short but interesting and instructive debate in which your Lordships, from a variety of backgrounds, have offered views and opinions with authority. It is an important contribution to what I think is the concerted desire of us all to see a resolution to this difficult and perplexing problem in the Middle East. I think we all believe that a better future awaits Israel and the Palestinian Authority, if we can find that magical component to create peace. Then, the two communities can hopefully have a secure future, living side by side with each other.
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will repeat a Statement made earlier today in another place by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The Statement is as follows:
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the Government’s approach to the detention and rendition of detainees overseas. Our policy on this issue remains clear: the Government do not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment for any purpose. To do so would not only be wrong, and incompatible with the United Kingdom’s commitments under international conventions—such as the UN convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, to which this country is a signatory—but would be a betrayal of everything that we stand for as a nation in terms of our promotion of human rights and the protection of human dignity.
There is already clear guidance and training for UK personnel dealing with detainees who are held by others. That guidance has been reviewed, at the Prime Minister’s request, by Sir Adrian Fulford, the independent Investigatory Powers Commissioner, to see how it could be improved further, taking account of the views of the Intelligence and Security Committee and those of civil society. The Government have accepted Sir Adrian’s proposals in full, as set out by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in a Written Ministerial Statement earlier today. We have published new guidance, entitled The Principles Relating to the Detention and Interviewing of Detainees Overseas and the Passing and Receipt of Intelligence Relating to Detainees, which will replace the current consolidated guidance at the end of the year. The principles will be extended so that they explicitly cover the National Crime Agency and SO15 Metropolitan Police Service.
I would like to thank Sir Adrian for his work. The principles address many of the points raised by the Intelligence and Security Committee in recommending changes to the consolidated guidance. The new document will now be explicitly engaged when there is a risk of extraordinary rendition, rendition or unlawful killing occurring in the context of detention. It will also apply not only when UK personnel are working with Governments, but when non-state actors or groups are involved. The principles also introduce a formal error-reporting obligation and a formal whistleblowing provision, in line with the commissioner’s statutory responsibilities in the Investigatory Powers Act.
These new principles are part of steps taken by successive Governments to understand what happened in the aftermath of the appalling terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, and to put in place improved policies and practice. As the Prime Minister said in a Written Statement on 28 June last year:
‘With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that UK personnel were working within a new and challenging operating environment for which, in some cases, they were not prepared. It took too long to recognise that guidance and training for staff were inadequate, and too long to understand fully and take appropriate action on the risks arising from our engagement with international partners on detainee issues’.
The agencies responded to what they thought were isolated allegations and incidents of mistreatment, but the ISC concluded that the agencies should have realised the extent to which others were using unacceptable practices as part of a systematic programme. As the Prime Minister noted last year, the agencies acknowledge that they did not fully understand this quickly enough, and they regret not doing so. It is important to say, however, that the ISC found no evidence to support allegations that UK personnel directly carried out physical mistreatment of detainees.
Lessons have been learned from these challenging events, and from the various independent examinations of detainee issues that have taken place over the past 15 years or so. These have included three separate investigations and reports published by the ISC in 2005, 2007 and 2018; Sir Peter Gibson’s Report of the Detainee Inquiry, published in 2013; related police investigations; and thorough internal reviews by the security and intelligence agencies of their involvement in detainee cases from 2001 to 2010, which the ISC examined in its most recent report.
The position now is very different from the one confronting UK personnel in the immediate aftermath of 11 September 2001. Better guidance and training are coupled with a world-leading independent oversight regime, underpinned by the Justice and Security Act 2013 and the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. This legislation has given enhanced powers to the ISC to oversee the activities of the security and intelligence agencies, alongside the statutory role of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, who reports annually on his remit, including the application of detainee policy. The consolidated guidance and the new principles make clear that Ministers must be consulted if there is a serious or real risk of detainee mistreatment occurring at the hands of others, and, of course, the Ministerial Code reflects the overarching duty on Ministers to comply with the law.
I turn now to the question of whether there should be a further inquiry into detainee mistreatment and rendition issues. As I told the House on Monday, in response to an Urgent Question from my right honourable and learned friend the member for Rushcliffe, since publishing its response to the ISC community reports on detainee mistreatment and rendition on 22 November 2018, the Government have given serious consideration to the examination of detainee issues, whether any more lessons could be learned, and, if so, how. My right honourable and learned friend the Member for Rushcliffe, as the then Cabinet Office Minister without Portfolio, told the House on 19 December 2013 that, once the ISC had completed its most recent work, the Government would,
‘take a final view as to whether a further judicial inquiry still remains necessary to add any further information of value to future policy making and the national interest’.
I undertook to give a definitive answer to that question, and I can confirm today that the Government have decided that it is not necessary to establish a further inquiry. There is no policy reason to do so, given the extensive work already undertaken to improve policies and practices in this area. The Government’s position is also that there is no legal obligation. These matters have been subject to a number of police investigations over the years, including Operations Hinton, Iden and Lydd, and a joint panel was set up by the Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan Police in January 2012 to consider allegations of UK involvement in detainee mistreatment. None of these police investigations has resulted in further action being taken, although some inquiries are continuing.
Parliament and the public can have confidence in the effectiveness of measures taken since 2010 and the new principles announced by the Government today to strengthen accountability and oversight by Ministers, Parliament and the independent commissioners of the vital work of our security and intelligence agencies. I commend the Statement to the House”.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. It is extremely disappointing that the Government failed to implement the Intelligence and Security Committee’s recommendations to commission an independent and judge-led inquiry, especially in the light of the comments by the UN Committee Against Torture, which has called on the UK to,
“establish without further delay an inquiry on alleged acts of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees held overseas … by, at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of British officials”.
We must remember that at the heart of the historical allegations of torture and rendition lie the stories of dozens of victims of this abuse, many of them innocent of any crime.
In the other place, David Lidington said that the Government did listen to the ISC and that the new principles reflected in many detailed aspects the precise recommendations of the committee in its two reports of 2018. So, if the Government are so confident that all the lessons of the past have been learned and that the abuses of the past cannot be repeated, what exactly do they have to fear by allowing a judge to look into this issue to examine all the evidence, interview all the witnesses and look at the new procedures and rules so that he or she can tell the Government whether they are right?
I turn to the new guidelines published today. I welcome the fact that they have been published, but I am concerned that the input of civil society might not have been fully considered. On this point, David Lidington said that Sir Adrian, in the course of his review, took great care to consult civil society. He convened meetings where representatives of civil society could make their representations to him and put forward their ideas. Is the Minister willing to say this afternoon exactly what Sir Adrian chose not to reflect from particular civil society organisations in his final report and recommendations? This process needs full transparency and open examination of all the issues, and that is why it is so important to have a full inquiry.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. However welcome it is that the Government have accepted the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s recommendations to replace the current consolidated guidance with new principles, the refusal to re-establish a judge-led inquiry, which was promised nearly a decade ago, is deplorable. The Intelligence and Security Committee, under the chairmanship of Dominic Grieve, did its best in the reports it produced a year ago, but the Prime Minister denied it access to relevant witnesses such that it was unable to conduct an authoritative inquiry and produce a report, so it had to stop.
However, the ISC estimated, on the basis of the research it was able to do, that UK personnel had been involved in 2,000 to 3,000 detainee interviews in the period 2002 to 2004. It found 166 incidents recorded, and there were huge gaps in the records, where UK personnel either witnessed detainee mistreatment, were told of it by the detainees themselves or were told of it by foreign agencies. In addition, the ISC found 198 recorded cases where UK personnel received intelligence that they knew or should have suspected was tainted as it resulted from detainee mistreatment. That makes getting on for 400 cases, some of which would surely have involved torture or illegal behaviour by British officials. Since the ISC found a lot of gaps in those records, it could be many more. Then there is complicity in illegal rendition, secret imprisonment and disappearance. It is not acceptable to try to bury this sorry, disgraceful history. There needs to be transparency and accountability in establishing the truth, not a continued cover-up. Anything less may well breach the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Like this Statement, today’s Written Statement from the Prime Minister on the new principles asserts that the Government’s policy is not to,
“participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”.
It would be extraordinary if it were otherwise. However, there still seems to be wriggle room for Ministers to authorise co-operation with torture and inhuman treatment, in breach of international law. Can the Minister assure us that the Ministry of Defence document revealed in May—it made clear that Ministers permitted themselves to share intelligence with allies even if there was a serious risk of torture—is now redundant and has been withdrawn, and that the principles would ban both Ministers and personnel from taking such a real risk?
On that note, can the Minister assure us that the extradited Hashem Abedi, the brother of the perpetrator of the appalling Manchester Arena bombing, was not mistreated or tortured in Libya?
The suspicion must exist that this brushing under the carpet is to please President Trump at a time when the likely next Prime Minister is keen to be chummy with him. That would be morally shameful. The ISC reported MI6 as saying that, post 9/11, there was,
“an unconditional reflex to support the United States, which … came from the political centre”—
namely, No. 10. The ISC concluded that,
“the UK saw itself as the poor relation to the US, and was distinctly uncomfortable at the prospect of complaining to its host”.
I am afraid that, once again, this sounds all too familiar.
In 2010, the coalition Government resolved to establish the truth through the powers of a judge. It is shocking that this Conservative-only Government have abandoned that attempt.
Once the Front Bench exchanges have been completed, there will be 20 minutes for Back-Bench Members to interrogate the Minister. I will be happy to address the issue raised by my noble friend at the appropriate time.
I was trying to explain the thinking behind the decision not to have a further judge-led review. It is common ground that there were shortcomings in our response to detainee issues following the atrocities of 9/11. The Government have recognised that. Since then, there have been five independent inquiries—four by the ISC and one by Sir Peter Gibson—into exactly those shortcomings.
Last year, to ensure that we learn the lessons from not just those inquiries but the investigations carried out by the police and the internal reviews carried out by the security and intelligence agencies, we invited Sir Adrian Fulford to review and update the consolidated guidance issued in 2010. He completed his report last month; it was published today along with his covering letter. We have said that we will accept all his recommendations in full. Between now and when they are implemented at the beginning of next year, there will be appropriate training and guidance for all security personnel involved. That is all underpinned by a regime made up of the Justice and Security Act and the Investigatory Powers Act, supervised by an independent Investigatory Powers Commissioner who reviews compliance with that guidance annually. In an exchange in the other place, the ISC chairman welcomed the Government’s response to Sir Adrian’s recommendations.
To come to the point made by the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, against that background of very substantial progress, the Prime Minister decided that a lengthy and complicated inquiry, part of which would likely be held in private because of the security issues involved, would not yield proportionate benefits. That is the position as I see it.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, for welcoming the publication of the report. He said that some of the civil society recommendations had not been adopted. The Government have been clear that Sir Adrian Fulford is independent. In his letter to the Prime Minister, he says:
“I have been keenly aware of the need to maintain my independence when seeking the views of … officials”.
In producing his report, he may not have incorporated all the recommendations from all those from whom he took evidence, but that is a matter for him. The Government are not minded to second-guess the recommendations of Sir Adrian in that respect.
The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, mentioned the cases mentioned by the ISC and asked how many had been investigated by the police. These cases have been thoroughly reviewed by the Government, including in the context of the ISC’s 2018 detainee reports, which were extensive and detailed. Sir Peter Gibson had access to all relevant written records for his detainee inquiry and the entire Gibson archive was handed to the ISC for its review. On us being junior partners to the United States, the decisions taken by the UK Government are taken in the interests of the UK and nothing else. In response to the noble Baroness’s final questions, Ministers must of course abide by the law. She mentioned the MoD internal guidance. That is now being revised in light of the new principles published today.
Finally, Foreign Office officials have been in contact with Hashem Abedi since his detention in May 2017 to provide consular assistance. They have been in contact on consular matters since then. As the noble Baroness knows, he landed in the UK on 17 July and has been charged. It is important to allow the judicial process to take place. We ask media colleagues and the wider public to respect this.
My Lords, we need to remind ourselves what we are talking about. In the 21st century, our country has facilitated the kidnapping and brutal torture of large numbers of people. The recent Intelligence and Security Committee report revealed 166 further cases of such facilitation. It told us that it was thwarted from investigating these, and concluded last year that the “conditions imposed” on the inquiry,
“were such that we would be unable to … produce a credible Report”.
It went on to say that its report,
“is not, and must not be taken to be, a definitive account”.
Therefore, does the noble Lord accept that this makes the Government’s decision not to proceed with an inquiry all the more unacceptable?
I begin by paying tribute to my noble friend who founded and chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition in another place. He has consistently campaigned, in another place and now here, for greater transparency on this subject.
On the UK’s reputation, it is worth quoting what Sir Adrian said in his letter about the posture we have adopted. He says:
“The Consolidated Guidance was drafted and published in 2010. It can fairly be said to have led the field internationally in terms of providing guidance to personnel on intelligence sharing in a manner that protects human rights”.
We want to build on that reputation by implementing the proposals mentioned today.
On the ISC inquiry which my noble friend referred to, I very much regret that it was not possible to find a way for the ISC to conclude its inquiry. The Government’s Memorandum of Understanding with the ISC under the Justice and Security Act 2013 permits the committee to take oral evidence from Ministers, agency heads and senior officials. The committee wanted to take evidence from junior officials, but this is not the usual practice with Select Committees—as a former chair of a Select Committee, my noble friend will know this. We offered senior officials to speak on behalf of more junior ones, but this did not turn out to be acceptable. Having said that, all relevant documentary evidence was provided to the ISC. It took 50 hours of oral evidence and had 40,000 original documents and 30,000 staff hours. I pay tribute to its thoroughness and just have to disagree with my noble friend about his conclusion that, without the further judicial inquiry, this matter remains unresolved.
My Lords, as one who shares the concerns and misgivings of the noble Lord, Lord Tyrie, I ask my noble friend: might it be possible to have a judicial panel to review and monitor the implementation of the Fulford recommendations, so that we can have real confidence that they have been properly implemented?
It will be for Sir Adrian’s successor as the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to report annually to the Government, in particular on how the guidance on detainees is being implemented. I hope my noble friend will accept that, having set up the Investigatory Powers Commissioner with statutory powers, it would be right to leave it to him—or, indeed, her—to carry out the very important supervisory work that my noble friend refers to and to report as impartially and independently as he can on the progress being made in implementing the recommendations adopted today.
I apologise to my noble friend for intervening during the time set aside for Front-Benchers. In addition to the reasons he has given, will he let the House know to what extent the cost of a judge-led review has influenced the Government’s decision? If it has, can he refer to any other similar judge-led reviews and their cost?
I mean no disrespect to members of the judiciary, but having a judge-led review does not always lead to closure, which is the case that has been made in this example of a reason for having a judge-led review. In addition to the cost, which I will come to in a moment, there would be a serious diversion of energy and attention by those involved were we to carry out a judge-led review. As for the cost of inquiries, the Saville inquiry cost £192 million, the Chilcot inquiry cost £13 million, and the Gibson inquiry, which was incomplete, cost £2.3 million. My noble friend is right to put on the table the fact that these judge-led reviews have resource implications.
My Lords, on Monday we were reminded by the noble Lord, Lord West, that no UK personnel were directly involved in the torture and abuse of detainees, but in view of the 2018 report from the ISC, which revealed that the practice of rendition and the mistreatment of detainees were much more prevalent than we had hitherto known, does the Minister accept that there must therefore be people in the UK, sometimes at very senior level, who were aware of these practices and the mechanisms by which detainees were transferred around the world, and were therefore complicit?
The short answer is that I do not know whether there were people who were aware but did not take the appropriate action. One of the recommendations of Sir Adrian’s report is that in future, if you become aware of any mistreatment, you are under an obligation to report it. On her first point, the noble Baroness is absolutely right that the ISC found no evidence of direct maltreatment by our staff. It is right to pay tribute to our intelligence and security staff, who work hard to keep us safe, often in challenging circumstances. I pay tribute to that work but, against the background of the exchanges we have had, it is right that they should be held to the highest possible standards.
Is it not rather surprising that only now is it suggested to people that if they become aware of such a matter they should report it? After all, any company that becomes aware of such a matter in its supply chain has a legal requirement to report it and can be held responsible. This is, in a sense, part of our supply chain and I find it extraordinary that we did not take that view before. It is for that reason that I am not surprised that the public as a whole are pretty questioning about the degree to which we are prepared to own up to our responsibility in these circumstances. Perhaps further measures should be taken, merely for public confidence.
Perhaps it would help my noble friend if I refer to the specific paragraph in Sir Adrian’s letter. He said:
“It was argued in number of responses to the consultation that there should be a post-notification process for individuals who have been mistreated following a failure properly to apply any new guidance or principles. This would enable them to seek redress. Reprieve and Freedom from Torture, in a joint submission, made substantive representations regarding the UK’s international obligations in this regard”.
I will write to my noble friend when I have discovered the other part of Sir Adrian’s recommendations, which builds on the current position, but makes more explicit that there is now an obligation, if people come across mistreatment, to pass it up the chain. I recognise that the paragraph I just read out was not directly relevant to my noble friend’s question.
The Minister has revealed the Government’s recent steep learning curve on extraordinary rendition, helped along the path by the activity of my noble friend Lord Tyrie. Do the Government now take the view that extraordinary rendition and what happens to people so rendered could bring anyone complicit in it within the scope of the International Criminal Court? That seems the common-sense conclusion from what they have found.
The noble Lord may be right. If it were an offence under the law just referred to, as Ministers are obliged by the Ministerial Code to abide by national and international law, they would be precluded from taking action that ran the risk of that breach.
I draw attention to my membership of the Intelligence and Security Committee. I take the forward-looking element of the Statement and welcome the publication of The Principles, which take into account the comments of Sir Adrian Fulford and many of the important changes that the ISC recommended. One point of interest is the reference to new principles coming into effect when the necessary training and guidance are in place. That implies, as I think is the case, that further guidance will be produced by agencies and the various departments. Will that guidance be made available to Sir Adrian or his successor and to the ISC?
I am grateful to the noble Lord for his work on the ISC. He is absolutely right: The Principles, published today, will lead to internal guidance being produced by the MoD, for example, which will take the overarching principles and turn them into more specific guidance relevant to the context in which people in the MoD will work. That internal guidance will be available to the IPCO. I will take advice on whether it will also be available to the ISC; I see no reason why it would not. Sir Adrian is minded to encourage, where possible, this internal guidance being made public.
I have discovered the right paragraph for my noble friend Lord Deben. I refer him to the section called “Reporting non-compliance” in Sir Adrian’s report. On not reporting any non-compliance, it says:
“Non-compliance for these purposes is a failure to comply with these Principles. An instance where a sustainable assessment, made in good faith, subsequently proves to be incorrect will not count as an incident of non-compliance”.
That is the serious section of The Principles that addresses my noble friend’s point, which I have now located.
Young Adults: Public Service Funding
Motion to Take Note
My Lords, I have pleasure in moving this Motion. In doing so, I thank noble Lords for their stamina and persistence in staying so late on Thursday afternoon. I look forward to their contributions. We are small in number, but the array of talent around the Chamber predicts a high-quality debate, which I look forward to. This debate is timely, given the many concerns about child poverty and the levels of support going to local authorities for services for children and young people. I salute the voluntary sector for its work in frequently picking up the problems left by funding shortfalls and for doing amazing work with groups of vulnerable adults and children. For clarification, I accept the usual definition of “children”, which is people up to the age of 18.
The subject of the debate is funding levels of public services that interact with young adults, but we also have to look at earlier conditions for children and young people. Before he or she reaches adolescence and adulthood, a young adult will have had many experiences in her or his family, in education, in childcare, in communities and so on. Children are from a variety of backgrounds. They do not come as one piece. They are influenced by many things: their peer groups, ethnicity, education, faith and culture, health, ability and disability, contact with agencies such as childcare and youth centres and, possibly, the police. Interactions with those agencies are likely to have a lasting effect on what children become as adults. We must ensure that those interactions are healthy and supportive. It is a Government’s duty to ensure that children have the best possible start in life and every Government in recent years have pledged to do that, with varying success.
The best possible start in life includes positive parenting, a place to call home which offers security and a healthy lifestyle, affordable and high-quality childcare, a high standard of education and good healthcare wherever a family lives. These are the basics. This is early prevention of later problems and a good start in life. Some families run into difficulty and need interventions to support them. However, the overall spending power of local authorities has fallen significantly since 2010, while the demand for children’s services is increasing, according to a recent inquiry by the House of Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee. In 2018, the Children’s Commissioner and the Institute for Fiscal Studies published a report looking at public spending on children in England between 2000 and 2020. It focused on benefits, education, children’s services and health. It was found that spending was the same in 2018 as it had been in 2000-01, despite more pressure on services.
In a recent report, Choose Childhood, the charity Action for Children reflects that, according to children, parents and grandparents, childhood has changed. There have been advances in health, domestic legislation and social housing. Despite this, many children and young people today still face life-changing disadvantages and there are,
“worrying signs … that some of the progress made is at risk of being reversed”.
Mental health needs have increased; child poverty has grown and is projected to rise to 5 million by 2022. Children at risk of abuse and neglect are not getting the support they need and remain on the edges of social care. Children are concerned about safer streets and the risk of crime.
I refer first to funding for families and communities and child poverty—a devastating and counterproductive thing for a child and his or her family. Some problems arise, not through policies set at local levels but because of national funding policies on, for example, benefits. One example is the two-child limit, which came into effect in 2017. New research by the Child Poverty Action Group and the Church of England estimates that 160,000 families and 600,000 children have been affected by this policy and that more than 800,000 families will eventually be affected. They will be £4,000 worse off on average as a result. As I said earlier, child poverty as a whole is increasing.
Between 2010 and 2019, 585 Sure Start children’s centres closed. These centres provided community support systems for parents and children within pram-pushing distance—but, I am afraid, no longer. Between 2012 and 2019, 763 youth centres closed. The Government have stated that money has been put into the connections service and youth activities such as the UK Youth Parliament. This is all to the good but it is not the same as having a fixture, such as a youth centre, where young people can go for recreation, structured activity, support and advice.
Spending on local libraries has decreased and some have closed. In 2015, a BBC News survey found that more than £42 million has been axed from council sports and leisure centres since 2010. Local authority spending overall has decreased year on year since 2013-14 from just over £90 million to almost £88 million.
Others will speak about schools but we know from head teachers of dramatic shortfalls in funding affecting schools in terms of the upkeep of buildings and spending on equipment for young people. The most vulnerable are suffering. The National Education Union has reported that special needs provision in England has lost out on £1.2 billion because of shortfalls in funding from central government since 2015, while the number of those who have legal entitlement to funding for support has risen by almost 100,000 in the corresponding period.
With such a diminution of community structures, an increase in family difficulties, increasing homelessness and a lack of affordable housing, we should not be surprised at the increase in gang culture and its attendant crimes such as knife crime, particularly in inner cities. It is true that the number of people entering the youth justice system has decreased dramatically. The number of first-time entrants has gone down by 86% since March 2008 but knife and weapon offences have increased, as have the number of young people in custody. Almost 41% of children and young people reoffend. The number of arrests of children and young people has decreased but at different rates: 82% for white children and only 56% for black children. This uneven figure calls for dramatic efforts to investigate the reasons and provide resources to tackle the difference.
Two-thirds of local councils have cut funding for sexual and reproductive health services, according to a freedom of information request carried out by the Advisory Group on Contraception. Funding constraints are increasing health inequality, with 60% of councils in areas of high deprivation planning further cuts. Public Health England has estimated that each £1 spent on publicly funded contraception alone will save over £9 in the next 10 years in local authority and NHS budgets. Brook advisory centres, which provide free and confidential sexual health information, including on contraception, are concerned that specialist services for young people are at risk. This is not only about contraception; it is about protection from sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. All this is costly and distressing for those affected. Money needs to be spent earlier but sometimes the money is not there. However, I am glad that the Government have agreed to make sexuality and relationships education mandatory in schools from next year. Young people have the right to information and emotional support to develop healthy sexual relationships, and schools need to be backed up by support services in the community.
Substance misuse—alcohol or drugs, and sometimes self-medication—is a form of risky behaviour and often a cry for help. Services for young people are commissioned by local authorities. A Children’s Society review, which took into account the views of young people, found concern that the resourcing of wider children’s and young people’s services has suffered in some local authority areas from reductions in the public health grant since 2013. This represents an enormous challenge for such services. There was evidence that expenditure on drug and alcohol services for young people had been reduced. Again, early intervention to prevent the use of alcohol and drugs is important and saves money in the long term.
Child criminal exploitation is the grooming of children into criminality. It is an area where there is a huge absence of data from the police and local authorities, yet the Children’s Commissioner has warned that between 30,000 and 50,000 children could be affected. A report by the Children’s Society found that only half of local authorities said they had collected data. This has led to a lack of knowledge about the criminalisation of children being forced to sell drugs, and gangs are exploiting the situation. This is one case where the Government must address the shortfall in funding for children’s social care and provide sufficient funding to bring in early help for vulnerable children.
A recent research report on vulnerable children from the Children’s Commissioner states that,
“for too long we have focused only on managing demand for services instead of asking what helps these children lead happy, successful lives”.
This has resulted in increased spending on late, short-term, expensive and ineffective intervention. It seems that planning for services has been affected by a lack of certainty about funding in the long term. The report estimates that about £10 billion will be required by 2025 to make a meaningful difference. The expansion should include an expansion of community-level services to help children and families.
I praised the voluntary sector earlier. I am impressed by the announcement this year by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, that there will be new money from City Hall’s Young Londoners Fund for youth projects and programmes. In the last round of funding, more than 450 applications seeking an investment of over £120 million were received from projects that support children and young people aged between 10 and 21.
I repeat and stress the importance of early and consistent intervention to help children, families and young adults. Too often, we seem to work in piecemeal ways; this can be disorganised and disruptive for local councils and the people who inhabit communities. What is the Government’s policy on funding local authorities? Is it on the basis of need? How it is calculated? What are the challenges? What increases in funding are foreseen? I ask the Government to develop, with stakeholders, a strategy for children and young people to pull the strands together. We cannot afford to put at risk the health, welfare and lives of this crucial population, the citizens of now and of the future. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for bringing this debate and giving us the opportunity to put on the public record things that are indeed of national concern and very close to all our hearts. It is a massive area and one full of nuance and complexity. So, for my contribution, I want to keep mainly to the realm of local government drawing on my experience both as the former elected Mayor of Watford for 16 years and currently as a vice-president of the LGA.
For the local government family, there has been an avalanche of change over the last decade in how we deal with young people and, in particular, how services have changed, been adapted or simply been cut altogether. To us it feels like uncertainty piled upon uncertainty, which is demoralising for those working with young people and certainly makes recruitment and retention more difficult. Of course, it also has very real consequences for individuals, their families and, ultimately, society as a whole.
Children and young people should be supported to get the best, not just get by. It has been increasingly challenging to turn this ambition into a reality when cumulative financial pressures are forcing councils to make unpalatable decisions about the allocation of scarcer resources. Many of the services that impact on young adults are delivered by local government. The challenges facing those youngsters can span a range of areas and are multifaceted; they include poverty, housing, skills and employment, access to training and careers advice, access to mental and physical health services, and exposure to violence, crime, grooming and exploitation. In all of those areas, local government, quite rightly, has a positive role to play and is often the lead agency.
Some facts: local Government has lost 60 pence out of every pound of funding for services and faces a £3.5 billion pay gap by 2025, just standing still; this year, 88% of councils have overspent on their children’s services budget and, for the first time, it overtook adult social care as the number one issue that councils were most worried about funding. Why? Perhaps because social workers are starting new cases for more than 1,000 children every day on average—I rechecked that fact because I did not believe it—and some 500 cases a day presenting with mental health problems. The total number of looked-after children has reached a new high of over 75,000, representing the biggest annual rise of children in care for eight years. Child protection inquiries are up by 158% in 10 years, and the number of children on protection plans has increased by 84% over the same period.
A study by Action for Children, Barnardo’s and the NSPCC says:
“Funding available per child … for all children’s services”,
in England has fallen from,
“£813 in 2010-11 to £553 in 2017-18”.
The facts speak for themselves.
Councils in London have suffered the worst cuts, with northern cities not far behind. All services have now been pared down. There has been an inevitable and necessary shift to focus on statutory services, at the expense of preventative services, to deal with young people in crisis, rather than young people who are perhaps in a bit of trouble, or who are struggling, or who are in need of the right kind of services to stop them from getting to that point at all.
It is, however, becoming increasingly hard to look at the facts and not see some cause and effect. Has this reduction in spend on young people, for instance, meant that knife crime has increased? Who can say for sure? However, one thing any sensible person can say with certainty is that services to support the transition to adulthood of many tens of thousands of our youngsters have reduced or are non-existent. This is well evidenced, and it is not fantasy to hypothesise that, taken all together across an area—whether that area is a village, a small town or a large city—young people’s lives are being impoverished and lack of support for them must be affecting their lives.
Councils should be given the resources they need to work with young people and prevent their involvement in crime rather than picking up the pieces after the offences have been committed. Even then, at the sharp end, there has been a significant reduction in the youth offending teams. These were working well in co-ordinating a response in partnership with the police and probation, social and education services, and others, with significant results in cutting local crime and supporting vulnerable young people. The government grant to YOTs has been cut from £145 million in 2010-11 to £72 million in 2017-18.
The recent report from the Children’s Commissioner for England revealed that there,
“are some worrying trends. Mainstream and acute services such as age 4-16 education and provision for children in care have been protected at the expense of targeted preventative services, removing vital safety nets for some very vulnerable children. The 60% cut in Sure Start and youth services will see an increasing number of vulnerable children fall through the gaps”.
I believe that this is already happening. The cuts that have happened gradually, over nearly a decade, are now showing their cumulative impact. Councils are overspending, have raised council tax to the limit that they are allowed to by Government, increased fees and charges, and have used their reserves to prop up essential services.
Youngsters do not arrive in crisis overnight, and many could be prevented from getting to that point if we helped them sooner and in a more effective way. There is much research to be done. We are in effect trying to manage and contain crisis in children’s lives after allowing it to escalate.
If we continue to see greater numbers of youngsters marginalised, the cost to the state will be greater. But it is the lifetime cost to these young people that we should be most troubled by; they have only one childhood and one chance to grow up into healthy and productive citizens. We see the cost of this lack of preventive work in increasing current pressures on children in care, family courts, special schools and special educational needs and disability provision in general, and in spiralling numbers of school exclusions and the consequent increase in younger children linked to violent street gangs.
Could the Minister point to ways in which the Government are looking to work out of government silos to build cross-cutting departmental services, built around a clear evidence base of the unmet needs of children? Do we know what really works? Do we have the right kind of data? I am particularly interested to know what will happen to the recently discredited Troubled Families programme, and its funding, when it ceases in 2020. For local government, the new fairer funding formula and the decision to omit deprivation from it has caused serious concerns. Could the Minister reassure us that funding will be matched to the likely level of need when the new regime finally comes in?
It is vital that the Government heed the consistent and increasing warning that children’s services are now at tipping point. Will the Government commit to using the upcoming spending review to deliver a long-term strategy that enables councils to meet the growing need for support for some of the most vulnerable in society—our young people?
My Lords, I join others in thanking and congratulating my noble friend Lady Massey on introducing this debate. Her commitment to this area of policy is well known and long standing. I am grateful for the opportunity it gives us to discuss what one might, without being accused of exaggeration, call a crisis. I also acknowledge the speech that the noble Baroness has just made about the impact on local authorities. They carry the burden of this and often unjustifiably get the blame; it is good to see that recognised.
I would not imagine that there is any difference of opinion, or any argument to be made, about the funding cuts in this most crucial of services. I will not rehearse the figures and statistics; I do not think there is any need to persuade Members that there is a problem with funding. However, it is interesting to note that there have been cuts to funding for universal services. I am not sure that they are exactly the same as preventive services—I think they go a bit wider than that—but they are for every child and are part of a good and strong childhood. Funding is down for schools, further education, youth work and, as my noble friend Lady Massey said, youth centres. There are then also cuts to funding for targeted services, which are aimed at those children and young people who are more vulnerable than others. Look at the high-needs block in special education needs funding. In the case of the youth offending teams, the money seems to have been halved over 10 years. It is not just in some areas; it is wherever you look. Whether they are universal, for every child and every young adult, or whether they are targeted at children with special needs and requirements —not in terms of education—there is a problem.
I was thinking about the 10 years in which we have had this policy of austerity. For children of primary age, it has been there all their life; for children of secondary age, it has been there for all their teen years. I do not agree with austerity, but those of us who can look back and remember a time when public services were well funded at least have hope that it can be better than this. We have a vision; a picture of what better-funded public services can be. I worry that a generation of children will reach adulthood having never lived in a society where public services are adequately funded. As adults, we need to question ourselves on that. Although primarily it is families who bring up children, families need the support of the wider community and the state. Some activities fall to the state to ensure that young people are protected, allowed to grow up strong and stable, and able to contribute to society as they can.
Without wanting to guess the Minister’s response, I suspect he might say that there has been protection for some services. That argument is made by his ministerial colleagues regarding schools: the school budget has been protected, while there is an acceptance that other areas of funding have been cut. I want to make the argument that there are two reasons why that is not effective. The first and very simple reason is that even the priorities, which are usually the statutory services, have been underfunded; no recognition has been made of the extra demand that has been put on those services. The irony is that, in a time of austerity, the demand for those services increases. Even if budgets are kept the same or increased for inflation, they end up being underfunded because the increased need is not taken into account.
The second reason is slightly different, and here I want to make some further points. Having been a teacher for a number of years and a politician for a number of years, my experience is that services have got to work together; that is what makes the difference. That is never more true than for those services aimed at children and young adults. Forget the point about extra demand; even if one accepts the Government’s argument that they are safeguarding the priority services, or statutory services, there are implications if that is done in an otherwise underfunded system. It is those implications, as well as the drop in funding, that are causing the problem. For instance, the figures provided by the Library show it is true that there seems to be an increase in funding for safeguarding children, in young people’s services and for looked-after children. Ministers have made the decision that, in these tough times, they will do their best to safeguard those budgets. However, if one looks at the same set of figures, one sees that there is a decrease in Sure Start, a decrease in services for children under five and a decrease in the amount of money going into youth justice. One feeds into the other: it is no good protecting services that safeguard children and young people if you then cut those things that enable professionals to do a better job with these vulnerable young people.
I see the same in schools. I suspect that a fair amount of money has been put into maths and literacy teaching in schools. The maths hubs and the maths mastery programme are really good, and they are costed. I go around schools and see good work there, but because money has gone into some things and not others, there are no art, music or citizenship classes; there are no opportunities to go away overnight or go outside for play. The overall effect is that children’s learning is not as effective as it could be. You cannot pump money into teaching children maths and English and, at the same time, deny them the rest of the curriculum and think that there will not be a consequence.
In a strange way, the notion of priorities does not work, because a consequence of those priorities is an even greater underfunding of the services that would help deliver them better. If services are not funded, often it is not that they do not get delivered but that those in the workforce, at the cutting edge, have to find a way of taking on the extra burden. This is certainly the case in schools.
It can be argued that school budgets have been protected, and I would grant that that is probably the case in primary schools. Yet when I go to primary schools, teachers are not telling me that they are ever so glad that the Government have protected their budget—no one has ever said that to me. It is not that they are bashing the Tories; it is what they feel in their everyday lives. The children who come their way are suffering from money being cut in other areas. If there is less money in family support, it is the teachers who take on the job. Mums and dads who would have gone to an advice centre for help now come to the head teacher and the child’s teacher. If children suffer mental health through difficulties at home, and money is being cut from that service, they come to schools and expect them to deal with it. If children have poor housing but the neighbourhood housing advice centre has been cut, parents end up at school saying that they have not enough money to feed the children or for school uniforms.
One of the biggest backward steps is that, because of this cut in funding, we have a situation in which teachers have had to go back to being social workers, advice workers and carers. Under the Labour Government, they were free to teach, and that is why standards increased. It is no good protecting the schools budget if teachers are telling us that they are picking up the consequences of underfunded services. There is no capacity in the system. There is no joy. There are no spare minutes in which you can make some decisions about what to do differently and what to do next. It is a pressurised system. Even areas that the Government claim to have funded end up being not as effective as they might be; the Government certainly get no credit for this.
Further—and this is the greatest evidence that this is an argument worth making—I cannot see what policy the Government have to deliver integrated services. They have given up on delivering integrated services, because they are putting money into only a few of those services. They do not claim to be delivering integrated services. The Labour Government did that through Every Child Matters and children’s centres. I do not mind if you do not want to do it that way —I am not saying that it was perfect—but it was an acknowledgement and recognition that there has to be a structure to try to deliver integrated services to children and young adults. If you do not like that one, invent another. If the Minister accepts that integrated services are key to effective service delivery, can he explain how his Government are doing that?
I will finish where we started. One of our biggest obligations—as adults, politicians and policymakers—is to do what we can to make sure that the next generation has the best possible start in life. We cannot do it by ourselves, but I tell you what: politicians are pretty demanding of other agencies and individuals about discharging their responsibilities to children and young adults. If you look at what has happened to public services for young adults, you will see that the political policies are found wanting.
My Lords, I welcome this timely debate, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, on the funding of public services for young adults. It is now apparent that funding for this work has reduced substantially over the last few years. Local authorities are responsible for the delivery of services to this sector, and the reduction in their grants from central government is the main problem. Local authorities are trying very hard to continue the services they have to deliver.
Let us not forget that we are talking about the future generations of this country: our children and grandchildren. Lack of sufficient funding is leading to all kinds of problems: increasing drug-taking, early pregnancy, delinquency at schools and many other ills. Disadvantaged, poor and single-parent families suffer disproportionately. BAME communities also have increasing pressures. Schools, both primary and secondary, are constantly short of funds. I have heard about children coming to school in the morning hungry and in some cases with dirty clothes. For the first time, the number of BAME young people in prisons has increased in comparison with white people. Facilities such as sports grounds, Sure Start centres and clubs for the young are being reduced or closed.
The root cause of all these serious problems is surely connected not only to a lack of funding but to poverty. An increasing number of poor families in some parts of the UK are dependent on food banks.
I have been involved for many years in early childhood education. I would like to share my experiences with your Lordships today. In 1967, while I was in Tanzania, I was the administrator of many schools, including a number of nursery schools. My colleagues felt that there was a great need to improve the standards of nursery school teachers. We undertook research and found that the Montessori system was one of the best at that time.
I remember meeting the grandson of Maria Montessori, Mr Mario Montessori, in Amsterdam. I was able to persuade him to send a teacher training expert to train the teachers in Tanzania. A lady, Miss Muriel Dwyer from England, was sent to Dar es Salaam for a period of one or two years. Her work was excellent and she managed to train some 40 teachers in the method of the Montessori system. Equipment for the new set-up was ordered from Holland and the Montessori system spread to the rest of the east African countries. It improved the standard of education for the young at a very early age. Science has shown us that a child leams quickly and properly between the ages of three and five.
Many years later, in 1972, when I migrated to the UK, I was invited to join the board of trustees of another NGO called the HighScope Educational Research Foundation, in Ypsilanti in Michigan. I was able to witness the enormous change that made in the lives of the children. HighScope had carried out a 25-year longitudinal study of two groups; namely, those who were trained under the HighScope system and those who were not.
The study proved that for every $1 that the Government of the USA spent on early childhood education, they saved $7 over the coming years. Delinquency and early pregnancy rates were reduced and children were more likely to be highly educated and with higher earning power, and they were better able to ensure a good education from early childhood to university for their own children. I was able to persuade the director of HighScope to establish a similar system in the UK. We must have intervention in our education system for resources for early childhood education in the UK. It will save money in the long term.
My own instinct is that many successful people over the years have sent their children to private nursery schools to prepare them for their education in the long term. But those who are poor are unable to send their young children to a private nursery school.
Science tells us that a child between the ages of three and five learns quickly when given the opportunity to learn from good teachers. The state does not provide early childhood education for all young children as a statutory right. The time has come for the state to introduce early childhood education for all as a policy. Will the Minister tell the House what level of funding is being provided for early childhood education and whether all children aged three to five receive the benefit of early childhood education as a right? If that is not the case, will the Minister please bring in legislation that makes early childhood education compulsory for all?
My Lords, the greatest Liberal Prime Minister in the history of our country—a Welshman, naturally—David Lloyd George, speaking more than 100 years ago after the passage in the other place of the Education Act said that, with the powers it has created,
“the State can watch over the welfare of its children through infancy and adolescence”.
Those inspirational words are in my mind today as we debate this issue, and we should keep them in mind. I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Massey for securing this debate.
After decades of progress in tackling poor education of the young, combating poverty and disease, and providing a sound base for our children to grow and build on, it is worth taking stock of where we are now. In today’s Britain, our all-embracing education system has been skewed and distorted for a narrow political ideology, child poverty is again on the rise, and poor diet and lack of parental financial means have resulted in children becoming obese, with far too many depending on pre- and after-school clubs for a decent meal. The closure of the Sure Start schemes, mentioned by my noble friend Lady Massey, which offered hope and made a real contribution to the quality of family life, has hit areas such as mine because they no longer exist there. The charity Action for Children says that funding for young people’s services has fallen by £3 billion. More over, spending by local councils on young people’s services has seen a 16% reduction—down by £1.7 billion. The charity says that there are serious regional differences in spending—a point I think the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, made. That cannot be right, and I will be interested to hear whether the Minister has something to say about this when he replies to the debate.
At the end of the day, cutting public spending to this degree will have an adverse impact, and this can be life-changing for our children and young people. In 2017, an old friend of mine, the former MP and Minister—and now the South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner—Alun Michael, spoke about the positive results that early intervention can have for young people. He wrote that early intervention in support of children who had endured adverse childhood experiences saw a 60% cut in violence, a 65% cut in incarceration, a 24% cut in smoking, and a 66% cut in the use of heroin and crack cocaine. The early intervention he spoke about involved parents, teachers, social and health workers and the police. We need a cross-government commitment to develop strategies like the one Alun Michael was speaking about, and these will need to be adequately financed. Failure to do so will consign a generation and more of children and young people to a quality of life that none of us in this House would ever tolerate for ourselves.
There is one further area I would like to speak about: support for people with autism and their families. Colleagues in the Council of Europe, on which both my noble friend Lady Massey and I serve, are working on a report on this very matter. Britain is a world leader in legalisation specifically supporting people with autism, thanks to the hard work of Dame Cheryl Gillan in the other place. She, with the help of the National Autistic Society, of which I am a vice-president, piloted the passage of the Autism Act, and this year marks its 10th anniversary. Yet, despite some progress, we know that in many areas councils are not meeting their obligations, and a postcode lottery has emerged. Recent research from the Disabled Children’s Partnership has found that there is a £434 million funding gap in children’s social care. This has concerned the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism, which is holding an inquiry into the Act’s implementation, ahead of the Government’s strategy review. The all-party group will report this autumn, but in evidence sessions it has held so far it has discovered some issues of concern.
The inquiry has so far discovered a lack of aspiration for young autistic people, who are not being supported to think about and achieve their goals. I and others across this House have seen so many cases where, with the right support, people with autism can gain a quality of life that could never have been imagined in the past. The inquiry has shown a lack of the right services in local areas, meaning that young autistic people who have had their needs identified cannot then get the support for themselves. Will the Minister therefore commit to ensuring that the new national autism strategy tackles the gap in services for young people on the autistic spectrum?
Another area of concern is the funding for special educational needs and disability—SEND—support. Parents across England are making the case that the Government are failing to allocate enough money to local authorities to enable them to fulfil their legal obligations to children with SEND, especially those on the autistic spectrum. Again, will the Minister comment on whether the Government believe that the funding that councils and schools receive to support children and young people with SEND is sufficient? More than that, if it is not, will he make a case to the Treasury for more money?
The National Autistic Society is a member of the Care & Support Alliance—an alliance of 80 organisations campaigning together on adult social care. The alliance has major concerns about the chronic underfunding of social care. More and more people need social care, but fewer people seem to be receiving it. If you are on the autistic spectrum, this means not getting the help you need to live independently. It means not getting help to find work—85% of people on the autistic spectrum never work. It means that if you are an autistic person in these circumstances you face a lonely life of social and workless isolation. In the short term, it is crucial that the Government address the £3.5 billion gap it is estimated there will be in social care by 2025, but we also need the Government to provide a long-term funding solution that shares the cost of social care fairly across society and delivers an improved system. I hope that that will be done through the forthcoming Green Paper, which was meant to be published in 2017, I think. Can the Minister update the House on when the Government will bring forward the Green Paper?
I do not doubt that the Minister and the Government want only the best for our children and young people, but the best comes at a price and the issues that have been raised in this debate need to be addressed and, above all, properly funded. There is no shortcut—there is no cheap way of ensuring the best quality of life for our young people in Britain. We have to provide the money as well as the words.
My Lords, this is a fascinating debate. It is interesting that very few of us have concentrated on young adults—I am sure the Minister is a little frustrated by that—but that is because we know that problems for young adults come because services at a much earlier age have been diminished. One or two speakers here were involved in the last Labour Government, which specifically made difficult choices to come together across departments, in the way my noble friend Lady Morris talked about, to combine efforts to develop, for example, the Sure Start programme.
Sure Start involved a range of departments across government. It was for anyone, but we always wanted to make sure that the general approach did not miss out the most disadvantaged. One thing I did when I was at the Cabinet Office, and had a more wide-ranging portfolio, was to insist that education could not say that it was okay if there was no nurse or health worker in a Sure Start centre; by then I was determined to make sure that there was a comprehensive approach. In government, there are always pressures on money. We were trying to make sure that we invested in early invention to ensure that we prevented problems down the line. We did early intervention not because it was trendy and fancy and all the rest, but because we knew that the scale of problems as children grew older was such that we needed to make sure that families and communities got that very early support. My noble friend Lady Massey is back in her place; I pay tribute to her because she has worked on this for as long as I have known her, and that is a fair amount of time.
Yes, early intervention is more difficult. I remember some extremely difficult discussions with the Treasury. It asked how I could show that it would work, so we scoured the world for good, evidence-based early intervention programmes. I used to drive colleagues mad by ranting about the importance of evidence-based programmes, and I will come back to them.
I thank the organisations that have given us briefings, including Action for Children, which is the organisation I mentioned. I have had a lifelong relationship with it. I am currently an ambassador—I think that is what it calls it. I also pay tribute to the Children’s Commissioner. The way she has given us data and brought it together is really important, because it had not been done before. She has now brought together all the 90-odd different datasets across government—more than central government. It is very powerful information. I really recommend that those who did not see her report last week have a look at it.
Other people, including my noble friend Lady Massey, have given some of the figures, so I will not repeat them, but they are really stark. As Action for Children says in its recent report Choose Childhood, published only last week, for hundreds of thousands of children in the UK, childhood hurts because they are not getting proper support and intervention. Action for Children asks the Government to develop a cross-government national childhood strategy, led by the Prime Minister, to address the scale and nature of the challenges that children face. It also asks that spending decisions start to prioritise children and childhood, including closing the £3.35 billion funding gap identified in local government and by the Children’s Commissioner, but also to rebalance public policy to promote early help for families, supporting children and parents by intervening before problems reach crisis point.
That brings me to the first real point I want the Minister to think about. Cutbacks in spending have meant that instead of trying to intervene early and prevent problems arising later, money has gone to late intervention when there is an emergency or crisis. This is tragic. We do not know yet exactly what the longer-term effect of this will be, but we have a fair idea from some of the problems we see around: rising youth crime, rising mental ill-health and all those other things that are consequences of late, rather than early, intervention.
Lots of the early intervention programmes I started talking about, such as Sure Start, the Nurse-Family Partnership and other evidence-based programmes, have been undermined. Some have virtually disappeared. Even when the party opposite was first elected in 2010 it was a very enthusiastic expander of things such as the Nurse-Family Partnership. However, it is not good enough that we have resorted to the most expensive form of intervention—when it is a crisis and we have to intervene because otherwise there will be a proper tragedy. The Children’s Commissioner shows in charts how much we have to spend on the most expensive areas where we fail most with children and how much cheaper it is, in some senses, to intervene at an earlier stage and avoid that. Of course, local government has to spend on crisis, but the irony is that the loss of mainstream services, which my noble friend Lady Morris talked about, and the loss of early intervention all lead to us spending more on crisis than we should have to.
Central government will have to set its new priorities in the next few months. I am sure the Minister is looking forward to unravelling some of them. But my second point is that these cutbacks, in mainstream services and early intervention, have not been even across the country. The differential impact is highly significant.
As Members here will know, I have talked for a long time about the north-east but it is true that northern authorities and Midlands authorities, particularly those in urban areas where the highest proportion of people needs support, are also those that have had the highest cutbacks in local government. Just to make sure that I do not keep any interests quiet, I am on the board of the Lloyds Bank Foundation, which has produced a really interesting piece of work, A Quiet Crisis: Local Government Spending on Disadvantage in England. This shows that almost all the reduction in spending—97%—has occurred in the most deprived fifth of local areas. It therefore re-emphasises the tragedy of what we are living through, and the real challenge that government will have to get us out of this mess and begin to give people opportunities.
We are spending on the high end because we have no option; we are also spending less on the children who need it most in areas of high deprivation. This is almost a perfect storm and I am almost sick of standing up here and talking about these sorts of crises. However, there are ways forward. As my noble friend Lady Morris said, we had to take decisions, but we did so by making sure that public spending actually improved opportunities rather than denying them. That is the real challenge to the Government: how will they turn things around so that they open up opportunities, rather than just reacting to the latest crisis?
My Lords, like many of your Lordships I have spoken in many debates involving the young, children and youth services. These have been at various times of the day and I always notice, and am always disappointed by, how very few people attend those debates. If you come to a debate on foreign affairs, defence or Brexit, the Chamber is packed but when you talk about young people, who are our future, there are empty Benches. I regret that.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for securing this debate on the funding of public services for young adults. Like her, I want to pay tribute to all those voluntary organisations which do so much for them. She said that we have to give our young people the best start in life, which I thought was a very important line.
As I have said, we have often debated the impacts of government policy on children: the impact of benefit changes on families; the effect of the two-child rule, which will further disadvantage the poorest families; the provision of 30 hours of childcare—that is not available to the most vulnerable children; and the closure of Sure Start centres. The list seems endless. We heard about the importance of nurseries from the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong. I agree that the most important thing for our children and young people is to get it right at an early age. As I have said on many occasions, I regret that we closed Sure Start centres; they were perhaps the first casualty of that recession, but it is young people whom we must get right at an early age.
On the one hand, we have the rhetoric about the importance of early intervention, which I support, yet on the other we have the reality of more families with children shopping not at the supermarket but at the food bank. Today’s young people, whom I will define as those aged between 13 and 19, have grown up in a world shaped by the unrelenting austerity programme that was rolled out. I will not dwell on whether “Austerity, austerity, austerity” was a sensible policy in how it was delivered, but its impact was certainly most severe on the most vulnerable families in our society. It is austerity that has shaped the world-view of today’s young adults.
Until recently, if a family had one member in full-time work, the parents were able to pay the rent, heat the home and put enough food on the table. This is no longer the case. A report was published last month that did not attract much media attention. The Institute for Fiscal Studies published Living standards, poverty and inequality in the UK: 2019, based on research funded by the Rowntree Foundation and the Economic and Social Research Council. It focused on,
“those people who are poorest in society”.
One of the three chapters looked at income poverty and concluded that:
“Absolute poverty remained virtually unchanged at 19% in 2017-18”.
“Absolute child poverty rose by 1 percentage point in the latest year as working-age benefits and tax credits were reduced in generosity”.
This is the world in which today’s young people have grown up. In June 2012, the Government issued Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities on Services and Activities to Improve Young People’s Well-being. It says:
“With the right supportive relationships, strong ambitions and good opportunities all young people can realise their potential and be positive and active members of society. Most get these from and through their families and friends, their school or college and their wider community enabling them to do well and to prepare for adult life. All young people benefit from additional opportunities and support, but some young people and their families, particularly the most disadvantaged and vulnerable, need specific additional and early help to address their challenges and realise their potential … It is therefore local authorities’ duty to secure, so far as is reasonably practicable, equality of access for all young people to the positive, preventative and early help they need to improve their well-being. This includes youth work and other services”.
The guidance goes on to list a comprehensive range of activities that should be on offer to young people. Anyone reading this three-page document might imagine that young people have got it made. There is a whole section on involving young people:
“Local authorities must take steps to ascertain the views of young people and to take them into account in making decisions about services and activities for them, in line with Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child”.
The key phrase in the detail of this guidance is,
“so far as is reasonably practicable”.
However, as the excellent briefing by the Library tells us, children’s services are at breaking point. As we have heard from the noble Baronesses, Lady Morris and Lady Armstrong, and from my noble friend Lady Thornhill—who has experience of this on the ground as Mayor of Watford—local authorities have to concentrate on the services they are bound to provide, which do not include youth services and other provision for young people. I am delighted that the statutory guidance says that local authorities “must take steps” to involve young people in making decisions about services. However, as services are being cut year on year, there is scant evidence that local authorities are taking these steps—and what is the point anyway, if there are no services available? For example, what value do young adults see in deciding which of their youth centres should be closed? Things are so bad that I know of one local authority that has had to cut its local youth parliament, and others are likely to do the same. I am sure this decision was not taken lightly but, as well as the loss of young people’s adult voice, it is hardly likely to encourage young adults to vote in future elections.
As we have already heard, the Local Government Association, of which I am a vice-president, has predicted a £3 billion overspend by local authorities on children’s services. As the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, said, the statutory duty to ensure the safety of children consumes most of their resources. The local authority cupboard is bare; there will be next to nothing for young adults.
I am not sure whether the withdrawal of the education maintenance allowance is within the scope of this debate, but it is yet another example of public money being withdrawn from those young adults who need it most. This same group of young adults will be members of families for whom the discretionary social fund was a lifeline. In 2013, responsibility for this fund was devolved to local authorities to deliver via the local welfare assistance fund. Given what I have already said, it can be no surprise to noble Lords that there has been a 75% drop in the number receiving any assistance, with one in seven local authorities no longer having such a fund.
So far, I have dwelt, necessarily, on financial poverty. What about financial poverty that inevitably leads to poverty of hope? Barnardo’s report is aptly entitled Overcoming Poverty of Hope. Last month in this Chamber, we had a debate about knife crime. The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, and my noble friend Lady Thornhill mentioned this, but what do we intend to do about this modern plague in our cities? Putting more police on the streets is one very necessary response, but we are dealing with a situation created in part by the lack of financial support for young people, the loss of the positive activities that used to be available to young adults free of charge and the disappearance of detached youth workers. If you ask a young adult what a detached youth worker is, the most likely answer is a youth with a zero-hours contract. The Barnardo’s report identified the top four authorities for cutting youth services. In every one of them there was a steep rise in knife crime. It is not possible to prove a direct causal link between spending on services for young adults and knife crime, but the correlation seems to indicate the impact of one on the other.
In the dark days of the recession, we were told that we had to cut our financial coat according to our economic cloth. Cuts had to be made to stabilise and protect our economy—although I saw this morning that the pound has reached a new low against the dollar and the euro. The NHS budget was protected and per-pupil school funding was not cut. That was good news. However, the price had to be paid, and it was paid by cutting children and young people’s services to the bone. The children and families affected were, of course, the most vulnerable, including young adults. They suffered a double whammy. In addition to benefits disappearing, including the education maintenance allowance, local authority budgets were cut, as we have heard. The budget of my city of Liverpool was cut by 47%—yes, 47%. Having to manage on virtually half the budget, there was no alternative but to concentrate resources on statutory services.
We are, as we are told, the fifth-largest economy in the world and it should shame us that the Trussell Trust believes that, this summer, it will be doling out even more than the 87,496 summer holiday emergency food parcels handed out in 2018, a figure 20% higher than in 2017. While high-street banks are closing branches every week, the number of food banks continues to increase. The Trussell Trust supports 1,200 food banks across the UK but is still unable to meet the demand. For many children and young adults, the free lunch at school or college is their only main meal, and the summer holidays are not something they look forward to. It beggars belief that, in England, more and more working families are having to rely on free food donated by others. What will Her Majesty’s Government do to restore hope among young adults who feel their future is hopeless? Even in the darkest days, our winter fuel allowances and our bus passes kept coming and, for some noble Lords, free TV licences were renewed. Young people have had a diet of nothing but cuts.
I was interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, mention Gladstone. Of course, we are shortly to have a new Prime Minister. I hope things for young adults will improve under the new kipper—sorry, skipper.
My Lords, I begin by thanking my noble friend Lady Massey for securing this important debate. I echo the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Storey, that we have an entitlement to expect that more noble Lords should have made the effort to be here to contribute to the debate. None the less, that does not detract from the quality of the debate we have had.
Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide services and activities in their area for those aged 13 to 19, or up to 24 in the case of young adults with a learning difficulty or disability. However, evidence from the Local Government Association has highlighted reduced funding for youth services, youth offending teams and children’s care services over recent years due to budget cuts from central government. Local authorities really do try their best to meet their statutory responsibilities, but the Local Government Association reports that many councils have had to divert funding away from traditional youth services to children at risk of harm. Despite these measures, they increasingly overspend on children’s services. As a result, they face a huge challenge in providing youth services.
Councils were forced to overspend on their children services budgets by more than £600 million across England in 2015-16 and it is projected that there will be a massive funding gap of more than £3 billion by 2025. That gap was also highlighted in a recent report on children and young people’s services, published jointly by five prominent children’s charities, and referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill. That report found that funding for local authority children and young people’s services had fallen by £3 billion between 2010 and 2018—a reduction of 29%. At the same time, local authorities’ spending on those services fell by £1.7 billion—a reduction of 16%—so we should pay tribute to our councils that have used various means of maintaining the best possible level of children and young people’s services, despite central government’s best efforts to force them to make even deeper cuts. That is the result of austerity policies and political choices by Tory and coalition Governments since 2010.
Adding to the negative impact of these cuts is the fact that funding and spending has decreased by a larger proportion in the most deprived areas, so although local authorities have a statutory duty to provide access to educational and recreational leisure-time activities for young people in their area, the Government are denying them the resources to do so in a meaningful or sustainable way. Statutory guidance on this duty emphasises the importance of access to services for all young people, particularly the disadvantaged or vulnerable. Would that this were possible. That guidance was published more than seven years ago, since when the financial constraints on councils have increased considerably. Apparently, a review of the guidance is imminent, and it is certainly overdue.
On children and young people’s issues, the most pressing problem is the rise in youth crime, largely the result of the lack of facilities for young people—as mentioned by my noble friend Lady Massey—allied to severe reductions in the number of police officers on the streets and in communities. This year, a report by the local government services union UNISON revealed that since 2012-13, across England, more than 4,500 youth work jobs had been lost with almost 800 youth centres closed. Just think of the number of opportunities to engage young people lost as a result. These teenagers are left with little to divert them in terms of creative or sporting activities and, all too often, that excess energy finds an outlet in criminal activity. That is not in any way to suggest that closed facilities are a justification for turning to crime, but they might at least point to part of the reason why it can happen.
As referred to again by my noble friend Lady Massey, a report published by the Children’s Society this month found that only 50 of 141 local authorities had a strategy in place to tackle child criminal exploitation. One of the society’s key recommendations for improving the response of statutory services to children being criminally exploited is for the Government to address the shortfall in children’s social care funding and allocate sufficient funding to allow the reinstatement of early help and early intervention services across local authorities.
It is instructive that around 85% of young people’s waking hours are spent outside formal education, yet it has been estimated that local authorities spend 55 times more on formal education than on providing services for young people outwith the school day. This is not the debate to highlight budget cuts to school funding, or the fact that 16 to 19 education has been hardest hit by cuts since 2010, but they both play into the pressures on children and young people being considered today. Youth work can play an invaluable role in supporting young people as they make the transition from childhood to adulthood, but the Government surely need to be more aware than they appear to be of the impact of reducing funding for youth work. They must provide local authorities with the resources for greater investment in youth work, recognising that it plays a key role in promoting a multiagency response to tackling serious violence by providing diversionary activities and mentoring support.
Youth work can be most effective in helping young people who are from particularly disadvantaged backgrounds and do not have the same family or other structures to support them, because this can make it an essential element in tackling the problem of serious youth violence. In its recent report, to which noble Lords have referred, Barnardo’s found, having spoken to young people across the country, that reduced opportunities for them just to hang out contribute to rising crime and anti-social behaviour. What a sad indictment of the Government that is. They give local government the statutory responsibility for providing youth services but do not give them sufficient resources to enable them to do so. That desperately needs to change.
Local authorities also run youth offending teams, as other noble Lords have mentioned, working with young adults in trouble with the law and providing additional services including running local crime prevention programmes. A Written Answer given last month by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Edward Argar, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, revealed that there had been a reduction of almost 50% in funding for youth justice grants between 2010 and 2017. Because these grants are used to fund local authorities’ youth offending teams, such a cut is a terrible indictment of the Government’s claim to have a commitment to young people. I could barely believe that, when asked to justify the cuts, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson could do no better than to utter that they were made in the context of wider savings across the department. That is no justification at all. I invite the Minister to say what plans the Government have to restore funding for youth justice grants.
School exclusions play a significant part in young people offending. The recent Timpson review was a step in the right direction, emphasising the need for early interventions by schools to act on disruptive behaviour. It is welcome that, in future, schools will be forced to be accountable for the exam results of pupils they exclude, often through the nefarious practice of so-called off-rolling. The relationship between exclusion and the likelihood of a child being a victim or perpetrator of crime is not seriously in doubt. In March, the Education Select Committee heard evidence that excluded children are more likely to be involved in knife crime, a recent study of 4,000 students by the University of Edinburgh having found a clear correlation. Exclusion leads to increased risk, because schools are a relatively safe environment; if a child is excluded then they have more contact with individuals who can lure them into a gang culture.
The Scottish violence reduction unit has been much credited with reducing knife crime in Glasgow, a city I know well from previous political experience. That unit has also had success with campus police officers in schools, the main aim being to engage with young people rather than police them. This has created positive role models and it is encouraging to learn that the Metropolitan Police is now investing in this approach, with an initial 400 officers employed across London. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has come forward with the Young Londoners Fund, referred to by my noble friend Lady Massey. That major initiative plans to support 50,000 young Londoners aged from 10 to 21 through a raft of community projects. Last year, Sadiq Khan and Cat Smith MP, the shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, announced Labour’s plans for a statutory youth service. To deliver on this ambition, the next Labour Government will mandate a national body with dedicated, ring-fenced funding to oversee youth service provision across England. This body will work with local youth partnerships in every area to support service delivery across the country. I also commend the work of the London-based charity Khulisa, which offers a behaviour change programme designed for pupils in schools and pupil referral units. It is specifically designed for young people at risk of offending, exploitation and exclusion. The programme works on the basis that early intervention breaks the school-to-prison pipeline, exacerbated by exclusion, enabling young people to choose a safe and crime-free future.
I turn finally to a subject not mentioned thus far in today’s debate, that of young parents. Action for Children recently published an excellent, though concerning, report entitled The Next Chapter: Young People and Parenthood. From it we learn that there are nearly 450,000 parents in England aged 25 and under. With the growing expectation that parenthood comes later in life, young parents can come up against both negative attitudes and government policy that does not take account of their needs. The focus over the past 20 years has been on reducing teenage pregnancy and improving support specifically for teenage mothers, young fathers and their children. This new research shows that the poor outcomes and challenges faced by some teenage parents are also experienced by young people who become parents between the ages of 20 and 25. The report highlights the difficulties faced by young parents, particularly in education and training. The difficulties they face in gaining qualifications then naturally impact on their experiences of work and, consequently, their finances. Young parents are less likely to be employed than their peers, and only one-third are in skilled work compared with 53% of young people overall. The report found that nearly half of single young parents live in workless households compared with 18% of young people who are not parents.
To break down the barriers that prevent young parents accessing education, employment and other services, much needs to be done by government, but there is a legacy there. Young mothers value the opportunity to attend young parent support groups. These often operate out of children’s centres, offering the chance to meet other young parents and to engage with support workers who can provide advice and signpost other services. Almost every noble Lord who has contributed to this debate has mentioned Sure Start, but it has to be repeated that more than 1,000 of the 3,000-plus Sure Start centres created by Labour in government have closed since 2010. Young parents have been among the hardest hit in terms of the denial of previously available vital support services.
It is important that Care to Learn is extended to all young parents to enable them to maximise their chances of getting an education that enables them to work while raising their family. I look forward to hearing what the noble Viscount the Minister has to say about the recommendations of that Action for Children report. I do not expect him to do so today but I would be obliged if he would write to me about that, because there are several meaty recommendations in it.
In conclusion, I know that the Minister is about to say to noble Lords that, although he would be delighted to tell us what resources and support the Government intend to provide for children and young people’s services, it must await the spending review. Therefore, I will phrase my question to him in a different way. What arguments has he made, or will he make, to Treasury Ministers to secure funding to replace at least some of the cuts to young people’s services? Of course, it may be that by this time next week he will no longer be the Minister. On a personal level, I hope that he is, but can he please set out for noble Lords what he regards as the priorities for the funding of public services that impact on the life chances of young adults? They and their families deserve no less.
My Lords, I admire the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Watson, has raised a number of hypothetical questions and we will just have to see what happens over the next week or two.
Much more importantly, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for calling this debate on this very important subject. Throughout her career in education and public service, she has put the well-being of young people at the centre of her concerns, and we should all acknowledge that this afternoon. There are few more pressing issues facing this country than the health and well-being of the young generation.
I start by picking up on a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong. I recognise in what she said that this subject is not just focused on young adults, despite the subject of the debate, and I acknowledge that there has to be a seamless link from the early years to the adolescent years. That is very much a theme of what we are trying to do in government and it will be a theme in what I am about to say.
I want to start on a positive note, as I believe we start from a high base. I am not complacent but I was struck by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Storey, which included no positive aspects at all. I really do not think that is the right balance for this subject. Let us look more globally and put some perspective on this. The vast majority of young people in Britain can look forward to a happy, healthy and fulfilling start in life. In a world where 25 million young people are displaced by conflict, natural disaster or social collapse, it is worth reflecting on how fortunate our children are to grow up here in the UK. I listened with some care to the salutary tales from the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, based on his experiences outside the UK.
Turning to the UK, this Government want every young person to fulfil their potential. To illustrate that, I shall cite three examples from different stages of a young person’s journey through life. Regarding the early years, low-income families in this country are eligible for 30 hours’ free childcare for three and four year-olds, and 80% of recipients said that the quality of their family life has improved as a result.
In school, the IFS’s own figures show that per pupil funding for five to 16 year-olds will be 50% higher in 2020 than it was in 2000. Significantly, on leaving school, youth unemployment continues to fall and has halved since 2010. OECD figures show that it is 25% lower than the EU average. It is worth reflecting on the fact that, while in the UK youth unemployment is 11.7%, in the EU it is 15.2%. Sweden is on 16.7%, France on 20.8%, and—listen to this—Spain is on 34.4%. However, I am the first to say that there are challenges to confront and I recognise the points raised in the House today.
I want to address an important point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, about integrated services. For so many of our strands and themes to work, there has to be a cross-departmental link. The learning from our What Works centres and the public health approach to youth justice are examples of our approach to integrating services in communities. The role of local government in knowing its communities should not be underestimated. I shall say more on this theme in a moment.
The most sacred duty of any Government is, of course, to keep its citizens safe. I turn now to one of the themes raised today: the dangers posed by crime and serious violence. These dangers were brought into focus by the recent report of the Children’s Commissioner, Keeping Kids Safe. The House will be aware of this report, as I certainly am. It highlighted the multiple contributory causes of gang activity and the disturbing numbers of our children being trafficked to sell drugs. A key conclusion of that report was to realise a truly multiagency approach to child criminal exploitation.
We published our Serious Violence Strategy to address in particular the increases in knife crime, gun crime and homicide. Knife crime was highlighted by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, and the noble Lord, Lord Storey. This is an ambitious programme involving 61 commitments and actions. Further measures include an independent review of drug misuse and a new £200 million Youth Endowment Fund, which will deliver long-term, sustainable change, providing a 10-year programme of grants that will enable interventions targeted at children and young people at most risk.
The same theme was raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Thornhill and Lady Morris, and the noble Lord, Lord Watson. I would like to focus on funding for the Youth Justice Board, another issue raised in this debate. It is partly about money—I acknowledge that—but the total YJB funding this year for front-line services including youth offending teams is £72.2 million. The youth offending teams grant for 2018-19 remained at the same level as the year before, and we have increased total funding to front-line services for this year. Some £1.5 million of funding this year will go to developing and promoting good practice to address priority issues in areas of particular need. This includes reducing serious youth violence and disproportionality.
To give an example of current good practice between YOTs to address specific issues, in north London, a group of seven boroughs are working in partnership to address black, Asian and minority ethnic disproportionality in the justice system, and are looking at the experiences and outcomes of BAME children in the youth justice system. This is being led by Islington and Camden and originated from the collaborative work begun through a youth court user group. The group has developed and now offers national advice on the issue; that is just one example.
Continuing on the theme of prevention, I turn to our investment in families and the care system. Building on the learning so far, we have recently announced a new programme, Supporting Families: Investing in Practice, which will provide up to £15 million to enable around 40 local authorities to test a number of promising innovation projects to help keep families safely together. Included in this is our £200 million innovation programme, which has a focus on children at the edge of services and on reducing the number of children entering care. To answer the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, although we have managed to take 100,000 families out of crisis, the Government have committed £920 million to the second phase of the troubled families programme, a challenging programme that aims to achieve significant and sustained improvement for up to 400,000 families by 2020.
We have made considerable progress in addressing long-held concerns surrounding the care system in this country. It is worth mentioning that 44 local authorities have been lifted out of intervention and have not returned. This is a step in the right direction. We have launched the care leaver covenant and are spending up to £5 million on three social impact bonds to help care leavers into education, employment or training. Our children’s social care reform programme is working to deliver highly capable and skilled social workers and high-quality services everywhere.
I turn to another theme, the big subject of education. It is not acceptable that 28% of children finish their reception year still without the early communication and reading skills that they need to thrive, as I have said in the Chamber before. The noble Lord, Lord Touhig, raised the subject of those on the autistic spectrum. I listened carefully to his remarks and I remember that it is a subject he has raised in the Chamber before. We have funded a range of specialist autism services—for example, the Education Trust—to deliver autism awareness. So far, more than 185 people have trained—not just teachers and teaching assistants—in a whole-school approach to autism. The Government are extending the scope of the 2019 review of our autism strategy to autistic children and young people for the first time: I hope that that gives the noble Lord an element of reassurance on this important subject.
It is also why this Government have increased the high needs funding block for children and young people with the most complex special educational needs from a base of £5 billion in 2013 to £6.3 billion this year. In addition—I said it is partly about money—we are investing £26 million to set up a network of English hubs; £20 million to provide professional development for early years practitioners; £8.5 million in our local government programme; and more than £9 million to understand what works. We are also investing £6.5 million in voluntary and charity sector grants supporting the home-learning environment.
Since its introduction in 2013, more than 850,000 two- year-olds have benefited from the means-tested entitlement to up to 15 hours of free early education. This goes back to my point that there has to be a seamless approach: this subject is not just about adults but about the early years as well. Our ambition is for every child, no matter what challenges they face, to have access to a world-class education that sets them up for life. The noble Baroness, Lady Massey, said that they must have the best possible start in life: she is right. World-class education is not only about having the highest standards in academic and technical education, it means ensuring that education builds character and resilience. We want all children and young people to have opportunities to develop the key character traits of believing that they can achieve, being able to stick with the task in hand, seeing a link between effort today and payback in the future, and the ability to bounce back from the knocks that life inevitably brings to all of us.
Character must also be grounded in virtues such as kindness, generosity, fairness, tolerance and integrity. Perhaps we should all be reminded of the virtues that are illustrated in the murals very close to here, in the Queen’s Robing Room: I am sure that we all show guests that Room and point these out. This Government have proposed five foundations for building character and resilience in young people: sport, creativity, performing, volunteering and membership, and preparation for the world of work. Not all of this ambitious agenda can be covered in school. Indeed, children spend more than 80% of their waking hours outside the classroom. I took note of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Watson, on the role of parents: he is absolutely right, it is very important, and if I had more time I could say more about it.
Talking about integration, I want to speak about the early years family support ministerial group. This has been considering how the Government can improve the co-ordination and cost-effectiveness of early years family support from conception to age two and identify gaps in available provision. The group has made recommendations to the Secretary of State, which he is now considering. The early years family support ministerial group was established in summer 2018 and was chaired by the then Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom. I shall not list all the members of the group, but they include a number of senior Ministers.
That brings me on to youth and children’s services. As has been mentioned, they are funded primarily by local authorities. We are aware that they are operating in a challenging financial environment. This matter was raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Morris and Lady Thornhill, and the noble Lord, Lord Storey, and, I am sure, other noble Lords. We recognise this challenge and we are responding. The noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, comes from an LGA background. I welcome the LGA’s efforts to understand the challenges and opportunities for it to manage this matter in the near future.
The Government draw on the data and research published by other organisations to ensure that we have a full understanding of the evidence base. For example, the Local Government Minister recently met the County Councils Network to understand the research that it has undertaken ahead of the 2019 spending review. Councils, not central government, are responsible for managing their own resources and performance, and we have an effective process for identifying risks and taking action to prevent the need for interventions. Our aim is always to work with the sector to secure improvement so that intervention is not necessary. The Local Government Association provides sector-led support, such as peer challenges and the sharing of good practice, and helps improve the performance of local authorities through targeted support as necessary.
At last year’s Autumn Budget, we announced almost £1 billion of extra funding for local authorities to help deliver services for communities but, as I said earlier, I recognise that challenges remain. Next year will see a cash-terms increase of 2.8% and a real-terms increase of 1% in England, rising from £45.1 billion in 2018-19 to £46.4 billion in 2019-20. Much has been made of closures of Sure Start or children’s centres, yet it is a fact that there are still more than 3,000 sites open for children and families across the country, more than at any time before 2008, fully nine years into the previous Labour Government. Those are statistics that my noble friend Lord Agnew and I have given in this Chamber in the past and they remain sound. Moreover, the quality of these sites has improved. In 2010 68% were good or outstanding, and today 98% of them are. However, councils have legal duties to ensure that there are sufficient centres to meet local need. The number of Sure Start and children’s centres is primarily a matter for local authorities.
Quality is also a hallmark of our approach to the more open-access youth work. Properly qualified, community-based youth workers have a huge part to play in the well-being and safety of young people. This is why we have guaranteed to review and renew entry-level qualifications for youth work this year, as well as to revise the youth work curriculum. These latter services are covered by a statutory duty on local authorities, and last week government announced a review of the related guidance. The review aims to focus attention on the positive role local authorities can play in the provision of youth services and to ensure the guidance is useful and accessible for those who need it most. These announcements come on top of a direct investment by government of £667 million in youth-based projects over the past four years, which is an investment that central government has never traditionally made. This includes supporting more than 90 front-line youth projects in deprived areas across England, providing hundreds of thousands of social action opportunities through the #iwill Fund and engaging more than 400,000 young people, from all social backgrounds, in the National Citizen Service. Together, NCS participants have given more than 12 million hours of volunteer time.
I want to talk a little about the voices we should be listening to most of all: those of young people themselves. The voice of youth is really important to this Government, which is why we recently launched three new youth voice projects to enable young people to participate in making national policy. Through these projects, young people are having a say on a wide range of issues, including on serious violence and climate change. We also support the UK Youth Parliament, and it was great to see more than 1.1 million young people voting in last year’s Make Your Mark youth ballot, in which young people voted for ending knife crime as the most important issue—I raised that earlier in my remarks.
This brings me back to my original theme: keeping our youngest citizens safe and thriving. With that in mind, in April this year the Government announced that they will develop a youth charter. It will bring together policies from across government and take in the views of young people, as well as those who work with and care for young people. It is a commitment from this generation to the next—an important point to make. It will outline a vision for the next 10 years, which I believe will be a decade of huge promise for our young people. I believe that we should be positive.
I conclude with questions raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey. I thank her again for raising this subject and allowing us to have a debate on this matter. I have a little more to say about racial disparity in the youth justice system. On 12 July 2019, the Ministry of Justice published our most recent youth custody statistics, which showed that, of 830 children in custody in May 2019, 415 were black or minority ethnic. While disproportionality remains important, the overall number of BAME children in custody has decreased since 2010, falling from 648 children in May 2010.
I thank all those who have spoken in this debate. It has been very interesting and has once again raised the importance of supporting young people.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his comprehensive response and all noble Lords for their attendance today and their most elegant and passionate speeches. I predicted an excellent debate and we have had one, with a wealth of passion and knowledge about children and young people and such a variety of knowledge and concern from all around the House. The record in Hansard tomorrow will be a veritable encyclopaedia of policy and practice on child welfare and young people. The Minister has added to that.
Four or five points are very clear. One is that demand for services for young people is going up and funding is remaining static or going down. There have been cuts in funding wherever we look, in both overall and specialist services. Noble Lords have quoted significant examples of that. I was intrigued to hear my noble friend Lady Armstrong talk about evidence-based action; I have always thought that initiatives should be based only on evidence. We do not do enough looking for that evidence.
Early intervention came up over and over again. The noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, said we must act sooner and more effectively to get at young people before they descend into a pit of despair or deprivation. We can do that; we have dealt with that in the past and been successful.
The other intriguing thing is the integration of services, as mentioned by my noble friend Lady Morris and the Minister. Services working together is more easily said than done. There has to be a real will there, and personal and professional relationships, so that people do not work in silos.
The Minister also helpfully gave some examples of initiatives successfully being applied to children. I think all this should go into the same pot and be dealt with. I go back to my thoughts about having a national strategy for children and young people. There is such a lot to take into account. A national strategy would pull together the different kinds of services that the Minister was talking about: the initiatives in various communities, some of which are absolutely excellent, and the statutory services, where we know people tend to work in silos, and try to split them up so that they work across those silos, for example through education and health together.
I do not ask the Minister for an immediate response, but can he say who we can talk to about the possibility of developing a national strategy for children and young people? I am convinced that if government, opposition, stakeholders and the voluntary sector worked together on this, we would come up with something really useful. I will leave the Minister with that question. Again, I thank all noble Lords for staying late and for producing such a cracking debate.
Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc.) Bill
Returned from the Commons
The Bill was returned from the Commons with an amendment.
House adjourned at 6.10 pm.