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Grand Committee

Volume 823: debated on Thursday 7 July 2022

Grand Committee

Thursday 7 July 2022

Musicians and Creative Professionals: Working in the European Union

Question for Short Debate

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to improve the ability of musicians and other creative professionals from the United Kingdom to work and tour in the European Union.

My Lords, I am grateful for this opportunity to raise the concerns of creative professionals on touring and working in Europe. I thank the Government for extending this debate to an hour and a half. I am grateful for the briefings from the Incorporated Society of Musicians, UK Music, Carry on Touring, LIVE, the Association of British Orchestras, T&S Immigration Services, the Contemporary Visual Arts Network and the House of Lords Library. I am pleased that we will have contributions to this debate from across the Committee.

In practical terms, as the Incorporated Society of Musicians and others have been at pains to point out, this is, above all, about trade. As such, it is something we should all be concerned with. In pre-pandemic 2019, music alone was worth £5.8 billion, almost five times as much as the fishing industry at £1.4 billion—which is also, one has to say, now sadly suffering the effects of Brexit. Live music is a key aspect of music, making bands’ reputations abroad and stimulating sales. According to the Featured Artists Coalition, in 2019 UK acts played four times as many gigs in the EU as in the US.

It is great to have live music and the arts more generally back and largely up and running on our own shores, with Glastonbury, the Stones, Adele, the Proms this month and much more to look forward to. While I suspect that most of the focus today will be on music, concerns about working in Europe are being felt across the creative industries. I will touch on the visual arts, which is my own background. I ask therefore that the Minister looks carefully at the new Arts Council-funded report, International Connections, produced by a-n and the Contemporary Visual Arts Network, which makes some important recommendations. I ask him to look carefully as well at the forthcoming All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music report, Let the Music Move, addressing similar concerns for the music industry. It would be excellent if the Minister could attend its launch in Parliament, on 19 July.

The trade and co-operation agreement was a no-deal for services, including the arts and creative industries. It has been imperative from the outset that the Government take mitigating action to drastically improve the situation for the arts in the face of this no deal, but the reality is that 18 months have passed and little of substance has been achieved.

Moreover, the Government have tried to paint a picture that is far better than reality. LIVE says it remains

“deeply concerned about the impact of Brexit on the UK’s live music industry.”

We are already now hearing the practical problems musicians are having, such as that of the band White Lies, which in April had to cancel a booking in Paris because its equipment was still waiting to clear customs in the UK. The Government must stop harking back to whatever they say was offered to the EU; that is history. Through whatever mechanisms are available, and I know that other noble Lords will talk about that in more detail, the UK needs to reapproach the EU to effect those changes that are urgently required. As TCA negotiator, the noble Lord, Lord Frost, himself has admitted that the Government have been too purist in their approach. We need a rethink and a reset. It is, after all, the future of our performing arts and more that is at stake.

Cabotage remains one of the most significant problems. The industry is grateful for the dual registration fix, but it is only a partial fix and does not address operation under an own account. Furthermore, it shifts this specialist haulage industry to Europe, which, as UK Music points out, will in the longer term cost this country business and jobs.

Most immediately, there remains a massive problem for those unable to use the dual registration services. The Association of British Orchestras says the situation is disastrous for orchestras, many of which run their own purpose-built vehicles. To give one example, the truck owned by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, costing £250,000, purchased partly through an Arts Council grant, will be a total waste of money if we do not negotiate a cabotage exemption with the EU. This is urgent. The ABO proposed that a solution for own-account operators might be presented at a forthcoming UK-EU Specialised Committee on Road Transport meeting. Will the Government act?

It is urgent too that we negotiate a visa waiver agreement, which a cabotage agreement could also be part of. Visa and work permit regulations within Europe are complicated. We have not agreed a single bilateral agreement with the EU, although two countries, Spain and Greece, have relaxed their visa rules for the UK, which I understand merely brings the UK in line with US acts who have toured those countries visa-free for decades.

ISM last year proposed a bespoke visa waiver agreement, which was shown to government officials. Legal advice confirmed that such a proposal was legally workable without being incompatible with the UK’s ability to take back control of its borders; none of this was questioned by the Government. But the Government, for reasons known only to themselves, have not followed up this constructive proposal, which is backed across the board by the music industry. Again, urgent action is required.

The problems presented by carnets and CITES are likewise problems of both cost and red tape. There are two groups who will be most affected here: on the one hand, orchestras, for which costs may spiral; on the other, those starting out, including bands and individual musicians, who will not have the resources of artists such as Elton John and Ed Sheeran to carry these extra significant burdens. Again, we have to negotiate with the EU a cultural exemption to the cost of ATA carnets and CITES as well. On the question of CITES, I ask the Minister what news he has over whether St Pancras will become a CITES designated point of exit. Eurostar is a hugely important route. Again, a sense of urgency is required.

ISM has also drawn my attention to a couple of recent developments around CITES that will emerge at CITES COP 19, which I hope the Minister is also aware of. ISM supports the new proposals from the US music industry to ease and provide exemptions from CITES permits. Will the Government support those proposals? Will the Government oppose the proposals from Brazil for a new designation of Pernambuco, the wood used in making bows, which, while well-intentioned, would significantly and detrimentally interfere in the legal trade in bows? This is important.

In the debate on dual registration in Grand Committee on 13 June, the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, rightly raised concerns about merchandise, the importance of which can be too easily underestimated. UK Music notes that the band Squid cancelled dates in Spain because of the costs both of carnets and of the movement of merchandise between the UK and the EU. Another band has stated that such costs, including the requirement to VAT register, meant that it missed out on £2,500-worth of merchandise on its last tour of France. These are significant losses. Will the Minister look at what is yet another make-or-break worry for musicians?

I will mention briefly traffic in the other direction. A concern that Steve Richard of T&S Immigration Services raises is that of the mishandling of incoming bands by UK border staff, including, for example, them being given wrong information about passport stamps and being sent through e-gates, making the tour technically illegal. These are common occurrences. There are now concerns about adequate staffing levels, but the better training of UK border and other airport staff to deal with musicians and crew is required.

The concerns of visual artists exhibiting work in Europe post Brexit has, up to now, been relatively overlooked, yet there exists the same confusion and paucity of information as afflicts others in the creative industries. Shipping and other costs, red tape and the sheer complexities now involved have already this year been responsible for artists cancelling their participation in exhibitions in Europe, as I heard this week at a Zoom event organised by Arts Infopoint. International Connections recommends better representation for the visual arts, including on the TCA domestic advisory group, of which LIVE and UK Music are already members. The report also recommends the appointment of a freelance commissioner, which would allow further representation for arts and creative workers.

I have not by any means covered all the many concerns that the music sector is raising, let alone those of other creative industries. But perhaps the most disturbing is the extent to which the pipeline of talent will be affected by the curtailment not just of opportunities for young artists touring but opportunities for jobs, such as for opera singers, dancers and many others who are now shut out of work in Europe because they do not possess an EU passport.

As the pandemic, we hope, recedes, we have reached a point at which we are taking greater stock of the effects of Brexit. Nevertheless, the good sense of what the industry is now asking for speaks for itself. What is needed now from the Government is a much greater urgency in addressing these concerns and ultimately finding solutions.

My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Earl. I am sure that I speak on behalf of everyone in the Moses Room when I thank him for presenting this case so clearly and firmly and for straying beyond music, because this is not a problem that is limited to music and musicians.

When I am travelling and I am asked what my nationality is, that is easy: it is British. What is my identity? It is English. But what is my civilization? It is European. We are all part of the great continent of Europe and nothing that was said or done on 23 June 2016 alters that fact. I am not going to make a long, rambling speech saying that we should put the clock back to 22 June, tempting as that would be, but we have to have a constructive and proper relationship with the other nations of the European Union and with those nations of Europe that are not members of the EU.

This is a challenge to the new Government. We have been going through a turbulent time in recent months and particularly in recent days. It is important that we grasp the opportunity of a new beginning and try very hard indeed to urge whoever has responsibility in the new Government to do so. I will be entirely delighted if the Minister for the Arts remains in his present position, but this morning when I asked another Minister in the Chamber about a caretaker Prime Minister and all the rest of it, I was told that that was above his pay grade. The fact is that we are moving towards a new Government. There is an opportunity to restore integrity in public life—that absolutely essential quality that has been more notable by its absence than its presence at the highest level in recent months and years.

I hope that we will try to have a constructive and productive relationship with our friends—and they should always be our friends—and allies in the European Union and the rest of the continent. We have had the most terrible reminder in the past five months of how fragile peace is and how important and fragile democracy is. Every day that the Ukraine war carries on should indicate to all of us what is at risk.

There is no more civilising influence than music. I have to confess that I am not a Glastonbury fan—it is not quite my scene—but I love listening to the Berlin Philharmonic. We have to realise that we are dealing with the international language here. Whatever the barrier between someone who speaks German and someone who does not, music transcends and overcomes it. It makes us feel at one.

I often think of those glorious days in the 18th century when Handel was resident in London—an internationalist if ever there was one—when Haydn came here, as one of the greatest musicians of his time, and when Mozart played here. They were inspired when they were here and we have had those who have gone elsewhere and continue to go. It is a source of grief to me to think that people such as my dear friend Tasmin Little, who has now put down her bow as a professional soloist, pleaded with me from 2016 onwards, saying, “This is going to be very damaging to those of us who are musicians and internationalists.”

Therefore, my message to the Minister today is to please do what you can to persuade your colleagues in government to grasp the opportunity that a new beginning brings. Talk, as equals and as friends, with those who control the levers of power throughout the European continent. There should be no impediment to a musician, orchestra or band going to play in any European country or coming from any European country to play here. I am grateful to the noble Earl and I hope that this can be part of a new beginning.

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl and congratulate him on securing the debate. It is very timely, for a reason that I will come on to. It is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cormack—I am almost tempted to say that it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, because it has occurred once or twice so far. When I heard the reference to Handel, I thought, “Well, Handel did not need a visa to come here.”

I also ought to say what a pleasure it is to see a Minister still at the Dispatch Box. In fact, there are two Ministers here today. The subject of today’s debate is music and it is the second time in two hours—I will be honest about this—that the consequential damage of the vote in 2016 is being brought to your Lordships’ attention. Less than two hours ago, a Question was raised in the House about Horizon Europe, the co-operation between scientists here and around Europe, and the damage being done. Here we are talking about the damage to musicians of not being able to tour in Europe as easily as was the case. Whatever else noble Lords may feel, I do not think that anybody voted on 23 June 2016 to inflict the type of damage that is being inflicted on British science or music, which are being sacrificed on the altar of the Northern Ireland protocol. Of course, music in particular is truly international.

I am indebted to the ISM and the Library for their briefings, which all noble Lords will have received. I always find the Library briefings helpful. As the noble Earl said, we are talking about an industry that is worth nearly £6 billion in economic terms.

I should declare an interest, which is what propelled me to take part in today’s debate. I am grateful to the government side for increasing the length of the debate, because I saw that I would have only two minutes—well, my two minutes are already up. I am grateful for a little more time. The point I want to bring to your Lordships’ attention in this debate—I hope the Minister will feel able to say something about it in reply—is the hugely damaging effect on young musicians. The interest I have to declare is that I have two children. As they grew up, from the age of five they learned to play musical instruments—my daughter Emily the violin and my son Daniel the cello. I do not think they can remember life without playing musical instruments. In the course of growing up, they were members of colleges of music but also a youth orchestra, which I hope I am allowed to name: the Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra, conducted by Adrian Brown with such distinction for so many years. Growing up, they went on tours to Poland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Slovenia and Belgium. A lot of work goes into organising such tours. These are not professional orchestras, and people have to do it voluntarily. Money and time are spent going out to reconnoitre the best place to go. You can imagine all the work involved in enabling a youth orchestra to go on tour, including a huge great bus and space for the instruments.

I understand from one of our briefings that on one occasion two musicians were fined because there was no proof, said the French, that their instruments belonged to them, and they said that they might be importing their instruments into another country, possibly for resale. It is absurd. As I said, the plight of youth orchestras should be taken very seriously.

I hope I am allowed to say this, but the other day I saw the noble Baroness the Minister at the entrance. If I am right, she had her own child with her. I thought here is someone who, as he grows up—if it is he—

As she grows up, I hope she will learn to play music and get the benefit of that. There are incalculable benefits from going on tour in Europe.

My time is up now. Many of the other things I planned to say have already been covered, and no doubt will be by others, but this is about the future. I think the noble Earl referred to the pipeline of the future, and that is the point I want to bring to your Lordships’ attention today. It matters just as much for the future of music and musicians touring as for established orchestras today.

My Lords, I follow on from the noble Viscount, who talked about youth music. First, I declare my interest: I am the chair of trustees of the Parliament Choir, which will be touring in Europe in the next year, along with professional musicians and the outstanding Southbank Sinfonia, one of the primary postgraduate training orchestras in the world, based around the corner here in St John’s Smith Square. So there is an interest in this Parliament in getting this issue correct, and it is very important for us all.

I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for introducing the debate. We heard from him that this is a major industry for this country, worth £5.8 billion and employing more than 200,000 people. It is worth more than fisheries and steel combined and now faces issues on the right to travel and work across the European Union. Of course, it is cabotage, work permits, carnets and whatever else that are the difficulties. These permit difficulties are the main source of problems, which are costly and lengthy and can differ from country to country. The Incorporated Society of Musicians has given an example of a five-piece act. The performers were unable to carry their instruments with them, and to play a concert in Greece would have meant an additional £700 per person to perform. To recover that from a performance is obviously a major deterrent to the music business.

I understand about the cabotage limits causing us problems and the dual registration of vehicles. If I were to put it to anybody looking at this from the outside, I would simply say that the new regulation, which is a UK regulation alone and therefore has no convergence with EU rules, is that a company or body can register a vehicle inside the European Union, house it, drive it over here, change the number plates, get the load on board, change the number plates back and drive it across to Europe. But for many people that is not how instruments are moved across borders. It impacts greatly on the source of income of the music industry.

This solution, as the Government have called it, is not really a solution. It is a sticking plaster that just helps to make life less difficult than it was before. For many, it is not a solution because, as the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, says, many orchestras own their vehicles, which are single vehicles, so the effect of having dual registration would be very costly indeed. The Government have also suggested splitting loads as another way. Again, as with the other, that is only a partial and temporary solution. It is interesting that the CEO of the Featured Artists Coalition has said that there has been a lack of engagement from government. The small steps toward solutions to address the problems are, in his words,

“driven by the industry, same for touring with splitter vans. The government keep claiming victories for things they’ve done no work on”.

I put it to the Minister today that there are solutions that are simple and shared by the creative arts community at large: for example, financial support, similar to that given to the fishery industry, would be needed to help the creative arts industry as a whole. If it is suitable for one, why not the other, which is a much bigger industry? Another is providing better negotiation and cohesion for the groups affected, working with the music industry, perhaps to provide a single help point for advice and guidance. But fundamentally, the UK needs to negotiate with the EU member states or the EU itself.

There is a mutual understanding of these issues—the Spanish example is one—but I understand that the issue facing the UK Government is that they have to build a better and more collaborative approach with our friends in the European Union. This is being hugely affected by the approach taken on the Northern Ireland protocol. The UK is blocked from joining the Horizon research programme, affecting many of our universities. I would hazard a guess that this, linked to an unwillingness from the UK to enter negotiations, is the fundamental reason for this blockage.

I know that the Minister cannot reply on behalf of the new world, but we do not know what the relationship with the EU will be in the new world. However, we have to rebuild our relationship and make it better, so that these problems will no longer apply to a very critical industry for the United Kingdom.

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating my noble friend Lord Clancarty, not just on securing today’s debate but on his energy and resilience in keeping these matters so firmly on the agenda. The nature of this QSD means that this debate is inevitably structured in the form of a theme and variations, which is probably fitting giving its relationship to music. My noble friend has comprehensively set out so many of the themes in his excellent speech; all we have to do is extemporise on one or more of them in our allotted time. But I will attempt to do a little more, suggesting ways in which the current dissonance might shift towards consonance and even resolution.

The extent of the challenges resulting from the omission of any provision for the touring of creative professionals and their support staff has been masked to date by the pandemic. But, as touring starts up again, we are seeing tangible evidence of impacts across four key areas.

First, the absence of a universal visa waiver agreement means that different EU members can treat UK artists and their staff in different ways, creating a complex and costly regulatory landscape, particularly in the case of multi-country tours. Secondly, the costs associated with an ATA carnet are proving to be prohibitive, especially for larger operations such as orchestras, whose instruments and equipment can be valued at millions of pounds. Thirdly, cabotage restrictions, as we have heard, permit only three internal movements in the EU for UK hauliers over 3.5 tonnes—disastrous when tours cover multiple countries over weeks and months. Dual registration does not provide a solution for ensembles with a single, purpose-built touring vehicle which cannot create the required EU base. Finally, CITES requirements for musical instruments containing protected materials can prevent last-minute bookings, which are often the things which provide vital career breaks.

The creative sector has been working hard to propose solutions to these challenges. It has put forward a cultural exemption, applied reciprocally, to cover cabotage, CITES and carnets, and suggested a bespoke visa-waiver agreement to allow visa-free working for 90 in 180 days across the whole of the EU and UK—something many countries already offer. Some small steps have been made—I am sure that the Minister will refer to them in winding—but progress has been lamentably slow over the two and half years since the TCA was signed.

Here is where I move from the minor to the major key. When it became clear that touring had indeed been omitted from the TCA, each side claimed that it had offered a deal on touring that the other had rejected. At this point in time, the important part of this sorry story is not that we failed to agree a deal or that we could not agree on who was to blame; it is that we wanted the same thing. If we could now agree to focus not on the past but on the future, that common aim—our shared ambition to enable creative touring—means that we could make rapid progress on resolving this issue, unlike some of the more contentious issues currently on the table. There is a structure in place through which such progress can be made: the Partnership Council has the power to adopt amendments to the TCA and so could achieve what the original negotiators, on both sides, say that they wanted but failed to agree.

The history of art is one of finding inspiration from each other’s cultures, of building ideas and of innovating practice, as artists travel from city to city, state to state. In Europe, this has been the case for hundreds of years and it has enriched our shared and distinctive heritages. Not only that, but when artists and musicians tour, they bring with them direct and indirect economic benefits. They contribute to healthy societies, they promote intercultural understanding and they foster positive relations between nations.

There is much to be gained for both sides in resolving the question of touring. Failure to find resolution will leave us all the poorer and it will be disproportionately hard on emerging and early-career artists, for whom touring is a vital element of professional development. We need to move now to avoid disadvantaging the next generation. I hope that the Minister will do everything that he can to persuade colleagues that working together with the EU to resolve this relatively uncontentious issue would demonstrate our shared desire to make a success of our future relationship with our closest neighbours, with whom we share such a rich and productive history of cultural exchange.

My Lords, like others, I thank the noble Earl for bringing us this debate. Noble Lords would expect a Bishop of Manchester to be passionate about music. Our vibrant popular and contemporary music scene is central to our local economy. The Royal Northern College of Music is one of our universities and we also have the leading music school for the north of England in Chetham’s, whose campus is next door to my cathedral and provides many of our choristers. We recently dedicated a brand-new, £2 million cathedral organ. It was the donation of a single—as it happens, Jewish—businessman, Sir Norman Stoller. Our music matters to us in Manchester. We invest in it and in the diverse young people developing their skills in it. It is a great force for levelling up.

However, the issues that the noble Earl has brought to our attention are affecting the Church considerably, including our cathedral choirs, parish churches and school choirs. I am not the first Bishop to raise these matters. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol and, before her, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester have been raising them since at least 2018. They were promised much, but we have seen little by way of change.

On behalf of the nation, the Church maintains a unique tradition of English choral music. We host hundreds of concerts, music, theatre and arts events in 16,000 parishes and 42 cathedrals. The Church is part of Britain’s shared cultural heritage and supports thousands of professional and amateur performers, who bring shared cultural experiences to local communities. It has been levelling up the arts for centuries and providing opportunities for hundreds of young artists in our schools, churches and cathedral choirs to gain musical training. These choirs and organists often tour across Europe in the summer. It plays a significant and vital role in fundraising and supports a continuation of the musical foundation within the Church and our ability to offer scholarships and opportunities to children and young people, not least in rural and deprived communities. My cathedral is at the heart of a very deprived part of Manchester.

In the Church, we want to continue to invest in supporting our nation’s young people and our cultural life. What will the Government do to back the work that we and others are doing to invest in that? I believe that the Government should see this as a key export opportunity and should use the soft power of the arts to build an economic return for the UK.

Music is not only an economic asset. I would argue that when our choirs tour Europe and beyond, they are singing not only psalms but British values. Diverse voices raised in harmony are a powerful symbol of what our nation, at its best, stands for. It has been a great privilege to lead your Lordships’ House each morning this week in reciting a psalm—how much more wonderful it would have been had we been able to sing them.

There is already significant demand in the EU and worldwide for our choirs and orchestras to perform, but red tape prevents professional and amateur musicians from travelling. We need the Government to open doors and simplify the visa processes, not just for the big players such as the LSO or the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra but for our smaller but talented professional and amateur choirs and orchestras, such as my Manchester Cathedral Choir and the world-famous choir of my old college, King’s, Cambridge—I had to get them in.

In the brief time left to me, I would like to ask the Minister three things. First, what steps are the Government taking to simplify the administration of the current visa system so that the complexity and volume of paperwork are no longer hampering groups travelling? Secondly, what support will the Government make available for the regional arts and culture sector to bounce back after Covid? Thirdly, will the Minister commit to meeting the Church to discuss the current challenges that we have and the opportunities that we can, with support, now grasp? I look forward to the response from the Minister and hope to speak further on this matter.

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for securing this debate. His determination over a long 18 months to improve the ability of UK musicians to work and travel in the EU is much appreciated by all of us here today, on both sides. I also thank the Minister for his commitment to music and his belief in the value of music education and the importance that it plays in creating a pipeline of talent for the creative industries.

I declare my interest as chair of the advisory panel for the new national plan for music education, as a council member of the Arts Council and as governor of Shoreditch Park academy, which has a wonderful music tradition.

I am delighted that the talent pipeline has been raised today. That is what I would like to talk about. It gives me an opportunity to say a few words about the music education plan, which I hope some noble Lords will have read—for anyone who has not read it yet, I hope that they will now. It has just been published and it has been described as ambitious. Yes, it is. I think that we should be ambitious for our young people, particularly with regard to music education. We must ensure that all children, irrespective of background and circumstance, have access to high-quality music education.

We set out in detail in the plan how we can enable all pupils to learn to sing, to play an instrument, to create music together and to have the opportunity to progress their musical interests and talents, including professionally. Every parent must now be absolutely clear, from the plan, that music is a statutory subject in the curriculum and should be taught as robustly as any other subject. Music is not just a nice-to-have extra; it is an essential part of every child’s education.

Every head teacher in primary and secondary has the power to put music at the heart of their school. Thousands already do, working within their budgets and using, sometimes, the pupil premium. Every child should receive an absolute minimum of one hour per week of music education in the classroom. Every school should have a music lead or head of music. Every school should have a music development plan for every pupil and a progression plan for those children with passion and commitment to realise their potential.

There is the most wonderful music happening in many schools right across the country, in spite of all the difficulties, because some heads, governors and senior leadership teams recognise music’s value. Those in areas of disadvantage discover that music is transformative. The plan is called “The Power of Music to Change Lives” for a very good reason. In Bradford, for example, an area of great disadvantage, Feversham Primary Academy was in special measures some years ago. It is now rated outstanding, because music is at the heart of the school. At Dersingham VA Primary in Norfolk, where 25% of the children have special needs, nearly half of all pupils continue with instrumental tuition after whole-class ensemble teaching. At Churchfields Junior School in Redbridge, where 32 languages are spoken, 60% of pupils learn two musical instruments. At Green Dragon Primary School in Hounslow, where 79% are of ethnic-minority backgrounds, all pupils learn to play the violin or a brass or woodwind instrument. There is wonderful music out there and schools are making it happen. It has to start in school. Many of them use the pupil premium to help deliver this inclusive music education.

Music hubs across the country are there to support schools. They have now secured three-year funding, which is really important for them to form the necessary partnerships. They will help ensure that the plan is implemented. Inspirational hub leaders from Blackpool and Bradford to Hounslow and Hackney are doing magnificent work with schools, forming partnerships to ensure that every child can progress their interest and talents. It can be done. The money is there and so are the instruments, thanks to a new investment of £25 million from the Department for Education, for which we are most grateful. To help ensure that more children from disadvantaged backgrounds will have the opportunity that we all want them to have, there will be a new progression fund. This could be a game-changer and it is really important. I am delighted to take part in this debate and I look forward to hearing from the Minister.

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for giving us the opportunity to debate this important subject. I am not in the habit of beating around the bush or avoiding the difficult topics, so I have no hesitation in speaking truth to power by saying that there is just one reason why British musicians, dancers and actors, our fashion industry, and all the people who support them, are condemned to climbing a new mountain of red tape, enduring months of stress and diverting earning time to chase around for paperwork, just for one gig in Europe. There is only one reason why all our creative arts industries are going to plunge from their genuinely world-leading position. There is only one reason why many of the millions of skilled workers who worked in the arts are finding other jobs and probably will not return to the industry. There is one reason why a whole generation of talented young performers and back-up staff will be lost for ever. There is one reason why the economy of this country is suffering yet another major blow through the self-inflicted damage being done to its second-largest sector. There is one reason why one of the main instruments of our country’s soft power—our highly respected creative arts—has been casually tossed away by this shambles of a Government.

That one reason is not inflation, although runaway costs are a serious problem for the arts, as they are in all sectors of the economy, with some haulage costs quadrupling; nor is it Covid, which devastated the performance industries for two years but which they have somehow survived through a combination of hardship, hard work, ingenuity and government support. The hard truth is that it all comes down to Brexit; to the complete omission of the creative industries from the trade and co-operation agreement and to this Government’s gleeful destruction of freedom of movement—a wonderful freedom for all our citizens, and which used to enable our performers to go and work in Europe without a hint of hassle.

The trite notion of taking back control is the only excuse the Government give for rejecting the EU’s generous offer of a cultural exemption from all the new impediments to our creative arts doing business in Europe. The Government would have us believe that allowing European performers to enter the UK for a few days or weeks to do some shows and then leave again presents a threat of untrammelled immigration. No doubt we will hear this nonsense again when the Minister responds, if he has not belatedly resigned before we finish this debate.

If I had time, I could provide countless examples of how the masses of new red tape that the Government have inflicted on individual musicians, bands and orchestras is suffocating the industry and its economically essential work in Europe. I will mention just one: a couple who have travelled to work in opera, in Denmark, every summer for the last 20 years. This year they only just managed to retain this vital engagement, but not without two months of huge stress and chasing around this country to get all the paperwork ducks in a row. They even produced a manual to help others thinking of trying to do the same thing, but it would probably deter people from even considering going through what must be heaven for officials but red tape hell for anyone trying to earn a living in the arts.

DCMS’s attempts to mitigate the many new and unnecessary obstacles to touring and working in Europe are having only a marginal effect. There is consensus in the industry that the only real solution is for the Government to negotiate the cultural exemptions on visas, work permits, cabotage, CITES and carnets that were on the table during the bungled negotiations on the trade deal and wantonly rejected by the Government. Whether this crumbling Administration, or whatever follows them, will have the gumption to recognise these massive problems and fix them remains to be seen. We will need to see an end to the current confrontational approach towards the EU exhibited by this Government.

My Lords, I also thank the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, particularly because he added the phrase “and other creative professionals”. He will know that this immediately gives me the opportunity to speak on a subject with which he has become familiar every time he introduces debates on this, namely the vital importance of the work of the snowsport community in the Alps. They are among the most creative of professionals.

As my noble friend Lord Cormack knows, gone are the days when you can win a snowboard title with a cork. Slopestyle, superpipe, big air and freestyle are all highly artistic forms of winter sport, and the professionals who work in this area need access to coach in the European Union. This debate gives me an excellent opportunity to seek reassurances from my noble friend the Minister about the work being undertaken to improve the ability of our snowsport professionals to work in the European Union. I do not expect answers to all the questions I will raise, but I ask the Minister to write to me after the debate with an update that I can pass on to everybody interested in the sector.

As my noble friend the Minister knows, the Government have been lobbying effectively, in partnership with the Alpine Sports Group, to ensure that support is provided to governing bodies, regulators, associations and professionals in this sector as they work through the process of securing qualification recognition in various EU member states. This time last year, representatives of the Alpine Sports Group met government representatives, as well as the FCDO attaché to the British embassy in Switzerland, to discuss how to minimise the negative consequences of Brexit on UK alpine sports. All these representatives have been focused on negotiations with the EU on the recognition of professional qualifications, the mobility of UK nationals within and across the EU, and the UK’s policy towards the EU on these topics.

I would be grateful if the Government could confirm that they have now formed a new recognition arrangements team to provide winter sport professionals with support as we continue to negotiate agreements with our counterparts in EU member states. The ASG was left in no doubt that it now has the support of the Government, for which I thank the Government, irrespective of whether they pursue bilateral agreements with the individual states or a master recognition agreement.

The situation is still exceptionally difficult. Working in France as a snowsports professional, whether for coaching club teams or athletes, or for instructing purposes, remains a tightly controlled activity. The UK’s exit from the EU means we no longer benefit from the right of establishment as snowsports instructors or coaches under the delegated Act. This very much leads to a case-by-case approach, depending on individual resorts and the attitude taken by the ski schools in them. That process is opaque to this day. There is a requirement for a carte pro, but how you get it differs in different parts of the Alps. We need to work with our friends in Europe to overcome the difficulties faced by many instructors and coaches seeking eligibility for a carte pro.

Even when you have a carte pro, there is uncertainty over the issuing of visas. If you are a British citizen, do not hold any other EU passports and have not benefited from the terms of the withdrawal agreement, you need a visa, but there is no certainty that British nationals will receive one. That again is a concern to people whose livelihoods are based, as winter sport professionals’ are, in the mountains.

Finally, I will give the example of working in Switzerland. Switzerland comes into this context because it has an arrangement with the European Union on the recognition of snowsports instructors. There are significant variations here between federal law and its regional application. Swiss cantons are allowed to interpret certain pieces of federal legislation, notably the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act and the legislation relating to admission, stay and the exercise of gainful activity, especially where local snowsports tuition and services are offered and the activity in question is a regulated profession. It varies substantially from one ski resort or one canton to another.

I conclude by at least welcoming one canton, Bern, which recently stated that

“we recognize the long tradition of snowsports in the United Kingdom and also understand the interest of the Swiss ski schools in securing access to ski instructors from the UK, who make a valuable contribution to the Alpine economy in particular in our Canton.”

I urge all noble Lords to go to resorts in Bern this winter.

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for securing this important debate on this slow news day. My brother is a rock musician who has worked with some of the industry’s finest, including Joe Brown, Michael Schenker, and the great Russ Ballard and Bob Henrit, who were in Adam Faith’s Roulettes in the 1960s, before moving on to Unit 4+2, Argent and, in Bob’s case, The Kinks.

I asked Russell, one of our most successful songwriters, for his views on the new challenges of touring Europe. He said this:

“I worked extensively around Europe in the sixties and suffered all the bureaucracy of border controls. Carnets were the bane of our lives. These were lists of instruments in the truck, guitars, keyboards, drums, amplifiers and mixers which often had to be unloaded, taken out of their cases and checked against the carnet, to make sure these long-haired, unwashed, hooligan types were not smuggling alcohol, cigarettes or some other substance that the border officer could give in evidence for his promotion.

Obviously, every musician wasn’t unwashed or a hooligan, and every border guard wasn’t always looking for promotion. However, being stopped at borders was a pain. Unloading a lorry, sometimes in the snow, was time-consuming. When, in the early seventies, we became part of the EU, it was like discovering a new planet. It looked the same, with the same officials at the borders, but it was a new, wonderful experience, enabling us to get to gigs on time. We thought we’d died and gone to heaven.

Most MPs are too young to know what it was like back then and how things improved when we joined the European Union. I am planning a tour to Germany in October—but complying with the new regulations reminds me of the bad old days. It is manageable for people like me, but for performers on the margin of financial viability, Europe is now off limits.”

They are the words of Russ Ballard.

Failure to take concrete action will cede a live music market where UK artists have historically been dominant. UK Music’s latest report, This Is Music, showed that 2020 was very difficult for the music sector, and it is hardly any better now.

Before the pandemic, music was a driver of growth across the UK, being worth £5.8 billion in gross value added and employing almost 200,000 people. The GVA of the sector grew by 11% in 2019, employment grew by 3% and the value of exports by 9%, far above the economy as a whole. EU member states are a vital market for the UK’s £2.3 billion-worth of music exports, particularly live music, and the European Commission admitted in 2019 that UK acts dominate the European panorama.

Another problem, as we have heard, is merchandise. Many acts are finding that they are falling foul of customs rules when they attempt to sell merchandise in the EU alongside their live tours. Additional duties and the requirement to VAT register can obliterate margins for the sale of merchandise. Tankus the Henge has said that the additional costs meant it missed out on £2,500-worth of merchandise sales on its last tour of France. A range of artists, including The Anchoress, have stated that postage costs for small businesses like theirs looking to make individual item sales to EU-based customers have spiralled, often making individual sales uneconomic and hitting another revenue stream for emerging artists.

A carnet waiver agreement between the UK and the EU is absolutely vital. Can the Minister give us any hope on this? Let us not forget that this filipendulous Prime Minister—if he still is Prime Minister—promised to work flat out to resolve these issues, but nothing has improved. It was the usual bluster. The Government must sort out this European touring catastrophe so that our musicians can regain the ability to learn from musicians there, who can also learn from musicians here, enhancing all our lives.

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Clancarty is to be warmly congratulated on the skill, determination and perseverance with which he has brought to the Committee’s attention the damage that has been done to the work of Britain’s creative professionals by both Covid and, more durably, Brexit, as well as the inadequacy of the Government’s response so far on the latter point. This issue has also been taken up by your Lordships’ European Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, in a chain of correspondence which is perhaps best characterised as a dialogue of the deaf.

Britain’s creative professionals make up an important sector of our economy, as a number of noble Lords have emphasised, but they are much more than that. They make a major contribution to wider European culture, of which we remain a crucial part. That damage really matters and remedying it is really important.

The failure of the UK’s trade and co-operation agreement with the EU to make any, let alone adequate, provision for the detailed and complex work of these professionals was clear from the outset. The negotiator of that agreement, the noble Lord, Lord Frost, said in a lecture he gave in Zurich a couple of months ago that he believed the Government had been “too purist” in their approach to the sector and that they should now “try harder”. Does the Minister agree with that analysis and if not, why not?

I am sure that the Minister will tell us a good deal about the Government’s efforts to negotiate bilaterally over access for our creative professionals with the 27 members of the EU, all of which apart from four are, I believe, now covered. But these bilateral arrangements are far from all that is needed to facilitate their work, which often takes them to more than one member state and involves complex issues such as visa waivers, work permits, cabotage and carnets for the instruments carrying vehicles. All these things fall within the scope of the EU as such. What is needed, therefore, are not only those bilateral arrangements, welcome though they are, but action at EU level through the TCA and its pyramid of joint sectoral bodies. Can the Minister say what, if any, action has been and is being taken by the Government to make use of that joint machinery to raise, and if possible to remedy, the problems with which these professionals are faced following Brexit? If the answer is that no such action has been taken or is contemplated, why not?

Two weeks ago, when the Minister of State at the FCDO responsible for our relations with the EU, James Cleverly—now promoted—was giving evidence to the European Affairs Committee, he was asked specifically about these matters. It was suggested that, rather than resting on the outcome of the TCA negotiations when the EU rejected our preferred solution and we rejected its preferred solution, it might be better to explore with the EU other methods of addressing the problems in this sector in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Frost, has suggested. At the end of that exchange, the Minister replied:

“That certainly should not be taken as an unwillingness to revisit it. It is something we can look at.”

Will the Minister say what is being done to look at these matters?

I have one final thought: it would be a tragedy if the problems in this sector were linked in any way with the wider issues that have arisen over Brexit and its implementation. They surely need to be addressed on their own merits. This is a field of activity where those on both sides of the channel have much to gain from freer access for creative professionals and nothing to lose from it. Let us hope that, over time, that can be achieved.

My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, aided and abetted by many of those who have taken part in today’s debate, has been raising these issues for well over two years now. I congratulate him on his tenacity in securing this debate and his comprehensive introduction today. I certainly hope that the Minister has now got the picture—or should I say the mood music, with all the variations, perhaps, that the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, described in her speech.

As we have continuously emphasised in the last two years, we are talking about not only touring by the music industry—one of the most successful and fastest growing sectors, where real jobs and livelihoods now risk being lost—but by a number of other important parts of the creative sector as well: museums, theatre and the wider visual arts sector, as described by the Contemporary Visual Arts Network, and indeed the sports sector, as described by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. The ramifications are very broad. The right reverend Prelate reminded us that this impacts on levelling up and on values. We heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Fleet, about the impact on the talent pipeline and the potential to impact on communities through music education.

The dual registration deal on cabotage, which we have debated previously, falls short of satisfying the greater number of smaller specialist hauliers and own-account operators—it was described as a sticking plaster by my noble friend Lord German, and he is correct. On these Benches, we pointed out that the issues on cabotage were just one part of a huge cloud now hanging over the creative sector as a result of Brexit. The noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, my noble friend Lord Strasburger and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, all described that, including the requirement for work permits or visa exemptions in many EU countries, CITES certificates for musical instruments, ATA carnets for all instruments and equipment, and proof of origin requirements for merchandise. It is a real return to the past, as described by my noble friend Lord Jones.

The failure to secure a reciprocal exemption to permit freedom of movement for creatives on tour or short-term paid engagements and their support staff when we left the EU has been catastrophic for UK and EU touring creatives. The sheer disparity of treatment was described by my noble friend Lord German. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, it was very clear from the outset that that would be the impact.

The reason we are in this mess is that the Home Office refused to grant particular categories of EU citizens, including sportspersons or artists performing an activity on an ad hoc basis, the right to 90 days permitted paid engagement, and so the EU would not reciprocate. We are still pursuing freedom of information requests to find out exactly what the UK Government put forward. The problems with merchandise, carnets and CITES are, if anything, worse, as described by a number of noble Lords. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, confirmed, the ISM says:

“In fact, almost nothing has changed since the TCA came into effect, as recent accounts from musicians resuming EU tours have demonstrated.”

As the Classical Music APPG, LIVE, UK Music, the ISM and many others have advocated, what is urgently needed are permanent solutions which will secure the kind of future that the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, referred to.

Some require bilateral negotiation and some can be done unilaterally through greater engagement, but the key to this is multilateral action. As a number of noble Lords have said, we need more productive, collaborative relationships. This was mentioned by the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Cormack, my noble friend Lord German and the noble Baroness, Lady Bull. The noble Baroness made some very constructive, detailed suggestions about how we can get to that point on those multilateral negotiations. We need comprehensive negotiation on road haulage for cultural purposes, a cultural waiver in relation to ATA carnets and CITES, and a visa waiver agreement.

There is a very depressing letter from former Minister Lopez to my colleague in the Commons Jamie Stone, which sets out very few constructive proposals. I hope the Minister here today does rather better. Will we get the kind of new beginning that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, mentioned? We need something simple and effective.

My Lords, I am also very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for securing this debate. I thank him not just for today but for all the work he has done to shine a very helpful and practical spotlight on the difficulties encountered by those in the creative industries, whether music, fashion, dance, the visual arts or the many other aspects that our country can offer. As always, the noble Earl brings us all together. I hope that the Minister will have some comfort for us today about action that will be taken.

As we have heard, this is not just about the very important role of the creative sector in the economy—an economy which so desperately needs growth and improvements in productivity, and we can look to the creative sector for a major contribution there. It is also about flying our flag, which the right reverend Prelate spoke about. It is about entertaining and enriching us, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said. It is about our heritage and culture. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, this is being hampered by an artificial set of obstacles under the banner of Brexit. I am sure it is within our wit to sort this out, and I remain mystified as to why it has not been possible to do so.

The noble Baroness, Lady Fleet, spoke about a focus on young people and their development in schools. It is one thing to educate, but there has to be an outlet for young people who want to go further. I believe we owe it to them to do this.

As has been referenced a number of times, the noble Lord, Lord Frost, conceded that the UK Government could and should have secured a better deal in this area. From these Benches, we also believe that a better deal could be available but that negotiations in this area were not helped by the Government’s ongoing approach to challenges around the Northern Ireland protocol. With the prospect of new leadership and a new Government in sight, perhaps the Minister might comment on what opportunities may now be liberated in this regard.

When I looked back, in preparation for this debate, at the Questions and previous debates we have had in the Chamber, I saw repeated comments that those in the creative sector can refer to GOV.UK, where requirements listed by individual country are available. I do not doubt that for a moment, but I do not feel that that is the answer we are looking for today. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, said, there are mechanisms that can already be used to find a way forward, without even looking at a number of the new solutions that various organisations and noble Lords have put forward to assist the Minister. That is an important point, because it is not just in our interests in the UK to remove the unnecessary obstacles; it is also in the interests of our European friends and neighbours, who I believe would be all the poorer if they did not have access to what our British creative sector can offer them.

I pick up the point referred to by my noble friend Lord Stansgate and other noble Lords in the course of this debate. What effect does the Minister feel that the difficulties to which we have alluded today have had on emerging talent? What assessment has there been of whether there has been an exacerbation of pre-existing inequalities? If there has been such an assessment, what steps will there be to deal with these inequalities? It cannot be right that young, working-class, diverse artists find themselves more likely to be stopped and denied entry. They are also the group that will find it harder to meet upfront fees.

I hope the Minister will reflect on this debate, as I know he always does, and see in it not just criticism of where we are but a will to find a constructive way forward, which I hope we can get to.

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for raising the vital issue of touring, and I am glad that further time has been provided for the debate. I know that the noble Earl is a great champion of our musicians and creative professionals. I am grateful to him for the meetings we have had about it and for bringing people into the department to discuss these matters directly with me. I am also grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in today’s debate. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, that there has been great harmony in what has been said, and with the final remarks by the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, about the constructive tone that noble Lords have rightly taken.

The UK’s creative and cultural sectors are internationally renowned. They contribute a huge amount to our economy, but also to our culture and our lives more broadly. Touring is a significant part of their work, enabling us to share the best of the UK’s talents with our friends in the European Union and on a wider international stage, as well as all the economic and cultural benefits that touring brings.

The UK has left the European Union, and we recognise that the way in which creative professionals work and tour in the European Union has changed. I know that this, exacerbated by the pandemic, has in recent years caused uncertainty for the sector, which can be particularly challenging for newer or emerging creative professionals, for whom touring is a key part of their development and professional lives. That is why the Government have been working hard to support the touring sectors to clarify arrangements, to help them to adapt where needed, and to explore what we can do, both bilaterally with EU member states and unilaterally, to make touring easier.

Throughout this period, we have remained in close contact with representatives of the sector. My former colleague Julia Lopez, who was Minister of State for Media, Data and Digital Infrastructure, recently attended the eighth meeting of the touring working group and heard feedback directly from the sector on its experience of touring so far this summer, which is of course the first full summer of touring following the lifting of the Covid-19 restrictions. It is clear that some issues remain, but we should also note that, in many areas, arrangements are more workable than is sometimes reported.

Today, I want to discuss both the work that we have done so far and the areas where we can continue to work together to ensure that our excellent creative professionals continue to tour widely, growing their audiences, honing their craft and sharing the joy of the work they produce.

Touring can broadly be categorised by the movement of people, goods and vehicles, so I will address each of those in turn. I turn first to the movement of people. The Government have worked very hard to clarify arrangements across the member states of the EU that are principally responsible for deciding the rules governing what work UK visitors can undertake there. Our engagement so far has resulted in the confirmation that almost all EU member states offer visa-free and work permit-free routes for musicians and other creative professionals, many for up to 90 days, including major touring markets such as France, Germany and Italy.

Where visa-free and work permit-free routes were not initially available, we worked hard, in collaboration with the sector, to encourage easements, which I am pleased to say has resulted in a further two member states—Spain, and most recently Greece, as the noble Earl mentioned—taking unilateral action to enable UK creative professionals to perform and tour visa-free. This is a happy outcome and testament to the success that can be achieved when the Government and the industry combine their voices.

I recognise that the situation for touring has changed since we left the European Union and that this has required adaptation, but it is important to recognise that these visa-free and permit-free routes exist. As definitions can vary, travellers should check the specific requirements before travelling. We are aware that, in the period immediately following our departure from the EU, much of the information that was available from member states online led to confusion in the sector. That is why we engaged with those member states, and I am pleased to say that our engagement has resulted in a number of them amending their online guidance to provide further clarity. We have also published enhanced guidance on the UK Government’s website, GOV.UK, to support British nationals, including creative and cultural professionals, to navigate the new arrangements. We have worked closely with representatives of the sector through the touring working group, and have shared details with it directly as we receive new information from member states.

This means that there are now only three member states—Portugal, Malta and Cyprus—that do not offer visa-free and work permit-free touring. We have engaged with these remaining member states extensively, using the diplomatic means at our disposal. Most recently, the Minister for Europe, my right honourable friend James Cleverly—now the Education Secretary, as noted by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay—met the Portuguese ambassador to the United Kingdom and raised the importance of touring with him.

We should acknowledge that, ultimately, it is up to member states to align their requirements more closely with the UK’s generous rules to enable them to enjoy the cultural and economic benefits of visa-free and work permit-free touring. As the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, said, it is to their benefit as well.

On the movement of goods, there are new requirements related to ATA carnets, the movement of merchandise and the movement of instruments made from protected materials, as was raised by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty. These again have required adaptation, and we have worked across government to provide the information and clarity needed. ATA carnets are not new to touring, and have previously been required when travelling beyond the European Union, such as through Switzerland. This is a case of adaptation. Where a carnet is required, it is a single document that can be used for multiple items, as many times as required, in approximately 80 countries around the world, over a 12-month period.

Most significantly, we have confirmed that portable musical instruments, accompanied by their owner, can be transported cost-free and should not require a carnet. I am aware that there have been some issues, such as inconsistent enforcement of these rules in certain member states and challenges regarding the commercial policies of transport operators. Where these issues have arisen, we have worked urgently with colleagues across government and the creative sector, as well as with transport operators and the relevant member states, to address them. If noble Lords are aware of issues, I am always happy to receive information, so that we can continue to follow them up swiftly. Similarly, the EU’s rules state that each individual is able to take up to €1,000-worth of merchandise, with a total weight of 1,000 kilograms or less, into the European Union to sell on tour without paying EU customs duties.

The noble Earl asked about the designation of St Pancras as a CITES port. We have been engaging with the sector on this and I am grateful to the Musicians’ Union, the Incorporated Society of Musicians and the Association of British Orchestras for providing some detailed information at the end of May to inform that work and those discussions. The number of CITES ports has already increased from 24 to 36. Thanks to the information provided by the sector, discussions are taking place now between Defra and Border Force. We will continue to engage closely with the sector and keep it up to date on progress, as well as continuing to listen for whether there are clear steps we can take to support our musicians to tour, this summer and beyond.

The noble Earl also asked about the CITES COP meeting which takes place in Panama, in November. We are indeed preparing for that meeting and will consider any proposal put forward to extend the duration of musical instrument certificates. In principle, that would certainly seem sensible, but of course we will need time to look at the particulars of what is put forward, along with the other proposals advanced ahead of the COP meeting.

I know that much focus of recent discussion about touring understandably revolves around the challenges that new rules pose to the movement of vehicles and the impact on the UK’s specialist haulage industry. It is worth reiterating that during negotiations on the trade and co-operation agreement we proposed specific market access rules for specialist hauliers carrying out tours for cultural events, but the EU did not agree to this. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, that it is important that we focus on the future and on practical steps we can take to advance solutions.

To address these challenges, the Government have engaged extensively with the specialist haulage industry, including via a public consultation earlier this year on support for specialist events hauliers working on cross-border tours. As a result of this engagement, the Department for Transport is currently working on the implementation of dual registration to enable it to come into force this summer, with an interim measure in place in the meantime. Dual registration will enable operators who establish a UK and EU base temporarily to transfer their EU-registered vehicles to their GB operator’s licence, enabling full UK and EU single market access rights, without swapping vehicles. I do not wish to suggest that this measure will address all the challenges faced by the specialist haulage industry, as noble Lords rightly point out, but it is again important to recognise that this step is being taken.

I mentioned earlier that we appreciate that some of the new requirements are a particular concern for newer and emerging artists, as the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, rightly stressed. I know that the sector was therefore pleased to get confirmation that splitter vans, carrying both equipment and up to nine passengers, do not fall in the scope of the trade and co-operation agreement market access rules regarding cabotage and cross trade, and instead are subject to member state law.

I turn to the range of wider support that Her Majesty’s Government provide to our excellent creative and cultural industries. To help artists navigate the new requirements, we have developed creative sector-specific landing pages on the GOV.UK website, providing relevant guidance for people touring the European Union. We continue to support our music sector through a range of export support programmes, such as the music export growth scheme and the international showcase fund. Creative businesses in England can also access the internationalisation fund, which provides matching grants for export support, including attendance at trade shows. We also launched the export support service last year, through which UK businesses, including touring professionals, can get online and telephone support to answer practical questions about exporting to Europe. We want to do everything that we can to maintain and strengthen the international reach and reputation of our creative workers, who support us to be a truly global Britain.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester asked about support for regional arts organisations. My noble friend Lady Fleet referred to the national plan for music education, which reiterated our commitment to music hubs, with £79 million per annum to support them in their work around the country. The current national portfolio round of funding from the Arts Council reflects the Government’s instruction to make sure that that taxpayer subsidy is spent more equitably and fairly around the country. Presently, £21 per capita of funding is spent in the capital compared to £6 per capita outside; we have asked that that gap be closed.

I would be very happy to meet the right reverend Prelate and other colleagues from the Church of England to talk about church music specifically. It would be remiss of me not to mention my visit to Lincoln Cathedral—particularly noting the presence of my noble friend Lord Cormack and the noble Baroness, Lady Merron—where I heard the joyful music at evensong. I would certainly be delighted to attend the launch of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music’s report on 19 July if my diary allows.

The Minister may be drawing to a close since he has gone past his time, but he has managed, quite brilliantly, to fail to answer any of the questions that I put to him. I would be grateful to have responses. He has spoken about bilateral and unilateral action, but could he not just put a clove of garlic around his neck and tiptoe into the TCA machinery? This was raised by a large number of speakers. If that is coming, it will be very welcome.

I was watching the clock, but my response to the noble Lord was on the very next page of my notes. I was just about to mention the comments of my noble friend Lord Moynihan in relation to winter sports. I will certainly write to him with an update after discussing that with my honourable friend Nigel Huddleston, his successor as Sports Minister.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, asked about the views of my noble friend Lord Frost in relation to the TCA. I did indeed read his comments in Zurich with interest. I know that my noble friend devotes many of his considerable talents to thoughts for the future—not always in relation to your Lordships’ House. I look forward to hearing his further thoughts on this topic, particularly as he knows far more than anybody what was discussed and the way it was discussed in our negotiations with the EU.

It is important to note that, during the negotiations, the EU tabled text regarding the paid activities which can be conducted without a visa. The proposals would not have addressed the concerns from the sector: they were non-binding, they did not include touring or technical staff, and they did not address work permits. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, invited me to, I want to keep my comments focused on the future and on practical steps.

We recognise that our departure from the EU has meant a change for touring professionals, as it has for people in other areas of the economy. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Government as a whole have worked very hard to support them and will continue to do so. The UK music industry is one of our great national assets and the Government will back it every step of the way.

I am very glad that my noble friend Lady Fleet was here to talk about the work we are doing through the national plan for music education, the £25 million we are providing for school instruments and equipment, and the progress fund which will enable more people from a diverse range of backgrounds to forge careers in our music sector.

Later today, I am meeting UK Music. I was pleased to meet the All-Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group and hand out awards at its annual awards ceremony, where I talked to people from the jazz music sector. I am always grateful for opportunities to meet representatives of the sector to hear what we can do to support it.

Across the movement of people, goods and vehicles, we have engaged consistently and extensively to clarify arrangements and help people adapt. We know that this summer is the first full summer of touring since the pandemic, and we will engage particularly to make sure that we are hearing from people who are on the ground and touring, so that we can follow up where issues remain. We want to do that and get it right for the sake of our economy, for the sake of our shared culture and for the far wider benefits that music brings in enriching our lives. I am very grateful to the noble Earl for the opportunity he has provided today to keep this issue rightly prominent.

Ukraine Refugees: Mothers and Dependent Children Arriving in the UK

Question for Short Debate

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the needs of mothers and dependent children arriving from Ukraine as refugees, particularly regarding their (1) welfare, (2) subsistence, (3) safety, (3) health, (4) schooling, and (5) path towards self-reliance.

My Lords, I declare my interests as chairman of the Loomba Foundation and vice-president of Barnardo’s.

I have dedicated much of the last 20 years to raising the plight of widows internationally through the work of the Loomba Foundation. In the course of this work, we have built up considerable expertise on the issues faced by women who suddenly, through no fault of their own, find themselves alone in the world, responsible for the welfare and upbringing of their children. We know that the problems facing these women are not only about money and material welfare but about trauma and isolation, not knowing where to turn, vulnerability and risk. We know how war and conflict magnify these problems by putting more people in that position, suddenly and in large numbers. This has happened again with Russia’s violent and unwarranted invasion of its neighbour.

Not all the refugees who have settled here from Ukraine are widows, although around half are mothers who have managed to flee alone with their children and their dependants—these families make up the majority. We hope that many of them will one day be reunited with the husbands and fathers who have stayed behind to defend their country, but today these women are experiencing the same issues as conflict widows the world over.

I commend the Government on the progress made in the last three months and I welcome the arrangements that have been put in place, such as the national helpline and welcome pack. Now that some 87,000 refugees have arrived from Ukraine, it is right to ask the Government what assessment they have made of the needs of mothers and dependent children in a number of areas.

As regards the welfare of refugee families, Barnardo’s reports that requests for food vouchers are increasing; it has given out 370 food vouchers in the last three months. It also reports poor access to technology such as phones and tablets, leading to digital exclusion. As far as subsistence is concerned, the recent ONS survey suggests that only one in four refugees has enough money to support themselves and their dependants for three months.

On the question of safety, Barnardo’s is reporting about two safeguarding issues every week, mostly related to homelessness or being threatened or bullied by hosts. There are also issues arising from the Government’s welcome decision to allow eligible children and minors under 18 to come to the UK without a parent or guardian. We know that local government leaders have expressed concerns about the potential for children to come and stay with adults they may not know well. This calls for appropriate vetting and the right range of support services, including ongoing checks of children’s safety and well-being. What have the Government done to address this?

With regard to health, we know many families are affected by complex trauma requiring professional support. Families in hotels say the food they are offered is not meeting their diet and health needs, and health professionals have reported that children have lost weight.

On schooling, Barnardo’s has seen instances of children’s applications to school being rejected because of fear of disruption. Will the Minister look seriously at the call from Barnardo’s for funding to support rolling out the ICAM programme to support children affected by migration?

Finally, with regard to the path to self-reliance, many Ukrainians are educated to degree or professional level but are struggling to find work because their qualifications are not recognised. Will the Government look at this as a matter of urgency?

Last month, on 23 June, which is celebrated every year as International Widows Day by the United Nations, the Loomba Foundation and Barnardo’s announced a scheme to help 1,000 Ukrainian families in the UK with their immediate practical needs, by giving them vouchers that can be redeemed in Barnardo’s shops to purchase such essentials as toys, nappies and clothes. So we are playing our part as best we can, but it is only the Government who can connect the dots and ensure that the inevitable gaps are plugged.

It is on this basis that I ask the Government to help identify where things could be better and to redouble their efforts with all concerned to make improvements. The central concern I raise is whether we are doing enough to look at problems that lie ahead. As the Government have frequently reminded us, this conflict may continue for years and we are in it for the long haul. Some of our host families are now one-third of the way into the hosting period to which they have committed, and an unknown number may not be able to continue beyond that. Cases of relationship breakdown between host and refugee families are likely to increase when the original commitment period comes to an end. The Liaison Committee in the other place heard yesterday that 660 Ukrainian households in this country are now homeless. Some host families are asked to make longer commitments of up to three years for refugee families with children, but the responsibility ceases when a child reaches the age of 18, and it is not clear what support is available for them at that point.

If families are moved on, whether at the end of the six-month commitment period or later, it is essential that continuity of childcare and schooling, employment and language support services is fully considered before they are relocated. We rely on local authorities to provide the safety net when things go wrong, but are the resources made available sufficient to address sudden rehousing needs when we already have Syrian and Afghan families accommodated in hotels?

In summary, the Government and local authorities are to be commended on the great efforts made to support Ukrainian refugee families, but we must be alert to the gaps and prepared for what comes next. I hope therefore that the Government will address our concerns in the areas I have outlined.

My Lords, I think we are all extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, not just for introducing this debate in the way he has—with a sense of gentle urgency and uncritically but searchingly, if I can put it that way—but for much more than that. He has created a foundation and given practical help to many people over many years, and we are all, at least vicariously, in debt to him for what he has done. We wish him every possible success in his continued efforts.

It is now five months since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, and there has scarcely been a day when our newspapers and television screens have not been defaced by terrible pictures of horrible suffering and appalling destruction. Like the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, I fear that we are in for a very long haul. What on earth will all this cost to rebuild? Although we have rightly emphasised people in our publicity, we have to remember that many of their iconic buildings have been destroyed; the civilisation of which they are an important part in Europe, particularly their Christian heritage, has been damaged, in some cases beyond repair; and the cost of this, in which we must all share—both with our personal generosity, in so far as we can, and nationally —will be a prodigious sum. We must not just delude ourselves by saying, “We will make the Russians pay”, because that is very easy to say but to translate it into action is another thing entirely.

I have been troubled by a number of items on “Look North”, the evening news that follows the 6 pm news in my part of the world. I do not want to overemphasise them, because there have been many accounts of people showing real bravery, genuine concern, true hospitality and generosity, but there have been stories of families who have gone into woefully inadequate houses—filthy and not welcoming. There was one particular graphic story some months ago of a young woman, with her two children, who was weeping on the television and had been able to take some film of the habitation. I greatly welcome, as he knows, the appointment of my noble friend as Minister for Refugees, but I would be grateful if he could say something about how untypical this is. I stress that it is untypical, and we must not get it out of perspective or proportion. Nevertheless, if one mother with her children, fleeing for safety, is confronted with squalor, it is one too many. I would like to know how the figures are stacking up at the moment.

The noble Lord, Lord Loomba, talked about people finding it difficult to make ends meet. We all know that we are going through a real cost of living crisis and that Ukraine is a contributory factor. Several times a week, there are references in the Chamber to the great quantities of grain that cannot be transported across the Black Sea and taken to people in some of the poorest countries in the world. However, if those who are coming to our country are not being adequately supplied with what they need, I hope my noble friend the Minister, who I know is a man of great sensitivity and understanding, will tell us what is being done to try to bridge those gaps—because gaps there clearly are.

The noble Lord, Lord Loomba, referred to some of the problems of safeguarding and of people who exploit the young and frail, particularly children. We all know—we have read the stories—about single, middle-aged men being anxious to take in young Ukrainian women. I do not ask for a precise figure, but I ask my noble friend how many examples there are of that and how typical it is. I hope it is very untypical.

We have had some very good stories about schools. I know that in my own county, Lincolnshire, and others, young Ukrainian children without a smattering of English are being absorbed into school communities and made very welcome and looked after, in a moving and proper way. How typical is this? Have there been many problems reported?

Although it strays slightly beyond the debate and the scope of the Question from the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, I declare a particular interest, in that my son is much involved in a project for twinning universities. The Government have been extremely helpful on this. The noble Lord, Lord Loomba, referred to young people with qualifications being able to use them, so I want to know how my noble friend the Minister and the Government see this prospect. I know that it was referred to at the G7 and that there is much hope for it. It is so important that, at a time of destruction and desolation, those in the very fine Ukrainian universities feel more than adequately helped by our country and our universities. There are some remarkable examples of thoughtful generosity in that regard. This is so important if we are, as the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, mentioned—and he is right—in for a very long haul.

We have to be realistic about how this will end, and I am just a little concerned here. It is right that we should be supplying armaments and other things, but there have been disturbing reports of our own stock of arms being significantly reduced in consequence. It is important that we are realistic when we talk about aims. The borders that existed on 24 February must be maintained because, without them, in a sense we are all defeated. However, we have to be very cautious in talking about regaining the Crimea and so on. That is important, especially if this drags on for two, three or four years—I hope it does not, but it could.

I wind up by saying again that I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, not just for introducing the debate in the calm and measured way he did but for what he and his foundation have done. It is an exemplary attitude on his part and one from which we can all derive proper inspiration. I hope that when my noble friend the Minister winds up, he will be able to give us some encouraging numbers and facts.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. I frequently find myself in agreement with him and that is no less true today. I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, for bringing this debate to Grand Committee. I also pay tribute to the fantastic work that the Loomba Foundation carries out on behalf of widows. I know the noble Lord has a very personal affinity with women who have been widowed. It is wonderful to see that care and practical knowledge of the hardships that widows and children in particular face addressed in such a practical way.

I am going to talk about Ukrainian family refugees from a very personal point of view. I have the privilege—I can honestly say that—of hosting two families, one of which arrived in April and the other just a few weeks ago. Their gratitude has been very touching. In a practical way, they are very grateful for the help they have received and they do not ask for anything, but it is clear to me that they have needs that the Homes for Ukraine scheme, generous as it is, does not meet. Maybe we could do things differently and improve on them a bit.

I will start by talking about the application process, which the Minister and I have exchanged views on before—very amicably. I wonder whether the application process is now a little easier. We know that the application forms for people who are still in Ukraine or those who have left and are in Poland and other countries are quite a challenge to fill in, not least because they are in English. I think there was some misunderstanding about this. The guidance notes have a drop-down option for Ukrainian and Russian. However, when you click on the pages for the application forms, they remain solely in English—and it is quite technical English. Having to navigate those pages with Google Translate, with two small children and a dog to look after, and an intermittent or failing internet connection in a hotel room, is really unacceptable, especially as, if you are in the middle of a page and the internet fails, you lose the page and have to start all over again.

The application has to be carried out for each individual; you cannot do a group or family application. I know that we have had some questions about that because the Minister and I have exchanged some views on it. One of my families had application forms and they were split; the child was granted an application and the mother was not. There is no way that a mother is going to be able to take advantage of a visa for her children unless she can accompany them. The girl in question is aged two at the moment—three next week.

In response to a question on 31 March, the Minister apologised and said that when he had claimed that the forms were in Ukrainian, in fact that was not the case. It may be easiest if I quote from Hansard. He said:

“If that is not the case, I apologise to the noble Baroness. That is certainly in train and she is absolutely right to ask that question.”

What was in train was making sure the application forms could be accessed in Ukrainian or Russian. He finished by saying:

“I am very happy to contact her separately with a progress report on that.”—[Official Report, 31/3/22; col. 1775.]

So far, there has not been a progress report. It is really important that we get this right. The noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord Loomba, both talked about us being in this now for the long term. The people needing help, refuge and sanctuary will become only a greater imperative, so I hope that we can make this part of the process a little easier and less stressful.

The option saying that the English sponsor can take on this role, and that you can fill out the forms in English on the part of your guest, is just not acceptable. I did not know my family beforehand; the hosts and the family often do not know each other. You are asking for an exchange of personal details with strangers. It is one thing once they arrive and you meet them face to face. Immediately, a social worker is in contact and that is a very different situation. But to expect such an exchange of intimate details at such an early stage is just not acceptable. Anyway, for a lot of the English sponsors the form is quite difficult to fill in. To upload the documents, et cetera, is really quite a process; I hope we can do something about that.

I am going to move on quickly and talk about the money at the start. While £200 per individual is really welcome, it is just not enough. As I understand it, it is for “immediate costs”, which implies for the first week or two, or maybe even the first month. The fact is that even three months down the line, claims for universal credit still have not happened and that is the next source of their own income. The last thing they want to do when they are so full of gratitude is to admit that they need help with immediate costs such as food.

I took the family straight to a supermarket—I said, “Lidl or Tesco?”. They are professional people. She is a qualified accountant in Ukraine and I think they really felt they could stand on their own feet. But on the first visit to Tesco, when they looked at the prices in the shop they were horrified. They left without buying anything; it broke my heart. They actually bought just one essential carton of lactose-free milk for the son. They knew that they had to make their money last and stretch, and they needed to find out what other options were available before they could do that.

Regarding the £200, can we look at whether we can get that universal credit and access to jobs in place sooner? It would be really helpful. They want to work, in spite of all the stresses involved in not having any back-up support for childcare without the family and friends network that they are used to in Ukraine. They are really willing to work, but that would really help.

Before you can apply to the jobcentre you need a national insurance number, and before you can have that you need a bank account. Before you can have a bank account, you need a UK telephone number. These are significant steps, each requiring quite a lot of process and application, with waiting periods in between. The way the system is set up, they cannot stand on their own two feet as soon as they would like to.

Food banks have been a lifeline for them. They do not like to ask me for things. They had a full fridge and some basic items when they arrived, but they have found food banks a lifeline and I have to say that food banks have really stepped up to the mark. I hope the Government are providing help and support there, particularly for food banks that are getting waste food from supermarkets delivered to them so that there is fresh food and not just tins of beans and bottles of ketchup. They can get real food from food banks and those food banks need support.

On jobs, I have already mentioned the care duties. Signing on at the jobcentre is becoming quite a big thing among the Ukrainian refugee families, because their experience has been that jobcentres want too much, too quickly. They want them available for work all the time, yet they have children to look after and grandma to look after. They have children in school, which is great, but they are under stress, things are going wrong all the time—hospital visits, doctors’ visits, et cetera. She cannot hold down a job, much as she would like to, yet they also have financial pressures. My family, with the best will in the world, has not yet been able to access universal credit.

My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, for his absolutely outstanding work and, as part of that, for communicating and engaging with us today by securing this debate. It is hugely appreciated and I am glad that noble Lords from both sides have paid tribute to the work he has done. It is also humbling to speak in this debate when one has just heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, about her experiences. I hope she will forgive me if I echo some of the comments she made and the reflections she has given us to consider today, because they are important and I hope the Minister responds to them.

In speaking in this debate, I should declare my interest. I am chair of the board of governors of the Haberdashers’ Monmouth Schools, and we welcomed a boy recently to Monmouth School for Boys and are caring for him as the male members of his family continue fighting in Ukraine. Similarly, we look forward to welcoming a young Ukrainian student at Monmouth School for Girls this September. Both have appropriate bursaries. But it is a case study.

I turn to a case study of a family I know well: the head of the family is a colleague who is an outstanding energy expert. In conversation with her, she has come forward with a number of reflections that I think are worthy of consideration by the Government, some of which have been made already, more eloquently than I will, by the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan.

To set the scene, the host family offered to sponsor a family of four: a grandmother aged 60, a mother aged 37, a son aged seven and a son aged 15. They left Sumy via one of the humanitarian corridors two weeks after the conflict started and were picked up from Warsaw station by a Polish family who gave them accommodation in their home around the middle of March. Russian troops continue to terrorise the Sumy region, and the family’s concern about family and friends there continues to this day. My colleague found the family through a Polish contact at PA Consulting, where she is a partner.

For background, the Ukrainian family attended the British visa office in Warsaw on 27 March, with the host family’s sponsorship forms completed—not without difficulty, as was noted by the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan. A month later, on 25 April, the host family contacted their MP via email to ask for assistance. I have to tell the Minister that the Home Office contact number given for assistance is more or less useless, as those answering are unable to advise on specific cases.

The family received an acknowledgement and update from their MP on the same day, advising that the grandmother’s application was approved on 25 April and the mother’s on 13 April, but that the children’s application would take longer as they were travelling independently of their parents. That comes to the critical point of recognising the importance of a family as a unit in this process.

The host family clarified the situation with the mother—understandably, this caused her a great deal of distress—and responded to their MP on 26 April, confirming that the children were her biological children. Once again, the Home Office helpline was unable to take any information and/or discuss any particulars, so the Ukrainian family had to attend the visa office in Warsaw and resubmit their information. The Home Office took some 14 days to respond to the MP’s subsequent inquiry on their behalf.

Another month passed. On or around 25 May, the Ukrainian family was called to the embassy to get their visas. The host family booked their flights and they arrived at Luton on 31 May, more than 60 days after their application process was started. The initial entry visa is for six months, and a subsequent visit to the Home Office is required to gain a British residency permit. They had used their savings to live in Poland and arrived in the UK with no financial means. Since arrival, they have attended the Croydon Home Office department to gain their British residency permit. One for the grandmother has been received so far, allowing her to remain until 31 December 2024. Again, they have not been treated as a family.

Let us look at the support on arrival in the UK. The host family is resident in East Sussex, which has thus far provided a free laptop and found places for both children relatively quickly at local schools, on which it should be congratulated; it is an essential step, and the family is very grateful. But it has not yet received the £200 initial payment, or the host family its £350.

As the noble Baroness just said, to apply for universal credit the family needs bank accounts; this is the guidance provided by East Sussex County Council. The host family applied to NatWest on 7 June to open two accounts, one in the name of the mother and one in the name of the grandmother. All relevant forms were completed in the NatWest branch in Tunbridge Wells, which advised that the bank account would be opened in five to 10 working days.

On 21 June the host family contacted the NatWest customer service centre to ask NatWest to contact them, because they had not yet received confirmation that the bank accounts were opened. The manager returned their call on the following day, advising that she had not been in the branch and would make inquiries and come back. No response was received. After several chasing emails, the host family spoke to their own premier banking lead, who chased his colleague, who then rang to say that the account approval had not gone through as they had pages missing from the application or had not provided passport information. In such circumstances, it is perfectly possible that the passports were not internationally recognised, but they were sufficient to enter the UK. In this case the banking system was not capable of addressing or dealing with that, so the host family provided the passport information again on 30 June.

There is no way of making contact with the bank directly other than via email, and to this day the host family has not had a response save to hear that staff are too busy dealing with branch matters. These customers should surely be a priority, and the host family is at a loss as to who to speak to next. This reflects very badly on NatWest. Surely, along with so many other organisations and businesses, it should recognise the priority that needs to be attached to Ukrainian refugees.

The family arrived on 31 May but has not had one penny of financial support to date. Under current rules, universal credit will not be backdated. There is an important point about UK sponsoring families needing to use substantial personal means to support Ukrainian refugees for at least three months after arrival if the experience of the host family is typical. I ask the Minister to look at this. It is very important to reflect on how the Government can provide the substantial means to support those Ukrainian families and to consider doing so for, say, three months.

Finally, I want to mention the experience of some other local families who have taken in Ukrainian refugees. Families who have successfully received universal credit are required to attend jobcentres in the local area, at least once a month, to be available for work. East Sussex is a rural and geographically spread area. Single mothers have been asked to attend jobcentres in Bexhill and/or Haywards Heath, some 30 or so miles from where they live, noting that the nearest available jobcentres are, in fact, in Kent. With no financial means, beginning to learn some English only gradually and with only a rural bus service, this is nearly impossible for them to do independently. This is causing much stress and anxiety, and in some cases has deterred families from seeking universal credit. I ask the Minister whether consideration could be given to staying the requirement for up to three months to allow them to gain some independence and financial collateral.

I always try to finish on a positive, and they have received free bus passes from Brighton and Hove for one month, but they have to get to Brighton in person to receive them. They also have free use of Freedom leisure centres for three months, which is a very good thing from my perspective on life.

I hope my noble friend the Minister takes this speech as constructive. Perhaps he will allow me to add names to this case study, in writing to him. I ask him to respond positively and swiftly on some of the key policy issues that I have touched on and are behind this. In doing so, I thank my noble friends and colleagues from both sides of this Committee for listening. It has been a privilege and pleasure to hear the three speakers so far. I am sad that I have not been able to match their knowledge and experience or the outstanding work they have all done in this sector.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, and I join the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and others in paying tribute to the work of his foundation’s global campaign to eradicate discrimination against widows, following the way his mother was treated after the tragic death of his father.

I also pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Sheehan for hosting Ukrainian families. The fact is that the majority of those arriving in the UK from Ukraine have been women, as men have stayed behind in Ukraine to fight. Many of these women are mothers with dependent children.

My primary concern is with these refugees being made homeless, which will affect their welfare, safety, schooling and path towards self-reliance. Although the majority of these refugees came to the UK hoping that their stay would be only temporary, the war shows no sign of ending and the conditions that would enable them to safely return to Ukraine show no sign of coming about in the foreseeable future, as other noble Lords have said.

Concerns about homelessness are twofold. The first is where the relationship with the sponsoring household, which initially agreed to provide shelter to Ukrainian refugees, has broken down, whether they are family members or those with no previous relationship with the refugees. I have seen stories in the media of relatives who have agreed to host Ukrainian refugees, but even that relationship has broken down.

The second is what will happen when the six-month commitment for sponsoring households under the Homes for Ukraine scheme comes to an end. No doubt the Minister will say that many refugees, if not the majority, are happily integrated with their sponsor families, as we heard from my noble friend Lady Sheehan, and that these sponsoring families have been vetted and can claim universal credit. But, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, there is a problem with universal credit: it has to be paid into a bank account. To get a bank account, you need a national insurance number and to prove that you are in the UK lawfully. You can see how difficult it must be for people to get to the point where they are paid universal credit. Yes, they have access to the NHS and to local schools. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, paid tribute to his local authority for placing refugee children in local schools.

In going to claim universal credit, they are being given help into work, but we have again heard about the difficulties around that, including difficulty getting to the jobcentre. Many of these refugees have degrees or postgraduate qualifications, yet some of their experience is that the jobcentres just want to put them into whatever job is available, including perhaps jobs on extremely low pay that nobody else wants to do, which is very difficult for them.

In addition to the concerns that other noble Lords have expressed, on 27 June CNN reported that 660 Ukrainian households had sought homelessness assistance from local authorities between 24 February and 3 June, although a quarter of local authorities have yet to provide any data. A translator working for a local authority called one single woman and said, “You have nowhere to live; they are evicting you tonight”. She turned down a place at a homeless hostel because of fears for her safety. After fleeing war, arriving in a foreign country as a woman on your own and then being offered a place in a homeless hostel is not ideal.

Although councils have access to a rematching system allowing people in situations where the relationship has broken down to be matched with another sponsoring family, charities claim that the facility came late and remains inconsistent and difficult to access. Half of those who sought homelessness assistance are now in temporary accommodation. These refugees are already traumatised and fearful. Another refugee who suffered days of bombardment and a terrifying close encounter with a group of armed Russian soldiers in her home said that her experience in the UK was worse. She is reported as saying:

“It upset me so much that I felt I was going through more stress right now, when I understood I had to pack my bags, than I did in my basement in [Ukraine].”

Can the Minister explain what support local authorities have been provided with to help those suffering such trauma? Why is no coherent rematching scheme in operation?

UK hosts were asked to commit to hosting Ukrainian refugees for only six months. What arrangements do the Government have in place for September when that initial commitment ends? Byline Times on 5 July reported concerns that there is little understanding of the trauma that families have been through or the worries about relatives left behind. What arrangements are the Government putting in place for when the £350-per-month payments to hosting families end after 12 months?

What plans do they have to take account of the increase to the cost of living, predicted to be in excess of 10%, on host families and refugees, particularly those unable to access universal credit? My understanding is that the £200 that my noble friend Lady Sheehan referred to is an initial payment that each refugee receives on arrival to tide them over and enable them to get essential items before universal credit kicks in. Are there any plans to increase that in line with inflation? Can the Minister also confirm that benefit recipients will benefit from the increase in line with inflation that is rumoured to happen later this year?

Many refugees are apparently concerned that the Government will not take responsibility if increasing numbers of Ukrainians become homeless either because a rift develops between them and their host family or because the host can no longer afford to keep them. What can the Minister say to reassure Ukrainian refugees, particularly mothers with dependent children?

My Lords, first, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, for asking this question and for his work with the Loomba Foundation supporting widows. We have heard some very powerful contributions this afternoon. The invasion of Ukraine is an unprovoked and unjustifiable attack, which is having tragic consequences around the world, none more so than for the people of Ukraine. As a result, mothers and their children have resorted to fleeing their homes and, inside and outside Ukraine, there are now millions who need urgent help to reach a place of safety. In addition to safe passage, mothers and their children need support, in the immediate sense and in the long term, to resettle.

Families across Britain have been offering space in their homes to many of those fleeing Ukraine, reflecting the UK’s tradition of giving sanctuary to those fleeing war in Europe, but many are being held back by an inefficient Government who have failed to get a grip of this crisis and speed up the process. This is why the Government must urgently address the bureaucracy and provide greater guidance for councils and charities, so that Ukrainian mothers and their children can find sanctuary.

Unfortunately, we are now beginning to see the effects of the Government’s mismanagement, with reports emerging that Ukrainians are presenting as homeless due to their sponsorship arrangement breaking down or because they arrived through other routes. We are all frustrated but not surprised to see placements start to break down. Expecting vulnerable, traumatised refugees to rely on the good will of strangers they have met on Facebook, TikTok or Twitter was always a risk. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, commented on their experience of unwelcoming attitudes and inadequate housing. Hundreds of Ukrainian families have been left homeless in England after arriving on visas designed to secure them a place to live, official figures reveal. The noble Lord, Lord Loomba, commented, as did the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, on the 660 Ukrainian families with children who have applied to councils for help with homelessness.

Despite the Government insisting that the Homes for Ukraine scheme and family visa scheme would ensure that refugees had housing, both are leaving people struggling when arrangements break down. Many local authorities are treating Ukrainian families as homeless rather than attempting to rematch them with new hosts, leaving them in hostels and hotels, just as happened with Afghan refugees. Of the 145 failed Homes for Ukraine placements, only 20 were rematched with a new host. One refugee recently commented:

“We lost our home in Ukraine and when we came here we thought that we were safe, but actually we weren’t and we lost our home for a second time.”

The British people have shown amazing generosity in stepping up in their thousands to provide the care and sanctuary that these people, many of them families with young children, needed and deserved in such awful circumstances but the Government have failed miserably to play their part. Ministers were warned about the risk of refugees becoming homeless on the day they launched their sponsorship scheme, but they were more interested in grandstanding in television studios than in doing their jobs to protect vulnerable people. The Government must urgently set out a plan to support councils to find safe homes for these families. Currently, councils receive no data on, or funding for, people who are coming under the family visa scheme. Some of those families present as homeless once they have arrived, but we are asking that they should be all rematched with a sponsor under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Urgent work is needed on how councils can work with government and the community, faith and voluntary sectors so that those offering their homes can be quickly matched with a family in need.

We have had some really powerful interventions, as I mentioned, none more so than the experience of the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, in hosting two families. We also heard from the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, about the process issues in relation to getting universal credit.

I have a few questions of my own in relation to data collection and communication when it comes to liaising with councils and how they are adopting and approaching this issue. I want to ask the Minister about the current state of affairs, about a functioning Government and the new Secretary of State for Levelling Up. What are the plans in relation to the transition to support these vulnerable people who are facing daily issues right now—not in a few weeks, a few months, or in October? In relation to councils’ funding and training, how are they supported? It is an unprecedented situation to see them dealing with this, with people arriving in panic and in emergency situations.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, talked about the challenges of the application process. What feedback are we getting from users of the application process about how they are experiencing it? How are the Government attempting to make that process better and more efficient?

My final question is on PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. As we are seeing families witnessing some horrific scenes because of the conflict, how are we supporting the well-being and mental health of the refugees? I look forward to hearing from the Minister.

My Lords, I thank everybody for their contributions, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Loomba. To put this in perspective for me—this is a personal statement, in a way—I started this job at the beginning of March. I agreed to do it for a limited period of time, the definition of “limited” being when the job is done. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has a smile on his face because I think he knows, as I do, that things tend to go on. I want to leave this job when it is generally felt that I have done what I can do.

I have spent four months with colleagues putting together a delivery team to do precisely that: to turn the Prime Minister’s promise of an uncapped refugee scheme into a delivery mechanism. I formally record my thanks to Michael Gove, now no longer the Secretary of State, for having the faith in me to do this job and for starting the whole sponsorship idea, which was loosely based on my experiences of dealing with Syrian refugees. It was done in a very limited way for Syrian refugees.

I state formally on the record that for personal reasons I have had the temptation to resign many times over the last few weeks, owing to well-documented activities culminating in what has happened over the last few days. I did not, however, because I believe the refugee job, with its responsibility for tens of thousands of people’s lives, is above all that.

What have we achieved? Please do not misunderstand me and think I mean all the comments in a positive way. I get concerned about everything I hear, but I go to bed at night thinking, “At least 90,000 people from Ukraine are safe in the UK, with a steady flow adding to that”. I do not say that in arrogance or to make out that any of the points made were wrong.

I met the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, for the first time only just before this debate; I am sorry that has not happened before. I offered to meet him next week, irrespective of what happened in the debate, but following his contribution I suggest that maybe we could have a meeting with Barnardo’s as well to discuss the points he specifically brought up. The organisation has not contacted me with those points, and I would be delighted to meet it formally. I am happy to meet the noble Lord informally, of course, as we arranged. The Pugin Room is fine for certain meetings, but we should sit down properly with Barnardo’s with our officials present.

I will go through some of the points the noble Lord brought up; they duplicate some of the other points, so I ask noble Lords to be patient with me. I am working closely with the DfE on qualifications. It has been brought to my attention, and I know there are ways. We are having to persuade professional bodies about qualifications in Ukraine, often in areas where we really need people—for example, nurses and professional people, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said—so I am not oblivious to that, but I am afraid that efforts with professional bodies are rather slower than I would like them to be.

The noble Lord made quite a few points, and generally asked me to be alert to the different gaps in the system. It would perhaps help in my response to him and to some of the other comments made if I could go through the gaps that I perceive, remembering that we are all learning as we go.

The visa issue was mentioned by a few noble Lords, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, was very critical of the situation in his first interventions with me. I say that not critically; it is a question of fact. It was very difficult, as was said by various noble Lords, including my noble friends Lord Moynihan and Lord Cormack, that visas were taking far too long. I have made various undertakings to bring that down; I said I hoped to bring it down to 48 hours and within 14 days. I set that myself. We are not supposed to talk about targets because they are easy to shoot down if they are not achieved, but in my mind, and publicly, it was a target.

The visa system has changed. I do not know if any of your Lordships have seen it or tried it, but we now have an app-based system for visas, called AUK2; it is an automated system that eradicates the need to go to visa centres. For example, the biometric tests can now be done on phones. As to why it did not happen before, I am not a technical person but I can say that the system was not meant for this volume of people—it just was not. In the majority of cases now, people do not have to visit visa centres. I have tested this myself—I should say I have used people to test it—and, for non-complex cases, it takes sometimes two days, but certainly two to four days. That is far more acceptable than it was. Nevertheless, we can improve that.

I include my failure, despite my best intention, to comply with my undertakings to the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, on interpretation. It is very difficult, but we have improved the guidance on Russia and Ukraine. I accept her points, but I can only do what I can do. If the noble Baroness feels that I have let her down, I fully accept that criticism.

I would like to go on to positive things, but will address some of the negative things mentioned by noble Lords. Again, noble Lords should not misunderstand me; I take them in a positive way, and this is how we improve. Checks were mentioned by my noble friend Lord Cormack and others. What kinds of checks do we do? Why are families put into inadequate housing? He asked me for some numbers, and the number of unsuitable housing cases that have been reported to us is 55, on the question of sponsorship, and 280 in the case of family reunion. Our checks to find that out form part of what the local authority is paid for, at £10,500 per refugee. I am sorry; I keep looking at the clock—I will be as quick as I can, but I could go on about this kind of thing for hours. We have checks and balances within that system, but it sometimes fails. However, the scale of this is quite minor.

Homelessness is a big point that was brought up by many noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Khan and Lord Paddick. I am very conscious of it. The actual number of cases is now comparatively small, but significant in my working: there are approximately 600, split 400 and 200 between the sponsorship and family schemes. The whole emphasis is to keep these people away from the homelessness register. Every week, I meet with local authorities. Councillor Georgia Gould, of the same party as the noble Lord, Lord Khan, and I have a very good relationship. She is one of a group I meet to discuss precisely the problem of how we stop people getting on the homelessness list.

One way is to improve the rematching process that was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and others. It is quite new. At the moment, the local authorities are doing it themselves, with our guidance, but I hope to expand that as the six months come to an end. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and every Member who contributed to this debate asked what happens after six months. That is very important, and a big part of it is rematching. We are at three months now but soon, at the four-month stage, we will be writing to people to say, “Thank you very much for agreeing to do this for six months. Would you like to continue?” Otherwise, we will have to do rematching, and we will make it as quick as we can.

There are other ways of dealing with the problems that particularly the noble Lord, Lord Khan, mentioned. On what we are actually doing to help local authorities, they all have problems with homelessness and everything like that. It is true to say that we cannot create properties that do not exist. I think even the noble Lord, Lord Khan, would accept that the Government’s many powers do not include those in the short term. The plan that we are working on is getting more people into the private rental sector. How do we do that? Quickly, we are looking at schemes to help them with the deposit so that they can do it and, moving on from that, with an advance of the rent, et cetera, to get them working. I am going as speedily as I can through all these different points.

Points were made about banking and were brought up again in quite a few of the contributions. I am pleased to say that a number of banks will accept Ukrainians without all the stuff they cannot do—the credit records, proof of address and all those things. Those are in the guidance provided to refugees. It is on the internet and they are given a physical, paper welcome pack. I am afraid I cannot remember what banks they are but a number of them will do this for Ukrainians.

On the question about universal credit and £200 not being enough, that is a problem and we are really trying to speed up on it. The lights are flashing but—

Thank you very much. Right, I have no excuse at all now. I am really not trying to get out of this at all; it is just that I have been going through things quickly to try to get it done in that time.

On jobs, if I could go back to the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, and her well-discussed point about process in the system, we are working on a system with DWP to get more trained people to help them. It is interesting that the first ONS survey of this cohort showed that more than 60% of those over 18 were already in work. I am meeting a lot of people who are in work—and so pleased to be, as we are so pleased to have them in work. There are problems with transport, however. The Brighton example was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Moynihan, but generally people have to get to the jobcentre for that.

I meet every week—well, I met Ministers every week to discuss this but I am afraid I cannot possibly tell your Lordships quite who it will be next week. Particularly, the department for employment has been very helpful on this.

Quickly going through the other matters, now that I have a bit of extra time, I am seeing what I have missed out in my canter through the whole thing. I probably skipped over the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, too much. It was, basically: what support are we giving to local authorities? He knows this very well but, to put it on the record again, it was a well-negotiated consensus view that £10,500 per refugee—not per family—would cover most of it. I meet so many local authorities now and some of the people cost hardly anything and some, of course, cost far more than £10,500. Basically, they are doing a pool system.

I have not had reports that it is not enough money. I have heard worries about our unaccompanied minors scheme and that it is not enough for them. Of course, we made provision for where children need extra care, be that through intense social services or, unfortunately, to be taken into care. A lot of extra money is available for that. I think we support the local authorities well. They are very articulate and vociferous in their weekly calls to me on that. Again, I hope everybody realises that there are no political points in this at all. Everyone is really trying to help collectively, particularly the local authorities.

Perhaps they were a bit tongue in cheek, but I will just respond to the final comments from the noble Lord, Lord Khan, about what difference the new Secretary of State for Levelling Up will make. He got the job only three or four hours ago, but I was very pleased that he did, for a number of reasons. Apart from the personal friendship between us, he was the Secretary of State when I did the Syrian programme and was excellent with it. The whole purpose for appointing me in the first place was so that I am ring-fenced to deal with this work, but I am very optimistic that what Greg Clark, the new Secretary of State, does will do nothing to impair or impinge on it. In fact, I hope he will improve on it.

The noble Lord asked how the councils are supported. I have dealt with various points to do with that. I ask noble Lords for any feedback they have from any councils—I also ask all the MPs this in my weekly call—as we really do try to learn on the ground.

On that point, would my noble friend the Minister be happy for me to populate my case study with the names and write to him accordingly, so that he could follow that up? Also, since the Minister mentioned his engagement with the banks and their commitments, if NatWest is on that list, could he make sure that it is aware that it is not being as effective as it committed to publicly? If it is not on the list, why not?

I wish I had that much influence with NatWest. I do not recall it being on the list, but TSB and Halifax are, for example. They are all quite well-known banks, but it is not just the big clearing ones. I would be delighted to hear any case studies, or indeed to meet personally with the refugees my noble friend knows, if he would like me to. Every week, I meet refugees and I find out a lot from it. I have found meeting MPs very helpful as well, because of course they meet constituents. I would be very happy to meet personally with my noble friend Lord Moynihan —I have not seen him since we were undergraduates together, but he will not remember that—or any of the refugees he mentioned. I would be very happy to bring them here to meet them and hear about their experiences.

I just want to confirm that NatWest is definitely in the scheme. It is the bank that my families are using; it is definitely in the scheme, and we were told that it takes 28 days to process those forms. The Vodafone scheme that is supposed to be helping Ukrainian refugees leaves much to be desired. There is lots of noise about its generosity but in fact those SIM cards, which are essential to setting up bank accounts and everything that follows from them, are not readily forthcoming.

I had heard of the Vodafone Foundation in the context the noble Baroness mentioned, with a lot of noise, et cetera. I am very happy to meet it. In fact, I had a meeting yesterday with someone who does a programme with Vodafone in other countries, but I will now ask to meet the Vodafone people directly, because its involvement is trumpeted—that is the correct word for Hansard.

I have missed the comments from the noble Lord, Lord Khan, on PTSD. At the moment, it has not become a problem. This could be because it is not being reported. It could be because people are keeping things inside, because they just got away from a traumatic situation. I suspect it is beneath the surface. At the refugee groups I talk to, you meet people who are beautifully spoken—perhaps a mother with young children. You could easily think on the surface that you were attending a kids’ playgroup like those you go to up and down the country, but when you get talking, you can see what is just under the surface. I thank the noble Lord for flagging this. At the moment, it is not a problem, but we are on alert, via the local authorities.

I must conclude; I have probably gone well over my time.

I have nothing but encouragement, as my noble friend knows, but they have not proceeded to the extent that I want. I had extensive conversations with the DfE about it, as he knows—who will be there next week, I could not tell him—but he is always on at me about it in a very positive and proper way. I am not oblivious to it.

In summary, if I may, I know that things are not perfect, I really do. Some people say that people criticise me all the time. Well, I am pursued around the House of Lords, particularly—and to a lesser extent by the House of Commons—by people with experiences, and I want to learn about them. Sponsorship is very difficult because, by nature, it is full of well-meaning people. Who would put their name down if they were not well-meaning, except, as has been brought up, when there may be a few really bad eggs? But most of those that have not worked out were not because of bad eggs, but because people did not really consider quite what it involved.

However, this is evolving. My real hope is that when it is done, instead of wrapping it up and burying it in the annals of civil service and governmental history, as happened with the Syrian scheme—it was completed and then moved off—that this becomes the way that we can deal with flows of refugees from all over the world, from whatever terrible disaster, which unfortunately happens all the time in our history. That is my hope and it all keeps me going, but I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this debate, all of which are gratefully received.

Committee adjourned at 3.46 pm.